Many parents get casts made of their children’s shoes, but a cheaper alternative is to frame the originals using a shadow box. Include a picture of your child wearing the footwear to make it even more personal. If you have tinier keepsakes from their first years – a hospital wristband, lock of hair or a tiny hat, keep them inside clear Christmas ornaments. Either bring them out with the rest of the decorations, and let the memories come flooding back in the festive season, or hang them from a houseplant all year round.
As children grow older, and they start to speak, be sure to keep a quotes book. You may think you’ll never forget all their funny sayings, but memories can fade fast. Save all those hilarious mispronunciations, silly jokes and catchphrases in a single volume. It’ll be great to pull out at an 18th birthday party. We all make little films and take pictures, but don’t forget to keep a record of some of your conversations too. Talk to your children about days out, what they’ve done at school, or their birthday party. Record your chats as mp3s or write them out longhand in a special book.
As kids get older, encourage them to keep written diaries or records. They don’t need to be terribly long – start a jar of memories. Encourage your kids to make a habit of writing a short note whenever they have a great experience and drop it into the pot. Years down the line, they’ll be a joy to read. Or start a days out scrapbook together – keep ticket stubs, pressed flowers, tiny shells in bags and printed-out pictures in a large-format tome. It’s great fun to spend rainy days sticking bits and pieces in, and writing about your memories of the days, and years later you can flick through it and remember fun family times.
More quirkily, start a secret packaging box. Keep your child’s favourite snack packaging, toy instruction manuals or collectable packets tucked away. In twenty years time, kids will love leafing through their surprise “retro” memories box. Or make a quilt full of Proustian rushes by saving favourite romper suits, T-shirts or bedding material. This has the bonus of being one of the most soothing and satisfying activities we know.
Inevitably, you’ll end up with too many cuddly toys and will have to throw some away. Save the memories of any too scrappy to give to charity shops by painting them and making prints. Perhaps one of the most wonderful ways to remember your time spent together is to create a living, lasting reminder of time spent outside. Plant a tree together, designating it your special one, and watching it grow in parallel with your child.
WE REMEMBER - Green Parent readers tell us how they preserve their kids’ childhoods
Hannah Karpinski “I have a little notebook that I write down all my daughter’s firsts - places we have been, what animals she touched, when she met a certain person, or when we got a pet. I also have a box for all of her drawings and certificates and things she’s collected such as stones or shells.”
Laura Everard “My awesome mum used my son’s clothes to make him a super special memory blanket! I’ve kept some superhero tops to make him (what I really mean is me!) a memory bear.”