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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

Fun family projects for pandemic times

Oct 01, 2020 02:46PM ● By Arlyn Macdonald

Intergenerational fun builds family pride

Social distancing has created challenging times for seniors and their families who may struggle to feel connected. Intergenerational projects create an opportunity to build family unity and pride during the pandemic. 

No matter their age, everyone can help create these family projects. The following are a chance for families to learn more about each other, appreciate the gifts and talents of both the older and younger generations and create family heirlooms to pass down. 

Building a family tree: 

Knowing your ancestors is important for families. Design either a large, expansive family tree or a smaller one that includes just grandparents and great- grandparents. For adults, the family tree information can be written, shared and saved in electronic files. Encourage children, who are more visual, to draw a tree trunk and bare branches on a large piece of paper or find a medium-size branch of a real tree and set it firmly in a base. As they learn the names of their ancestors, write them on colored pieces of paper and hang the names on their family tree.

There should be as many branches as family names. Have fun tracing family history from home by browsing through old photos or doing genealogy research on the Internet. Encourage talks with grandchildren and great-grandchildren on the phone or via Zoom to learn ancestors’ names and where they were born. It’s also fun to send everyone a copy of the picture of the ancestor to add to their family trees. If seniors are on lockdown, display the family trees through windows or share during special visitation times.

Family storybooks: 

Every family has fun memories, stories of courage and unusual accounts of family members past and present. However, these tales are often lost between the generations. Interview the seniors in your family and create a family storybook by writing down family stories and letting grandchildren illustrate each one. Put the stories and illustrations in a scrapbook together with a photo of the person who experienced the events. Bring out the storybook on holidays and share family favorites, or add new ones each year. 

Memory books:

You may have a memory book for a child with photos, certificates, report cards and awards. But it’s never too late to start a memory book, even for elders in the family. Share old family photos to stimulate fun memories. Select photos with each family member and the senior to be added to the memory book, writing down the memory that goes with the picture. Have each person write something special they remember about their grandma and grandpa to include with their photo. Be sure to make a book for each set of grand and great-grandparents. 

Family flags: 

In earlier times in history, family flags were displayed at all important occasions. Similarly, modern families can make an intergenerational string of family flags. Each family member receives a square of cloth of the same size to design as his or her own special flag. Paint, color or sew designs on flags. String the finished flags together on a cord for hanging, and bring them out at each family gathering to create a tradition of family pride. Take an intergenerational photo with the flags in the background for each occasion and place it in the memory books. If birthdays and special occasions are celebrated via Zoom, hang the flags where they can be easily seen.

Family coat of arms:

In Medieval times, each family had a special coat of arms or crest. These were displayed on flags, tapestries or shields and proudly carried during important family and community events. The coat of arms symbolized values of the family. For this project, each family purchases or makes a wooden plaque shaped like a shield (children can color their own version in paper form). Each family member researches and chooses a favorite animal or plant that represents a quality they value in their life. Glue or paint pictures of the selected plants and animals on the shields. Select a word that represents the family—such as courage, love, peace or unity—and write it at the bottom. Collect all the family shields and hang them together, with the senior shields at the top of each extended family. Use the occasion to enhance and strengthen the family’s values, pride and unity.

There are so many other intergenerational projects available for families to enjoy. Be creative and inclusive and remember to have fun.

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