Childhood is a funny thing for parents. Fleeting overall, but peppered with so much colour and drama and so many milestones that it can become hard to remember when first words were said, what early favourite toys were, and how much they truly wanted to be a fireman. This of course is in contrast to long days and often longer nights, and an overwhelming feeling that starts with, “can I cope?” and ends with, “time is running out”.
My youngest is 4, and I feel like time is definitely not on my side. Despite running a popular blog, I am not a huge photographer of memories. I am also not fantastic at recording the small details like first foods tried, or who attended the kids’ first birthdays. So here I am now wondering what I would have told my younger self if I had known what I know now about capturing and preserving those memories of childhood.
There are obviously a lot of ideas here and I would not be aiming to do them all. If I could go back in time, I would have done less, but been more consistent for all children. Jack, my eldest, has 3 photo books. Summer, my youngest, has none. And my middle child, Tom, has one and a bit. Choose the ones that inspire you the most.
How to capture those special memories of childhood
- Always choose to participate in the event before stepping back to take photos.
- Take LOTS of pictures. It seems like a contradiction to point number 1, I know, and the priority should be to live life, but never forget to take your camera with you. Set up your computer to automatically upload pictures from your phone to your computer, and once a year throw those images onto a USB or, better still, get them printed and file them.
- Be in the photo. Consciously make an effort to ask the stranger to take the photo. If you aren’t in any photos, were you really there? Remember you are one of the most important people in their childhood.
- Buy a newspaper on the day of the birth of your children and put it into tissue and plastic to preserve it. I still have all the newspapers for my kids from their birth days, and already it is something Master 9 finds fascinating. This idea is more about giving your child an essence of the time, which is sort of like a memory, but from a different perspective. I also gift this idea to friends and family when they have their babies.
- Take a Christmas photo of your family every single year on Christmas Day. It’s the one time of year you are assured to have some family members or friends around to take the picture. Commit to this one—you won’t be sorry.
- Take a Christmas card photo each year. If Christmas Day is usually stressful, then dress up prior to Christmas, take a photo and use an online photo service to convert it to a Christmas card. Order an extra one for yourself. Bonus points here if you dress up in costume!
- Buy a box for each child from a stationery store and fill it with their artwork. As each year ends, decide on keeping only the most precious and take a photo of the rest.
- Create an email address for each of your children and email the photos to their email address.
- Use a wall in your home to record the kids’ growth. If you move, simply make note of the heights and transfer.
- Email memories to their email address as a way of recording funny things they do, milestones, records, school newsletters that feature their name, etc. Imagine the joy when they begin using their account and find special messages from you dating back years!
- Keep their favourite book. Even now when I see a book from my childhood it brings back so many memories.
- Use an online photobook company to record all the main food you cook in the home and all the recipes that have been passed down. Keep adding to it, and when the kids go to move out of home you can gift them the family cookbook. Food is always such a big part of memories, and this is a great way to capture another part of childhood.
- Frame your children’s artwork. This is something I have done for all my kids since they were little. Only the best pieces make the cut, but it is almost like achieving ‘pool room’ status if they get framed. One day, I will pass some of this onto my children, and one day, of course, they will get to keep it all.
- Get in the habit of gifting a photo calendar to relatives each year, and order an extra one for yourself.
- Create a time capsule. I am doing that this year. It is hard with multiple kids, but I think I would wait until the youngest could consciously choose something to add to the capsule as the ideal time.
- I save the kids’ most beautiful loved clothing (3 or 4 pieces for each child), and pop them into tissue paper along with 1 or 2 treasured toys. They will eventually be transferred into a blanket box and become a treasure to pass on when they are older.
- Create a memory jar. On New Year’s Eve, have each family member add a favourite memory from the year to the jar. Add a different colour piece of paper for every year and, when the kids are older, you will have a jar of wonderful life memories to reflect upon.
- Record their dreams and aspirations. This is something I never really thought of doing before.With each of my three children, I took the time to ask them “What is your dream?”. When asked recently, Miss 3’s dream was to be a cowgirl (inspired by Sheriff Callie), Master 6 wants to be a policeman, and Master 9 just dreams of being happy. The word ‘dream’ is such a wonderful word, and the answers will never be confined to occupation. Because of that, it is probably the ideal question to ask your child, on video, each year. Walt Disney once said “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”. Dreams are kind of like that. Sometimes impossible in real life, but fun to try nonetheless. You won’t regret asking this question.