Teaching Greek mythology for kids does two things. First, it exposes kids to the concept of morality stories and tales of heroism. Second, it shows them how an ancient culture lived, since daily Greek life was heavily influenced by their belief in their gods.
Greek Myths in Everyday Life
The ancient Greeks believed that their gods directly affected every aspect of daily life. The Greeks worshipped the gods in temples and made offerings to them to seek good fortune. When good things happened, they attributed it to the gods. If they had good crops that year, it meant the gods were pleased with them. If they had bad crops or a flood, they attributed that to the gods being displeased with them.
Greek Myths for Kids
Some of the simpler stories make a great introduction to Greek mythology for kids. Among the most fascinating are myths the Greeks used to explain the origin of the universe. The creation of the universe includes many of the great stories and heroes we still know today, like Hercules, Athena, Poseidon and Zeus.
Some of the myths are based on real events, such as Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, which are based on the Trojan War. In Homer's account, the Greek gods fight alongside people who were known to have lived at the time of the conflict. Having kids research the Trojan War will help them separate fact from fiction and understand the importance of the gods in daily Greek life.
Prominent Greek Gods
Before you begin reading Greek myths with your child, take some time to introduce the major gods and their roles. Many of the myths introduce the gods only by name. During the time of the Greeks, each of these gods was understood independent of the written stories. Today, all we have is the written myths, and it can be confusing for kids to know who's who.
Zeus, the god of thunder and lightning, always figures predominately in the myths. He is the father of the lesser gods and rules all of them from atop Mount Olympus. He usually has the last say on punishment of both gods and humans, and is quick to dispatch a lightning bolt to destroy those who cheat, lie or treat others with disrespect.
Hera, the goddess of marriage and childbirth, is the wife of Zeus and Queen of the Gods. Often portrayed as jealous and vengeful, she is definitely not one to be crossed. She created the Medusa and was the reason Hercules had to perform the 12 labors.
Hercules is a mythical hero. He is the son of Zeus, who survives 12 very hard tasks (labors) to redeem himself to the gods.
Aphrodite is the goddess of love and beauty. Her myth tells how she was born from the foam of the sea and floated to shore on a scallop shell. She was immensely beautiful and carried a golden girdle that made her irresistible to men.
Athena is the goddess of wisdom and weaving. She carries a metal breastplate with the image of the gorgon Medusa upon it. She is the daughter of Zeus, and the myth states she burst from his head fully formed and clothed in armor.
Eros is the god of love. In many of his stories, he was responsible for causing people to fall in love. Eros is known as Cupid today, but there are some differences between our version of Cupid and the ancient God. Both have wings and use arrows to pierce the hearts of lovers, but our modern Cupid is portrayed as an infant, while the Greek's Eros was an attractive young man.
Hades is the god of the underworld brother to Zeus. In his myth, he stole Persephone from her family and took her to the underworld. This myth was a way to explain the changing of the seasons.
Poseidon is also a brother to Zeus, and in mythology the three brothers divided creation, each taking control of a piece of it. Zeus ruled the land and the air, Hades ruled the underworld and Poseidon ruled all water, including rivers and ponds, though he is frequently portrayed simply as the god of the sea.
Having trouble convincing your kids that Greek Mythology is still relevant? Modern sports is filled with references to ancient Greek culture, from the names of teams to the shoes that athletes wear.
The Hercules myth is one of the great tales of heroism in Greek and Roman mythology. Find out who Hercules was and learn about his 12 Labors.
He's often referred to as the god of the sea, but the Poseidon myths reveal other aspects of his divine powers over water and land.