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Leif Erikson Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Jenny Homer

Jenny has masters' degrees in public health and public administration.

This lesson will introduce you to Leif Erikson, a Viking explorer who found North America long before Christopher Columbus. Learn about his life, his travels, and his discoveries.

Who Is Leif Erikson?

We have all been taught that Christopher Columbus discovered the New World. But did you know that there was someone else from Europe who got to North America first, hundreds of years before Christopher Columbus was even born? This person was Leif Erikson, also known as Leif the Lucky. Leif Erikson was a Viking who sailed to North America around the year 1000.

The Vikings

The Vikings were a group of explorers and traders. They were from the part of the world where Norway is today. You might think of a Viking as wearing a helmet with horns, but there is no evidence to show this was true. They were farmers and raised animals.

The Vikings were able to trade around the world by traveling on amazing boats they built out of wood. These boats moved with sails and oars, and they sailed well in shallow water and in the ocean.

In the year 800, Vikings started raiding places in Britain to steal riches and jewelry. Sometimes they stayed and lived in the places they raided, but other times, they went back to Norway. They also traveled to Iceland, and many settled there.

A Viking Ship
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Leif Erikson's Early Life

What we know about Leif Erikson comes from stories called sagas. He and his brothers and sisters are said to have lived in Iceland with their father, Erik the Red. Erik left Iceland and traveled on his ship to explore different places. He found Greenland and took people back to live there. Erik became the head of the community in Greenland.

Leif Erikson Sails to North America

Leif Erikson on a United States Postage Stamp
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There are a few different stories about how Erik's son Leif Erikson ended up in North America. In one story, Leif Erikson got lost and found it by accident. Another story says that Leif went looking for North America after hearing about a new land from someone who saw it by boat.

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