Civilization Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Kathryn Miedema Dominguez

Kathryn has taught elementary students for over ten years and has her master's degree in elementary education.

In this lesson, you will learn how civilizations began and grew, as well as the different aspects that make them unique, including leaders, laws, money, and work.

What is a Civilization?

Imagine living in a time when there weren't any cities and you had to gather, grow or hunt your own food; build your own home, and sew your own clothes. Cities symbolize civilizations because they show that a group of people have found a way to live together and build businesses that provide goods and services for everyone. A civilization not only consists of buildings but also a group of people that live together and follow a set of rules.

For example, in order for a civilization to grow and prosper, it has to have a common set of laws so that everyone is in agreement with each other. In the United States, everyone drives on the right side of the road. This prevents car accidents from happening by keeping everyone driving in the same direction.

Civilizations are complex and have many layers that help them flourish. Civilizations are built upon a common language (spoken and written), important art and architecture, and cities. They are also based upon how people work, social classes, and a system of government.

Ancient Egyptian Written Language
Ancient Egyptian Writing

How Did Civilizations Start?

Thousands of years ago, humans were nomadic, which means they didn't live in one place. Instead, they moved around, following groups of animals that they hunted for food. As they moved around, they gathered fruits and vegetables in different areas. However, it became very tiring for the nomads to keep packing up their homes and all their belongings and carrying everything with them everywhere they went.

Once humans figured out how to farm, where they planted seeds and harvested their food, they started building homes and staying in one place. This led to trade among families and communities. For example, if a farmer had extra apples and needed wheat, then he could find another farmer to trade wheat for apples.

When there were enough people producing a variety of goods, farmers began focusing on one or a few crops. Later, people became skilled in other areas, such as building houses for traded goods or money. As villages grew, people focused on different skilled trades, and money became part of their civilization. Money systems are another really important aspect of civilizations, such as dollars in the United States, pounds in England, and pesos in Mexico.

English groat coin from the 1200s.

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