Ancient Egypt Unit

Pack your bags and your sunscreen—we are going back in time to the mystical land of ancient Egypt! The people of ancient Egypt left us lots of clues about how they lived and what they believed, so this week we will learn about the people, their culture, and their way of life—and death. (But don’t worry, it will be in the accessible, play-based way your child loves!) Finally, we’ll end our week with an archeological dig they’ll never forget. So let’s “dig” into history and get started! Want to track your books and activities? Download our printable tracker here.

Note: Occasionally we include project upgrades (for kids ready for more) and modifications (which can be useful for including younger siblings). We’ll mark those with the plus (+) or minus (-) symbols.

What you need:

Books (find at your local library or order below on Amazon):

Optional additional reading:

Optional additional resource:

  • The Story of the World, Vol 1: Ancient Times by Susan Wise Bauer. We introduced The Well Trained Mind in this post by our contributor Kristen Sposito. This book is part of the Well Trained Mind history curriculum. Story of the World can be used in this unit instead of the story books for those who want to give The Well Trained Mind a try. Most libraries carry this book and it can easily be purchased in used condition from several online sellers as well as here on Amazon. Chapters 2-4 are about ancient Egypt and will line up with our daily lessons.

Supplies (use what you have, but here are links to shop if you need anything):

What to do:

We recommend doing the below lessons in this order to build on each skill your child will develop, but don’t feel that you *need* to do them in this order. Do what works for you and your child. If they love an activity, feel free to repeat! Not a winner? Skip and try the next thing. Have fun!

Lesson 1:

Let’s begin our travels by finding Egypt on our map, globe or atlas. Identify that it is on the continent Africa. Discuss any bordering nations that your child might be familiar with. Although people live in Egypt today, we will be learning about ancient Egypt. Read the book We’re Sailing Down the Nile to introduce this historic and fascinating place to your child.

Activity 1: Let’s learn more about the Nile River! (If you were with us for our Rivers, Lakes + Ponds Unit, this is a good time to review what makes a river a river!) Next, let’s make our own model of the Nile River and its delta.
(+) Have a child who loves to bake? Try this baked Nile instead!

Activity 2: The supported not only agricultural life in ancient Egypt, but also provided fish for the Egyptions to eat. Today, let’s break out our fishing activity from the Rivers, Lakes + Ponds Unit and pretend we’re doing some “river” fishing. If you weren’t with us for that unit, here is how to set up this fun, play-based literacy activity.

Remember to modify the activity to meet your child at their level. Here are a few ways you can use it:

  • lower and capital letter match
  • letter sound match
  • sight word recognition
  • finding their name
  • identifying letter combination sounds, for example ch, sh, th, wh, sl, st, etc.
  • vowels vs consonants

Note for grownups: Don’t use this activity to “test” their knowledge but instead to reinforce what they are currently working on. Try these types of questions and responses to keep the game positive and engaging:

  • Can we fish for the word “stop”?
  • If your child fishes and finds the word “stop,” reply, “You found it!”
  • If not, say: “You found the word ‘go’! Great job fishing for the word ‘go.’ Now let’s fish for the word ‘stop.’”

(-) To make the activity simpler, use a shorter string on your “fishing rod.”

Activity 3: Watch this video for a brief description of pyramids and mummies. One of the most famous places in Egypt is the pyramids of Giza. Look at the pictures in our book We’re Sailing Down the Nile to see what the pyramids look like. Your child might also enjoy looking at these photos of the pyramids today. Now, let’s build our own pyramid using one of the two ways suggested in this post. (One version is done with sugar cubes and another is done with LEGO, so choose the version your child will enjoy most!) 

Activity 4: The mummy experiment. Start this today, and it will do its thing all week long. Come back to it again at the end of the week to finish off your Egyptian studies. (Note for grownups: The blog we link to is not secular, but the activity itself is.)

Lesson 2:

The ancient Egyptians had a written code called hieroglyphics. Instead of words written with letters, it was a form of writing that used pictures or symbols to convey words. They wrote on paper called papyrus, which was made from river reeds. Read the book Hieroglyphs to learn more about it.

Activity 1: The cartouche was an oval-shaped name plate that was placed in the tomb of ancient Egyptians so they could be identified. (source) Let’s make our own cartouche by making your name in hieroglyphs in playdough or modeling clay for this craft. (Note: To actually wear it as a necklace, the air-dry clay works best.)

Activity 2: Make your own papyrus. 

Activity 3: Music was a big part of ancient Egyptian life. We don’t know exactly what the music sounded like since they didn’t leave behind music notes, but we do have lots of pictures of people playing instruments. Music was also was very important in their religious ceremonies. (source) The people played folk music and even love songs, and if there is music, there is usually dancing. Click here to see wall pictures of ancient people singing, dancing, and playing musical instruments. Take a look at this link to see the instruments they played.

Lesson 3:

Gold was a valued material in ancient Egypt. The Metropolitan Museum has many gold Egyptian artifacts on display and shared on their website that you and your child can view together here. Now, let’s make our own gold accessories. Today’s activities are meant to encourage pretend play, so don’t feel like you need to rush your child along to complete every activity if they get lost in their imagination. We will create three different crafts that will hopefully inspire your child to play like an ancient Egyptian! Once you’ve created all the accessories, read the story Muti’s Necklace and let them pretend to be part of the story.

Activity 1: A collar necklace.

Activity 2: Egyptian cuff.

Activity 3: Pharaoh’s headdress.

Activity 4: Gold slime.

Lesson 4:

Ancient Egyptians were a polytheistic society. That means they worshipped many gods. Today, we’ll take a closer look at how the beliefs of ancient Egyptians influenced their daily life, from their governments to what they kept in their homes. Use this opportunity to help your child compare and contrast their own ways of life with that of the ancient Egyptians. What do they have in common? What is different? Do you know other people who may have similar beliefs today?

Activity 1: Using your ancient Egypt figurines to create a sand play station. You will also need to print and cut out these printable cards and this Safari TOOB key. Hide the figurines in the sand. Giving your child paint brushes and spoons and have them dig for the pieces. As they find them, identify the pieces by name and have them match them to the key sheet. Share a fact from the printable card with them about that object. If there is not a card for that figurine, do research together to see what you can learn about it!

Activity 2: Let’s pretend we were visiting a museum today to learn about another Egyptian god. The Metropolitan Museum of Art features hundreds of ancient Egyptian artifacts. Let’s look at this special artifact of a cat statue. Review some of the interesting facts about the rolls cats played in ancient Egypt, then scroll down to the bottom of the page to listen to an audio description while you look at the picture. Next, let’s make this craft of a cat statue like the ones ancient Egyptians might have had in their homes, temples, and tombs.

Activity 3: The pharaoh (of king) of Egypt was also considered a god. One of the most famous pharaohs of Egypt was Tutankhamun. Start by reading this to learn a bit about him. Older kids might enjoy this video, too. The pyramids we learned about earlier this week were actually tombs where Egyptian kings and queens were buried when they died. The bodies were put into a special coffin called a sarcophagus. Before the bodies were buried, they were cleaned, perfumed, and wrapped with special bandages to preserve them. This process is called mummification. In today’s craft, we will bring this ancient custom come to life. (No pun intended!)

Start by building the sarcophagus craft. This will be about 5 inches long when you complete it.

Next make your mummy. You can either use a doll that is less than 5 inches long (be sure to wrap it in plastic wrap first if it’s something your child will want to play with again later), or you can cut out a body shape from cardstock or create a pipe cleaner (body). Next, follow this tutorial to bandage it up. Once the mummy is dry, place it inside your sarcophagus to complete the activity.

Tomorrow is your dig! Be sure to complete these tasks by tonight so you’ll be ready for the fun. First, take a terracotta pot and draw symbols on it using your stencil book. Next, smash the pot into several pieces. (Don’t make them too small—you will try to piece it back together after they find all the pieces.) Place the pieces into your prepared dig area. (You can also include the figurines from the previous lessons in your dig.) There are two different ways to approach the dig depending on your location and their interest level: in the ground or in a container. If you are unable to do an actual dig, try this virtual dig game instead.

Lesson 5:

How do we know so much about ancient Egypt? Let’s watch this video to learn how we know so much about this ancient world. We will also learn about archeologists and what they find in the ground!

Activity 1: Now let’s do our own dig! Bring your child to your prepared dig area. Begin by gridding and labeling the dig area as shown in the tutorial you chose. Give your child tools, such as shovels or large spoons, paint brushes, and a kitchen sieve. Be sure to use your new vocabulary that applies to the activity like “archeologist,” “excavation,” “artifacts,” and “grid.” Dig up one square at a time as you look for treasures!
(+) Want to upgrade this activity? Keep records of your dig by drawing a grid on a paper and labeling it like you have labeled your dig area. Record what items were found in each square.

Activity 2: Once you have completed your dig, collect all the artifacts your child found. Glue together the terracotta pot back together and talk about the symbols that are drawn on it. Discuss what they meant. Your child may even want to invent a story about what this pot may have been used for!

Activity 3: Don’t forget to check your mummified apples! Discuss which preservative method worked best and which one worked worst. Was it what you predicted?

Optional field trip: Most museums around the country have some kind of ancient Egypt display. Check your local museum, and plan a trip this weekend!

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