A family reunion is an excellent opportunity to spend time with your extended family creating new memories and honoring old memories simultaneously. When outlining reunion activities, it’s important to strike a balance between honoring the old memories and creating new ones. Children in particular may not want to spend the whole weekend poring over family heirlooms and photos; they may instead prefer playing with cousins. But there’s no reason all family members can’t enjoy both remembering the old memories and creating new ones.
Tips for Engaging All Ages
Here are some family history activity ideas that can engage all ages in learning the family story:
- Create an Interactive Family Tree Display—Prepare a large family tree graphic to hang on a prominent wall at the location of your family reunion. On the first day of the reunion, have family members write their names on paper leaves and tape them to the tree, outlining each branch of the family. This will serve as an informative prop throughout the event, especially for younger children who may not be as familiar with their extended family members. The family tree graphic can also serve as a nice backdrop for group photos throughout the reunion.
- Prepare a Family Photo Slideshow—This one involves some advance planning. A few weeks before the reunion, ask family members to send scanned family photos. Once all of the photos are compiled, combine them into a slideshow, preferably one that can be presented on a laptop. Make sure you include photos of ancestors that some family members may not have seen before. The slideshow can then be displayed at events where everyone is present, like at meals. Using a laptop allows for mobility, so everyone gets a chance to peruse the photos during the reunion when they aren’t busy with other activities.
- Give a Family History Quiz—Preparing a quiz based on family history is a great activity, especially for families that tend to have a competitive streak! Gather questions from each branch of the family (you can do this when you ask for family photos). It’s a fun way for the younger generation to learn details of the elder members’ lives, like that their great-aunt was once a schoolteacher or that their grandparents met at a community dance. This activity works well following a big group meal, when everyone is present and lounging around together.
Tips for Freeing Up Time
In order to focus on family history time, it’s important to make sure all the little details of the reunion are well organized in advance. Amy Whitley at Fix.com suggests designating roles during the advance planning phase so that responsibilities like food preparation, child care, and transportation are organized before the reunion begins. Also, don’t forget to designate a photographer so you will have plenty of new photos to display at the next family reunion!
Tips for Letting the Stories Flow
The beauty of sharing family history connections is that stories often unfold naturally, with one story turning into a dozen. Simple facts about your ancestors’ early lives may not be known by all members of the family and can reveal how single events or decisions shaped the family, like one ancestor’s decision to move to a particular area resulting in a whole family calling that area home for several generations.
Coming to the reunion prepared with a few family-history-geared activities will undoubtedly lead to more discussion about your family heritage. As one family member shares a story, it will prompt others to chime in with tales that others may not have heard before. Your family is a built-in audience, and stories may build on each other, so make sure to allot time to let the storytelling ebb and flow. You might also be prepared to record these spontaneous stories to preserve for future generations.
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