When we were babies

As participants in their own history, students build an understanding of how the past is different from the present through a comparison of their baby photos and baby photos from the collections of the State Library of New South Wales.
Key inquiry questions #1: 
What is my history and how do I know?
Key inquiry questions #2: 
What stories do other people tell about the past?
Key inquiry questions #3: 
How can concepts of the past be told and shared?

Learning Intention

We are learning to:

  • understand the differences and similarities about family life in the past.

Success criteria

What I'm looking for:

  • I can tell stories about my family's history and the history of other families.

Student Activities

When you were a baby

Students examine photos of themselves and their classmates as babies and ask and answer questions about them. 

Number of set tasks: 1

Babies in the past

Students examine photographs of babies and families from the collection of the State Library of NSW and ask "what can we learn about babies and families in the past from old photos?"

Number of set tasks: 1

NSW Syllabus for the Australian Curriculum History K-10

A student:

  • HTe-1 communicate stories of their own family heritage and the heritage of others
  • HTe-2 demonstrates developing skills of historical inquiry and communication


Comprehension: chronology, terms and concepts

  • distinguish between the past, present and future (ACHHS016)

Use of sources

  • explore and use a range of sources about the past (ACHHS018)
  • identify and compare features of objects from the past and present (ACHHS019)


  • explore a point of view within an historical context (ACHHS020)
  • Continuity and change: some things change over time and others remain the same
  • Perspectives: people from the past will have different views shaped by their experiences

Learning acrross the curriculum

  • Literacy
  • Numeracy
  • Personal and social capability

Who the people in their family are, when they were born and raised and how they are related to each other (ACHHK001)

How the stories of families and the past can be communicated, for example through photographs, artefacts, books, oral histories, digital media, and museums (ACHHK004)


  • pose questions about another’s object or photograph
  • discuss then and now; past and present
  • identify and sequence stages in their lifetime
  • recognise that stories of the past may differ depending on who tells the story

Activity notes for teachers

In this unit of work the term ‘Indigenous’ is used to refer to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Students use photos to ask historical questions about the past. 

  • The activity is designed to introduce students to photos as historical records of people, places and events in the past.
  • The focus is on families and babies.
  • Students examine photos of themselves and photos from the State Library of NSW to find out about what it was like to be a baby now and in the past.

Ask students to:

  • Bring to class their favourite photograph of themself as a baby.
  • Ask family members to describe what they were like when they were a baby. Questions to ask include: ‘Was I a good baby?’, ‘Did I cry a lot?’, ‘How old was I when I started to walk?’, ‘How old was I when I said my first word? What was my first word?’.
  • Ask other students questions about their personal photos, for example: ‘How old were you when this photograph was taken?’ ‘Where were you?’ ‘What were you doing?’, ‘Who is in the photograph with you?’.
  • Write down or tell another student their date of birth.
  • Describe to another student how much they have changed since they were a baby.


Explain to students that they will:

  • Examine old photographs to find out about what it was like to be a baby in the past.
  • Look for similarities and differences between what it was like to be a baby in the ‘old days’ (then) and what it is like to be a baby today (now).

Explain that:

  • Although they can’t remember what it was like when they were a baby other people in the family will be able to tell them stories about what they were like.
  • Different people in the family will have different memories and stories of what they were like as a baby (perspective).
  • They will use the terms then and now; past and present.