A biography of everything

Everything has a story and everything comes, in its elemental origin, from the earth. Collect an assortment of ‘things’, and trace them back to their roots.


By tracing basic items back to their origins, kids will feel a newfound appreciation and sense wonder for the amount of work that goes into the everyday.



  1. Ask your child to walk around the house, collecting a small assortment of everyday items that appeal to them. When they’ve found three or four that take their fancy, ask them to bring them back to you.
  2. They could gather a handful of tinned and fresh foods, or some household items, or a selection of their favourite toys. The greater the variety of objects, the greater the range of stories and themes you can explore.
  3. Once they’ve chosen their items, sit down together.
  4. Attempt to trace the history of each object together – going all the way back to its initial creation. If it’s made up of parts, who might have put them together? If it’s travelled a long distance, how did it get here?
  5. If your child is stuck, you can help them look for hints and clues. Are there any labels on the item that might offer some insight? Check the labels of any textiles to find out where they were made. Check the feet of their toys for any branded stamps. Check food labels for the names of farmers or countries of origin. To see how this works, we’ve laid out an example below.


Example: A piece of paper

Before the humble piece of paper became something to write on for you and your family, it was a tree. Before it was a tree, it was a seed that grew and grew.

Once it was big and tall, that tree would have been cut down and taken to a papermaking factory, where it’s bark would have been removed. Next, it would have been cut into small wooden chips, mixed with water, and cooked into a paste.

That paste would have been bleached and mixed with strength-enhancing chemicals, so that the paper became strong and durable and able to withstand the stab of a pen. That paste would have been flattened, and the water would have been squeezed out. The flattened paste would become a huge roll of paper, which would then be sliced into individual sheets – just like the one you’re holding now.

If the paper is from a recycled source, it may have been through this process hundreds of times, because old paper can be used to make new paper.