The New Americans — Books + Activity

This year for social studies we’re learning about US American history. Last term we studied Native Americans and this term we’re learning about the early colonists. Today I’m sharing one of my favorite new kids books about that time period as well as a simple art project we did to remember what we’d learned.

You can see more of our US American history projects HERE.

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The New Americans is quickly becoming one of my favorite books we’ve used for social studies so far this year. This book was one of those ones I’d looked at on Amazon a few times before finally taking the plunge and I’m so glad I finally got it! The illustrations are wonderful and it covers so many different events and groups of people from that time period. Even as an adult, it’s really helped give me a much more clear picture of who was where and what was going on when.

Even though there are full-color illustrations on every page, it’s still pretty text heavy, which I like for this kind of book. Still, since I have young kids, we’ve just been reading through it a few pages at a time.

As we started the book, we noticed on the copyright page that there was a note saying the illustrations in the book were done in colored pencil and water colors, so after we finished reading our bit for the day, we decided to try our hand at making our own illustrations that way!

Using the illustrations from the book as inspiration, we started by drawing all of the outlines with colored pencils. My 4 year old son drew an ocean on his own.

My daughter was inspired by this picture from the book (below) and drew her own version of it (above).

Once they finished with the colored pencils, they used the water colors to fill in. We’ve tried a few different watercolor sets and my favorite so far is this Kid Made Modern watercolor set from Target. It has a wider variety of colors and they’re much more vibrant than the washable Crayola watercolors we’ve tried. It costs a little more, but we’ve used them a ton and it’s been totally worth it. Also, just FYI, the paper the kids are painting on is the watercolor paper that comes with the set and it’s also top notch.

This process of colored pencil outlines + watercolor fill was so simple, but produced such satisfying results. Sometimes watercolors can be frustrating for the kids (ok, for me too) because it’s hard to keep them where you want them and get those good, crisp outlines. Using the colored pencils first allowed the kids to still start from scratch on their own drawings and have total control, but also helped outline the things in their artwork and even provide a small physical boundary that made it so the paints didn’t spill and mix quite so much on the paper. We’ll definitely be trying this again!

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