Children have a natural interest and pride in their family and where they came from. This can be used to the advantage of parents who want to instill an early knowledge of family history work into their children. Here are a few activities that can help children learn about and become even more interested in their families.
1. Fill in a pedigree chart.
It’s really simple, but for children that know how to write, it can be a good introduction to such a useful tool. Encourage them to fill in the information that they know and ask questions about what they do not know, with the goal of filling in a four or five generation chart.
2. Create a family picture book.
This can mean a wide variety of things. My great aunt made activity/coloring books about some of our ancestors, but books that feature a photo of a family member or ancestor on each page coupled with their birth and death date or a simplified story about them can be easy to put together and easy for children to look through at home or even at church (like a quiet book).
3. Create a family chain.
This is a great hands on activity. Cut out slips of paper as you would to make a countdown chain. Using one slip of a special color, have the child (or a parent) write their name and birthday on the slip of paper and glue the ends to make a ring. Next on a different slip of paper write the mother’s name and birthday and on another slip do the same for the father. Put the mother’s slip of paper through the child’s ring and glue the ends to make another link. Do the same with the father’s slip of paper, connecting it to the child only, not the mother. One more slips of paper, write down grandparents, great grandparents and anyone that the child is DIRECTLY descended from. Connect these slips to the mother’s and father’s link (paternal grandparents to the father only, maternal to the mother only), continuing on. This helps children visualize how they serve as a link for their family members, and how they are linked to their ancestors. It is also a fun craft.
4. Act out stories.
Have children act out notable stories about their ancestors. Use costumes if possible and allow children to use their own words to express the story. If they tell a part incorrectly, do not worry. They will learn it better with future retellings by you, their parent. This is about letting them tell the story as they understand it. One great addition: COSTUMES!
5. Encourage journal writing.
Finally, make sure your kids know how important it is for them to record their own history. Set aside family time to have a brief journal writing session. For children that do not yet write, have them draw a few pictures and then ask them to explain the pictures while you transcribe each explanation near the picture.