I recently helped with a neighboring stake’s Family Discovery Day. I was delighted to be contacted about it. We came up with family history ideas to keep the children busy for 3 hours while their parents attended the classes. I was just one of the people who helped, and each person who did had unique and wonderful ideas. The kids all had a great time! My friend who was teaching an adult class heard a girl tell her mother, “I thought it was going to be boring, but it was so fun!”
Let me tell you about it. The stake primary president had been asked, with the help of her presidency, to be on the committee for family discovery day to plan the children’s activities. There were three age groups – a parent monitored nursery in the nursery room (ages 0-2), junior primary activities in the primary room (ages 3-7), and senior primary activities in the young women’s room (ages 8-11). The 10-11 year olds were also invited to attend the classes with their parents.
My job was to help with the junior primary activities for age 3-7, so I’ll tell you about that first. Outside of the junior primary room was a table with a sign in sheet and name tags. The parents wrote down their child’s name and gave them a name tag. From that point on, the leaders in the primary room made sure to keep track of all the children who signed in. The leaders included ward primary presidency members. Each hour there was a separate “class” with a different adult in charge.
Hour 1: Ancestor Immigration Boat Races & Ancestor Relay Races
For ancestor immigration boat races, the leader showed the children a large world map and talked about immigration. She talked specifically about some of our ancestors who came from England to America on boats. Then she invited them to follow her to the kitchen. There, each child chose a styrofoam boat with a paper sail attached. The sails were hot glued to a stick which was stuck into the styrofoam and secured with more hot glue.
The boat races were done in rain gutters from the cub scouts supplies. They use them every year for their rain gutter regata. The children placed the boats in the rain gutter which was filled with water and blew them down the lane. They raced against the person next to them. The children waited in line so patiently for their turn, and everyone wanted to do it again!
After this activity we went inside to do ancestor relay races.
These are usually done on the cultural hall floor, which makes it go much faster. But the basic idea is to create “handcarts” out of carpet squares. Each carpet square has a handle for the seated child to hold on to, and two ropes extending out from it for the person pulling to hold.
To set up the races, we split the children up into to teams and had them line up. We had about ten children in each line. We first tried having one child pull, but it was difficult to pull since friction was not in our favor. This would be much easier on a wood floor! So after that, we switched to having two children pulling one person. This made the kids go through the line much quicker. Everyone in the line wanted to have a turn being pulled. Since this activity was during the first hour of the day, several more children trickled in during the boat and handcart races. We tried to give every newcomer a chance to do the races. Every was asking to have more and more turns!
Pioneer Clothing Relay
The first person in line was to put on the clothing and run to the wall, touch it, run back, then take of the items. The next person did the same. They had fun racing! We encouraged lots of cheering for each other.
The vest was actually harder for the boys to put on than the skirt and bonnet!
For the barrel racing relay race, the room was set up with obstacles made of cardboard and some chairs to go around. The children were again put into two lines. They were given a pool noodle horse, with the top bent down and eyes glued on. Here is a noodle stick horse tutorial at PBS kids if you want to see how to make one. One by one they took turns going around and over the obstacles. The first obstacle was a cardboard square they had to step on. The next was a very low to the ground cardboard hurdle and the third obstacle was a group of chairs to ride around. It was a hoot!
For the wheelbarrow race, the adult helpers held the kids feet as they ran across the room with their hands. Pretty simple, but it was a favorite!
After all the active races, the second hour was a perfect time to slow down.
Hour 2: Stories and Music Around a Fake Campfire & Heirloom Treasure Hunt
The story leaders were dressed up like pioneers and brought a guitar. They read two books: Me and My Family Tree and Pioneer Children Sang as they Walked. (These are affiliate links, for your convenience).
They told some ancestor and pioneer stories, and sang songs. One of the first songs was one that the man’s grandfather used to sing about a little old car. All the kids were having fun singing “putt putt putt” and “rusty old bumper” during the chorus.
One of the stories they told was about two pioneer girls who were out gathering buffalo chips and then came across a field full of rattlesnakes. They prayed and felt like they should hold hands, count to three, and then jump! They kept jumping all the way across the snakes until they made it back to the wagons. Then we put down a bunch of ties in a circle around the room to be “snakes” and the children took turns jumping over all the snakes with a partner. They loved it!
Heirloom Treasure Hunt
Next the children learned about heirlooms. A good book to read for this is “Homeplace” by Anne Shelby. (Affiliate link for your convenience). Three children got up and pretended to be a grandma, mom, and child. They demonstrated how an item is passed down through generations. Then the children were given a list of heirlooms that were hidden around the room. Brass shoes, silverware, candlesticks, kitchen gadgets, etc. They walked around the room searching for the items. When they found them, they put them on a little table in the back of the room. They enjoyed touching each item and exploring what they were used for. It was a little chaotic to have them running every which way and searching all over, but it was fun for them to hunt around.
For snack time, we had the children sit down and brought them cups with goldfish crackers and animal crackers. We poured cups of water and brought that to them also. They were ready for a snack and stayed put an ate without making a mess on the carpet.
Hour 3: Family Tree Fishing & Crafts
I was in charge of the third hour. We split the kids into three groups and had them rotate through the following stations.
Family Tree Fishing
I have a wooden puppet theater that I set up with a sheet thrown over it. That was our “pond.” I told the children they would need to go fishing for family members to add to our blank magnet family tree. It was a poster that I colored to create a tree with blank circles and labels. There were labels for “me,” “brother,” “sister,” “mom,” “dad,” and etc. for grandparents and great-grandparents. I used a magnetic white board to hold it up.
We forgot to bring the fishing pole so we used a flower stick with yarn tied to it instead. The yarn had a magnet on the other end. When they threw it into the pond, someone behind the pond attached a magnet with a “family member’s” face glued to it. Then I asked them, “does that look like a brother, dad, grandpa, or great grandpa?” They put the face on the family tree. Everyone in the group took turns until the chart was full.
Rainbow Fan Chart
Using the idea from the Growing Little Leaves website for the Rainbow Fan Chart, we invited the children to glue together their own fan chart using colored construction paper. We used this to teach about generations and the number of grandparents in each generation.
I found that my stack of construction paper included no purple, so we added pink to the rainbow in between red and orange. Red, pink, orange, yellow, green, blue were our colors. Blue was the smallest and on it we wrote, “me.” Then on green we wrote, “2 parents.” Yellow was “4 grandparents,” and orange was “8 great grandparents,” and so on.
I made some patterns to print out to help me cut the half circles. We decided to have the half circles all cut for the children, but they could easily cut them out themselves. My 4-year-old daughter enjoyed helping cut them out. You can download the rainbow fan chart patterns here:
Rainbow fan chart template – pptx file
The third station was for creating name quilts. We had 2×2″ scrapbook paper squares and a letter sized paper for the kids to glue their quilt squares onto. They wrote the names of their family members on the squares, glued it to colored construction paper, and then punched holes around the edges.
We gave them yarn to “tie” the quilt. The yarn had tape around one end to make it easier to thread through the holes. You can download the template for the name quilt here: Name Quilt Template – docx file
I wasn’t with the older group, but here’s what they did!
Hour 1: Franklin Time Machine
This is an activity that was shared as a guest post on this website last year. You can read all about it here:
Finding Franklin in a Time Machine.
Hour 2: Popsicle Stick Challenge and Interviewing Grandparents
The popsicle stick challenge is similar to the activity found here, at the Growing Little Leaves website:
Visualizing Family Relationships
For interviewing grandparents, they came up with ideas for things to ask their grandparents.
Hour 3: Music and Stories around a fake campfire & Ancestor Immigration Boat Races
These activities were slightly adapted from above to be for the older children, but were the same basic ideas!
Do you have some fun children’s activities from your family discovery day to share? Please let me know!
These look like such fun activities for the children! I’m not serving in Primary at the moment but if I ever get wind of a ward or stake activity with the need for family history activities for children I’m going to send them to this blog post. (Well, really, to your blog in general because you two have such great ideas.)
Nancy, you are kind! Thank you!
Incredible, Nicole. Great ideas! Wish I was in your stake (do you want to come put this on in mine? 😉
Great ideas! I am going to pass this along to organizers of our Stake Family Discovery Day we are having in May.