Updated: Sep 17
Timelines are a brilliant way to help children visualise sequences of events during time periods better and improve their understanding of the things they learn about. Making timelines online with pictures can benefit kids understanding of local history, world history, how things (including themselves!) change or grow over time and can even help to develop essential 21st-century skills!
With ChronoFlo Timeline Maker kids can create interactive timelines online that are packed with information and look beautiful. I'll show you how your child can do this too. (with an example of my own!)
Timelines for Kids: History and Biography
Firstly, what is a timeline? Timelines are visual representations of the key events that have taken place during a certain timeframe made by placing them along a line in chronological order. A horizontal line (or sometimes a vertical list) represents the timespan and events are placed according to when they happened along this line. Timelines for kids might include historic events in a certain period of history or significant milestones or experiences throughout a child's life for example.
You and your kids can make beautiful interactive historical and biographical timelines for free at home with kids of all ages and I’m going to show you how. 🙌
How do timelines help us understand History?
Timelines are great for teaching kids about history because they make it easy to see the chronology of a time period (the order of different events) as well as allowing kids to more easily analyse and make conclusions about the information they have. When making a timeline with pictures, kids can understand how the world changes and also how they change and grow over time.
Creating timelines online is a really good home learning activity that will support the critical thinking and creative skills (must-have skills in a 21st-century education) of kids at any age because it encourages them to show characteristics like finding new ways to do things, developing sequences and planning how they can approach a task best.
How to make a timeline online
I’m going to show you how your child can create a free timeline online with pictures and dates using ChronoFlo Timeline Maker.
1. You’ll need to start by deciding on a timespan to focus on. So you might decide to focus on your six-year-old's first six years of life or it could be that your timeline covers a specific historical era that is relevant to the curriculum and age-appropriate for your child. Don’t worry if you aren’t sure what would be relevant and age-appropriate, we are going to look at some ideas for kids of different ages further on in the post.
2. Next, you need to plan which events you will include in your timeline. Your child will now need to do some research to find out what the most important, relevant events that occurred during the timeframe were. Avoid making the activity way too long by choosing the right number of events - the younger the child the fewer - and try to guide kids towards choosing the most important events only, especially if they’re only including a few. For example, if you’re making a timeline of your five-year-old son's life, you might want to just choose around five of the most important events, whereas older kids studying a certain period in history could include many more. I wouldn’t recommend adding more than about 10-20 events for any child, at least at first, or they might get bored of actually inputting them onto their digital timeline. (If the online timeline activity sparks a real interest, they can always come back to it and add more events later on.) Parents: You will need to guide your child in how to find the information that they need - whether that is using an online search engine or looking in books. Try to use questions that lead your child’s thinking wherever you can, because this will encourage them to think actively rather than just do what you say they should.
Questions such as “How could we find out when ....”, “What could we type into Google to find out about ….?” or “Do you think that event is relevant to ….?”. Keep in mind also that younger children might not know what words like event or date mean or even what a timeline is. You might want to show kids some examples before getting started so that they have a better idea of what they’re aiming at.
💡 Remember to use pictures!
This is really, really important for a few reasons:
kids whose reading is still developing will be able to understand their own timeline better
timelines that include pictures will make it easier to see and discuss how things have changed over time
adding pictures makes the activity more child-friendly and more fun
3. Finally, you can add the events to your ChronoFlo online timeline. Give your child the right amount of help and support with using ChronoFlo timeline maker and don’t be afraid to show that you are learning too. Don’t worry if you haven’t 100% got to grips with how to make an online timeline yet because this is the perfect opportunity for you to learn something together! (Keep reading to see the steps that I took to create an amazing Roman History timeline using ChronoFlo.)
Don’t forget to ask more questions at various stages that will get your child thinking critically about the decisions they make. You might ask if a certain picture is really helpful to represent a certain event, how many different types of sources of information they used and why or how they know if a source is reliable or not for example.
4. Share! Share your finished timeline with others using a link or by embedding it onto a website and allow those who view your timeline to share it with social media share buttons that can be automatically added! The sharing features make it easy to share a timeline with classmates, teachers, family members, or friends who might share your interest! 🤗
Example: How to make a Roman History timeline online
In just 10 weeks I’ll be moving to Italy to teach in a school in Rome and so I thought: What better topic could I pick to do an example timeline with than The Romans!?
The Roman Empire is a key focus area for Key Stage 2 history (ages 7 to 11) in the UK and is also commonly covered in the US by elementary, middle and high school students. Ancient Rome is also a major topic for kids that live in Italy as they study the history of their own local region.
Here is the Timeline of the Roman Empire that I made using ChronoFlo Timeline Maker. You can scroll back and forth to see more events and you can click on the events to find out more and see the pictures. You can also use the magnifying glass icon to change the zoom and the spacing.
So here's what I did to make my beautiful interactive Roman Empire Timeline on ChronoFlo:
1. I did a Google search to find a website with key dates in the history of the Roman Empire.
2. Typed up a list of events to be included in my timeline into a Google Doc.
3. Checked on some other websites and reliable YouTube videos to make sure the dates that I have are accurate and to see if any other events should also be included. I updated my Google Doc by adding new events and deleting others that didn’t seem as important.
4. I decided whether I would add pictures to all of my events or just some of them and found the pictures I wanted to use. (Remind your child about using images responsibility by either making their own or using Creative Commons images.)
5. Next, I signed up for a free ChronoFlo Timeline Maker account and went to the My Account area.
6. Under Create New Timeline, I typed in the title ‘Roman History’ and then I clicked on the Create new timeline button.
7. You’ll be taken to your new timeline and have the option of watching the Getting Started video, which I highly recommend watching to get an idea of what you can do with ChronoFlo.
8. Next, I clicked on the plus icon to add my first event to my new timeline.
9. Clicking on the plus icon to add a new event brings up a pane on the right where you can put in the details of your event. To begin with, you'll need to at least put in a title and the date.
A note about dates: Since the timeframe for my Roman History timeline was over hundreds of years and I only wanted the year that each event took place to be displayed, I just selected the 1st of January of whatever year it was. You could really choose any date if you're only going to have the year displayed in your timeline, but if your timeline is over a shorter timespan or the exact dates are important to you then you can select the exact date in this pane instead.
On my Roman History timeline, I also put in some more details about some of the events in the Text section. This will be displayed underneath the title and in slightly smaller text on your timeline. Once you finish entering the information you'd like for this event, click on Save changes and you'll see your first event showing up in your timeline.
Now repeat step 9 until all the events you had on your Google Doc list are added to your timeline.
10. Click on the Options tab on the far right-hand side to see what options you have for adjusting your timeline. You can change the colours and the design of your timeline using a theme by clicking on Create or edit a theme, or by adjusting settings under change the appearance of your timeline, background image and color and timeline settings. The Share and embed section allows you to share your new timeline with others but also lets you choose whether you want others to be able to share it too.
Finally, here's a quick overview of where making a timeline could fit into your child's preschool or primary (in the UK) or elementary or middle school curriculum! Hopefully, this section will give you some ideas for what kind of timeline your child could make according to their age.
Timeline project ideas for Kindergarten & Early Years
When it comes to timeline project ideas for kindergarten and early years children, a timeline of your child’s life would be more age-appropriate than a historic timeline. Parents could create a timeline of important life events for a child for their young children or, even better, with their kids.
Creating a timeline with your young child can help to support so many learning objectives in all different areas of a school curriculum for kids up to six. Here are just a few examples of learning objectives that a timeline activity could support (taken from the brilliant UK Early Years curriculum). These are things that all kids should know and do:
Reading: “Knows that information can be retrieved from books and computers”
Maths: “Orders and sequences familiar events”
Understanding the World: “Remembers and talks about significant events in their own experience”
Technology: “Uses ICT hardware to interact with age-appropriate computer software”
Timeline projects for elementary school
Kids in Kindergarten up to grade 4 in the US study U.S. History.
K-4 U.S. History
From grade five onwards, or from the age of 10, kids in the U.S. kids begin to study World History, as well as U.S. History and the areas studied are below. Keep in mind that kids study these areas all the way up to grade 12 and so if your child is 10 or 11 years old then they won’t have covered all of these areas yet.
5-12 U.S. History
Era 5: Civil War and Reconstruction (1850-1877)
5-12 World History
Timeline projects for primary school
Primary school children in the UK are aged 5-11 with a history curriculum for Key Stage 1 (5-7-year-olds) and then for Key Stage 2 (7-11-year-olds).
History in Key Stage 1
changes within living memory. Where appropriate, these should be used to reveal aspects of change in national life
events beyond living memory that are significant nationally or globally [for example, the Great Fire of London, the first aeroplane flight or events commemorated through festivals or anniversaries]
the lives of significant individuals in the past who have contributed to national and international achievements. Some should be used to compare aspects of life in different periods [for example, Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria, Christopher Columbus and Neil Armstrong, William Caxton and Tim Berners-Lee, Pieter Bruegel the Elder and LS Lowry, Rosa Parks and Emily Davison, Mary Seacole and/or Florence Nightingale and Edith Cavell]
significant historical events, people and places in their own locality.
History in Key Stage 2
changes in Britain from the Stone Age to the Iron Age
the Roman Empire and its impact on Britain
Britain’s settlement by Anglo-Saxons and Scots
the Viking and Anglo-Saxon struggle for the Kingdom of England to the time of Edward the Confessor
a local history study
a study of an aspect or theme in British history that extends pupils’ chronological knowledge beyond 1066
the achievements of the earliest civilizations – an overview of where and when the first civilizations appeared and a depth study of one of the following: Ancient Sumer; The Indus Valley; Ancient Egypt; The Shang Dynasty of Ancient China Ancient Greece – a study of Greek life and achievements and their influence on the western world – a non-European society that provides contrasts with British history – one study chosen from: early Islamic civilization, including a study of Baghdad c. AD 900; Mayan civilization c. AD 900; Benin (West Africa) c. AD 900-1300.
Not sure what topics your kids are covering this year in their history or social studies class? To find more information on the US and UK national curriculum for history and social studies in schools click here.