I’ve always wanted to volunteer at the Tucson Family History Center near where I live. After giving a presentation at their Family History Fair in February (Kid Genealogists, a presentation I also gave at RootsTech with Emily Schroeder and Melissa Finlay), I got to talking with one of the directors about possibly starting a children’s family history group. I thought about it the whole way home and realized that I had plenty of lesson ideas already created from writing the kids book club posts here each month.
We decided to do it weekly, like the library does for their story time. I made lesson plans for a preschool-kindergarten level book, activity, and craft each week. We moved the microfilm readers and opened up a big space for the kids to sit and hear the story.
April was our first month of family history storytime. Our flyer said:
Family History Storyime: Learning about family history, heritage, and culture through stories, songs, activities, and play. Opportunity for parents to research afterward. Our program is designed for parents to participate with their preschool age children, 3-5 years old, but all ages are welcome!
My experience as a middle school history teacher wasn’t much help in planning for this so I turned a couple friends. Emily Schroeder, director of the Indiana Historical Society children’s program, gave me several great ideas and shared her handout from her FGS presentation called “Integrating Youth Programming Into Your Society.”
Another good friend and neighbor is a mother and preschool teacher. She advised me to keep it simple (which is always a challenge for me) and create a routine, especially with the songs. I decided to stick with a simple song, “A Happy Family,” one of my kids’ favorite songs, for it’s easy lyrics and opportunity to customize by adding additional family members. I also decided to sing a hello song and a goodbye song at the beginning and end.
Babies Growing Up
Book: “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch – we acted out the rocking of the baby/child/adult and each time it got harder because the baby grew up!
Discussion: People grow up, and get old, and have children. You can see this on a chart called a family tree. I used a felt family tree to explain this concept by putting up a picture of a grandfather, then adding a picture of his wife. “This man got married and they had a baby. The baby grew up and here she is.” And I put another picture on the tree.
Activity: Role play fun things families like to do together
- My Ancestor Tree coloring page
- Draw your family inside the house: download – Draw My Family coloring page
Books: This is My Family by Gina and Mercer Mayer or I Got a Family by Melrose Cooper
Craft: Popsicle Stick Families in a House
My Extended Family
All about grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins
Book: What Grandma’s Do Best, What Grandpa’s Do Best, by Laura Numeroff
Craft: My Relatives booklet
Books: Me and My Family Tree by Annette Cable or Who’s Who in My Family? by Loreen Leedy
Discussion: Look at this empty family tree! People come here to the family history center to hunt for the names of missing people in their family. We are going to have our own hunt today!
Activity: Easter Egg Hunt – “look for brightly colored eggs on the shelves and bring your eggs back to the family tree. ” When they brought back their eggs and opened them, inside were magnets with family members to put on the family tree.
- Fill in the copy of the Family Tree from the back of “Me and My Family Tree”
- Make your own family tree with construction paper: brown rectangle for trunk, wavy circle for top, and clipart faces for family members. (The clipart faces I used were from the Joy School curriculum which I purchased several years ago to teach my son and daughter preschool in a rotating mom group.)
- Glue clipart faces onto a pre-drawn family tree: download – My Family Tree
Counting Family Members
Book: One Family by George Shannon
Activity: How many people are in your family? We made a graph showing how many people are in each child’s family (i.e. the family members that you live with).
- Play dough pedigree charts – we put a tarp down and gave the kids some blue and pink play dough. Blue for males and pink for females in their families. They put their creations on paper plates.
- Family paper dolls holding hands – kids could tape/glue additional family members to show how many people are in their family: download – Family paper dolls instructions and family paper dolls
Book: “Homeplace” by Anne Shelby
Song: Old McDonald had a farm – since the book was about a home and farm
Heirloom role play: I had the children volunteer to be a grandma, mom, and girl. The grandma put on glasses, the mom put on a scarf, and the girl wore a hat. The grandma “passed down” a special doll to the mom, who passed it down to the daughter. We repeated with some play tools for the grandpa, dad, and boy.
Activity: Heirloom scavenger hunt – I printed a bunch of pictures of heirlooms from the book like tools, rocking chair, canning jars, etc. and placed them inside tiny boxes and trunks placed around the family history center. Before the hunt, the children created a page to glue all the pictures onto. It was a coloring page of a cabin that has flaps that open to reveal spaces to paste the heirlooms inside. The tiny boxes and with signs next to them saying kitchen, porch, cellar, nursery were placed all over the family history center. They walked around and glued the heirloom papers onto their homeplace paper.
Craft: Homeplace heirloom activity – Download PDF
Instructions: Print the cabin and heirlooms pages on regular printer paper. Cut the cabin page in half. Fold on the gray lines and glue those strips to the heirloom page. The third page shows each of the different heirlooms. For ease of cutting, I created some additional pages of the heirloom pictures. The final pages are signs to place next to the trunks and little boxes containing the papers. For the kitchen I put the papers inside a bread pan. For all the other rooms I found little trunks/boxes. Print the signs on cardstock and cut them in half. Fold.
Books: The Name Quilt by Phyllis Root or The Quilt Story by Tony Johnston
Craft: Paper name quilt
Books: Seven Brave Women by Besty Hearne or Apples to Oregon by Deborah Hopkinson
Craft: I am brave like my ancestors badge