The last words a parent wants to hear during school vacation are "I'm
bored" followed by "There is nothing to do." There is a simple solution.
Introduce your children to family history through a few activities. Don't
let them know that this is educational, let that be your secret. These
projects can enliven a rainy day or provide for entertainment during a
family vacation. With a little advance planning, you can have all of the
necessary supplies on hand.
Review Your Research
Can you find interesting bits of family history in your genealogical
research to help you plan some summer fun? Start by making a list of where
people lived, their occupations, military participation and favorite pastimes.
In order to capture your children's attention you need to focus on what
types of family history information they might find appealing. For the
sports minded child talking about an ancestor's involvement with early
baseball and attending a game might be a thoroughly enjoyable activity.
A short visit to your public library for information on the history of
baseball could be the icebreaker and can place your genealogical data
within historical context. Did your grandmother pass a recipe down to
you? You can spend some time discussing her life while making her favorite
Let Your Children Help With Planning
Children tend to be more enthusiastic about projects and trips when they
are involved in the planning process. Casually discuss the types of field
trips, family vacation spots, or indoor activities that you have in mind.
See which ones catch their interest. You might be able to encourage them
to spend an afternoon helping you outline future adventures. Be sure to
make use of their computer skills to find information online.
Choose Age-Appropriate Activities
Older children will be able to handle independent projects, but young
children will need additional help and supervision. Keep in mind your
child's attention level. One child may be able to sit and work quietly
for an hour or more while other children seek out active play. As every
parent knows it can be difficult to balance the needs of everyone in the
Before summer arrives prepare an activity box that you can pull out for
those stormy days or to occupy time while traveling. A basic supply kit
for those occasions should include: drawing paper, writing instruments,
things to color with, glue sticks, disposable cameras (buy an assortment
of these on sale), playing cards, copies of family photographs, postcards,
or old letters, magnifying glasses and clipboards or erasable boards.
If you are planning indoor amusements there are a number tasks that can
completed on a computer.
Family History Activities
Publish a Family Newsletter
Is your child the inquisitive type that likes to ask questions? Use that
energy and curiosity to have them create a family newsletter. They can
interview relatives about their interests, incorporate family stories,
and create a calendar of family events. If you have a scanner they can
insert photographs into their creation. Let them e-mail their publication
to interested family members or photocopy on brightly colored paper and
send via regular mail.
Create a Family Home Page
Lack the time to put all your family history research online to share
with others? This is a great project for the child with some computer
literacy. It makes use of their time and expertise. By following a few
easy steps they can create a free password-protected Family Home Page
at Genealogy.com. They can post
family history, create links to their favorite Web sites and add photographs.
Each home page can hold up to 10 MB of information.
Have a Treasure Hunt
Encourage children to learn about their ancestor's lives by having them
locate items in the house or outdoors that were either known or unknown
to different generations. For instance, a simple inquiry, "What was in
Great Grandmother's Kitchen?" helps children imagine what life what like.
This will naturally lead to a set of other questions regarding her daily
life. Or if you have artifacts around the house ask your children a list
of leading questions that will help them discover information about those
items such as how they were used and who owned them.
Play Old Games
Many of the games that children play today are variations of those played
by generations of family members. Hopscotch, jacks, and horseshoes can
become more interesting when played in the original way and called their
old names of Scotch Hoppers, Jackstones, and Quoits. A little library
research can help them discover "new" games such as Thread the Needle
and Hoop-Rolling or variations of ones they are already familiar with
like marbles and checkers.
Pull out all those family photos that are stored away and let your children
react to the images. Tell them the stories associated with the images
if you know them, if not ask them to imagine what is happening in the
photograph. It is advisable to hand out pairs of clean white gloves (available
at most hardware stores) before handling the images. No matter how clean
our hands are we still cause damage through touching the pictures. Purchase
a couple of inexpensive magnifying glasses and have the children examine
the pictures for clues as to what's going on. You may not have the time
to spend organizing and identifying your photographs, but your children
may have fun looking over the images, creating stories, and writing down
their discoveries. Learn more about handling photographs from "Protecting
Family Memories from Time."
Do any relatives live near you? Plan a visit and have your children interview
that person. Let them develop a list of questions based on what you know
about them. They can either write down their answers, tape-record them
or use a camcorder, it depends on what equipment you have available. Be sure to have them
make the arrangements to visit by asking the family member for permission
ahead of time.
Create a Free Family Tree Online
Have your child go online and create a family
tree. This is a free activity and one that requires no additional
supplies. Your well-organized family history research is all that a child
with computer skills needs to start this project. You may decide to work
with your child to discover new information on the family by posting messages
on surname lists and doing some online searching. Just be sure to verify
all your family history data before you post it.
Take a Family History Vacation
Use the family history information that you have gathered to plan a different
type of vacation.
Have your child or children plot the places their ancestors lived
on a map. They can then help by researching either online or at the
library events and locations related to their family history. By visiting
those ancestral places, you will be helping them develop a sense of
Do you have postcards written by relatives or souvenir booklets of
places they visited? Take photocopies of those items with you on your
next journey and use them to compare and contrast the experiences
of other relatives with your own.
Let your children experience family history first hand by going to
a Living History Museum. Whatever your ethnic or cultural background
there is probably a museum that helps children gain a sense of their
past through hands on activities. Many Living History Museums use
costumed interpreters that can answer questions. Each region of the
country has something to offer. Some of the more popular destinations
are Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, Massachusetts, Colonial Williamsburg
in Virginia, African Village, Sheldon SC and if you want to experience
travel from pioneer perspective contact Oregon Trail Wagon Train.
Bring along the basic supply kit and let your children create a memory
album of their experiences. You provide the tools and they decide
Family history can be a wonderful intergenerational activity so why not
incorporate it into your summer plans!