Learning about the past helps link families

Family gatherings provide perfect opportunities to tell stories about parents and grandparents growing up. Storytelling is the first exposure to history and the stories of people they love. Most important, if family stories are passed on, they are not lost.


One generation passes on the family’s values, morals and religion through stories. They are family lessons of kindness, sharing, perseverance, courage and triumph over difficulty. Some are just funny and encourage a “this too will pass” attitude.

When Grandma babysits, she tells true family stories about growing up. One of the grandkids’ favorite is about Grandpa’s camp chores. When he was a little boy his frugal father decided that the rocky shore in front of camp was going to be turned into a sand beach –by hand. The family removed thousands of rocks to expose the sand underneath, but they had a beach

Telling stories takes a little practice. Start with a story you know well. Perhaps your grandparents told you some stories. Think back to an encounter with an animal, an experience you remember vividly, something funny, a lesson you learned or a slightly scary story that turns out well. Use lots of description, sounds, moving around and exaggeration.

There might be a favorite book, Aesop’s fable, legend or Bible story that teaches a lesson you want your children to remember. Another way to recall stories is to take out old family pictures and tell a story about the people. These stories are great for car trips, long nights, family holidays, campfires or times when children need to settle down.

Preserving Stories

Parents and children can record interviews on smartphones with grandparents so stories and voices can live on. Older children can research how to put interviews on jump drives. Grandparents can receive questions in advance to think about their answers. Young children can help with questions.

What is your name and do you know why you have it? When were you born? What did the family do for fun? What were family chores? How has technology changed? What were your favorite foods? What is your favorite funny family story? What were your special traditions? Were there any fads while growing up? Were there any special home remedies when the family got sick? What are some stories of your grandparents? What wisdom do you have for generations of the family?

Children who are successful readers have many stories read and told to them. They have family conversations about a wide variety of subjects including their culture and ancestors. Young children may not understand every nuance of the stories now, but they will.

For more activities to prepare children for school success, a lifetime of learning and reduce stress, see grandparentsteachtoo.blogspot.com, wnmufm.org/Learning Through the Seasons, Facebook, and Pinterest.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Grandparents Teach, Too is a non-profit organization of elementary and preschool teachers from Marquette, Michigan. The writers include: Jan Sabin, Mary Davis, Jean Hetrick, Cheryl Anderegg, Esther Macalady, Colleen Walker, Fran Darling, and Iris Katers. Their mission since 2009 is to help parents, grandparents, and other caregivers of young children provide fun activities to help prepare young children for school and a life long love of learning. They are supported by Great Start, Parent Awareness of Michigan, the U.P. Association for the Education of Young Children, Northern Michigan School of Education, the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum and the Northern Michigan University Center for Economic Education.