Timeline Helps:

 Teaching with Timelines
 Wall Timelines
 Portable Timelines
 Notebook Timelines
 Frequently Asked Questions
 Games and Other Resources
 Coloring Figures and Other Tips


Do you remember studying history in school? It seems like the textbooks were full of dates, names, and places! I remember studying about well-known leaders such as Alexander the Great, Napoleon Bonaparte, Julius Caesar, and Robert E. Lee, however studying about these people or their countries or empires would elude me, as I had a hard time piecing the puzzle together! We often jumped back and forth in time in our studies, only taking small chunks of history chronologically. Even then, those blocks of time floated around in my head, never coexisting, never making a pattern that would make sense to me. After all, time is an abstract concept! For a young mind to grasp this concept is asking quite a lot; it's like asking someone to visualize a puzzle from a few fragments of interlocked sections. You can see bits and pieces, but the overall picture does not take shape or make sense yet. This actually made history boring to me and I had no interest in pursuing it. Isn't it funny how time can turn things around?

When we began home schooling, I was immediately introduced to the concept of using wall timelines in history. Was I ever enlightened! Finally, those bits and chunks I had learned about began to drop into place and create a woven tapestry, often, I discovered, modeling a cause and effect pattern. I could envision how the fall of one empire led to the rise of another, or the leadership of one person created a permanent change in a country's future, or perhaps an entire region. I also saw history by-the-slice; what was happening in several places at one time! For example, while Hannibal was leading his elephants across the Alps during the Punic War, Archimedes was contemplating mathematical equations and China was building its great wall to keep invaders out! And imagine my surprise to learn that the Xerxes I remember studying about as a teenager was the same Persian king, under the Hebrew name "Ahasuerus," to have taken Esther as his wife! (Read the book of Esther in the Old Testament to find out her account!) Now I was excited to learn about our past! I saw Biblical events weave into a history I had grown up learning secularly, and not only did it make perfect sense, it provided a foundation to history that clearly showed God's sovereign plan.


Wall timelines, notebook timelines, which do you choose? In our case, we found both to be valuable! We incorporate both with all four of our children, by utilizing a wall timeline among them all, but providing notebooks for their individual use and study. A wall timeline allows the children (and teacher!) to see history as a whole entity. This is wonderful for the visual learner; there is no break along the flow and patterns are recognizable. This also allows you to see time that was heavily active and recorded as opposed to time that had recorded little happening. It also allows you to see the length of a reigning empire or time periods, such as the Middle Ages, in one fell swoop. It also is a constant reminder, as it is a part of the décor, often wall papering a room or hallway! This can be an asset or a liability, as some home schools and classrooms love to have resources available to view at all times, but some prefer to be able to put school items away or just don't have the wall space.


This was our wall timeline in progress! There is only a fraction of the figures on it, as we still had many more to go. This wall was not ideal, however, as we needed more space between the lines.

(Click on pictures for larger images)



1. Accordion Fold Boards:

There are alternatives to a wall for a larger timeline. Using poster board that has been joined by taping the edges together with clear packing tape to accordion fold is a great way! It is affordable, lightweight, easy to store, and large enough to create panels that hold a few lines at a time. You may want to create sections according to eras, such as Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, Middle Ages, etc. Use colored masking tape or electrical tape for the lines, or just a marker will do!

2. Sketch Book Timelines:

Another portable method of creating a timeline is to use a sketchbook. This is an ideal way to take advantage of an already spiral bound format. Many are bound at the short side, allowing much width for the timeline. The paperweight is usually a heavier gauge, and will hold up with care. This is a viable alternative that travels well and stores easily. I suggest copier paperweight (generally 20 lb. paper) timeline figures for this method, however, as the cardstock weight will create bulky and heavy pages. With this method, you can purchase a sketchbook of a size you are comfortable with.

Pictured here is an 18" x 24" sketchbook. The weight of the paper is 80 lb. The larger the sketch pad, the more you can fit within a line, allowing more to be seen at one time. Sketchpads come as large as 18" x 24", making them an ideal way to combine the portability of a notebook timeline and the better full view of a wall timeline. If you use sketchbooks that are vertical, you can also cut down the number of pages between dates allowing more space per century for images, notes, maps, and more.

This opened sketchbook measures 18" x 48." I've placed a pencil in the upper left corner to help you visualize the size.


Filing a timeline on index cards makes for removable figures that can be versatile in a different way! By keeping your timeline figures loose, you can write notes on the backs of the cards, such as additional information you discovered on the topic, books you've read, videos you viewed, resources you used, projects you made, etc. They can also be pulled out to be placed in order by groups. For example, if your box has an ongoing continual timeline of all of history, you may want to do a study on American Presidents. You can pull out all the president cards to view as a mini timeline, or use the cards in other ways.

You can store the cards in more than one way. File boxes are one choice, with dividers for centuries or eras. Another method is hole-punched in a two-ring index card binder. The binders only hold about 100-150 cards comfortably, so you may want to actually dedicate binders to different eras or time periods. Some binders also come with a clear cover for inserting a picture. This allows your child to create a personalized cover.

Index Card File Box Storage MethodBack Side of Index Card2-Ring Binder Storage Method

These ideas are great for small rooms or spaces. The main drawback is that the timeline is not always visible for the children to view daily. Wall timelines can also be changed periodically. Studying history seems to rotate, often taking the same subjects and reacquainting yourselves with them more in-depth at a later date. We take down several of the figures after a year or two, so we can reapply them after we've studied the topic again, or so the younger children can have their chance at putting them on. Also, they can become too accustomed to the eye; a constant fixture that you just don't see anymore. Have you ever had a stain in your carpet that bothers you for a while, but after a time you barely notice because it's a part of your everyday view? It's good to "refresh the view" once in a while! Cycling the figures helps to do just that.


Notebook timelines fill another need. They not only are an answer to the issue of space, but they allow each child to personalize their timeline and create a keepsake that is years in the making. Notebook timelines are portable, allowing the child to have it with them anywhere they are studying, whether in the classroom, kitchen, bedroom, or a friend's house! Children can add to notebook timelines throughout all their school lives and beyond. If you have been studying the early American colonies, you might have all your children put the figures for Peter Stuyvesant, Roger Williams, William Penn, etc. on. If your daughter chooses to read Indian Captive, however, she may want to write in Mary Jemison in her notebook timeline. If your son is reading The Last of the Mohicans, he may want to add the figure of James Fenimore Cooper. The difference here is that each notebook is truly specialized to an individual child.

You can also personalize your timelines with family history, such as when your ancestors first came to your country or when relatives were born. Allowing your child to color the figures, decorate the pages, create a cover, and so on, is a great hands-on way of allowing them to personalize their timeline notebook and make it truly theirs. You can purchase published notebooks that are designed to have figures and text added to them, or you can make your own!


Although there are several timeline notebooks already published out there, you may find that you'd like to create your own. Here are a few ideas to help you get started.

A few tips before we get started! I recommend that whatever method you choose, be sure to use card stock for your pages. Card stock generally comes in 110 lb. thickness, and can be found in office supply stores and most department stores. I have found the best price at warehouse distributors. You can usually find it in the office/school supply isle. Check out the Coloring Figures and Other Tips section on this page for mediums and gluing suggestions!

1. The Vertical Format:

One commonly used version is a three hole punched, vertical page. Generally, there is a horizontal rule running across the top of the pages and dates are intermittently placed. The dates can be at the upper corners of the pages or the center of the lines, whatever you choose. This offers the full page for placing figures and writing text. Both fronts and backs of pages are utilized.

2. The Horizontal Format:

This is the type we have used for years. With the three-hole-punch at the top of the 11" side of the page, these pages are used on one side only, allowing the child to remove the pages and lay them side-by-side to view a continuous timeline whenever he or she wishes. I included a thick rule across the middle of the page with the date in the middle of the line. I also included light college ruled lines in the background so the children could write additional information if they desired. This is not necessary, but it helps keep writing neat and strait. All these lines and dates were printed from the computer.

3. The Accordion Fold Format:

I don't recommend this version for larger notebooks, but it works well for unit study timelines, such as presidents, composers, British Monarchy, the War Between the States, etc. This is a little tricky, as it needs shorter pages for its center, which will clear the binder rings. You will need card stock for all of these pages. The first and last pages are the largest: 8.5" x 11", and three-hole punched on the binder side. The inside pages must be 7.5" or less x 11". DO NOT hole-punch the center pages! Tape the 11" sides together with clear packing tape with the full-size pieces one on each end. Slip the last page into the three-ring binder, accordion fold the center section, and place the first page in the binder rings. This will keep it intact in the binder, but will allow removing an end and extending to full width. You can use a long line across the middle or top of the page, whichever you prefer, dated as desired. This format can also be used for a long vertical timeline, almost like descending a ladder.


At what date do you place the timeline figures in the notebook?

This is a good question and has a variety of answers! Some figures are obvious, such as D-Day. It was June 6, 1944, so it would be placed at 1944. But what about a long event or a person? For events, I generally found putting it at its point of origin is best. This introduces the event into being. For example, The War Between the States began in 1861, and the figure states it ended in 1865. This way, any figures after 1861 we will realize were happening "during" the time that this war was being fought, such as the construction of the Transcontinental railroad.

When it comes to people, that totally depends on their lives. They can be placed at their time of birth, time of death, or an important time in their life. Again, some are obvious; a president may be placed at his time in office or a king at the beginning of his reign. An inventor may be placed at the time of their invention. But what about a person with many talents in their lives? Do we place Ben Franklin at the time he entered Philadelphia as a printer or when he flew the famous kite? How about during the Revolutionary War or perhaps at the writing of the Constitution? At this point I leave it up to the child, where he thinks the figure is most important, as that is how he may remember it best.

How do I date the notebook? In even increments?

I've heard it said that in order for a student to truly understand the space of time and history, you must have equal amounts of space between dates. This is all well and good if you have the room for it! When you are spanning thousands of years, such as from the Creation to the earliest signs of civilization, it would be highly difficult to allow five year increments without going through lots of blank pages and an extremely thick notebook! It would also be a waste of money and cardstock. Our timeline figures allow for detailed information of America's history as well, most of it taking place from the 1700s to present, and when combined with world history, it makes for a lot of figures to make room for! It's mandatory to keep the pages to five-year increments. Thus, equal spacing between years is not practical in this situation. I have also found that the children seem to grasp the concept of unequal distances between time, as the dates help determine when we've "sped up" or "slowed down" through time.

Many moms have written or called asking me how I space our notebook timeline pages. If you have or are planning to purchase all of our HISTORY Through the Ages timeline figure sets (approx. 1,250 figures), here are the increments I found to fit the notebook timeline (horizontal format, as pictured--this is using the wall figures reduced at 65%). This is with one date per page: (This order also works on walls with each date represented by a 1" x 17" strip of poster board)

5000 BC150 BC1200 AD1700 AD1864 AD
4000 BC100 BC1250 AD1710 AD1870 AD...
3000 BC50 BC1300 AD1720 ADContinue in
2500 BC01350 AD1730 AD
2000 BC25 AD1400 AD1740 AD...1915 AD
1500 BC50 AD1450 AD1750 AD1917 AD
1250 AD75 AD1500 AD1760 AD1919 AD
1000 BC100 AD1525 AD1770 AD1925 AD
900 BC200 AD1550 AD1775 AD1930 AD
800 BC300 AD1575 AD1780 AD1935 AD
700 BC400 AD1600 AD1790 AD1937 AD
650 BC500 AD1610 AD1800 AD1939 AD
600 BC600 AD1620 AD1805 AD1942 AD
550 BC700 AD1630 AD1810 AD1944 AD
500 BC800 AD1640 AD1815 AD1950 AD...
450 AD900 AD1650 AD1820 AD...Continue in
to present
400 BC1000 AD1660 ADContinue in
350 BC1050 AD1670 AD
300 BC1100 AD1680 AD...1860 AD
200 BC1150 AD1690 AD1862 AD

How do I create the lines on the pages?

There are a couple of ways to eliminate having to draw the lines by hand on the pages. One is to use your computer to generate the lines, changing the dates as you print. Just remember to print as many sets as you need before changing the date! For example, lets say you have three children. After setting up the page with 5000 BC, print off three pages. Change the date to 4000 BC, print three more, and so on. Even if you have children that are too young to do timelines yet, you may want to prepare their notebooks as well for future use and put them away until you are ready for them.

If you have access to a color printer, using the computer allows you to color code the rule lines or dates to represent different eras.

You might also like to check out our Record of Time timeline notebook, with maps and lined and dated pages already printed for you in a custom binder!

Take me there! I'd like to see it!


There are a myriad of ways to utilize the timeline figures in various forms of learning! Just as there are a variety of learning styles, there are also as many ideas that meet each child where they learn best, making learning a subject just a little more fun!


I don't know any child who would choose textbooks over a game! Timeline figures can make great visuals in different games, whether to drill the concept of the figure itself, or to enhance learning more than one subject at the same time! What do I mean by that? Here are a couple of examples. Using a colored file folder as a board, I made a path of sticker dots and the images from several figures of people and events we had studied. Using a plastic Revolutionary soldier as a marker, and a wooden die, we would play this game somewhat like Candy Land! The child would roll the die and if it landed on a 2-6, they would advance their game piece the number reflecting the roll. If they rolled a "1," however, they would pick a card and read it aloud. Then they would place their soldier on the matching picture on the board, whether advancing ahead or retreating behind. Landing on a flag means an extra turn. The first one to make it to the White House was the winner!

"Early America" File Folder Game"Art Gallery" File Folder Game

Another game we call "Art Gallery." First I took the artist timeline figures and placed them in frames, gluing them all around the board. The children can help out by drawing fun frames to put the figures in! Then I gathered images of paintings and sculptures from all of the artists in the gallery. I tried to find anywhere from 2-5 images per artist (This can even be done with a book of art, providing the instructor finds images ahead of time). Each player can start anywhere in the gallery, and the object is to make it all the way around the board back to your original frame. At each players turn, they have to name the artist who created the painting at the top of the pile. If they are correct, they advance to the next figure. If not, they have to remain until they get one correct (one try per turn). The figure descriptions give hints as to styles, paintings they are famous for, etc. There are several levels this can be played on, too! If artist names get too easy, there is the name of the artwork, the year it was created, and the medium that was used. I gathered all the information and put it on the backs of the cards. (We've included this game, ready to print, in our Artists Activity-Pak!)

Many moms have mentioned the matching games they have played with their children. Some have used doubles of the figures, mounting them on equal size card stock, (index cards work well for this), and played "concentration." You can also play versions of "Go Fish" and "Old Maid" with doubled figures. Perhaps you are studying the world wars. You can have doubles of Pershing, D-Day, Macarthur, Allies, Tojo, Pearl Harbor, etc., but have only one Hitler. He can be "Old Dictator," or something to that effect.

For the older children, you can take it a step further, dividing the copy from the image with name and date, and having the children match "who did what." Here's a similar matching game with another twist! Let's take authors, for example. By using a copy of the image, name and date on one card, have the matching card be a work they were known for. Let's say the card was C. S. Lewis. His matching card would have The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and perhaps the opening few lines from the story. You can have more than one image of the author, but several cards of their works. An example of that would be three Sir Arthur Conan Doyle cards, and the matches could be The Hound of the Baskervilles, Sherlock Holmes, and The Refugees: A Tale of Two Continents. This could be done with composers or artists and their works, scientists and their inventions, etc.


You can also use the figures in making lap books, note booking, and multi-fold books! The possibilities are endless! The graphics are ideal for keeping visual interest and the text encapsulates the gist of the person or event.

What is a lap book? It is one or more file folders that have been folded in such a way that it offers panels to house a variety of lesson projects. For example, if a child has read the book Follow the Drinking Gourd, you might have illustrations of freedom quilts, small multi-fold booklets of important people during this time period, poems and songs the slaves would sing, a map of slave, free, and border states, etc. You would tastefully compile them all into a lap book to illustrate the particular unit of study. This would be an ideal place to display copies of timeline figures, such as Harriet Tubman, Harriet Beecher Stowe, John Brown, The Missouri Compromise, The Compromise of 1850, Henry Clay, Frederick Douglas, and the Underground Railroad.

Lap books are something the children are not only excited to make, but proud to share with others. The projects in lap books can range from simple drawings to pop-ups, pull-tabs, and spinning wheels! What used to be boring and mundane work gathering and recording research on a topic is now an enjoyment for the children by making mini-books with special shapes, sizes, folds, flaps, and windows!

The timeline figures work wonderfully in this area, too! Here is an example of a lap book that we have created while studying the Old Testament. Using colored file folders, we enlarged this lap book using two folders as our base to work on. I found it easier to create a "prototype" lap book first, so I would get a better idea how big the elements should be that go in it. As the children create the mini-book projects throughout the year, I keep them stored away in zippered plastic bags. When the subject is completed, we would then combine them all into the lap book. This particular Old Testament study is a yearlong study, but this works wonderfully for unit studies and short topics!

Cover of The Old Testament Lap Book
Lap Book fully opened

Want to see more of "The Old Testament" Activity-Pak?
Take me there! I'd like to see it!


By enlarging the timeline figure and removing the text, you have a great resource for a penmanship journal! We found a sketch book that is 6" x 9", we enlarged the figures 200%. They were then colored and glued in. Using the cut off text to copy, we chose to do the penmanship on regular lined notebook paper, therefore the child could practice as much as needed to get the one he or she wanted to put in the journal. We then cut that out and glued it in. This way, you are not committed to writing right in the journal, eliminating the chance of a mistake that would be difficult to fix.


One of the best things about timeline figures is getting the children to work with them! And what could be more fun than learning by coloring! This way, the child observes the nuances of the picture, pays attention to detail, and has just filed this particular lesson in his memory! If your child is of reading age, he most likely reads the text while coloring, again reviewing the material. However, before your children sink much time, effort, and hard work into creating a timeline that will last all their years, there are some things to consider to eliminate possible pit-falls! Here are some tips we've learned along the way that may be of some help to you!


MARKERS: Markers are a classic choice of most young children when it comes to coloring. However, when it comes to small, detailed images such as timeline figures, I do NOT recommend them! Why?
Three reasons:

1.) Many have fat tips which make it hard to get small details colored in without muddying up the image.

2.) Markers can become very dark on the card stock and will cover the lines.

3.) Unless you have a wide variety of colors, you will not have a peach or skin tone color, forcing the child to use a basic color, which will not look very realistic.

CRAYONS: Crayons are another choice of younger ones, and although they do work fine, they are still hard for getting small detail due to their fatter tips. What's my favorite choice?

COLORED PENCILS: Colored pencil! It gives you a wide range of colors, the ability to color in small areas, and much better overall control. There are many brands out there, however bear in mind that you often get what you pay for. The younger children have used Crayola colored pencils and they generally work fine. If you can invest in a decent set of pencils I would recommend Prismacolor. There is definitely a difference in quality, and you know the old adage! A worker is only as good as the tools he uses!

WATERCOLORS: For the more advanced artist, there is one more medium that works well with the wall figures--watercolor! The wall timeline figures are printed on a high quality cover stock that accepts watercolor beautifully. You can control shading in ways that make the final result look like the old, hand-painted color plates from books of the 1800s! Again, better tools make for better art, so try to stay away from cheap watercolors. If you can't afford Grumbacher or brands such as that, I suggest Prang watercolors for children. The students at our local art college use these and are generally under $10 a set. Try not to saturate the figure with too much water, though, as it can ripple. Should this happen, place the figure between two sheets of paper and gently iron on a warm setting. DO NOT use mist, as it will run the paint! This will return your figure back to flat and as good as new.

Here are samples of the figures colored with the four mediums I discussed. You can see the differences in the result:
As you can see, the colors are too bold and I didn't even have the heart to try a color for a flesh tone!
The boldness of the purple and brown masks the illustration lines in the image.
Crayon works, but detail is difficult. Shading is not easy with the fat tips of the crayons on the small
This is my favorite method, as it is clean, neat, and easy to pull out materials when needed!
The colors work well with shading and any age can use them.
I love the strong look of watercolors, but it is a bit time consuming. Perhaps if a child planned
on doing several at a time, that would eliminate pulling out materials every time you use a new figure.

ADDITIONAL COLORING SUGGESTIONS: Bonnie B. wrote to suggest, "My children use Kimberly watercolor pencils (like colored pencils) to do the timeline figures, then we have a Zig blender pen to go over with. It is much easier to do than standard watercolors and is harder to mess up. We have also used stamping pastels with the blender pen and that gives a beautiful effect. These can all be found at any stamping supply store and most craft stores."


Another dilemma is how to adhere the figures, either to the wall, notebook, or portable timeline. There are a few ways this can be done.

Adhering to Wall Timelines:

ADHESIVE PUTTY: When it comes to wall timelines, we use adhesive putty, (sometimes called "Sticky-Tak") which makes them removable without damaging the wall. I have noticed that you do need to pull it up slowly, however, so as not to pull up the paint.

STAPLING: Other moms have stapled them to the drywall. I can see where this would work, as we have stapled our lines to the drywall, and upon removing the staple, it only leaves very tiny holes. It's a slightly more permanent method for the figures, but can be removed with care.

DOUBLE-SIDED STICKY TAPE: Some moms have used this idea, which is a more permanent solution if you are adhering the figures to paper of some kind (the timeline lines in the package or a home-made paper timeline).

I do not recommend gluing them down, unless you plan on a permanent position for them. I prefer to keep the wall timeline less permanent, as we often rotate figures, taking some down after a year or two to prepare to put them up again when studied at a later date or with the younger children.

Adhering to Notebooks or Other Portable Methods:

This is definitely when I want a more permanent adhesion, and I've learned a few things along the way NOT to do! My first mistake was using liquid glue to adhere them to our cardstock notebook pages. Remember the rippling effect I mentioned that watercolors can give? Same thing here! Too wet. Unless you are ready to iron down all your pages, there is a better way.

GLUE STICKS: This was my solution to keeping pages flat and gluing the figures down totally flat! The way to do this is to use another sheet underneath as scrap (you'll need several sheets if you are gluing a bunch of figures--you don't want to put your figures down where the glue stick has spread on the scrap paper). Beginning at the center of the back of the figure, glue right off the edge of the figure. This will glue the figures down fully and make for a neat appearance. Also wash your hands periodically, as the glue on your fingers will transfer onto other fronts of figures and can get messy. Make sure you use permanent glue sticks as some are geared for preschool children and do not stick as well. You may want to test your glue stick on something before beginning this project.

DOUBLE-SIDED STICKY TAPE: This is another good method for notebooks and such, but does not adhere the full figure. The problem with that is that edges can be bent and figures can catch, accidentally ripping them off. The best use I found for this type of tape was in needing to adhere larger objects, such as elements in the lap book. If you notice the large, blue box in the Commandments panel, instead of wasting a lot of glue stick, I taped all the edges and center. I did the same with the Plagues of Egypt and other books. On that point, the tape will also hold up better to the weight of the mini-books than glue-stick would.

OTHER TYPES OF TAPE: Tammy B. wrote to share this tip: "I wanted to share that I have been using Scotch® Clear Removable Mounting Squares (from WalMart no less) for my timeline figures (but we have only been doing this a year, although the 3 yod has relocated figures a couple of times!) I gave up using the putty tacky stuff when I had troubling getting it off the wall before repainting and once (using the blue stuff) had it discolor my wall. I usually cut the squares they have into fourths for anything as smaller as our timeline figures though."


When copying timeline figures for uses such as the notebook timeline, index cards, or lapbook uses, I recommend copying onto 20 lb. copier weight paper. Keeping the paper thin avoids bulk. It lays down flatter when gluing, too.

Self-adhesive label stock is another alternative, too! For those that want to be able to cut out, peel and stick permanently, this eliminates any use of glue. You can find reams of this at most office supply stores. Just make sure that you get label stock that can go through a copier.

To add interest to your projects, try copying the figure onto other colors of paper! Perhaps you'd like to do a mini book of Ancient Rome--try using a beige marble paper! Or a flip book of the Middle Ages--try copying onto gray paper! Be creative! The possibilities are endless!