One of the things I want my kids to understand when we study wars is war is sometimes necessary, but it is not glorious. That is a hard thing to teach to young boys. Young boys see glory and adventure, but that’s not what the trenches were like in World War 1. So I create a trench simulation for World War 1 for our history lessons.
After all this is a common sight with my boys, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I want them to grow up and want to protect, that is a natural instinct. But, you also want your boys to know when it is right and when it is wrong, and when to walk away from a fight.
So we simulated trench warfare, so they can find out what was it like in the trenches of World War 1.
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Supplies for an indoor trench warfare simulation
as many pillows as you can get, socks or bean bags (here’s how I make bean bags), and some Nerf Guns (my boys currently like this Zombie gun* and Nerf Ball gun, discontinued they now have this Mega Dart Gun)*
Preparing for your Trench Warfare simulation
First take some socks and roll them up to simulate mortars. This could be why I haven’t been able to find socks for the past 2 weeks, I will blame it on this history lesson.
Next take all those pillows you grabbed and build up your trench. I set a 5 minute time limit. Originally I was going to have the kids build trenches in our backyard for their army guys and fight with that, but we got a big rainstorm, so it was all mud. Nevermind that plan.
Split into two teams, defenders and attackers. Defenders get the mortars, and attackers will be charging the trench. This lets you understand what it’s like from both sides.
Running your trench warfare simulation
To make it more like the mortars being fired, the defenders had to throw their mortars facing backwards. When they ran out of mortars they could turn around and shoot their Nerf guns.
The attackers were allowed to shoot their Nerf guns facing forward, but once they’d been hit, they had to “die.” This of course meant lots of dramatic sounding death scenes.
Here’s what we discovered in our World War 1 trench warfare simulation:
1. It’s hard to hit your target with mortars, but it does make the attackers more wary because they don’t know when they’ll be hit.
2. It’s hard to take a trench. You will suffer a lot of casualties. Our simulations never successfully managed it.
3. Guns are accurate, and if you have a good supply of bullets, you will kill your opponents.
4. Not all guns are accurate. One of our guns was the ball shooter, it was not as accurate, and did not have as many bullets. That is a disadvantage.
After we talked through what we thought about the simulation, I printed off some of the pictures, and the kids all wrote about what they learned.
I loved Princess’ sentence: War is scary. I did not like being shot at.
I think that sums up what most soldiers would say pretty darn well.
More World War 1 ideas