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How to encourage your child’s interest in the family tree

From heirlooms to ancestry, spark your child’s interest in your clan’s history with these great ways to craft a family tree

How to encourage your child's interest in the family tree

Turn back the clock sixty or seventy years and the world was a very different place. Boys sported short trousers right up until early adolescence, mothers went out shopping with wicker baskets on their arms, and there were far fewer cars on the streets. The contrast between the childhood world of your parents and that of your own child is astonishing, and no doubt your parents have some fascinating tales to tell. Such tales are not only fascinating, but precious, too. No one else knows such personal information about your family – the places where they were born, the exciting adventures (and misadventures) they had. And, while it’s sad to think about it, once someone in your family dies, that knowledge is gone forever. Unless, of course, it’s passed on to the next generation…

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When it comes to sitting still and listening, however, children’s attention span can flag. A good way to engage their interest is to give them objects to look at and handle. “Children respond well to things that they can see and touch, and it can get the dialogue going,” says Tessa Dunlop, a presenter at the Who Do You Think You Are? exhibition. “I remember admiring my grandmother’s old bagatelle set – a parlour game similar to billiards. It sparked all sorts of conversations about how children kept themselves amused before the days of television.” Passing down heirloom objects, such as a precious doll or fob watch, can also be a nice way to forge links between the generations. And as a fun and visual exercise, you could help your child draw out your family tree, adding in names, photographs and drawings for different family members.

7 Fantastic Family Tree Crafts, Books & Ideas for Children

Great craft activity kit for kids to learn about their family with a cardboard family tree to assemble and 50 plain portraits to illustrate. >> Pirouette Cacahouète Creative Kit, £11.50, CocoBanana

Inspired by the growing ancestry and DNA-testing crazes, this guide helps readers dig into the past and learn more about their own family history. >> National Geographic Kids Guide to Genealogy, £12

Just add photos, drawings or mementoes of those special to you on this beautifully designed poster. >> Family Tree Poster, £12.50, Belle & Boo

The simple, inclusive writing prompts on the pages of this journal encourage children to discover the personal connections that make their family their own. >> My Family Tree Book: A Fill-In-And-Keep Activity Book by Sam Hucthinson and Catherine Bruzzone, £5.99

Using simple language, childlike drawings, and diagrams to explain how the family members  are related to each other this little book demystifies an abstract concept by presenting it from a child’s point of view. >> Me and My Family Tree by Joan Sweeney and Illustrated by Emma Trithart, £6.99

This tactile, felt wall hanging with figures (including furry family members!) and laminated words, is a key tool to teach younger children about families and relationships. >> English Family Tree Wall Hanging, £39.99, Hope education

A great organiser filled with templates that will enable children to record their family’s story. >> Family Tree Template by Kamal Lamsahle from £6

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Discover your Family Tree: useful links 

www.ancestry.co.uk

www.findmypast.co.uk

www.myheritage.com