Celebrate Columbus Day

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Columbus Day is a national holiday in the U.S. and many other countries in the Western Hemisphere. It’s fun to celebrate Columbus Day with hands-on learning and good books.

On October 12, 1492, Columbus landed on an island he renamed San Salvador. An Italian who sailed under the Spanish flag, Christopher was a devout Christian and had a strong desire to bring the Gospel to the people in the New World. His goal had been to find a direct route west to the Far East where the spices Europeans clamored for resided. He made four trips across the Atlantic Ocean to the New World in 1492, 1494, 1498, and 1502.

Christopher Columbus, like every man who ever lived except Jesus, was not perfect. He made mistakes and had character flaws. With that said, many of the charges leveled at him are simply not true. Columbus was very firm with his crew that they not steal from or rape the people who lived there. He instructed them to treat the native peoples with respect. He punished those who disobeyed his orders. He did bring native Americans home back with him to Spain, and we don’t know if they went willingly.   

With that said, Christopher Columbus is a person children enjoy getting to know. So, why do children love to learn about Columbus?   

The Great Explorer

Columbus loved adventure. He was a great explorer, master navigator, and esteemed admiral. Before making his trip to the New World, he sailed to Iceland, Ireland, and Madeira. He traded with African merchants along the coasts of West Africa.

We all want to discover new places and learn new things. Christopher Columbus was on a quest to push the limits and find gold. Yet, he also loved God and cared about people including his sailors and the people who had never heard about Jesus. He went where no other European had gone before in the last 400 years.

That zeal for adventure is contagious. Your children will pick it up when they learn about him.

So, how can we celebrate Columbus Day?

Columbus Day Activities & Crafts

There are so many ways that you can learn about Christopher Columbus. I like hands-on best. Here are six activity and craft ideas celebrate Columbus Day with hands-on learning and good books.

  • What kid doesn’t love to make a model of the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria? Models can be of paper, cardstock, foil, wood, or material that floats. We enjoyed traveling from one side of the bathtub to the other. Of course, we had to have a storm brew up splashing waves everywhere and tossing the poor little ships.
  • Mapmaking is another fun craft because it involves a compass rose to show direction and a map key with all the symbols. For more on the ingredients of a map, read my blog post, Hands on Geography: Map Components.
  • Draw and label his voyages on a world map.
  • Make a pretend telescope.
  • Look through a telescope at night after you learn more about how soldiers used stars to help guide their ships. Look for specific stars.
  • Make a timeline together or start an American history timeline. For more about timelines, read my blog post: The Super-Power of Timelines Helps History Make Sense.

The Age of Exploration

There were many sea captain explorers before and after Columbus in the time period we call the Age of Exploration. Learn about them, too. Compare their voyages to Columbus’s voyages. Map their adventures on a world map in different colors.

Here are some explorers to learn more about:

  • Prince Henry the Navigator
  • Hernando de Soto
  • Vasco de Gama
  • Pedro Alvares Cabral
  • John Cabot
  • Juan Ponce de Leon
  • Ferdinand Magellan
  • Frances Drake
  • Henry Hudson
  • Hernan Cortes
  • Amerigo Vespucci

The best way to learn about explorers is through well-written living books.

Books about Columbus and Other Explorers

Here are some of my favorite books and videos about Christopher Columbus

Picture Books

  • Christopher Columbus by Lola M. Schaefer
  • Follow the Dream: The Story of Christopher Columbus by Peter Sis
  • A Picture Book of Christopher Columbus by David A. Adler

Young Readers

  • Christopher Columbus by Marion Dane Bauer
  • Christopher Columbus by Stephen Krensky

Upper Elementary—Middle School

  • The Columbus Story by Alice Dalgliesh
  • Columbus by Ingri & Edgar Parin D’Aulaire
  • The World of Columbus and Sons by Genevieve Foster
  • Meet Christopher Columbus by James T. De Kay
  • Where Do You Think You’re Going, Christopher Columbus? by Jean Frtiz


  • Christopher Columbus Across the Ocean Sea (Heroes of History series) by Janet & Geoff Benge
  • The Log of Christopher Columbus by Christopher Columbus


  • Animated Hero Classics: Christopher Columbus
  • Drive Thru History: American History Episode 1: The Discovery

Have fun celebrating Columbus Day celebrate Columbus Day with hands-on learning and good books!

Until next time, Happy Homeschooling!


Meredith Curtis


Meredith Curtis, homeschooling mom, writer, speaker, and publisher, loves to encourage families in their homeschooling adventure. She is the author of Families Learning Together American History Art Appreciation, American History Timeline,  Americana Newspaper Reporting, American Literature & Research, British Literature & Writingand Who Dun It Murder Mystery Literature & Writing. You can check out her books, curricula, unit studies, and Bible studies at Read her blogs at and listen to her at Finish Well Podcast.


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"Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6).