Recently Lisa heard from Mary Ann, a Genealogy Gems Premium member who met her at the NGS Conference in St. Charles this past spring. She appreciated the Outside the Box sessions we co-presented along with some of our partner exhibitors, particularly one by Janet Hovorka on family reunion ideas.
“I want to find ways to get younger people in my family interested in the family history,” writes Mary Ann, who says Janet’s session had a “wealth of ideas.” “Ideas started running around in my head related to scavenger hunts, photo guessing games and other things to do when my family gets together every year at Thanksgiving.”
For Mary Ann and the rest of you who want to include heritage among your reunion activities, here’s another idea I just tried. Last weekend, I helped host a RootsTech Family Discovery Day near me (click here to learn more about these free regional events). As part of our activities for children, we created a family tree hopscotch activity in the middle of a gymnasium.
- We printed and laminated sheets of paper that said, “Me,” “Mom,” “Dad,” “Grandma (mom’s mom),” Grandpa (mom’s dad),” and so forth, up to great-great grandparents.
- We laid these on the ground and taped all the way around them with electrical tape (which removes easily from the floor). It worked best to lay out the great-great-grandparents first (since it was so crowded up there) and then move DOWN the generations, so we’d get the spacing right.
- We used more electrical tape to draw relationship lines between parents and then the linking line to each child.
- We taped additional questions to the floor around the tree, like: “How many great-great-grandparents do you have?” and “If you have three children, and so do each of your children, and so do each of THEIR children, how many great-grandchildren would you have?”
- We supplied beanbags for children to toss to one of the ancestor’s spots, where they could then hop. The challenge was to name that ancestor, which we invited them to do with their parents.
This was a popular activity! I’ve been told that very young children actually learn best when they’re active and moving around. The “under 5” set at the reunion did enjoy tossing the beanbag and hopping around. Several school-age kids commented on how BIG the tree starts to get as you go back in time, and took pride when they could name a relative.
If I had to do it again, I’d make the lower generation squares larger so they’d be easier to hop from. If I adapted this for my own family reunion, I could do it outdoors in sidewalk chalk in a parking lot or driveway. With my own family, I would probably name each person and even try to put a picture or fact or two on each piece of paper about them. This could also be done as a reverse tree that names all the descendants of the common ancestors shared by everyone at the reunion.
Looking for more reunion tips? Check out my post, Organize a Family Reunion on Facebook: 9 Tips You Can Use.