The kids and I created family trees resembling quilts after reading The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco. This activity is a wonderful way to encourage creativity, while also offering a great opportunity to discuss family heritage.
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I’m so thrilled to be taking part in Booking Across the USA where kid bloggers are each highlighting a children’s author from a particular state. Be sure to check out all the wonderful activities created by other bloggers taking part in this series at the end of this post! (This post contains affiliate links.)
Choosing Patricia Polacco
For this series I absolutely knew that I wanted to choose Patricia Polacco– hailing from the great state of Michigan! She has been my favorite children’s author ever since I was studying to be a teacher.
Over the years I’ve enjoyed reading her picture books to my classes and observing how the students relate so strongly to her stories. Patricia Polacco’s books always seem to inspire so many connections with students, whether it be instances the children have experienced themselves, events in history that brought forth various emotions, or just characters and plots that really touched them in some way.
Patricia Polacco’s Books
Patricia Polacco’s books are truly amazing stories- pulling you in as you read each page. I often find myself, even as an adult, getting tears in my eyes as I’m enjoying the books. She really knows how to bring her experiences and stories alive in a way that really reaches others.
I think it would be nearly impossible to choose a favorite story written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco, but some that my students and own children have connected with recently are: Chicken Sunday (reminding us how strong love can be), Rechenka’s Eggs (our favorite book to read around Easter), Thunder Cake (perfect for learning to overcome your fears), and The Keeping Quilt (sharing the love and traditions of families through the years).
More about Patricia Polacco
When visiting Patricia Polacco’s website, I learned so many interesting facts about her that I couldn’t wait to share with my kids.
- Lucy was especially interested in how Patricia Polacco said her grandparents were some of the most inspirational people in her life- you can see that in so many stories that she’s written.
- I love how she brings her heritage into so many of her books- stories and traditions from the Ukraine, Russia, and Ireland can be found in her writing. Lucy, having taken such a strong interest in her Armenian heritage, really found it inspirational to see how stories from one’s family long ago could be brought to life in picture books.
- What really stood out the most to me after reading about Patricia Polacco is the advice she often gives others- to really listen. She recommends turing off the T.V. and all the electronics and really spend time listening to your inner voice- that’s where your imagination lies!
The Keeping Quilt: Family Tree Craft for Kids
I never tire of reading The Keeping Quilt. It’s such a touching story of how the memories of a family are sewn into a quilt and passed along though out the years. The quilt becomes a central piece to many important family events like weddings and baptisms.
I knew after reading this book I wanted to do an activity for kids centered around a quilt. Although not a quilter myself (but hoping to remedy that one day), I love the stories quilts have told over the ages and how they often encourage bonding among family members, friends, and communities.
I was talking with Lucy about my idea when she suggested we should add a family tree aspect to the project since the story was about family. I love how my 7 year old thinks!
So with both our ideas combined, we came up with a family tree project for kids that resembles a quilt!
Materials for the Family Tree Craft for Kids
- White paper 18 inches x 12 inches
- Paper cut into 2 inch squares (We used scrapbooking paper since it resembled fabric, but this project could also be done with regular construction paper.)
- Brown paper strips (We also used patterned scrapbooking paper for our brown paper. We cut the strips into different widths: some 3/4 inch, some 1/2 inch, and some 1/4 inch.)
- Glue stick
- Pen, pencil or typed names for the family tree
Directions for Making the Family Tree Craft
1. You’ll first be creating the tree using your brown scraps of paper. Place your white paper vertically on a table.
2. Glue one long, brown piece of paper along the center of paper for the tree trunk.
3. Add other smaller pieces of brown paper to make branches and limbs. I showed the kids how they could cut the brown strips to any size they wanted.
4. Now it’s time to add the names to your family tree.
- I printed out the names we were adding to the family tree ahead of time and cut them out for the kids to glue onto the tree. You could also have the kids write the names with pen or pencil.
- We talked about how a family tree works, extending up the branches as you go back into your family. (Theo, age 3, was determined to put the names in the tree in his own way. He wanted ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’ at the bottom because they were the shortest, and the rest above as they increased in length.)
5. After creating the tree and adding the names, it’s time to add some more quilt-like details to your paper by gluing on the colored squares in any pattern or fashion you’d like.
- I cut my squares into triangles and glued them onto my paper to resemble leaves falling from the tree.
- Lucy added both squares and triangles to her paper.
- Theo wanted to use squares, and he only wanted them in the tree. He was not a fan of any shapes in the white space of the paper. (He knows what he wants when it comes to creating!)
After your picture has dried, display it proudly! I know I’ll be keeping both Lucy and Theo’s completed family trees forever!
Love using children’s books to encourage a love of learning and creating? Be sure to check out our book, Exploring Books Through Play!
More from Booking Across the USA
Head on over to the Booking Across the USA page to meet other popular children’s authors and discover all kinds of creative activities for kids inspired by their stories!