Traditional history lessons introduce our children to important events, people, and dates in the history of a country or civilization. Why not bring the learning a little closer to home by helping kids learn about their OWN history!
Exploring their personal family history gives kids a sense of how they fit into the world around them. To help explore their unique family stories, here are 6 family history activities for middle school kids.
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“Our past influences or present, and understanding where we came from helps us to know where we are and where we’re going. Understanding our past is a crucial part of defining our heritage.” – North Star Geography
- Does your child know where his/her grandparents were born and raised?
- Does your child understand why your family celebrates certain holidays or traditions?
- Does your child know how or when your ancestors first arrived in this country?
Gathering information about past generations can help bring history and geography lessons to life for your children. Understanding personal family history also allows kids to understand and help to preserve the culture and heritage they have inherited.
Family History Activities
It is important for kids should find activities that fit their personality and interests. Here are several family history activities for your middle school kids to try:
Make a Family Tree
A great place to begin is by conducting research and gathering information about relatives. Family Tree Kids! offers several charts and worksheets to help kids record data about family members. Kids should start with themselves, and with parent’s help should be able to gather information about several generations (parents, grand parents and maybe great-grandparents). Using sites such as Family Search and Ancestry may help to identify relatives even further along the family tree.
Family History Detective
Kids can become family history reporters and uncover stories and surprises about relatives with this fun activity. My family is filled with great storytellers and my children look forward to family gatherings as a time to hear about funny adventures of the past from relatives and friends. A few years ago we figured out a creative way for the kids to gather these interesting stories and preserve them for future generations. Find all of the details as well as a free “Family Reporter Checklist” in my post “How to Get the Scoop on Fun Family Stories: Investigative Reporting for Kids”.
Create a family cookbook
Food is a very important element of a family’s history – it can reflect a region a relative lived in, customs, traditions, and more. I have fond memories of making noodles from scratch with my grandmother who considered herself “Pennsylvania Dutch”. My kids have learned about the tradition of eating black-eyed peas to celebrate the new from my husband who was raised in Georgia.
Kids can learn about their family history by gathering recipes from family members and using those to compile a family cookbook. Have your children call or write to different relatives, asking them to share a favorite recipe as well as a little background about why that recipe is such a big part of their life. Kids can compile these recipes in a notebook to create a personal cookbook. Encourage your child to learn how to make their favorite family dishes. Get your middle school kids cooking now and hopefully some day they can share these special dishes with their own family.
Map Your Family History
Maps are wonderful tools for kids who learn best with visuals and hands-on activities. This year my kids have been creating their own atlas. A unique map they are adding to their atlas is a Family History Map. Using data from our family tree my kids can make a map showing where relatives were born and lived during their lives. My kids are also creating their own personal history map by identifying all of the places they have lived and visited since they were born.
Collect family heirlooms
Information about your family history can be found in family bibles, baby books, old newspaper clippings, photo albums, quilts, furniture, art, and more. Be sure to share the stories of these family heirlooms with your children.
Children can use these objects as writing prompts. They could research the time period the time period in which the item was created and then document the object’s history. Or, they could write a story about how your family first acquired the object and why it holds such a special place in your family’s history.
My son loves to tell stories so he has created special displays in your home with family heirlooms and practices sharing oral traditions by telling the stories behind these pieces to friends and family members when they visit our home.
Generations to Generations Unit Study/Lapbook
As a way to help her children get to know their relatives better, our friend Kat created World Study Guide: Generations to Generations. Kat originally used this activity to help her kids learn more about their grandfather and the result was a very special Father’s Day gift.
This guide includes suggestions for gathering information about a family member and mini books to guide and document learning. While you might consider gifting the finished product to their loved one, it is also a great gift to yourself and your children by getting to know a loved on better. It is designed to preserve your loved ones’ memories and heritage.
Thanks to Kat’s generosity, one of our readers will also win a downloadable (PDF) version of the World Study Guide – Generation to Generations. Enter using the Giveaway Tools entry form below:
There are many fun and creative ways for kids to learn more about their unique family history.
How are your children exploring and preserving their family stories, traditions, and memories?