How to teach family history to children – three things you should know

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01 December 2017
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Hook_Edwardian_Family_Album_page_-38_(6916062506)-55995.jpg How to teach family history to children – three things you should know
Jake Smaje presents his top tips for getting the children in your life into family history.

Jake Smaje presents his top tips for getting the children in your life into family history.

Family history is amazing, and I was lucky to learn about it from a young age. But talking to kids about family history, or any history, is not always easy. It needs to be done with a certain degree of thought. This can make it both engaging and fun.

Family history can give kids a personal understanding of great historical events, their identity and is a great way to bond over your shared heritage. Here are three great ways of making family history relatable, engaging and fun for kids.

1. Connect it to major historical events

From a very young age we are taught about major events in global history such as World War I or World War II. This means these eras are a good starting place as a child will have a basic knowledge of the chronology of these events and why they were significant.

I remember what each of my great grandparents did during World War Two because when I was told it at a young age it seemed relevant and important. It was nice to be able to go to school and connect the photos I saw of historical events to my loved ones.

2. Artefacts

Using artefacts can help children relate family history to something tangible. In my experience this does not need to be something dramatic, just different.

Looking at pictures of my great-grandparents and their families in my grandmother’s scrapbooks was an amazing way of feeling connected to my family’s history. The more it can be examined the better it is.  Another artefact I remember finding interesting was my great great uncles old military cane as I could play with it.

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3. Stories

Focusing on any one thing for too long will distract children, so finding particularly interesting stories can spark a deeper interest in the family history. My grandfather used to talk about his family and the dynamics of being an evacuee in Canada. This was great because hearing stories about children, my great-aunts and great-uncles, made it all seem so much more real.

I’m incredibly grateful to my family for being so inventive in showing me the history of my family. Looking back the key was to keep it short and relevant, this allowed me to develop questions in my own time and ask about what I found interesting.

My grandmother always says she is sorry to have not learnt more about her grandparent’s families and I think this has inspired her attempts to create a family tree. I am pleased that one day I will be able to tell my grandchildren about their ancestors and their unique family history.

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(image copyright whatsthatpicture from Hanwell, London, UK)