Every family has a story, and children are naturally curious about their heritage. They like to hear about the ‘olden days’ when their parents or grandparents were little boys and girls. In fact, they are usually amazed that there was actually a time when there were no cell phones, microwave ovens, televisions, or even indoor plumbing.
But more than that, learning about their own special lineage, culture, and heritage gives children a connection to the past, a foundation, and a stronger sense of belonging as they pursue their futures. It also creates a fun opportunity to delve into history while providing a glimpse into the lives of their ancestors. This makes history seem real or come alive for them.
Here are a few ideas to help spark some interest in learning about your family’s special story:
1. Create a family tree to give the child a visual aid. If possible, use photos along with names and dates. Help the child distinguish his relationship with each person. Can the child find any similar physical characteristics between himself and his ancestors?
2. Create an oral history resource. This can be done using audio or video, but let the child interview family members (grandparents, great grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.) about when they were young, what they remember about their ancestors, what was happening in the world at the time, or any special memories. Encourage the child to make a list of questions and give them to the interviewee beforehand so that they can think on their answers. The audio interviews can always be transcribed and put into a special book.
3. Create a family photo album or scrapbook. Many times, older relatives will have lots of photographs that have been passed down through the years. Try to borrow as many of the pictures as you can, make copies, then help your child create a family album or scrapbook. Create captions telling who, what, when, and where. You could also insert other pages to correspond with the photos (if you have enough information about dates) telling what was happening in the world or nation at the time. You could even include newspaper clippings if you have them. Put history in its proper place!
Note: This would be a great time to discuss good photo preservation techniques, taking special care of items that belong to others, and responsibility to return what is borrowed.
4. Create and label a family map. Display a world/country map and use little flags or stickers to label each country, state, or town where ancestors lived. If your family came from a distant place, study the area, the culture, the food, and the language. Check out travel videos, books, and cookbooks to learn more about the special ‘flavor’ of the homeland.
5. Create a family cookbook. Many families have special or secret recipes that are handed down through the generations. Why not create a family cookbook to keep these recipes in one place? Have relatives contribute their favorites, but also include information about where the recipe originated, who taught them how to prepare it, or any special story associated with it. Add an ancestry tree page in the front of the book, and you have a great family heirloom. This would be a wonderful summer project to do with your child, and it would also make a thoughtful gift for each individual family who contributes!
6. Introduce your older child to genealogical research. There are many online websites and databases where you can access records and information. Some are subscription based, but there is also a lot of free information out there as well, if you know where to look and enjoy digging for nuggets. An older child might be bitten by the ‘genealogy bug’ and discover an enjoyable lifetime hobby. A good starting place is www.cyndislist.com where you’ll find lots of lists and links to genealogy sites on the internet.
7. Encourage your child to keep a journal. After delving into his family history, your child will see the importance of recording things that are happening in his world, the weather, special memories, or even just the little details of daily life. Who knows—one day his descendants may decide to research their family history and they’ll already have a fantastic resource right at their fingertips. A priceless gift for future generations!
Check out these resources for more information about researching family history:
· The Great Ancestor Hunt: The Fun of Finding Out Who You Are by
Lila Perl Yerkow
· Me and My Family Tree by Joan Sweeney
· Family Tree: Writing Historical Fiction Based on Family History by
Jennifer Johnson Garrity
· Climbing Your Family Tree by Ira Wolfman
· Who’s Who in My Family? By Loreen Leedy
· Through the Eyes of Your Ancestors: A Step-by-Step Guide to
Uncovering Your Family’s History by Maureen Taylor
· Roots for Kids: A Genealogy Guide for Young People by Susan
· Creating Jr. Genealogists: Tips and Activities for Family History Fun
by Karen Frisch Dennen
· My Family Tree Workbook by Rosemary ChorzempaLeave a Comment »