Looking for a fun indoor project to do with your kids? Try making a family tree. It’s a great excuse to go through your old family photos, teach your kids about their roots, and put your family in the context of history. It also lets your kids practice important academic skills like gathering, synthesizing, and presenting information.
The holidays, a visit to the grandparents, or any other event that gets your extended family in the same room together is a good opportunity to start your family tree. You can have your kids gather and record firsthand biographical accounts from various family members. Kids can contact more distant relatives by phone or online to see if they have anything to contribute. Most kids love the idea of playing investigator. Their faces will really light up when they find out all the unique historical facts your family has to offer.
You might also want to furnish your children with some firsthand documents and items. Gather family photos, heirlooms, and correspondences. Explain when and where the items came from and how they made their way into your home. Sharing something tangible with your kids allows them to appreciate that your forbearers were real people who led full lives.
Use the internet to supplement the information your kids gather. Certain websites are devoted specifically to genealogies and family trees, and these can be good places to start. You can also use the web to get more general information for your kids. If your family came to America during the Potato Famine, print out some information on Irish History. Perhaps your family first arrived in New York City in the 1850s? Set the scene for your kids by printing out pictures, firsthand accounts, and historical facts about NYC in that era. If your kids are a bit older, you can let them do all the research on their own.
A family tree can be an ongoing project, one your kids can work on for years to come. They can keep adding to it as they meet more relatives or the family welcomes new members. Even if your kids put their project away in a box for a while, chances are they’ll return to it one day, whether for a school project or to teach their own children about the family’s origins. It’s a project that could always use a little extra contribution – and always pays off.