Fun Activities to Teach Past, Present, and Future

I love teaching my kiddos about past, present, and future. Not only does it help them develop new vocabulary and chronological thinking, but it also helps them understand how our world changes.  Without getting too technical we learn about technology and progress. We compare life today to life in the past, and we make inferences and visualize what life might be like in the future. There are so many fun and engaging activities you can incorporate into your classroom when teaching the past, present, and future unit. Let's take a look at some fun ways I've incorporated teaching these skills and standards in my classroom. 

Use these fun activities to teach your students all about past, present, and future.

Past, Present and Future Overview

This Past, Present, and Future Unit is jam-packed with a variety of past, present and future topics, but it's really important to start with the basics. I always start by introducing the concepts and vocabulary related to the past, present, and future. We start with the basics and make sure we have a good understanding of the vocabulary before moving forward.  It really helps to have the entire class on the same page with these important words and concepts. It allows for richer discussion throughout the unit when students are all using the same vocabulary.  

Once we complete the introduction, then we start applying our new knowledge to a variety of different life areas. Depending on how much time you have available, you can really have the flexibility to dig into these concepts. If time is short, you could complete this entire unit in about 2 weeks, but if you have more time it is really nice to spend 4 to 6 weeks on the unit.  

This unit has 6 different teaching resources to give a comprehensive overview of Past, Present, and Future. 

These past, present, and future activities include worksheets, craftivities, and more to help your students understand the differences and similarities between each.

The included resources cover an introduction to this topic, student timelines, schools, transportation, communication, and food and cooking. 

My students love learning about past, present, and future in different areas of their lives. The activities and crafts we incorporate get them super excited about learning. They can't wait to share what we work on in class with their families.

Introducing Past, Present, and Future

The first topic we work on is the introduction to the concepts of past, present, and future.  Our focus during this first topic is on the important vocabulary that will help us dig deeper into these important concepts of time. These first lessons give my students a solid foundation of the concepts and the skills we will cover in the next weeks. 

Introduce your past, present, and future unit with all sorts of fun activities your students can do in small groups or even as a whole class.

During this introductory topic, we complete a variety of whole-class activities that help us learn important vocabulary. We start out with definition cards to help students understand these concepts and then move on to activities like vocabulary sorting, making mini-books, and completing follow-up worksheets. We also practice categorizing a variety of pictures as past, present, or future.

Visualizing Past, Present, and Future

Once we have an understanding of the vocabulary, we set out to visualize these concepts.  Timelines are the perfect visualization activity.  To help students really connect with these concepts and ideas, we always start with a timeline project about the students.

As I introduce how we can visualize the passage of time, I like to incorporate videos too.  This video is a great introduction before we start creating our own timelines.

As we work to put these new concepts into practice we start by connecting them to ourselves. Students love seeing how these "big words" can actually apply to them.  

We practice using timelines to order events in time. We also practice reading timelines in order to learn about the order of events. I put together a variety of no-prep activities to help us really focus on how to create and use timelines.  

Creating a personalized timeline like this will help your students visualize the concepts of past, present, and future.

We finish learning about timelines with a personal timeline project.  The students LOVE creating a timeline of their lives to share with the class.  

Understanding Our World with Past, Present, and Future

By now, students have a fairly solid understanding of the vocabulary words.  They have been able to identify past, present, and future in their own lives.  Now, it's time to dig deeper.  Now we begin connecting these concepts to the world around us.  

Each of these topics includes a mini-book that is a great introduction.  The students love these interactive books and being part of adding some of the pictures and ideas to the books.  

Make real world connections to the past by asking students to connect with parents and grandparents.

The internet is a great resource for finding images and videos of the past.  I love for students to really see what the past looked like, as much as this is possible.  The photos and videos make a great basis for our discussions as we can compare specific activities, tools, and structures.

There is usually a "minds blown" moment when students realize that everything around them has a past, present, and future. They love comparing life today to what it was for their parents, grandparents, and even before.  Then, we love the creativity that comes with thinking about the future.  While it's pretty easy to imagine the immediate future, the far-off future is what really excites the students.


Students love learning about schools from the past and dreaming about what they will be like in the future. They love seeing what classrooms were like in the past and can't believe that students of all ages and grade levels were in the same classroom.  

Your students will love completing these activities to help them understand what schools were like in the past, how they function today, and what they may look like in the future.

We begin using the mini-book as we learn about what schools were like in the past. We compare schools of the past to our schools today. We work on the important skills of comparing and contrasting that can be transferred to many areas of the curriculum.

We finish this look into schools creating a comparison diorama. The kids love creating this!  I love listening to their discussions as they work.  It's so fun to hear them talk about how they would like to use slates and chalk instead of paper, or why they are glad they are in school now instead of in the past. 


From horses and buggies to flying cars this topics group discussions are exciting! When it comes to transportation a lot has changed. It's really crazy to think of all the changes that have happened just in the last century, much less the history of the world. 

The students love sharing their opinions on traveling by foot, using animals to help in transportation, and now the world of self-driving cars.  

The transportation section of the past, present, and future unit will get your students thinking about not only what vehicles looked like in the past but also the possibilities of what they could be in the future.

The students love using their imagination to dream up cars of the future. If you need a reminder of just how much your students are soaking up, just ask them "Why" they created the futuristic car they did. It's amazing to listen to them talk about the changes from the past to the present and letting those guide their thoughts of what will happen in the future. The 3D craftivity is definitely this week's highlight. 


Boy have we come a long way in the area of communication too! Most of our students don't even know what an old landline phone looks like. It is always fun to bring one into class and see how many of them actually know what it is! Kids who have grown up in the smartphone generation, they are amazed to find out that the "old" phones of the past could only be used for talking!  

Communication devices of the past are probably something your students aren't very familiar with, but they will be once you cover the communication portion of the past, present, and future unit.

I love talking about how instant our communication is today.  For many students, they have never thought about the time it would take for communication to happen in the past.  One of my favorite activities on this topic is postcard writing!  Students love designing a postcard to send to a friend or family member. I love to mail them for the students too. Being able to create and send mail is really exciting because snail mail is becoming a thing of the past. 


Calling all foodies out there! This just might be one of the most fun topics of the unit. It's definitely the tastiest. After all, can we really talk about food and cooking without doing some taste tests? In this topic, we talk about the different ways that people would acquire food and cook it.  I love bringing in some foods that could have been grown in the garden, those that have been canned in mason jars, and even foods that have been preserved to last longer (like beef jerky).  

Thinking about how cooking has evolved and will evolve in the past, present, and future cooking portion of this unit will be fun for your students and will even include learning some fun recipes.

The students enjoy completing the plate craftivity and writing about how people grew their own food to eat in the past.  It's a great way to connect some writing to these social studies concepts.

Explore the Past, Present, and Future in Your Classroom

There are so many fun activities for teaching Past, Present, and Future in the classroom. Over the years I definitely have favorite activities that I have been student tested and approved.  Some activities help them understand and master these concepts better than others.  

I've taken my trial and error and experience to help you save time.  I have pulled all my favorite activities together into this ready-to-use resource.

Use this Past, Present, and Future Bundle full of 6 resources your students will love as they learn all about the past, present, and future.

This bundle includes the introduction, timelines, and all of the topics we discuss in our Past, Present, and Future unit.  You save by grabbing the bundle, but on Teachers Pay Teachers you can also get each topic individually.  It's a great way to pick and choose the topics you want to use to fit the time you have available.

Not quite ready to plan?

Make sure to pin this to your favorite classroom Pinterest board so you can come back when you need more Past, Present, and Future ideas for your classroom.

Teaching the concepts of past, present, and future is not only fun but easy with this exciting unit your students will love. They will learn all about communication, transportation, schools, and more in this engaging past, present, and future unit. #thechocolateteacher #teachingpastpresentandfuture #pastpresentandfuture #activitiestoteachpastpresentandfuture

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