By Bill Zimmerman, Creator, MakeBeliefsComix.com

Here are two fun activities that you can do to celebrate your family's specialness. One is to make a paper memory quilt highlighting key moments in your family's life and the other is to record oral histories of your family members.


Just as people used to sew handmade patchwork quilts celebrating key moments in their lives, so, too, can you and your children create a paper memory quilt made up of individual panels in which you express through art and writing your feelings about the important memories you've gathered over the years. Making the quilt provides a wonderful bonding experience for you and your children as you recall together key events of your lives together.

You family's special stories can be highlighted on a paper quilt made of individual oak tag or cardboard panels or by printing out panel sheets which can be found on this web site, or at my other web site. On these seven by seven-inch paper panels, you and your children -- working together or separately - can draw or write about your memories. Tape or pin each completed panel on the wall or on a magnetic board (magnetic strips can be tapes on the back of each) or frame. And, panel by panel, your paper patchwork quilt will grow before your eyes and recollect the key events. You have created an enduring keepsake.

All you'll need are a few simple supplies: oak tag or cardboard panels, crayons or colored pencils, copies of photos of family events, scissors, glue, and maybe some favorite old magazines from which children can cut out photos that may help them present their memories. As you fill in and draw your paper quilt panels, why not play a CD of quiet music to enhance the pleasurable experience of drawing.

Here are some possible subjects that you can draw and write about on the individual panels (you can even place these subjects as a headline on each paper panel):

  • The happiest day in my life.
  • My most important achievement during the school year.
  • My most courageous act.
  • My greatest accomplishment.
  • An obstacle or handicap I overcame.
  • A panel honoring a person who made a big difference in my life.
  • A panel commemorating a turning point in my life.
  • A panel for a favorite song, or poem, or book, or joke or riddle.
  • A panel celebrating my best friend.
  • A favorite family saying or expression.
  • A patch showing 10 things you'd place in a time capsule to be opened 100 years from now.
  • My most embarrassing moment.
  • A patch for a moment in history I would like to step into.
  • A panel for a place I'd like to explore or visit.

Quilting could be used for other subjects, too. Some ideas:

  • A quilt about the year's most important news events, featuring headlines and photographs cut from newspaper or magazines.
  • A quilt to show our hopes for the world.
  • A quilt to show heroes - real, fictional, or mythical.
  • How about a poetry quilt, with each panel featuring a poem or haiku?
  • Or, a quilt of dreams? That's one I'd like to sleep under.

If you like the ideas expressed in this section please share them with other parents and groups you belong to.



Another wonderful celebration might be to set up a "Grandparents or Family Day" event in which relatives or close family friends are invited to spend time with the children and be questioned about their lives and experiences. That day each child can become a journalist and listen to the life stories of people who are special to them. Using tape or cam recorders, children can capture the special stories, memories and traditions of these visitors.

On Grandparents Day parents and children can take turns interviewing the relatives and friends who visit. Relatives should be encouraged to bring with them passports, immigration papers, maps, and old family photos showing them in their homelands. Children interviewing older family members can ask why and how they came to this country, what life was like for them at first, and how this country differed from their country of birth.

Here are questions that might be helpful in getting the oral histories started -- children and parents can take turns in asking a relative these questions which are from my family oral history guide, "How to Create Instant Oral Biographies"

  • What is your full name? And do you know what your name means?
  • When were you born? And where were you born?
  • When did your family first come to this country and where did they come from?
  • Did they ever tell you what life was like for them before they came here? What did they bring with them?
  • What were you like when you were little?
  • What are your earliest memories of when you were a child?
  • What was your life like when you were my age? What did you do with your time when you were very young? Did you go to school or work? Where did you live? What games did you play?
  • Can you tell me any stories to show me the way you were when you were very young?
  • What do you think is the most important thing that ever happened to you in your life?
  • What was your greatest adventure?
  • Do you remember any especially funny or sad stories about your life?
  • What special things do you know that you are proud of?
  • Are there favorite family stories or sayings or songs that you can tell me? What are they? Can you tell them in a different language? Can you translate them for me? Are there any family superstitions that I should know about?
  • What things do you enjoy doing the most?
  • What are your hopes for the future?

You can complement these interviews by taping recipes for special foods cooked during holidays, or asking about customs associated with these special holidays. Visitors can even be encouraged to prepare and bring a food dish to share during the Grandparents Day family event.

(Bill Zimmerman, creator of MakeBeliefsComix.com, is also the author of "My Paper Memory Quilt: A Family History Pack" and "How to Tape Instant Oral Biographies" an oral history guide. More activities for families can be found on his books' web site -- www.billztreasurechest.com.)

If you like the ideas expressed in this section please share them with other parents and groups you belong to.