Castles Unit

This unit is full of fun history about medieval times in Western Europe. We will examine many parts of life during the feudal system of the dark ages—but with a kid friendly spin. Huzzah! This unit will also provide a wonderful opportunity for pretend play as a prince, a princess, a lord or lady, a knight, a jester, a scribe, or a peasant. Our unit will give your littles a foundation for a part of history they will be learning about for years to come. 🏰 Click here for a downloadable tracker to keep tabs on the books you read and skills your child will work on.

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):

Note for grownups: We’re suggesting specific books below, but if you can’t find these at your local library, most other books for kids on this subject will serve the same purpose. You want the book to have lots of illustrations about castle life. They should include pictures and details about the people who lived and worked in the castle (lords, knights, peasants) and parts of their life, like entertainment, hunting, and battles.

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:

Introduce our unit with a little map work! Find Europe in your map and point out the part of the world we will be learning about. This medieval map will help you identify the land names as they were called at the time. (You can download a preview if you don’t want to print/purchase.) Timelines are difficult for little kids to understand, but we want them to know that we will be going back in time some 2,000 years. This won’t have too much significance to them right now, but as they continue to learn about history, that foundation will be invaluable.
(+) This video shares a brief overview of life in medieval times for kids, and this one is great for grownups looking to brush on their medieval knowledge.

Activity 1: Start by establishing your own “royal family” for the week! Family crests were used to identify noble families in the Middle Ages. It also displayed what the family was most proud of! Using this activity, create your own family crest after discussing these suggested questions:

  • What makes your family different or special from other families? 
  • What is your favorite part of being in your family? 
  • What makes your family strong? Or cool? 
  • What is important to your family? 
  • What do you all value? 
  • What do your family members have in common? 
  • What do you and your family members like to do together?

(-) Not ready to design your own crest? Simply print and color this one in your favorite colors.

Activity 2: Read about castles in whichever book you were able to find. (The recommended books all have several pages about where castles were built, what materials were used, what their purpose was, and who lived in them.)  Point out that castles were not only homes but also fortifications, meaning they protected the people inside from outsiders. (Note: During the late Middle Ages, the peasants homes were also inside the castles outer walls. This allowed them to be protected, too!) After some reading, discuss the difference between the homes of Lords to your own home.

Now it’s time to build your own castle with this simple project! (Don’t have a big box? Here’s how to make a castle with paper towel rolls and pieces of cardboard.) Need a little help with the drawbridge? This post breaks down how to make one.

Note: If you have a very imaginative child, don’t rush them through this project. They may want to decorate their castle or continue open-ended play with dolls or figurines that live in the castle. This play is learning, too!

Lesson 2:

Today’s activities will be dedicated to the brave knight. Find the section in your book about knights and read that today. Talk about their role as protectors of the lords, what they wore, and all about the joust. Today, jousts are considered more entertainment than sport—but you might see it at the next Olympics, so keep your eyes opened! Next, get read to transform into a knight with these fun crafts.

Activity 1: Make a knight craft.

Activity 2: Make a sword craft.

Activity 3: Make a shield.

Activity 4: Sometimes the castle needed to be protected with some “high-tech” equipment. Use this activity to make your own catapult—while also learning about physics. (What goes up, must come down!)
(+) Want to take your catapult skills to the next level? Use your box castle as a target and try to fire pom poms into it!

Lesson 3:

Kings and queens lived in castles, but not everyone who lived in a castle was royalty. Read to your child about the kings and nobles who lived in the castle and about their life. Share the food they ate and feasts they enjoyed. If you need a giggle, don’t forget to show them the castle “toilet” in your book (AKA, the hole that ran down the wall into the moat!). They might also enjoy knowing that bath time was rare—instead lots of herbs were thrown about to hide the smell. 🛀

Activity 1: Start by reading Who Wants to be a Princess?, or listen to our read aloud here! Then, have a little royal fun with this crown making craft.
(+) Want more of a challange? Little kings and queens will enjoy this version.

Activity 2: Education in medieval times was very different from today. Most people (especially peasants) couldn’t read or write—even many nobles couldn’t read or write. It was mostly the clergy who had all the education. If a noble family wanted to educate their children, they would either do it themselves or get a priest to tutor them. [Source.] But for those who did read and write, they used a scroll and a quill. Let’s make our own look-alikes with these scroll and quill crafts.

Activity 3: Once you have your quills, let’s practice using them with this castle maze printout.

Activity 4: Now that your “studies” are over, it’s time to play like a royal! When noblemen had parties (or feasts) they would often bring in artists, jugglers, acrobats, singers, and jesters to entertain their guests. Sound right up your child’s alley? Make their own jester hat using this simple craft.

Next, get a little silly! There are very few records of medieval jester jokes (and what exists isn’t very child-friendly! 😝), but here are a few funny royal jokes to tell your little jester. 🃏

Q: What do you call a medieval lamp?
A: A knight light!

Q: Why did the king go to the dentist?
A: To get his teeth crowned!

Q: Where does the king keep his armies?
A: Up his sleevies!

Knock! Knock!
Who’s there?
Queen.
Queen who?
Queen your room. It’s filthy!

Q: What’s the best day to tell jokes?
A: Jester-day!

Q: Which princess makes the best judge?
A: Snow White…because she’s the fairest of them all!

Lesson 4:

Today, we’re going to talk about an often overlooked class of people in medieval life—peasants. Start by reading about the life of a peasant in your book, or you can click here for more information to share with your child. Talk about farming the land, paying taxes to the nobles in exchange for protection, and the many challenges they faced.

Activity 1: Our fine art picture for this week depicts peasant life. Examine the photo and talk about the similarities between the painting and your own family’s life. Focus on the peasants playing, singing, and dancing.

***Click here for more tips on how to teach children about art!

Activity 2: The music of medieval times can still be recreated today, thanks to a few composers who wrote it down. Listen and watch some authentic medieval music here. Discuss the instruments they used. (Here’s a quick list of instruments you can share with them: lute, recorder, harp, and the vielle.) Talk about the beat and rhythm of these songs. Want to listen to more music while you do the next math lesson? Try this video.

Activity 3: Castle math activity.
(-) Or try this connect-the-dots modification. Start by having your child identify the numbers, then connect them in order before coloring in the picture.

Activity 4: During the late middle ages, peasants with specific skills eventually got together and made guilds. Pretend that you are in a Weaver’s Guild and create this medieval banner craft.

Note for tonight: Tomorrow, we suggest making the below “pudding” tart dessert for the feast. It needs to refrigerate for at least 3 hours, so if you won’t be able to make it early in the day, we recommend making it tonight!

Lesson 5:

We’re celebrating our last day of Castle lessons with a Learn + Live Medieval Feast! Join us at 12:30 p.m. EST for the festivities, but in the meantime, prep the below activities to decorate your space and get your own “feast” ready.

Activity 1: What did people eat during medieval times? This silly video breaks it down for us. Now, get your own plate ready! We recommend creating a “medieval snack plate” with any of the following items:

  • bread + butter
  • pickles
  • veggies (and dip if you prefer!)
  • meat (lunch meat works fine!)
  • cheese
  • fruit

Activity 2: “Pudding” was a common dessert in medieval times, but it didn’t look quite like the pudding we know now. In fact, it resembled more of a fruitcake or a custard. If you want something sweet at the feast, prepare this simple, no-bake version in the morning or the night before and keep it in the fridge until our festivities.

Activity 3: Next, decorate the wall behind your student for our Zoom call! Hang the banner you made this week, then print out this stained glass picture for them to color and hang.
(-) Need something simpler? This castle picture also helps with letter recognition!

Activity 4: We can’t wait for you to join us for the feast! We’ll be doing a bonus read aloud and making this chalice craft together. (Make sure to have your supplies handy so you’re ready when it’s time to create your chalice!)

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