Since we live out of state from almost all of our relatives (and many friends), I had to brainstorm ways for my young children to learn the relatives names and know who they were. I decided the least expensive and most user-friendly way to accomplish this task was to put our relatives pictures on the fridge. In particular, I tried to put up pictures of my children interacting with the person/people. Every time we looked at the fridge, we would name one or more long distance relative and recall a fun fact about the person, share a memory, or talk about what was going on with that person.
Even though we saw these long-distance relatives once or less per year, my kids could name them by age 2. My son began to tell stories about them by age 3. I know it has helped my kids feel more connected to family, even though they are not physically present.
This activity is perfect for helping children develop language skills. Using simple words and memories, you can describe the people, places, and things in photographs. Use action words to talk about what is happening in the photo. Describe what things look like with color, emotion, and size words. Talking about shared images and memories helps make neurological connections between the sounds (what we call the words) and their meaning.
For the first few years, I had the pictures in plastic magnetic frames on the fridge. However, my kids would often take the frames and pull the pictures out, or drop them and break the plastic. Recently I came across a great way to put the pictures on the fridge without letting them get folded, dropped, or squished. I hoard large free magnets (from the front of phone books, business advertisements, etc) and glue my photos to the magnets. Then the photos stick to the fridge, and are more durable as well.
Edited to add: I’ve decided that my fridge has enough clutter. So I put these special pictures on the back of our metal door! Now every night the kids choose one picture from the door and we make sure to pray for that person.