Kindergarten students may not understand the concept of generations of ancestors, but they likely will be familiar with at least their grandparents and maybe a great-grandparent or two. Let your kindergartner spend time with her grandparents or older relatives, talking about their shared heritage, hearing their childhood stories and going through old family pictures. Then work with her on projects that will help capture some of those memories or stories or create a visual depiction of her family, such as a family tree or picture album, to help her understand where she came from.
Picture Family Trees
Have your kindergartener create a graphic family tree by using pictures of each family member alongside their names. Create a large tree on a piece of poster board, using markers or construction paper. Make a circle at the base of the tree and help your kindergartner paste his picture in the circle. On the first level of branches, help him paste pictures of Mom and Dad. Continue going higher up the branches, adding pictures of grandparents and great grandparents. The picture family tree is especially effective for children this age, since they likely know older relatives by their title -- such as "Grandma" -- and face rather than by their relatives' given names, which would appear on a traditional family tree.
Work with your kindergartner to make a family memory album or scrapbook. Collect pictures of family members. Identify each family member for your child as you sort through the pictures, then help her arrange them by generation or family grouping on pages of the album. Point out similarities in physical appearance and explain that this is part of her heritage -- the blue eyes like Daddy and Grandma have, or the red hair like Nana. Let her decorate the album with stickers or simple drawings that symbolize each person or family group -- a grandmother who bakes treats each time she visits might be represented by a drawing of cookies, or the uncle who enjoys sports might have a baseball sticker next to his picture.
Use colorful paper strips to make a chain representing how family members are linked together. Cut a circle out of construction paper and let your child write her name on it. Next, help her write Mom's and Dad's names on two of the paper strips, then help her create links and staple them to "her" circle. Continue for a few more generations by linking two more strips containing the names of each family member's parents to the appropriate link on the "family chain." Spread the completed project out on the floor so she can see how the chain gets bigger and bigger as you go farther back in time.
Your kindergartner might enjoy hearing stories from his relatives about what their lives were like growing up, especially if their childhoods were considerably different than his. With a globe or map handy, grandparents can trace lines to show where their ancestors came from and places they have lived along the way to where you and your child live now. Capture this for your youngster by pinning up a simple map and pinning up the names or pictures of family members on their state or country of origin. This helps your child to begin to connect "Maria Elena Smith" with his beloved Nonna. Young children can readily pick up new languages at this age, so teaching him a few words of Nonna's native Italian to say to her would give him a special link to his heritage.