Studying Ancient Mexico and South America is fascinating. The cultures of Mesoamerica still have living descendants, so it’s almost like studying living history. And since new discoveries are being made all the time, even if you think you know all about the Mayans, Aztec and Incas, there’s always something new to learn. So I put together a list of the Aztec, Mayan and Inca history resources we used in our homeschool.
The Incas, Mayans and Aztec had cultures that were flourishing at the same time as the Romans, Greeks, and throughout the Medieval eras. They ended with the Spanish conquistadors, but many of the cities, towns, villages and significant sites are excavated or even still in use today.
The Aztec, Mayan and Inca history resources:
I love using living books to study history. And reading the stories of Mesoamerica is both familiar and exotic. It’s familiar because the location and geography is more familiar, living here in the Western hemisphere, but the customs and appearances of Mesoamerican cultures is still unusual and exciting. Yet, some of the cultural hallmarks are incredibly similar to other ancient cultures, such as hieroglyphics, pyramids, and the mythological stories.
Picture books offer an easy-access way for even young children to be able to study history. For Aztecs, Incas & Mayans, there are some very cool books that offer bilingual text and will even help teach your child simple words and phrases in Spanish or Portuguese. So here are a few of our favorites:
- Celebrating Cinco de Mayo by Sandi Hill
- Hummingbird King by Sara Palacios
- Just a Minute by Yuyi Morales (** note: worth the read, but one of the main characters is a skeleton, in case you’re sensitive to this kind of material**)
- The Sad Night by Sally Schofer Mathews
- Rainbow Weaver by Linda Elovitz Marshall
- The Princess and the Warrior by Duncan Tonatiuh
- The Chocolate Tree by Linda Lowrey
- Abuela’s Weave by Omar S. Castaneda
- Rain Player by David Wisneiwski
- Lost City by Ted Lewin
- Kotu, the Tiny Inca Princess by Mariana Llanos
Read-aloud or Chapter Books:
Aztec, Mayan and Inca history resources offer tantalizingly familiar, yet still excitingly exotic stories. And so the historical fiction set in this time period are often unexpectedly thrilling. Try these read-alouds with your kids — or let them read them for themselves!
- The Corn Grows Ripe by Dorothy Rhoads
- Secret of the Andes by Ann Nolan Clark
- The Well of Sacrifice by Chris Eboch
For non-fiction & informative reading:
As I’ve said before, my favorite series are the DK Eyewitness, and the “You Wouldn’t Want to be… ” series. Mesoamerican resources are plentiful, because their ruins and history are relatively accessible. Here are some of the resources we’ve found most helpful.
- Secrets in Stone: All About Maya Hieroglyphs by Laurie Coulter
- The Ancient Maya by Jackie Maloy
- You Wouldn’t Want to be a Mayan Soothsayer by Rupert Matthews
- The Inca Empire by Jane Bingham
- Fierce Fighters: Aztec Warriors by Charlotte Guillam
- You Wouldn’t Want to be an Aztec Sacrifice by Fiona MacDonald
- The Aztecs by Jane Shuter
- Science of the Early Americas by Geraldine Woods
- DK Eyewitness: Aztec, Inca & Maya by Elizabeth Baquedano
Mesoamerican archaeology has been ongoing since the days of the Spanish conquistadors in the 14th century. Most explorers and archaeologists were really treasure hunters and looters, rather than true historians and scientists, so much has been damaged or lost. But there are still unexplored cities and sites in the high reaches of the Andes or buried in the jungles.
Here are a couple of the more interesting documentaries we’ve watched.
Activities you can do:
These lapbooks and unit studies make fantastic activities to help guide your learning:
Here are some interactive websites that will help you and your kids learn more about Mesoamerica:
- Aztecs, Maya & Inca — for Kids!
- Mr. Donn’s Ancient History (for teachers & for kids) ** one of our favorite sites for kid-friendly history!!**
- Social Studies for Kids: Ancient America
- Golden Kingdoms
Plus don’t forget to go to a museum and see Aztec, Mayan or Incan artifacts for yourselves! Aztec, Mayan and Inca history resources are widely studied, so there’s probably some near you.
What’s your favorite way to study history? Do you prefer to watch it, read
about it, or get hands-on?