By Tracie Smith

The Family Crest described below is one of my favorite activities to share with the families I work with here at FOCUS. If your family is looking for something fun and creative to help bring you closer together during this holiday season, or any time, then this is the perfect project for you!

Centuries ago, family crests or coat of arms were used much like a company logo to identify different royal families in countries all over the world. As time went on, every family, not just royal families, began to use crests to mark their property and distinguish themselves from others. Using unique symbols and colors, crests are still used today by many colleges and universities as well as our armed forces.

Creating a family crest at home can be a fun and meaningful way for family members to identify what makes their family unique. Often times, a shield is used as the base layer for the other symbols to be placed on, but you can use any shape (circle, triangle, square, etc.) as a foundation. Depending on children’s ages, this activity can range from very basic to elaborate. However elaborate you choose to make it, this activity promotes teamwork, sharing, and communication, to help draw your family closer together.

How to make a family crest:

Here are some questions to help you get started thinking about the design of your family crest: What makes your family different from other families? What is your favorite part of being in your family? What makes your family strong? Will the colors you use have meaning? How will you lay out the symbols? What shape will you use as a foundation? What does your family value?

Once you have thought through some of these questions, here’s how to create a family crest:

You will need:

  • a large piece of white heavy card stock paper (from an art or office supply store)
  • markers or crayons
  • pencils
  • glue sticks
  • scissors

First, use a pencil to draw a shield onto the heavy stock paper. If you want to use a different shape you can use a large mixing bowl as a template to create a circle or trace around a picture frame or box to create a square.

Next, discuss ideas for which symbols each family member wants to create. Each member will have the opportunity to choose a different symbol to represent what they think makes their family unique. For example, if there are 5 members in your family, there will be 5 symbols in your crest. Use the rest of the card stock paper to make each family member’s symbol.

Finally, color each symbol with markers or crayons, cut out the colored symbols, and glue them down on the shield using a glue stick.

Special considerations:

Young children should be included in the process even if they don’t really understand the idea of “symbols”. Ask them what their favorite thing about their family is; they may decide that getting hugs is their favorite part of being in the family. If so, you could draw a heart or even a teddy bear as their symbol and let them color it. Using magazine cutouts is also an option for younger children. Make sure to work as a team to decide how the symbols will be laid out on the shield.

Deployed parents can participate in this family activity from afar. A portion of phone conversations, emails, or video chats can be dedicated to the family crest project. The service member can draw or explain what symbol would represent what is most important to him/her about the family and how it will be added to the crest. Older children and the non-deployed parent can keep the service member up to date on the project with pictures.

Get creative!

Once you have finished creating your crest there are lots of things you can do with it:

Make your family crest into a stamp and create stationary for your service member! There are low cost methods to create stamps at home as well as websites that will create a custom stamp for you.  You could even send the stamp to the deployed parent as a unique holiday gift that reinforces the strengths of your family and can become a lasting legacy.

Create a special sign with your family crest on it for homecomings.

Attach ribbons to it and hang it in your house as a great holiday decoration.

Whatever you do with it, each time you see it make sure to think about all the wonderful things that make your family special.