Chapters 3 and 5 in Snapshots of Ancient History are about life in early Mesopotamia. From the invention of farming to the invention of math and writing, the Mesopotamian people of Sumer were a pretty important step in the history of the world. But I think someone forgot to tell all the kids publishers that. While my little rural library has several shelves of book on ancient Egypt, it has a sum total of zero books on Ancient Mesopotamia. When you hop on Amazon, the pickings aren't terribly impressive at first glance either. With a bit of digging, I've come up with 10+ ways you can expand and enhance your study of ancient Mesopotamia with your kiddo(s).
1. DK Eyewitness Book: Mesopotamia. The DK books are a solid reference source for a wide variety of topics. The pages can be a bit busy for some kids, but the plethora of pictures makes it a really great resource for visual learners.
2. Evan Moor History Pockets: Ancient Civilizations. This is a resource you can use again and again in your study of ancient history. It begins with some activities introducing the concept of history and then has sections on Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, China, and the Aztecs. These activities are more on the crafty side, with lots of cutting, gluing, and coloring. My kids particularly enjoyed the pop-up ziggurat activity.
3. Ancient Egyptians and Their Neighbors: An Activity Guide. Now this may seem like a strange title to put on a list about Mesopotamia, but the "and their neighbors" part of the title actually includes quite a bit of information. The book is divided into four fairly equal parts about the Egyptians, the Mesopotamians, the Nubians, and the Hittites. Each section includes information pages, followed by detailed activity instructions, such as how to make your own cone mosaic, how to make a golden flower headdress, how to make your own Mesopotamian loom, or how to make your own ziggurat.
4. You Wouldn't Want to Be a Sumerian Slave. The You Wouldn't Want to Be series doesn't skimp on the facts and with this such a difficult topic, you might want to skip this book for younger students. If you have older students or have previously studied other types of slavery, this book can be a great addition to your studies.
5. Get a lay of land. Hop over Free Coloring Pages for Kids to download a free blank map of Mesopotamia, so your kiddos can mark the location of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and other landforms, while becoming more familiar with this part of the world.
6. If you kiddo is a fan of coloring, this Bellerophon coloring book offers beautiful pictures of Ancient Mesopotamia for them to color. This is a great way to keep little hands busy while reading other history books aloud.
7. Turn history class into science class with these two fun STEM activities from StudentSavvy on Teachers Pay Teachers. This pack includes cuneiform coding and a ziggurat marble run.
8. Make your own cuneiform tablet. Grab some air dry clay (or just some playdough if you don't plan on keeping it) and a popsicle stick or the back of a paintbrush and let your kiddo set to work.
Have your kiddo take a close look at some pictures of cuneiform, noting how the marks are mostly lines with little triangles on the end, kind of like golf tees.
Then let your kiddo try to make their own cuneiform.
If you're using air dry clay, set it out to dry.
While it's drying, it's a great time to have a conversation with your kiddo about the pros and cons of clay tablet writing vs. pencil and paper writing.
9. Make your own clay seal. The Sumerian invention of the clay seal is pretty darn impressive. It took the world quite a long time to come up with another method of mass producing writing. To experiment with just how this early printing press worked, you're going to need air dry or oven hardening clay and a piece of sturdy metal wire, like part of a metal hanger.
Shape the clay into a fat cylinder about 2 inches long. Poke the metal wire through the two ends of the cylinder.
Let your kiddo add an inscription to the cylinder, such as his/her name. Remember to make the inscription a mirror image, so it rolls onto the clay tablet the correct direction!
Lay the wire across the rim of a bowl so the cylinder can dry. If you're using oven hardening clay, bake according to the package directions.
Shape some more clay or playdough into a tablet shape. When the cylinder is dry, roll it across the tablet to reveal the inscription!
If you want, you can thread a piece of string or ribbon through the hole in the cylinder to turn it into a necklace your kiddo can wear.
10. Games! Games are a fantastic way to deepen and expand learning, and game makers have not forgotten about the wonders of Mesopotamia when designing games! Here are some games that might help round out your study of Mesopotamia:
Hopefully these ideas will help you as you plan your study of Ancient Mesopotamia!