Turning the Hearts of Preschoolers

By Ginger Hamer

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    After the birth of my third child, I felt overwhelmed by the simple daily tasks that I had to do, not to mention any thought of the overall responsibilities I faced. It was then that I turned back to genealogy to provide the intellectual stimulation and the outside contact I needed. By involving myself in genealogy, I was able to find the strength to accomplish my other duties more cheerfully and more efficiently. Admittedly, working on genealogy with three preschoolers at home takes extra planning and effort, but it can be done successfully. And a father and mother together can instill in even the youngest children a love for their eternal family. Then as they grow older they will want to participate in all facets of genealogy.

    The following activities have worked with our preschoolers and can help create interest in your young children.

    1. Make a book of remembrance for each child. Fill in his personal history sheet and preserve his birth and blessing certificates there. Ask his grandparents to write a personal letter to the baby telling important events in their own lives and bearing their testimonies. On each birthday write a short history of the preceding year in the child’s life, recalling his growth and recording amusing anecdotes so quickly forgotten otherwise. Include a family group sheet and a pedigree chart that will, when the child is older, spark his interest in genealogical research.

    2. Diagram or paint a family tree and hang it in a conspicuous place in the home. We have ours on the wall next to the kitchen table. Before children can read, they can see the relationships in the family. Point to their names and their parents’ and grandparents’ names to give them a feeling of belonging to a multigeneration family.

    3. In an upstairs hall or in a family room, hang pictures of the family members at different ages, one taken when Mom and Dad were married in the temple and one when they were babies, and some of grandparents and great-grandparents at different ages. Talk to the children about the pictures and the people in them.

    4. Visiting relatives and distant cousins can be fun. The whole family can spend a Saturday getting to know living relatives. It is also fun to visit the places where parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents lived and to see houses that were built by ancestors.

    5. Take the children to cemeteries when you are looking for tombstone records. You can develop a closeness to those who have died, reading their names and puzzling over inscriptions too worn to decipher.

    6. Genealogical research often requires a great deal of letter writing, and although the children can’t help write the letters, they can share in the excitement of receiving a letter that brings new genealogical information.

    7. Recording the memories of older relatives while they are still living can be a rewarding family project. Children delight in stories and will enjoy the recording sessions and the tapes that can be played again and again.

    Remember, there is a time for everything—particularly if you organize. The entire family can help with the lawn and outside maintenance so that it can be taken care of on a Saturday morning, leaving the father free in the evening for genealogy and other Church assignments. The mother can plan into her weekly schedule a specific time for genealogy. For example, for me Monday’s special tasks are laundry, drawers, and closets. Tuesday is reserved for Relief Society and letter writing. Wednesday the kitchen gets cleaned and the children go to Primary. Thursday, the bathrooms get an extra scrubbing and the afternoon is devoted to genealogy. Friday, the floors get cleaned and the shopping is done.

    If you work to create a genealogical spirit in your home, your children will learn at an early age that genealogy is an indispensable part of the gospel. Soon you may overhear your children saying, as ours do, “Let’s play house. Let’s do our genealogy.”

    Illustrated by Pat Hoggan

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    • Ginger Hamer, a homemaker, lives in the Morristown Ward, Morristown New Jersey Stake.