Family and community are extremely important to young children. Celebrating our immediate, extended, and chosen families allows us to appreciate and pass on lore and tradition, while providing children with a fuller sense of themselves and their place in the world.
Try one of these fun hands-on ways to honor those around you.
Interview a Family Member
Do you have an older relative? Now’s the time to get them talking about their past. Ask them about the kinds of things they enjoyed doing during their own childhoods. Ask them about the food they ate and what they did for fun. Some people like to talk about their first jobs, cars, or early marriage and family life. Others open up best while doing a shared activity, such as a jigsaw puzzle, rather than feeling like they’re being interviewed. You can record or write the person’s answers, or just enjoy the time together, learning more about his/her life.
Make a Personal or Family Crest or Coat of Arms
Coats of arms have been used for centuries to identify families and other groups. Here’s how you can adapt this tradition to proclaim or discover individual or family identities and interests.
- Colored pencils, crayons, markers, or paints
- Ribbons, scrap paper and fabric, glitter, and other decorative items
- School or craft glue
Draw the outline of a shield shape, which resembles a pointed shovel.
Draw lines inside of the shield to divide it into various regions. Crests are typically divided into 4-6 areas.
Inside each region, draw or write the name of one or more things that you enjoy doing or that you like about yourself or your family. Alternately, each family member can decorate a region of the same shield.
Color and decorate the crest and background, the more elaborate the better! Write your or your family’s name below the crest, and display with pride.
Create an Art Piece to Honor Ancestors on the Day of the Dead (or Anytime)
The Latin American, and especially Mexican, tradition of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a time to remember and celebrate loved ones who are no longer with us. Far from morbid, this custom offers a colorful and meaningful way to honor those who have come before us.
- A shoebox or oblong tissue box or similar
- Construction paper, wrapping paper, or fabric
- A photo of the deceased
- Other photos, items or mementoes, as desired
- Colorful tissue paper, optional
- Modeling clay, optional
- Paint and brushes, optional
- School or craft glue
Think about the ancestor you are honoring—What were their hobbies and interests? What was their favorite food?
Decorate the box, inside and out, with construction paper, wrapping paper fabric, paint or other.
Glue the photo to a prominent place.
Add other photos and mementoes to the box and glue them in. These can include leaves, shells, stamps, or anything that represents the person to you. Because traditional boxes often included the ancestor’s favorite foods, you can make miniature versions of the food with modeling clay. Add tissue paper or real flowers, and display in a prominent place.
Make a Family Tree, or a Caring Tree to Honor Chosen Family
Children often enjoy learning about their family members. Creating a family tree doesn’t need to be an elaborate project, unless you want to make it so. Seeking an alternative? Consider a Caring Tree or a Loving Tree to honor those in your life.
- Poster board
- Construction paper
- Markers, colored pencils, paint, or pens
- Photos, optional
If you’re making a family tree, decide how many generations you want to represent, and how detailed you want to be for each generation. Younger children may want to make a simpler tree, with only themselves, parents and grandparents.
If you’re making a caring or loving tree, each of the shapes will represent someone in your life that you love or care about, or someone who loves or cares about you. Include photos, or write something about the person, if desired.
On the poster board, draw or paint a tree with a trunk and three or more rows of branches coming off each side, one level of branch for each generation.
Make a paper leaf, apple or heart template that is large enough to hold writing and/or photos.
Cut many of the same shape from the template.
Begin to write family members’ names and information on the leaves/ apples/ hearts, attaching photos or other information, if desired.
Glue the paper shapes onto the branches. For the family tree, the child’s piece goes on the bottom, with any siblings on the same level branch. Parents, aunts and uncles are one level up. Grandparents are one level above that. Make sure to leave room for increasingly large branches of the tree.
Create an Appreciation “Recipe” for a Special Person
This craft helps kids convey a special relationship and feelings in a fun, creative way. It’s also a delight for the recipient and makes a great Mother’s or Father’s Day, or other, gift. Using a recipe template, a child can create a recipe for a “marvelous mom” or a “delightful dad” or a “fabulous friend” or any other combination using an adjective and the person’s name or role.
- A piece of construction paper or poster board
- Markers and crayons or colored pencils
- A ruler
Think about the attributes of the recipient that make him or her special.
Write a heading on the paper: Recipe for a [fabulous friend or other].
Using a ruler, draw six or more lines on which to write your various ingredients.
Write the “ingredients” for the person, in recipe terms, such as “6 cups kindness,” “5 tablespoons love,” or whatever else you can think of.
Leave space at the bottom to write out your instructions, also using recipe terms, like mix, add, fold, blend, and more.
Decorate the rest of the paper, as desired.
Enjoy honoring family and community in these unique ways!
Seeking other resources for connecting as a family? Attend a workshop, schedule a parent education meeting, or schedule an assessment with one of the Child and Adolescent Specialists at Parents Place.
Susan Sachs Lipman (Suz) is the author of Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which contains 300+ activities for family fun and grew out of her blog, Slow Family Online. Slow Parenting and the book were named a 2012 Top 10 Parenting Trend by TIME Magazine. Suz has written for the New York Times’ Motherlode blog, the Christian Science Monitor’s Modern Parenthood blog, and many others. She manages social media for Parents Place.