Making history personal for children

GTT — Grandparents have an important role in teaching history. It is all in the presentation though. If a history lesson involves the terrible winter of 1939-40, children will remember it if someone tells the story of great great grandpa being caught in the woods and surviving in an old cabin for a week eating jerky, soda, and chocolate. Grandchildren will share this history for generations.

Grandparents can make decades of history memorable for children by telling, writing down, and recording stories. You may be thinking nothing historic happens to you that is big enough to share. Yes, it has.

Living History

Make a list of the decades you and other ancestors have lived. Then write down some of the events of these decades–good times, hard times, wars, music, inventions, technology, jobs, illnesses, presidents, weather, food, playing, clothing styles, means of shopping, music, and daily life. Even ordinary living is part of an interesting history. What about changes in plumbing, cleaning clothes, cooking, and storing food?

Do you remember watching the first black and white TV? Did you follow the cartoon Winky Dink from 1953-57? This was the first interactive TV show. Children placed vinyl plastic over the screen and across America they saved the character by drawing bridges and ladders on the screen. What a great history lesson of how technology and screen time have changed!

Did you wear a poodle skirt and saddle shoes or roll up your sleeves and grease your hair? Is there an old record player with some Beatle songs in the attic? Remember the old typewriter? If you have forgotten a few historical artifacts, a museum visit with grandchildren can jog memories. Where were you and what did you see on famous days in history? Do you have photographs or newspaper front pages?

Sharing History

Many grandparents have the tools to make history stories last beyond their lifetime. Phones now have a voice recorder. With help from grandchildren ages 12 and older, anyone can plan interviews, save them on a computer, and transfer them to very inexpensive jump drives for every member of the family. If children don’t know how to record and save for posterity, they know where to find the step by step directions on Google or You Tube. Grandchildren who are in Scouts often earn badges for this kind of project.

Start by writing your own biographical questions. Where were you born? What are your earliest memories? List relatives on a family tree and give their complete names in case some day children want to do research. You may take photos of your tree, ancestors’ pictures, and save them on the same jump drive. Generations will hear your voice tell history stories and change the format as technology changes.