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How to Get Your Kids Excited About Your Family History

Submitted by on July 10, 2014 – 12:03 pmNo Comment

How to Get Kids Excited About Your Family History

Climbing the Family Tree: Five Ideas to Engage Kids in Family History

by Jen Henderson

Kids are notorious storytellers, gifted in their ability to recite details from their day on the playground, invent imaginative worlds with their friends, and even spin a tall tale–especially when they think their parents don’t notice. Given their natural creativity, why not harness these skills and let your children help you capture your family history? Below are five activities that will do just that.

Computer Savvy Investigator: Of course, one of the easiest ways to find relatives is through one of several online search engines, such as Ancestry.com or Familysearch.org. And there’s nothing like playing detective to make learning about ancestors fun. Simply sit with your child as she enters different names and dates on the screen and see what you can uncover in a few hours (it took me only a few hours one afternoon to discover that I’m just sixteen generations removed from royalty in England!). Once you’ve found someone, head to the library for books on a particularly interesting period of time from that relative’s life.

Artwork Archivist: Encourage your kids to archive a few of their most important school artwork and school projects. “What’s important differs in every family,” says Maureen Taylor, family historian and author of Preserve Your Family Photographs. “For children that struggle in school, keeping key papers that show improvement are a great way to positively reinforce their academic progress. You’ll have the proof.” Then, gather a few loose-leaf binders, some markers, scrapbook materials, and a box of their work. Tell your kids to choose 3-4 items per year of school and ask them to write a caption explaining why they like these particular examples. “You’ll be surprised at what they say,” Taylor notes.

Family Photo Expert: For tweens and teens who have some computer experience, assist them in scanning family photographs and organizing them by person, date, or lineage in a folder on the desktop. No scanner? No problem! Take the pictures to a local copy center and let your kids lend a hand. Who knows? They may even discover a hidden talent for or interest in photography by archiving these precious heirlooms.

Intrepid Interviewer: Gathering together for an upcoming holiday or vacation? Plan ahead to capture family stories. Allow your kids to come up with questions that they might want to ask cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents about their lives. What do they enjoy doing as a hobby? What was their most-prized toy as a child? What is their favorite memory? Then have them walk around with a recording device. Assign different ages different tasks: Younger kids can ask questions while older ones can take pictures or handle video recordings. Letting children participate in the process helps them to learn about history first hand and reinforces that genealogy is a living experience, as well.

Scrapbook Storyteller: Instead of having your young ones write down their stories, encourage them to use their visual imaginations. Staple together scraps of paper into a homemade book and have them illustrate a particular family trip or memory with drawings, cutup magazines or newspapers, and other supplies. For instance, they can show the story of their last birthday party in pictures or draw their different perspectives on the most recent vacation. What was their favorite moment? What was their least favorite? What did that moment look like? For tweens and teens, frame this activity as an opportunity to make a personal graphic novel and send them to search out examples at the library, such as American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, which won the Michael L. Printz Award, or Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by Neri, G. and Randy Duburke.

Experts note that an important benefit of having our youth explore their lineage is that it gives them a sense of history and provides them with a context for understanding the complexities of life. “By spending time helping kids understand family history, all of us benefit,” says Taylor. “A little less history is lost and you’ve given them a sense of how the world works.”

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