During RootsTech, Nicole and I had the opportunity to sit down with Mike Sandberg from FamilySearch and learn more about the new In-Home Activities page that he and his team designed.
This was a project that took two years to develop. It all began with a council about the best way to get families involved in family history. Elder Ian S. Ardern of the Seventy suggested that “it all starts with a conversation.” Figuring out how to get more family members involved in conversations about their family was the first step. Brother Sandberg added that the job of doing family history can’t just be left to one person in the family anymore, that “it’s not a solo sport.”
As the council discussed these ideas, they decided they needed to investigate what having all family members involved actually looks like in homes. This led to the creation of an advisory group comprised of Moms in all stages of life. The advisory group tested the activities that were being developed to make sure they would resonate with families. The result of this extensive research and testing is the In-Home Activities page that includes a set of 34 activities categorized into three groups: About Me, My Family, and The Temple.
In the About Me section, children will be able to learn more about themselves. Sandberg described what happens when a child participates in the discovery experiences at one of FamilySearch’s Discovery Centers. He said, “The first thing they do is touch their own spot on the tree. They want to see themselves in their family history.” The About Me activities are designed to help children understand and discover who they are. Every activity has conversational prompts, and each is designed to take less than 5 minutes. Sandberg said, “If you pummel a child with two hours of family history, they are never going to come back. Short, sweet moments are key.”
The next section of activities is called My Family. These are activities that help children discover their family – both those that are living and those that have passed on. Many of the activities are experiential. They are designed to help children experience life as their ancestor did in some way. Even if the experience is virtual, it will help children develop a connection with their family. Sandberg said that when kids learn stories about their grandparents’ childhoods, “they can imagine themselves in the story and relate to their ancestors. All of a sudden Grandpa is no longer just an old man. He was a kid once. Children are riveted by stories.”
The final set of activities is called The Temple. The activities in this section are all about preparing a child for their first temple trip. They are geared toward reducing anxiety and raising excitement for this event. The activities encourage children who are preparing for the temple to talk with a friend who has already been to the temple, plan out their first trip, find and prepare names to take to the temple on that first visit, and then plan to record the experience afterward. The preparation and planning around the event give the child a sense of control over the day and help him or her understand how important and exciting temple work is.
The overarching goal of all of these activities is to help children and families be involved in family history together, and have fun as they are doing it. Sandberg said, “We don’t want to force them into something they aren’t interested in. Let them enjoy, and let them warm up to it, and if they are feeling called to it, they will get there. We want to expose kids to as many options as possible so they can find their thing.”
In conclusion, Sandberg pointed out that one thing parents in the focus group discovered was that they started out thinking they were doing family history, but what they really ended up doing was strengthening their family, and “Who doesn’t want that for their kids?”
Check out the FamilySearch In-Home Activities here. To view the Temple ideas, log in to your FamilySearch account first.
Read more from Alice Childs at her temple and family history blog, Souls to Bless.