With all the resources at our fingertips, there’s never been a better time to get your kids loving history, says Cassie Mercer, Australian family history editor and author*. These hands-on activities will inspire them to learn more about their family – past and present.
Half-term holidays are here, and during this time, there are lots of fun things to do to help your child or grandchild learn and be inspired by their ancestors. These 12 ideas will keep them – and you – entertained for hours.
1. Ask a grandparent to describe the very first house they lived in, then ask your child to draw each room. Encourage them to ask questions such as: ‘What colour were the curtains? Were they made of lace or another material? What was the kitchen like?’ It’ll be a fun trip down memory lane and your child can get creative with the illustrations!
2. Research a military ancestor. Ancestry has thousands of military records available from WWI and the years leading up to WWII. Search for your ancestor and read up on where they travelled to and on which battlefields they fought. Trace their journey on an atlas, whether it was to the Western Front, or around the world.
3. Visit your local historical cemetery together. A favourite haunt of many a family historian, cemeteries can be a fascinating adventure when you’re still a wee genealogist. Search for the oldest tombstones you can find, and read some of the plaques – kids will be fascinated to see the names and old dates. You could even take photographs and upload the images to Find A Grave to help other historians in the search for their ancestors.
4. Cold and rainy outside? No problem – stay indoors and head to a museum From Churchill’s War Rooms and the National Army Museum in London to the National Railway Museum in York and Titanic Belfast, the UK is full of interesting places to learn about history. Take a day out to explore a museum close to you – look up if the museum offers holiday events or grab a children’s activity sheet from the information desk.
5. Tell the story of somewhere in your area with an interesting history and go on a visit there – just be sure to pack a thermos of hot chocolate or winter soup and a beanie to ward off the chill!
6. Help them draw a simple family tree of the immediate family and grandparents – perfect for a little one who loves drawing and colouring in. Look for photos of each person, or ask them to draw everyone’s faces. They’ll have a giggle depicting everyone, while learning all about the family tree.
7. Explore a collection of old family portraits – Ask your child to analyse and compare the images – what can they see? Is the hairstyle, dress style, portrait style the same or different? What does this tell us about the era in which they lived? If you know the details on the portrait subjects, tell them a little about the person they see in each image. Historical portraits are fascinating to study – discover more about the fashion, hairstyles, and even relationships between the sitters if you know who they are.
8. Get the kids in the kitchen. Suggest they ask a grandparent, aunt or uncle for their favourite recipe, and help them make it. Then your child can write up the recipe to keep.
9. Join a local history society with your child. Perhaps see if you can plan a treasure hunt around the town centre. It might take a little planning, but the kids – and the society – will have a ball. You could leave clues on local icons such as memorials, then help the kids to solve each clue before finding the next clue with them. There are loads of historical societies around the country who would love some new members!
10. Suggest for your kids to interview a family member about their life, including special memories, their wedding day, favourite food – anything that takes their fancy. Your child can then write up the story and it’ll be a memento for everyone to cherish.Have fun and here’s to helping inspire the next generation of historians!
*This blog post was adapted from an article originally published on the Ancestry AU blog. To read the original story, click here.