5 Exciting Activities to Teach Your Kids About Their Family History
The first time you say the word genealogy, your kids might start to yawn. But what could seem like shuffling through old, faded photos and endlessly branching charts of names in small print, can actually be an exciting way to explore your family’s unique ancestry.
When it comes to teaching your kids about heritage, it’s not just about knowing family history. It’s a journey you can embark on with your kids to help them discover every aspect of their identity and cultural background. Exploring your family’s heritage not only gives children a connection to the past, but it can also guide your child’s future.
How can you get creative in teaching your children about ancestry, heritage, and genealogy? These five easy activities will make your family’s history come alive for family members of all ages.
Activity #1: Make a photographic family tree.
Understanding how each relative fits into the bigger family picture may challenge younger kids, especially if you have a large extended family. Help them complete the puzzle by constructing a visual map of your family’s lineage. Not only will this activity help to build fine motor skills in young kids, but it can also be a way to teach photography and digital editing to older ones.
What You’ll Need for Your Photographic Family Tree:
- Headshots of each relative
- Scissors (note: If your child will be handling scissors, make sure they’re child-friendly, and supervise your child closely.
- A glue stick
- A thick black pen for labeling photos
- A printed family tree template
Activity #2: Interview an older relative
Older relatives often feel left behind as the family grows. They may feel that they’re becoming slower, while the rest of the family gets younger. But they have the keys to your family history locked in their heads. Not only will sharing stories give them a much-needed social connection, it will also prompt some of the most fascinating, and often surprising, family lore. Talking with seniors helps your child build confidence, perspective and empathy.
How to Conduct an Interview:
- Choose a relative who would be fun to interview.
- Bring a parent with you if your relative does not hear or speak clearly.
- Bring photos to prompt conversations and interest stories. Try to limit questions to one topic or time period.
- It may also help to have a voice recording app or device on hand so that you don’t miss any exciting bit of story or important information about your family history.
- Set up a specific interview time.
Activity #3: Take a Road Trip
Take a physical journey through your family’s history by embarking on a road trip to explore your roots. You can take your kids to the cities of your youth or go all the way back to the city your family first arrived to. For some people, this history can be filled with twists, turns, tragedies and triumphs. It’s important to prepare your kids for the experiences they can have. There might be moments of sadness and solitude on the trip; be sure to honor those, while still making strong present-day bonds.
How to Plan a Family History Road Trip:
- Let your kids help you choose where to go and what to explore.
- Reconnect with family and old friends along the way.
- Get paper maps out and chart the course together.
- Give your kids old photographs of people and places they might see.
Activity #4: Make a 5-Generation Tree
Going back five generations may seem difficult at first. But keep in mind that your parents, your child’s grandparents, can remember back to their grandparents—that’s five generations. Creative kids can design beautiful digital or illustrated works of art to give as gifts, which curious kids can use to plan for other genealogy activities.
Who is On a Pedigree Tree:
- Mother and Father
- Maternal Grandmother and Grandfather
- Maternal Great-Grandmother and Great-Grandfather
- Maternal Great-Great-Grandmother and Great-Great-Grandfather
- Paternal Grandmother and Grandfather
- Paternal Great-Grandmother and Great-Grandfather
- Paternal Great-Great-Grandmother and Great-Great-Grandfather
Activity #5: A Vital Records Scavenger Hunt
Recording-keeping has been more consistent since the beginning of the twentieth century. Look online in the Division of Vital Records and conduct a Google search for websites for each state’s archives. Get your kids excited about family history by tapping into their internet sleuthing skills. Every kid loves the idea of solving a mystery—and family histories are full of them!
Which Vital Records are Useful for Gathering Family History Info:
- divorce records
- Baptism and other religious records
You don’t have to be a professional genealogist to explore family history with your child. What you do need is to maintain a child-like attitude of excitement and sense of wonder. Think of some of your favorite experiences and build your activities—and memories—from there.