Shenley Puterbaugh is the founder of the website inspirefamilyhistory.com. I had the pleasure of meeting her at RootsTech! She is sharing a guest blog post today about how to help children have a discovery experience in family history. I bet you’ll get at least one fresh idea to try from her post. Check out her great ideas at inspirefamilyhistory.com as well!
While homeschooling her 3 children Shenley incorporates family history as much as possible. She has taught family history classes for adults and children and strives to inspire her family, friends and now everyone to love family history.
As family historians, we love sharing our finds and enthusiasm with our families, but getting them excited, especially our children or grandchildren, is not always easy. According to Steve Rockwood, CEO of FamilySearch, our goal should be to help them “have a small discovery experience that invokes emotion…that’s what is going to spread…Discovery brings the spirit and emotion to it” (Trent Toone, “5 questions with FamilySearch CEO Steve Rockwood,” Deseret News, 1 Mar. 2018).
How can we help children to have a “discovery experience that invokes emotion”? Choose a family history activity that will inspire them. Whether you are wanting to inspire one child or a group of children, there are three keys to consider when choosing an activity – age, interests, and learning style.
Try to remember what it was like to be their age. Make it fun and unique to them. Traveling to cemeteries and old churches may not interest young children and may even bore them but a bedtime story would engage them and ingrain the stories of their ancestors in their minds. In contrast, adult children may not get as much excitement out of a picture-matching game as they would attending or planning an ancestor night or planning and going on a trip to the homeland of their ancestors.
Do they like acting, drawing, cooking, organizing? Do they find maps interesting or do they enjoy music? Let their interests guide you.
We all have different ways that we learn best. The three main learning styles are visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Consider the individual learning style of your child and choose any idea that will cater to that style. Some children will gravitate toward hands-on games and projects, and others will lean toward reading books about the time period ancestors lived.
Once you have considered these three keys, you are ready to choose an idea to inspire them! Here are four fun ideas. To find MANY more ideas visit inspirefamilyhistory.com.
1. Photo Investigation
Looking at a picture of an ancestor can tell a lot about him or her. Children can become picture detectives to see what they can figure out about their ancestors by looking at pictures. Even if they know nothing about an ancestor and have a picture of him or her, they can learn something and sometimes a lot. Here are some clues to look for when investigating a picture:
What is in the background? – Do you see a house, a boat, the forest, a picture on a wall? The background may show where the person liked to be or what the family did together.
What are they doing? What is happening? – Are they having a picnic; fishing; ice skating; or celebrating a birthday, anniversary or holiday?
Who are they with? – Are they with family members, friends, animals, or someone famous?
What are they wearing? – Are they wearing military clothing, work clothing, sports clothing, or farming clothing?
2. Generations Project
Let the child choose an ancestor to connect with. Think together about what you know about him or her. Where did they live? What did they do for a profession or hobby? What skills did they have? What traditions did they do? What did they eat?
Once you have learned about your ancestor, choose a project such as:
• Learn something or do something that they did such as fishing, using a washboard, knitting, gardening, going to an opera, or having a picnic in the mountains.
• Visit a place they lived or frequented such as a lake, the ocean, or a park.
• Do one of their traditions.
• Make one of their recipes.
Children can consider what their ancestor may have thought during the activity— for example, did they find the activity difficult or relaxing? Did they think the place was peaceful? Was the recipe delicious?
3. “Son of” and “Daughter of” List
In scripture sometimes it says, “____ who was the son of ____, ____ who was the son of ____,” and so on. How would your ancestor list be? Start with your name and write your own based on the male or female line of your family tree? For girls it would be “____ who was the daughter of ____, ____ who is the daughter of ____, ____ who is the daughter of ____.”
4. Ancestor Celebration
If your children like celebrations they will love to do an ancestor celebration! Involve your children as much as possible. Choose a country where your ancestors lived or a specific family to celebrate. It can be done simply as a dinner or more elaborately as an entire evening or day of activities. Make a special meal based on the country or the family of your ancestors. If possible, involve children in the cooking. Here are some ideas to make the celebration more elaborate:
• Prepare and act out a skit about an ancestor.
• Tell stories from an ancestor’s life.
• Learn a game from the country.
• Have a guest who recently lived in or visited that country and ask him or her to share about it.
• Display a project a child has done about the ancestor.
• Bring out and share a family heirloom.
For more information visit inspirefamilyhistory.com. Like and follow ‘inspirefamilyhistory’ on facebook and instagram for regular ideas and resources.