Sowing the seeds for your child’s family tree

IFHC

Don’t teach them — learn with them, and you’ll all have fun, says Claire Murray

Getting children engaged in family history sounds daunting, especially when it’s assumed that kids have no interest in history. That just isn’t so.

Children don’t like listening to adults ramble on about subjects they can’t contribute to. A child may seem horribly uninterested in the early stages of their ‘historical awakening’, but look to your child’s own interests. Your child might not like history but love sports, music, building things and understanding how things work, playing games of adventure and strategy, or being creative.

Get talking about how you amused yourself as a child, how things were done in the past — ‘back in the day’ when you were their age. Maybe even try to replicate your old pastimes and hobbies. It’d be best to avoid re-enacting the great battles of the Colosseum (this way you avoid complicated lawsuits), so put down the gladiator helmet. Let’s look at the gentler side of history.

Firstly, a disclaimer. If your house ends up looking like the set of a dystopian future where Earth has fallen to aliens … don’t worry. It’s part of the fun. What you need: Pieces of cardboard, scissors, markers/pencils/crayons, glue, and always have glitter — always. Cut the cardboard into puzzle piece shapes that slot into each other: each family member has his/her own puzzle piece, and your child will design each one of them.

‘Who am I?’

The first puzzle piece your child creates will be their own. On it, get the child to include the stuff they find important about themselves. Design, decorate, and add photos to make it more visual and inviting. You can then move onto ‘Who are you?’ for your generation, and ‘Who are they?’ for older generations.

The plan is to get the child thinking about themselves as being the key puzzle piece, and to highlight the importance of all the other pieces and how they all fit together.

Child Family Tree

Once the puzzle has been completed — as much as it can be — introduce the theory.

Let’s Talk
  1. Chat about the importance of family historians, putting the puzzle pieces together for future generations to add to. The child’s puzzle piece is key for the next generation!
  2. How do we find out about the pieces that we don’t have?
  3. The puzzle has no straight edges. We’re still finding out about older pieces, and the family of the future need to add theirs. What can we leave behind to help?

Take baby steps into family history with your child. Give them ownership of their own discoveries. Don’t teach them — learn with them. They might teach you something, but they will definitely surprise you.

Claire Murray is Education Officer for The Irish Family History Centre

Want to learn more about researching your family history and the amazing work the Irish Family History Centre do? Then click here to find out how you can discover your Irish roots!

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