Who’s who?

When M came home from school to find my new family calendar up she was very curious (just as I’d hoped!) and wanted to know who everyone was and where they all came from. She found it very funny that some of her family used to be farmers (indeed, some still are) and another one was a scientist who studied rock brought back from the moon. In trying to explain to her who all these different people were and how they were related to her it was the most natural thing to draw out part of our family tree.

Photo: lrargerich / Luis Argerich
Photo: lrargerich / Luis Argerich

I say “draw out”… in fact it turned out to be a pretty massive painting, sticking and gluing project that took up most of one wall in her bedroom!

1. First we got a load of family photos (including some re-used from the calendar) printed at Boots and then cut out the various people.

2. Then we got a load of brown construction paper and used various brown paints to decorate all over the paper. This was fun because it was all about experiencing the paint, and not worrying about the end result.

3. We did the same with bunch of green construction paper and paint.


{Yup, we did all the painting in our pyjamas without wearing any sort of aprons… not so clever!}

4. Once dried we cut out a trunk and some branches from the brown paper, whilst from the green paper we cut out clumps of leaves.

5. M has a large piece of mdf screwed into one wall in her bedroom. This is where many of her pictures get pinned up, without worrying about wallpaper, paint or the cost of picture frames. However, this space needed revamping a little, so we took down all the old pictures and recovered the board, before assembling the tree using a staple gun (no, M didn’t use the staple gun, but she did work out the “puzzle” of which bits of tree to put where).



6. Once the tree was in place we got our cut-out photos of family members from earlier and started sticking them in place, starting with M and J and then working backwards and sidewards.

I added a twist to the family photos – as well as photos of everyone as they look more or less currently, I also got photos of many people as kids, and then M had to guess which kid photo went with which grown-up photo. I thought this might help her visualise some of the relatives she doesn’t know so well as “real” people – ie they too were once little people like M herself. I don’t know if I was successful in this, but we did both have fun playing the matching game.


7. Finally we added our leaves to the tree. In order that the kids could do this, instead of the staple gun we used a UHU glue pen – this sort of glue is runny, but not too runny and so it was easy for M to apply, without ripping the backing paper (using a Pritstick didn’t work as M had to press too hard to ensure some glue transferred to the paper, and then the backing paper would get ripped). J had great fun passing us the leaves to stick up!


As none of our family live nearby, and indeed half of them live overseas, to help the girls remember/work out who everyone is this visual family tree is something I had been wanting to do for some time and I think it’s turned out well. Yes, it needed quite a lot of involvement from me, but I think the girls like those sorts of projects where I work alongside them better than crafty activities that I can set up for them and leave them to get on with alone.

nonfiction.mondayTo go with our photo family tree I had found My First Family Tree Book by Catherine Bruzzone, illustrated by Caroline Church, published by the Early Learning Centre (no longer in print – we found our copy in a charity shop – but there seems to be a similar book by the same author/illustrator pair called My Family Tree Book that is currently available).

After a short introduction (“Your family tree is the map of your family. It shows how you are related, or joined, to the other people in your family – just like the branches and twigs are joined to the trunk of a tree“), My First Family Tree Book essentially consists of a number of forms your child can fill in about various members of her family.

To be honest these forms didn’t hold much interest for M – she wanted to know rather different things about her Grandma / Grandpa / Aunts etc; for example, instead of what “Certificates” they had, she wanted to know what their teachers at school were called, what their favourite toys were called, and (very important this one!) whether they also had liked crisps when they were kids.

And with my genealogist’s hat on, I thought these questions were actually pretty good – they weren’t the sort of questions I might have asked my relatives, but maybe they are exactly the sort of questions I ought to be asking – ones that capture the little details never recorded, and that open up the possibility of hearing funny anecdotes and memorable stories.


Not only was an opportunity lost with these forms, I also think this book is actually quite confusing for young readers – there are forms for “my oldest aunt” and “my next oldest aunt” – but I don’t think a young kid can work out who is meant by this without some sort of visual aid – and although there is a basic family tree near the front of the book, I think a small family tree highlighting the relevant person could have been placed on each form to help the child reader easily identify who is the subject for any given form.

So a disappointing book unfortunately – not the sort of thing I normally like to review here on Playing by the book – but I suppose I’m not always going to be able to find stellar books (though later in the week you’ll see I’m working on a project to help me with this…)

my_first_family_treeMy First Family Tree Book: 1star

Not a great book, but we have listened to some nice songs: Family Tree by Frances England, Family Tree by The Bingo Kids, and another song called Family Tree, but this time by Mack Bailey.

Other family activities we might get up to include the I Love You Garland from Sycamore Stirrings. I’d also like to make our own “happy families” game – with photos of our various families stuck on stiff card to make up the family sets. See this explanation of the game Happy Families from Board Game Geek for elucidation!

Nonfiction Monday is this week being hosted by Abby (the) Librarian – do take a look at what other books are reviewed there – there are sure to be some good ones!

And if you do happen to know of a great kids’ book about family history (fact or fiction) please let me know!

4 Responses

  1. Harriet M. Welsch

    I’m new here. I clicked over via Miss Rumphius’ page a few days ago and have really enjoyed reading your posts. Our favorite family history book, My Backyard History Book in the wonderful Brown Paper School series is aimed at slightly older children. It was my favorite book when I was 7 or 8; my son, who is 8, loves it now too. But it could easily work for older children as well, or for a book for families to do together. It goes beyond just family history and encourages children to explore their local history as well, to look at the things they see every day and ask questions. Highly recommended. The other books in the Brown Paper series, if you can find them, are also fantastic. Two of our other favorites are the I Hate Mathematics! Book and The Book of Think. I think both of these were written by Marilyn Burns who has also written math oriented picture books for younger children.

  2. Ashley

    I really think you’ve outdone yourselves with this family tree, it’s a work of art. What a fantastic idea and such a unique way to display your photos.

  3. LVUK Mums

    What a great idea, thanks so much for sharing! We also have most of family living either hundreds of miles away or overseas, and this would be a great way to share family history with them. I really like that you used pictures of your relatives as children!

  4. Val

    So that was why you wanted photos of the family! What a lovely idea – and I love your whole blog – inspirational! Well done and keep it up. XX

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