Kid Craft: Toilet Paper Tube Family Tree

If your kid has a family tree project for school (or maybe they just like to craft- it has to start somewhere!), here is an idea for something a little different:  A family tree made from toilet paper tubes.

What You Need:

  • 3 or more empty toilet paper tubes
  • print out of photos of family members sized to fit the tree
  • green construction paper
  • brown paint (optional)
  • scissors
  • glue stick
  • black pen


Prepare the Parts
Each toilet paper tube represents one generation on the family tree.  The first tube is the children in your family, the next is the parents, the next is grandparents, and so on.

Each person in a generation gets one branch on the tree.  For example, if your family has three children, there will be three branches on the children’s tube; there will be two branches on the parents’ tube (unless you want to add step-parents); there will be four branches on the grandparents’ tube.  Feel free to make changes based on your own family structure.

To make a branch, using the scissors, carefully cut two slits about half-way down the side of a toilet paper tube.  The branch should be about the width of a little finger.  Fold the branch down so it sticks straight out from the tube.  Cut additional branches for each person in the generation.  You may want to write each person’s name on their own branch to be sure you have all the branches you need.

For each branch, cut out a leaf from the green construction paper.  They need to be long and wide enough to cover a branch completely.

On each leaf, write the name of one family member.  You may also want to add other information like when they were born or died, or where they lived.

Cut out each family member’s face in a circle with a “stem” on it so it looks like a cherry.  The stem will be used to attach the photo to a branch.  I used circles about 1 1/2 inches across.

Assemble the Trunk

Lay out all your tubes, leaves, and photos.

Gently insert the bottom of the parent tube into the top of the children tube.  If it does not slide in easily, cut additional slits in the tube so there is some give.  When you know it fits, take it back out, apply some glue to the base of the parent tube.  Put the parent tube back into the top of the children tube and push it down about half way.

Repeat this step, putting the bottom of the grandparent tube into the top of the parent tube.  Let the glue dry.

At this point, if you would like to paint the trunk of the tree brown, go for it.  You don’t need to paint the branches that will be covered by leaves.  Let the paint dry.

Attach Photos and Leaves

Arrange your photos in the order they will be attached to the branches:  a row of children, a row of parents, and a row of grandparents.

Apply glue to the underside of the photo stem of your first photo.

Press the photo stem on the correct branch (e.g. children on the children branches, and so on), with the top edge of the photo at the end of the branch.

Fold the photo down so it hangs in front of the branch.

Find the leaf with the name of the person in the photo.  Apply glue to the underside of the leaf.  Press the leaf onto the branch, covering up the branch and photo stem.

Repeat with all the branches and photos. 

Add extra leaves to the top for decoration.

Display your awesome new family tree!


Hereditary Stitches

My mom never sewed. I mean, she taught me how to reattach a button but honestly, my dad could sew better than her. My grandmas did though and I wish I had the opportunity to learn more from them before they died.

I don’t really remember my Grandma Doherty (nee. Smith/Schmidtke) sewing at all but I know she did and that she also did crochet. Unfortunately she died right around the time I started getting interested in that area of crafting.

My Grandma Heutmaker (nee. Szczech) was a wonderful seamstress and often gave the grandkids handmade pajamas for Christmas. She was who you took your jeans to get patched or your work pants to get hemmed. I honestly don’t think there was anything she couldn’t sew or mend. My Aunt Dianne inherited this talent but did I? Even though I didn’t have someone there to teach me?

After Grandma Heutmaker died, I inherited her handkerchiefs. Colorful and delicate, some were hand embroidered, these were very special to me. But I am not the kind of person to starch them and leave them folded in a box somewhere. I wanted the world to see them so I decided to make a quilt to hang in my daughter’s room.

I began by piecing together each tissue-thin handkerchief by hand. Here I am doing that on my bed. Side note: not sure if you believe in spirits showing up on film as orbs but check that out! Could that be my Grandma watching me work?

The process to quilt by hand is a slow one so this project took me years (of breaks and starting and stopping) to complete.

By the time I was finishing, my daughter was old enough to help a bit. I have to say, there were many times where I was sewing with tears in my eyes. Surly this is the perfect example of “full circle” – from grandmother to grand-daughter, and mother to daughter.

During the breaks I would work on other projects. During one such project, I was complaining to my mom about having to iron so much, “It takes twice as long to finish everything but, if I had one tip for a beginning sewer, it would be to never skip the ironing,” I said to her.

“That is just what your grandma used to say,” She told me. So, even without them being here, I grew up sewing just like them.

Eventually, I finished the quilt and it now hangs on our wall as a reminder of family. I’m excited to pass this hereditary stitching onto my daughter and she is so excited to learn.

Beyond the Bisquick Box: The Suffrage Cook Book

The Suffrage Cook BookI must admit, I am a bit jealous of families that have one of those wonderful, messy cookbooks, passed down from mother to daughter, with notes in the margins and stained from use.  Though I have memories of Thanksgiving dinners with my grandmother, I don’t remember anything particularly unique, and no one taught me anything special about cooking techniques.  I joke that all the recipes my mom passed down can be found on the back of a Bisquick box.

So when I explore the culinary history of my family, the best I can do is learn about what kind of food was cooked in different eras and communities where my ancestors lived.

To start, I decided to search Project Gutenberg, a completely free database of old books scanned and posted on the internet.  In the search box, I just typed in “cook books” to see what came up.  Lots of wonderful books came up, but one instantly caught my eye:  The Suffrage Cook Book.

The Suffrage Cook Book was published in Pittsburgh, PA, in 1915, and edited by Mrs. L. O. Kleber of The Equal Franchise Federation of Western Pennsylvania.  The Equal Franchise Federation was a network of organizations across the country working to get women the right to vote.  Cook books were a natural way to spread the word about women’s rights, as the kitchen was the province of women.  Putting messages in cook books would speak directly to women.

The cover of the book is wonderful.  Uncle Sam stands holding a set of scales.  On one side of the scale is a man, a woman on the other side, the two measuring as equal.  Inside, quotes from governors of the 13 states that had given women the vote.  Governor W. P. Hunt of Arizona noted, “Not only have the women of this state evinced an intelligent and active interest in governmental issues, but in several instances important offices have been conferred upon that element of the electorate which recently acquired the elective franchise. Kindly assure your co-workers in Pennsylvania of my best wishes for their success.”

In 1915, my grandmother was two years old and living with her family in Pittsburgh.  Her mother, Mary Effie Gloninger Barr, was raising four daughters and one son as the suffrage movement was gaining strength.  I don’t know if she participated in the movement or was inspired by it, but she would certainly have been aware of it.  And her daughter, my grandmother Margaret, was very independent, getting two Master’s degrees and choosing to work outside the home during the fifties and sixties, although she did not have to.  She also supporterd her friends who did not work outside the home, something I saw personally as I was growing up.  Whether or not my grandmothers considered themselves suffragettes, they represented the movement well.  Looking through a cook book created in their city, during their lives, to empower women, is a wonderful gift.

In my next post about the Suffrage Cook Book, I will try out one of the recipes:  chocolate caramels.