Kids will have fun learning about early explorers Marco Polo and Prince Henry the Navigator with these clever hands on activities and free printables!
Next up in our hands-on history unit where we are learning about early explorers for kids unit – Henry the Navigator and Marco Polo for Kids. These activities are sure to captivate your children’s attention and help them to remember the material. These explorer activities for kids are ideal for preschool, pre k, kindergarten, first grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade, and 4th grade students.
Marco Polo for Kids
Marco Polo was an Italian merchant and explorer who was born in Venice in 1254. At 17 years of age, he traveled with his father and uncle on the Silk Road to China where he met the great ruler Kublai Khan. Marco traveled much of China and the east, and his stories were written into a popular book The Travels of Marco Polo.
Walk the Silk Route
We walked the silk route (like Marco Polo did). Basically I made a large maze (see image above) and I put different items along our route to ‘discover’. Items we discovered along the way were things that were new to the Europeans during this period of history. They were impressed with Marco Polo’s discoveries of the umbrella, coal, paper money, postal system, kite, hot water from tap, and good roads.
Spice Painting of Kublai Khan’s Palace
We explored spices from the East: cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, ginger, pepper, saffron, and poppy. After smelling & feeling the differences in texture – we made a painting with the spices of Kublai Khanh’s palace. He LOVED this sensory activity! I love when history comes alive to young learners.
Marco Polo Activities
- We learned about camels (we were going to make a sock puppet camel, but we ran out of time and had recently made snowman out of socks)
- Math in Early Explorers – It took 4 years for Marco Polo to get to China to meet Kublai Khan – how many days/month/years is that?
- Discovering Silk – Explore silk by going to a fabric store. I let the kids explore with their hands. They felt the difference in materials: silk was a favorite =-)
- Tasting Chinese Food – Chinese is one of our favorite kinds of food so I whipped up some Kung Pao for dinner. You could also easily get some take out and eat out of the fun take out containers!
- Watch National Geographic: Marco Polo’s Travels
- Marco Polo Books for Kids – Favorite books to teach about Marco Polo in order of preference: #1 – Marco Polo by Demi (our cover looks different; it has beautiful illustrations that are gold & look like they are from the old Orient, tells the story in good depth for K-4th), #2 – written like a comic so great for a kid who is reading; summarized story but covers the highlights, #3 – you are the servant traveling with Marco Polo; good reality check with illustrations & information; written for 1st-6th grade
Marco Polo Lesson Plans
Prince Henry the Navigator for Kids
Wondering about who Henry the Navigator for Kids was? Prince Henry the Navigator was a prince from Portugal, the third son of King John I of Portugal. Born in 1394, he was never a navigator himself, but Henry sponsored a great deal of exploration along the west coast of Africa. The Portuguese Prince is regarded as an originator of the Age of Discovery and the Atlantic slave trade. He also discovered the first shipping routes directly from Europe to Asia for the Portuguese monarchy.
DIY Compass for Kids
We made a compass – Find a plastic lid (think the size of a mayonnaise jar) and fill it with water. Slice a carrot, zucchini, etc. Strike a needle with a magnet 40 times and insert in veggie. Put veggie in the lid with water & watch it work! Goofy that it was pretty cool!! (need a step-by-step instructions, see homemade compass)
Compass Scavenger Hunt
We had a Compass Scavenger Hunt (I would give you a printable, but this was personal to our house so it wouldn’t do you much good.) The children went certain number of paces N or S, turned East, etc. He thought it was so much fun he asked to do it again!
Henry the Navigator Books
I did not find any good book to read on Prince Henry…. so we read the information about him I found online and located Portugal & Africa on a map. (Because of this there is not a lapbook on him, but we did pencil him in to our lapbook timeline.)
Download FREE Marco Polo Lapbook and Worksheets for Homeschoolers
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