Medieval heraldry sounds about as fun as a day of browsing antique shops to the few children who know what the term means. It almost sounds dusty. But you don’t need to look to (the decidedly kid-inappropriate) Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, or Dune series to see that people love “houses,” heraldry, coats of arms, and sigils. You need look no further than your local school, where you will doubtlessly find flags, mascots and logos adorning the walls.
We human beings are tribal beings, and we simply love creating icons to engender a sense of collective identity. These may take the forms of house crests, declaring the traits and accomplishments of the family, if you’re royalty. It’s more likely that your family settles for wearing a sweatshirt with your local Panthers or Badgers on it.
Developing a House Crest for your family, classroom, or individual student is a great summer fun and learning activity. Why?
- 1) Researching the meaning of your town’s or family’s name can provide fun historical insights.
- 2) Distilling child’s interests into symbols inspires reflection.
- 3) Making accomplishments and aspirations tangible inspires achievement.
- 4) It can be as simple or elaborate as time and will allow.
- 5) It’s a great way to make something original in which your child can take ownership and pride.
First, you and your child should decide whether you’ll make a crest (also known as a coat of arms, or sigil) for your family, your school, or for the student him/herself. These can be combined, of course, but it’s usually most fun to begin with the student as an individual, as it allows a great degree of decision making and flexibility.
It’s a good idea to research the meaning of your child’s name(s) of you don’t already know it. Behind the Name is a nice free resource for doing just that, with a wide variety of information on names from many cultures. A child named “Roger,” for instance, should have plenty of artistic options with a name meaning “famous spear.” Let’s say Roger’s last name is “Beck.” Looking up the meaning on the surname portion of the Behind the Name website, we learn that “Beck” could mean “brook or stream,” or “pickax,” depending on where his Becks are from.
It would be an easy thing to draw, cut out, or print out a spear and a pick ax, or even a winding stream. Next, Roger might pick out his favorite colors, and settle on what’s called a “division of field.” Instructions on how create a division of field, with plentiful examples, are compiled in this document from abcteach.com.
- 1) Feel free to squeeze in a lesson about historical heraldry.
- 2) A frame, some velvet backing, and a glass cover can make a simple “craft project” into wall-ready art.
- 3) Don’t be afraid to make your own alongside your child. It’s fun and they’ll love that you’re doing it too.