5 Summer History Lessons

Kids know how to live in the moment and dream big for the future. It’s much harder to grasp the past. This summer, be inspired to share and celebrate your family’s history and heritage with your kids!

  • Interview a relative! Set up time for your child to interview a grandparent or elderly friend about his or her childhood, family life, and career. Encourage kids to write down specific questions beforehand. Grab the camcorder to record their Q&A session; it will be a treasure in years to come. Not only will your kids learn a lot, but they’ll make someone’s day just by asking to share their stories.
  • —>Why It Matters: When kids know their roots, they feel more confident about who they are. For example, one study by Emory University showed that teens who know many of the stories about their ancestry have higher levels of emotional well-being and are less likely to struggle with identity issues or where they’re going in life. (Recommended for ages 10-13)

  • Can you picture that? Dig up and share old photos of you as a child, and tell your child what was happening and where you were in those pictures. It’s hard to imagine Mom or Dad ever being kids, but they’ll be fascinated by the stories you share from such a “long time ago”!
  • —>Why It Matters: First of all, you’re sure to share some laughs over old hairstyles and outfits. As you giggle together about styles gone oh-so-wrong, know that your fashion pain is your kids’ emotional gain: you’re actually boosting your children’s self-confidence. One study of kids ages 9–12 showed that those who had heard family stories—especially true tales from and about their moms—were less likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, or anger issues. (Recommended for ages 6-9)

  • Climb a family tree! Aim to start and finish making your family tree by the end of summer. Ask your child to help with research, read books together about when and where your ancestors once lived, and let them design the tree. No need to make it formal; crayon-colored branches work just fine!
  • —>Why It Matters: It’s exciting and empowering for kids to piece together their family story. As they do, most kids experience a growing sense of pride about themselves, their family, and their heritage. And multiple studies have shown that when kids feel positive about their family’s ethnic or racial background, they not only have better self-esteem, but also tend to do better in math and reading at school and on standardized tests. (Recommended for all ages)

  • Thank you kindly! Give your child art materials to make thank-you cards for elderly neighbors and relatives. The cards or pictures can express gratitude for the sacrifices they’ve made and for being good role models. Those who receive these handmade thank-you notes are sure to be overjoyed!
  • —>Why It Matters: A little gratitude goes a long way! One study tracked students in grades 6 and 7 who were encouraged in school to think and write about the people they were grateful for, such as teachers, mentors, and coaches. Right away, the kids reported feeling better about being at school. More importantly, they felt equally happy to be there a full three weeks later! (Recommended for ages 3-5)

  • Dig up history in your backyard! Make the past come to life for your child by visiting a local history center, antique shop, or historic home. You’ll be supporting someone’s passion to preserve history while teaching your child about the past.
  • —>Why It Matters: Every summer, teachers and parents worry that kids will forget much of what they learned the previous school year. Research confirms that the kids who don’t have many chances to experience enriching, engaging summer activities like these mini-history lessons are much likelier to struggle academically and even drop out of school. (Recommended for ages 10-13)

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