Family history is an important part of your child’s identity. Teaching them about their history gives them a deeper connection to their identity and piques their interest in learning about other cultures and traditions. If you’re unsure of how to start this educational journey, keep reading to learn some tips for teaching kids about family heritage.
Reading together is an important habit to instill in your children, regardless of what you’re reading, since it introduces them to new concepts and strengthens relationships. While instilling this important habit, take the opportunity to read about their cultural heritage. Your reading choice can be a fictional book featuring characters with similar histories and homelands or a nonfiction book about culture and traditions.
If your child is getting older and wants to read by themselves, set aside time for a reading discussion. Talk about what they’ve read and learned, focusing on what interests them about the book and the culture. Let them ask questions, and be ready with questions of your own to help them reflect and grow.
Make a Family Tree
Children of all ages can make a family tree. For those younger than 6, focus on a small family tree. You can start with grandparents and then move forward to yourself and your child or start with the child and work backward. Children between the ages of 7 and 12 can handle a bigger family tree, but keep it color coded for easy understanding. Teenagers can also participate with more detailed family trees that include birth dates and places.
Go beyond a craft and interview family members for the tree. Ask your child who they would like to interview and plan questions ahead of time. Younger children will probably only be interested in a few short questions with simple answers, and that’s OK. They’re still learning about family history.
Older children can write down or video record the interview for the family tree or another type of catalog. This can be especially helpful if a family member was born in another place and can share personal anecdotes about the culture and traditions that the entire family would want to read or hear.
Try the Food
Cooking together builds life skills and relationships while teaching everything from math to reading. It can do even more good if you cook traditional cultural food together. While you may have to look outside of traditional US grocery stores for some ingredients, the extra effort is worth it since food is such an essential element in many cultures. For example, while researching food to connect with Viking heritage, you’ll learn that Vikings celebrated everything from seasonal changes to weddings with feasts. Use these food facts to cook and connect with the broader culture. Could you host a family feast for someone’s anniversary or the next holiday?
If you’re unsure of your cooking skills or want a night off, find a culturally relative restaurant in your area. These will allow everyone to try something new and help your children explore their heritage more viscerally through sights, sounds, and smells.
While these are just a few tips for teaching kids about family heritage, they’re a great way to get started. It’s important to help your children connect with their identity, and by reading, making a family tree, and cooking and eating together, you can do just that.