Using Heirloom Accessories to Teach Kids Family History

When did you start to love family history…..or do you? Hearing the words “genealogy” makes some church members want to run the other direction, quickly. My love of family history started when I was a kid. Without realizing it, I grew to love it thanks to the subtle influences of heirloom accessories and furniture that surrounded me each day.
Our magazine rack had once been my grandparents’ corn grinder. The wooden telephone booth in the den had a real working phone…an antique with a mouthpiece attached to the box mounted on the wall and a separate handheld receiver. My great-grandmother had crocheted doilies that adorned mom’s dresser and the player piano had belonged to my grandmother.
Was my home full of heirloom accessories and antiques? No, but there were enough items around the house that helped me connect with the past. My parents often told me the history or use of the funny looking pieces, which helped me appreciate their worth. The furniture and accessories were family keepsakes, displayed with honor or used with care. Vintage furnishings are great history teachers.

Photos are another fabulous way to teach kids family history as they elicit questions like, “Who is this? How am I related? Why are they wearing those shoes…or not wearing shoes? Why are they not smiling? How come the pictures aren’t in color? Look at that funny hat….or funny car! Did grandpa like horses? Where’s the TV?”

Photo albums with old family photos were always within easy reach but I specifically remember one visit from my grandmother (I was 17) when she brought a box full of old photos. At one point as she and my mother looked through the box, my grandmother pulled out a photo of her mother taken at age 17….and remarked how much I looked like her. Each time I see that photo I not only fondly remember my grandmother’s visit, I feel a connection to my great-grandmother.

Do you have toys from your childhood stored in the closet? What about clothing or favorite books? Display these in kid’s rooms! (Might need to be on the top shelves or framed when kids are little and don’t understand ‘no’.) Talk about what you did, the toys, games, and books you loved when you were their age. Touching the toys or seeing the dolls makes your history real to your kids.
Look around your home. I bet you have more heirloom accessories than you realized. Be sure to learn the stories behind the keepsakes and write them down before you forget. It is amazing how details fade over the years. If you start when your kids are small and share stories of family treasures, the love of family history will become part of their lives……and they won’t run when someone says, “genealogy.”
(For more on teaching kids to love family history, see the September posts on KidSpace Stuff Blog.)
Watch for next month’s post: Safety in Baby, Toddler, and Kid’s Bedrooms.
Jeanette Simpson, ASID is an Interior Designer and owner of KidSpace Interiors where she specializes in commercial and residential design of children’s spaces. A graduate of Brigham Young University, an author, and furniture designer, Jeanette is mother of six, stepmother of five, and grandmother of 17. Read more of her articles on her KidSpace Stuff blog.

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