Photo provided by Michele Beschen
Take the opportunity to help your family gain an interest in family history by creating a regularly scheduled activity that is fun and engaging for the whole family. The following ideas and activities will get you started with your family:
- Buy a map of the United States or the world and use stickers or pins to show where your ancestors lived and how they migrated.
- Look through photographs and have children try to find people who look like themselves, their parents, or their aunts and uncles. Try to identify some family traits.
- Play a game with old photographs. Use magnifying glasses to look for hidden details such as what flowers were growing in the yard, license plate numbers on cars, etc.
- Celebrate a deceased ancestor's birthday. Eat foods he or she might have eaten, and share stories about their life. If you gather with extended family members to celebrate on a regular basis, you could choose one ancestor to honor at each party. Display their photo, tell a story or two, and add their name to the birthday cake.
- Take children to a cemetery and teach them how to make a crayon or pencil rubbing on a stone. Let them choose a stone that interests them.
- Learn about the toys your ancestors might have played with, and make one of them for your children.
- Display flags of the countries your ancestors came from. Young children can draw and color flags. They could be displayed next to photos of these ancestors.
- Give a child a doll dressed in the traditional ethnic costume of your ancestor's country. Make or buy the costume.
- Make placemats. Using copies of photos of family members (alive or deceased), arrange the pictures on a large piece of construction paper or poster board. Label, decorate if desired, and laminate. These could be gifts, or children could make them and keep them at grandma's house to use when visiting.
- Tell a story about an ancestor and have the children illustrate it. You could give each child a different story and have them bring their illustrated books to share with everyone at a reunion or other event.
- Have a no-electricity night to understand how our early ancestors lived. Eat, clean up, play and prepare for bed using only candlelight.
- Take older children to a family history center and teach them how to use microfilm and microfiche readers. Have them do some research that you have already done, so they will feel successful!
- Create a wall of pictures and heirlooms and be ready to answer questions. You might label the items with names and dates.
- Learn how to make your own soap or candles, and teach your children. These could make nice gifts for teachers or relatives.
- Write a skit or make a home video about events or stories from your family history. This would be fun at a reunion or holiday gathering.
- Take your family for a carriage ride or train trip to experience older forms of transportation.
Did you ever wonder where certain family traditions came from? Or why do we do that every year? Many of the answers can be found in the cultural traditions of our ancestors.
- Have a holiday feast from ancestral countries.
- Share customs and food of the country.
- Watch a movie or read a book from the country.
Barry J. Ewell is author of "Family Treasures: 15 Lessons, Tips, and Tricks for Discovering your Family History" and founder of MyGenShare.com, an online educational website for genealogy and family history.
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