Words by Janeen Lewis
Genealogy for kids doesn’t have to be boring. Instead of pouring over microfiche and dusty records, take a kid-friendly approach to family history to entice young genealogists to learn about where they came from.
Consider these fun ways to pique your family’s interest in the past:
Start with Stories
Kids love tales about themselves and their families, so engage their curiosity by telling them stories that will have been passed down verbally by your family.
- Start with stories about them: Talk about the day they were born, when they first walked and talked, and the funny things they did as toddlers and preschoolers.
- Share stories about their parents and grandparents when they were young: Kids love to hear about when a parent dealt with a schoolyard bully or how grandparents met and married.
- Talk about what life was like: Teach them about what technology, cars and clothes were like when their ancestors were young.
- Introduce them to family celebrities: Tell them about the most humorous, memorable or notorious things that family members have done.
Give it Props
Like actors on a stage, present your family history with props. Search attics and look for important family pieces like jewelry, furniture, clothes, handmade quilts and old toys.
- Engage with photographs: Kids love to see dad when he still had hair or mom when she wore 1980s fashions. Old photos are especially intriguing because of the differences in fashion, cars and homes.
- Make a list of family heirlooms: Talk about why each is an important memento.
- Dig out old technology: Think rotary phones, old typewriters and ham radios. Show photos or videos of a jukebox.
- Play old (and new!) family videos: Compare how the video technology has changed over time as you watch.
- Visit a museum: Look at historic forms of transportation, such as steam locomotives, Model Ts and horse-drawn carriages.
Make Ancestry-Inspired Art
Break out the art supplies to capture your lineage creativity. Even preschoolers can fill in a simple family tree. Printable templates are widely available online.
- Craft a family tree: Use photographs and portraits or produce a digital presentation.
- Create a family crest: Frame it for a virtual family reunion or to display in your home.
- Explore historical handwriting: Look at copies of the Constitution, Declaration of Independence or old family letters, then help your child explore cursive or hand-lettering with a calligraphy pen or quill.
- Design and sew a family quilt: Fashion the squares from family baby blankets, clothes and other materials.
- Compile a family cookbook: Document everything from grandma’s famous pumpkin pie to a secret gravy recipe that’s been passed down.
Link to Family Landmarks
Form a tangible connection to the past through terrain, buildings, graves and neighborhoods.
- Tour the family cemetery: Study the gravestones and talk about what the dates and symbols mean.
- Take a self-guided walking tour: Wander through the town where your family originated and talk about why certain landmarks and buildings are significant to you.
- Find the locations shown in old photos: Visit the spot where a family portrait was taken years ago and recreate the pose.