Learning About Mythology

When I think about mythology, the first thing that comes to mind is Greek mythology. My kids and the children I work with enjoy reading Greek myths and learning about the various creatures. Recent popular movies, like Marvel’s Thor, peaked my teen son’s interest in Norse Mythology which led him to read Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology. I have enjoyed seeing their interest in mythology grow and seen how it has spurred their reading.

Tikal National Park, Guatemala

I recently began reading the Popul Vuh, which contains the story of creation according to the Maya and which also includes historical events leading up to the time of colonization in Guatemala. It is a book that could be thought of as mythistory because the book contains some historical narratives which include elements of mythology. It is because of my kids’ interest in Greek and Norse mythology that I thought of reading and learning about Mayan mythology, which is not as widely known.

My hope is that there interest in mythology and ancient civilizations include the Maya. My family and I are Americans of Guatemala, Nicaraguan, and Mexican decent. It is important to me that the kids visit and learn about the culture, history and ancient civilizations of their ancestors. We visited Guatemala and Nicaragua in 2009 and 2012, respectively. In both cases the kids were young preschoolers or toddlers. In 2017, we had the opportunity to travel to Mexico City and Puebla. During our travels we spend time with family and we visit museums and ruins.

Tikal, Guatemala 2009

We are grateful for the opportunities to travel and explore the ruins of these great ancient civilizations. My hope is that the kids feel a sense of adventure and wonder. I have to resist the temptation to turn my interest and appreciation of these civilizations into “lessons” for the kids. I am trying to share my interest with them in a way that is natural rather than in teacher mode. I have to trust that our travels, museum visits, children’s books, and experiences peak their curiosity and instills an appreciation of these ancient cultures.

Zona Arqueológica de Cantona ~ Puebla, Mexico

In December, I took the kids to Teotihuacan: City of Water, City of Fire at the Phoenix Art Museum. I assumed that because of our travels and heritage they would feel connected to and interested in the exhibit. I was greatly mistaken. Instead they were BORED. All I got were complaints of:

“Mom, we’ve already seen this.”

“It is all the same.”

“When can we leave?”

“Can we go see something else.”

I should have gone by myself because they made the visit unpleasant.

Teotihuacan, Mexico

Our experience at the museum serves as a reminder that I can’t make them find certain topics or subjects interesting. Instead, I have to find ways to provide them with experiences that appeal to their sense of wonder. In the case of Mayan mythology, I plan to read aloud some stories from the Popol Vuh. Fingers crossed it is enough to spur their interest, the way hearing Greek and Norse stories has.

Teotihuacan exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum

Our Favorite Mythology and Ancient Civilizations Books

  • D’Aulaire’s Norse Gods & Giants 
  • D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths
  • A Child’s Introduction to Greek Mythology: The Stories of the Gods, Goddesses, Heroes, Monsters, and Other Mythical Creatures (Child’s Introduction Series)
  • A Child’s Introduction to Norse Mythology: Odin, Thor, Loki, and Other Viking Gods, Goddesses, Giants, and Monsters
  • Popol Vuh: The Definitive Edition of The Mayan Book of The Dawn of Life and The Glories of Gods and Kings
  • DK Eyewitness Books: Aztec, Inca & Maya
  • DK Eyewitness Books: Ancient Civilizations
  • Life in Ancient Mexico Coloring Book
  • Dover Ancient History Coloring Books
Tikal Parque Nacional, Guatemala

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