Major holiday gatherings can be a bit overwhelming for a toddler. Extended family, which the child has never met, converges and most likely seeks to interact with the youngster. Depending on the size of the family, there may also be a number of kids which the child will meet for the first time on that day. It is well known that toddlers do not deal well with an upset in their daily routines, but adding strangers to the mix might be even more than the child can handle.
Family-themed toddler crafts prepare the child for the get-together in advance. In this manner the members of an extended family, a newly blended family, and even those who are already well known and beloved, may become “officially" introduced or better known to the child. In addition — depending on the craft idea you choose — the child learns sorting, cutting, small motor skills, and also the concept of basic familial connections.
Family Photo Collage
An excellent three dimensional family tree project may be adapted for toddlers. Of course, there is a host of other options open to you, depending on the maturity level of the children in your care and the time you have to spend on the project. Younger toddlers enjoy this craft, since it does not contain any words. You need…
- a big poster board
- headshots of family members.
The activity is simple: cut out the heads of family members and tape them – grouped together as families – on the poster board. Only use photos that you do not mind cutting apart!
The setup is up to you and depends on how many families you want to showcase. For example, a group consisting of the child and parents is in the center of the poster board. One or more grandparent groups are placed a little further away. Aunt and uncle groups with the cousins are placed further away as well. By keeping the faces of the various groups together, the toddler recognizes which individuals belong to which family unit.
Optional: If you want to clearly define familial relationships, draw lines between the various family groups to show parentage.
Family Memory Tree
Toddlers who already recognize family members on sight are ready to learn more about the relationships within the family. Once again, you need…
- poster board
- family photos
- ruler and a crayon.
Focus your family themed craft on any member of the family, except the child. For example, cut out a photo of grandma and/or grandpa, and tape it into the center of the poster board. With the crayon, help the child to draw a bubble around the couple.
Next, cut out and tape a picture of mom or dad onto the board. Draw a straight line – with the help of the ruler – from the grandparents to the parent. Explain to the child that grandma (for example) is mom’s mommy. Do the same for dad.
Optional: If the toddler is older, share some memories of what grandma or grandpa used to play with mom or dad, when the latter were kids. In the daycare setting, this is a perfect way of personalizing the relationships and teaching toddlers the rudimentary activities that take place between family members.
The Family Shirt
This is the kind of keepsake that grandma and grandpa will love! Purchase an inexpensive white t-shirt and transfer an image of the child onto the shirt. Leave enough room on the sides or underneath the picture for the child to place two full handprints – done with fabric paint – onto the shirt. Once the paint has dried, ask the child to paint the face of a family member above each finger.
For example: The two handprints are situated below the child’s picture. In between the handprints, write the child’s name. The thumbs of each hand print would have a face of a parent; the next few fingers are for brothers and sisters of the parents. Finally, the last couple of fingers are grandma and grandpa.
Optional: If you have large families, paint two or three heads to a finger to make room for everyone.
A Family Banner
Make a family banner to introduce a very young toddler to extended family. This is a perfect keepsake for the child’s room. You need…
- a roll of butcher paper and cut off a piece big enough to hold all pictures of the people to whom you want to introduce your child.
- family photos
Make a background theme of a playground or a pool scene, and then group together the families. Write names underneath the people or above their heads, and draw lines between families to illustrate who is related and how. On the lines you may writer things like “Mom’s Sister/Aunt XYZ".
Optional: Tell little stories about each family member and repeat them often. It helps the toddler to get a feel for each family member or groups of family members, and associate a memory with them.
Parents of toddlers find that these activities are perfect for teaching family relationships and for having fun together. On the flipside, toddler crafts for a family theme require teachers and daycare providers to be very sensitive to alternative family models. Single parent families, blended families, and also foster and adoptive families require you to be in tune with the individual needs and understandings of familial interactions between the family members.
It is a great idea to send a parent letter home prior to making these crafts in any classroom setting, advising of the scope of the activity, and also asking parents to draw a rudimentary family tree outlining family relationships. In a pinch, you can head off any questions the toddler may have during the craft – for example, if still living maternal grandparents are completely omitted – by explaining to the child that these photos or information was not in the package you received from home, but that there is still so much room left for other family members on the board.
"Family Photo" by David Ball/Wikimedia Commons at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Family-House-1969.jpg (retrieved May 25, 2011)