We created a simple pedigree chart out of Play Doh balls and toothpicks. A pedigree chart is basically a diagram that depicts ancestors and their descendants. Most pedigree charts are simply a bunch of names and dates connected by lines to indicate blood relations. In other words, they aren't very exciting for kids to look at, and it's hard for them to understand, especially if they cannot yet read.
First, I had to decide for which branch of the family we would make a chart. My kids are fortunate to know one set of great-grandparents, so we decided to try to make a pedigree chart for that side of the family, which is my father-in-law's side.
I got out four different colors of Play Doh, because I wanted each generation to be a different color. We started out with great-grandma and great-grandpa at the top. I asked the kids, "Who do you know that is great-grandma and great-grandpa's son?" My 6yo figured it out, and said 'Grandpa S,' but then I asked him if he knew how many siblings grandpa had. He didn't, so I told him that Grandpa S. has five sisters. Then, I asked him how many kids that would be all together (5+1), and, we had a quick little math lesson. As we were making the little balls of Play Doh to represent people, the kids also had fun putting little 'faces' on them, and got a little silly with that, too.
They wanted to add ALL of their cousins, which I thought was very cute, so we went through each family, named all of their cousins, and made little 'heads' for them. They had fun deciding which one was them and then making their own 'face.' Here is our finished 'pedigree:'
Hopefully, this activity also helped to visually reinforce how family members are related to each other - that Grandpa's mom and dad are great-grandma and great-grandpa or that Grandpa is daddy's dad, but ALSO Uncle Scott, Uncle Brian and Aunt Kara's dad, too. You can also talk about what a cousin is and/or what a grand-aunt/uncle is. My kids' attention spans had waned before I could bring up those discussions, but older children may be more curious and may want to know more.
©2014, Emily Kowalski Schroeder