Introduce your story
Hold up a length of yarn or string. Explain to the children that this piece of string represents a timeline of your life. Start at the beginning and say, “This is when I was born.” Tell them a little about your birth. Then pass the string through your fingers, stop and say, “This is when I was x years old. Recount an anecdote from the time you were their age. Carry on through your lifeline, recounting a few significant events until you reach the present. The present should be the end of your piece of yarn.
Get the children to think about their own story
Ask each of the children to get a piece of yarn, string, ribbon — or they can use an imaginary piece if they don’t have a physical one. Tell them that they are going to make a life timeline. Ask them to remember a few significant events in their lives so far. For example, special holidays, starting school, meeting their best friend, moving house etc.
On small pieces of paper ask them to write or draw about these events and tie the pieces of writing or drawing onto the string chronologically, or wherever they choose. If they don’t have any string, they can put them together on another piece of paper and draw their timeline connecting together the events.
Sharing your yarns
Get them to share their life timeline, if they’re comfortable to do so – it’s fine if some children don’t want to discuss theirs.
Now have a short discussion about their timelines – were there any things that people had in common on their timelines? Is there anything in the past of their timeline that has had an effect on the present, or even the future? (eg starting school, going to Woodcraft, moving house etc.) Discuss how some past events seem important because they change the future.
A group yarn
If you made a group timeline all together what would they put on it? Where would it begin? To illustrate, you can hold this up as yarn or draw it out for the group.
Are there any group events they would like to add? Camps? Activities? Adventurers? Are there any earlier events that the group can remember that directly linked to later events, eg practising songs leading to a concert or songs around the campfire?
Thinking about the future
Now tie a different coloured yarn, or draw in a different colour pen, onto the ‘now’ end of the group timeline and say that this represents the future of the group. Firstly, is there anything in the past of the group that might shape the future? Secondly, is there something the group would like to do more of, or do again? In addition, what would they like to see on this future piece of timeline? As a group choose one or two future plans.
Now ask them all to think of something that they could do in the present to help one of the future events happen. Ask them to draw or write down what they want to do and to stick it on the end of the timeline. Otherwise, you can add it onto the timeline and share the screen. Then show it on camera asking the group where to put it.
Be alert to children revealing difficult events from their past. Think about how to deal with that to support the child speaking and other children in the group. Ensure you know where to go for any Safeguarding support and have discussed in advance with the other leaders how you will respond to certain revelations. The more you’ve prepared the easier it will be to deal with issues without causing additional stress or upset to the children.
Take it further
Now that you have had a think about your past, you could take it further and make a family tree.