As folks prepare for Thanksgiving and families gather again, I am reminded of a fun “homework assignment” I created for my second grade class many years ago.
I promise this wasn’t a mandatory assignment it was more like a fun suggestion. My thought was, “What a great opportunity for children to learn from older relatives, such as parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents in order to appreciate what they have these days.”
The idea was to have children compare their lives with their parents, and grandparents. My hope was that good conversations would abound while folks cooked turkeys and baked pies.
At the time, I created a graph for kids to complete as they interviewed the various members of their families.
This is a simple example of what I created in the mid 1980’s:
The child would write check marks in the first column on the left and then ask family members to complete the rest of the graph.
My thinking back then? If mom was 30 in 1986, she was 8 years old in 1964. She may have had some of those things but grandma probably had even less of those things. Why? Because if grandma was 60 in 1986, she was 8 years old in 1934. Big difference, right?
I can assure you as an eight year old my family didn’t have a color TV, (never mind cable), a dishwasher, or a microwave. We most certainly did not have a computer and in our wildest dreams no-one ever would have known about “the internet.” But, by the time I was in high school my dad had a hunch we’d have hand held computers one day. Honestly, I thought that was a million years away but how I love my iPhone now!
Today, though, oh my goodness gracious there are so many newfangled gadgets and gizmos! Honestly, I don’t even know all of what is available these days beyond my laptop and the ever popular iPad.
Maybe this year, though, families could take a break from all the electronics and just chat. Older folks might enjoy reminiscing about “the good old days” as a way to teach young children what it was like when they were younger.
My mom is a history buff and enjoyed teaching us about life in earlier times. We visited places like Old Bethpage Village Restoration, and actually I worked there one summer. What a great way for children to learn how life was lived very differently. At Old Bethpage Village Restoration kids could learn how folks dressed in the 19th century, or used a loom, and how they cooked in kitchens without a stove. And, of course, they can witness the type of tools used on farms. I think they still let kids churn their own butter!
How many of our young kids get these experiences these days?
During the holiday maybe you could encourage children to ask the older generations some of these good questions:
What did you do to have fun?
What kind of toys and games did you play with? Did you have friends in your neighborhood to play with or did you join organized sports?
If you had a TV, what kind of TV channels were available? What kind of TV shows did you watch? Did you have cable TV?
How did you listen to music? Did you listen to the radio? Did you have record players and albums, 8 track cartridges, cassette and cassette players, or music CDs?
Do you use Pandora, Spotify, or iTunes now?
Did you listen to the radio, watch TV, go to movie theaters or watch videotaped movies? Did you go to ‘drive in’ movies?
Did you have to drive to a video arcade or did you have video games in your home?
If you “cooked out” in the summer did you use a charcoal grill or gas grill?
How did you chat with friends and family?
Did you use rotary phones (with a wire), phone books or have you ever used a phone booth?
Did you write handwritten letters, and cards, and put them in snail mail (USPS)?
How did you gather, and record, information?
Did you go to your local library, learn from encyclopedias, or read the newspaper?
Did you use a typewriter, word processor, or a computer?
How, or where, did you shop?
Did you buy things from a store or online?
Have you ever shopped in a Five and Dime Store?
Did you go to a bank that was a physical building? Did you, or do you, use an ATM machine, online banking, or make deposits by mobile upload?
Did you write directions down, use a paper map, or GPS?
Did you have crank windows, car seats, seat belts, and/or air bags in your car?
There are so many arenas where kids could learn some history from older folks. I hope this post gives you ‘food for thought’ and encourages many similar conversations, now and in the future, as this is not even close to an exhaustive list. And, of course, remember time spent listening to, and understanding, each other is something for which we can all be grateful.
But, for kicks and giggles, let’s not forget these gems:
Did you wear galoshes or rain boots?
Did you clear away snow with shovels or snow blowers?
Was a Macintosh something you ate or a computer?
May we all enjoy sweet moments with our families this Thanksgiving and holiday season!