Between the endless chores, complex schedules, work, and school, it is hard to create space for quality time with your kids. As moms, I feel like we are always rushing and it seems that unless it becomes a priority, our children’s childhoods are going to be over before we know it.
You only get so many days of them being 2, 6, 10, etc. and yes most of those days are very long and exhausting. And that is exactly why I want to be intentional about creating memories with my kids. Now, I know I will remember their childhood and I take a zillion pictures for when I get old and forgetful.
But more importantly, I wanted my kids to remember their childhoods, meaning I wanted to be creating memories. So, I began a bucket list for things to do every day, once in a while, and special traditions to be intentional about making memories.
You will also see that I have tried to incorporate the five love languages into creating memories. Something that is really important to me is that my kids know they are loved. The five love languages are words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch.
At the end of this post I also included creative and fun things to make to remember their childhood.
Create Memories Every day
Memories are fascinating to me because it seems that the things I remember from my childhood are not the most expensive trips or all the extracurriculars. Instead it was the simple everyday things that stuck with me the most, such as donuts after church or going for bagels after swim lessons.
And that’s because for an event to be a long-term memory, repetition is key. Therefore, intentionally adding in little things every day can have a huge impact on what they remember. Here are things we strive to do everyday so our kids will remember the love.
1. Hug them every day
Children need physical touch, therefore we try to hug our kids every day. It’s why weighted blankets help children sleep. It’s like being wrapped all night in a big secure hug. I like to greet my kids with big hugs in the morning, before and after school, whenever they leave the house and before bed. I honestly am going to hug my kids until they won’t let me. And then I’m still going to try because I don’t think anyone is ever too old for a hug.
2. When they wake up
There are three really important times each day: when they wake up, when they come home from school and when they go to bed. These are the perfect times to connect with your kid. They are also great places for routines so that you can create some awesome memories.
When they first wake up, it is a brand-new day. Those first few minutes can set the tone for the day. Make waking up fun. I wake up before my kids (or at least try to) even if it’s just 20 minutes before. This way I am up and can greet them happily instead of groggily.
I like to wake my kids up with back rubs if they are still sleepy. My mom used to sing a song to me every morning. I like to tell them how excited I am to start the day with them and all the things we are going to do for the day. I like to make sure I use words of affirmation such as “I can’t wait to spend the day with you” since it is a love language.
An extra bonus is connecting right away makes the morning go by so much better. The cooperation you will get is amazing.
3. Give them Special Notes
Now there are a few ways to do this. I would find one that works for you and your child and then stick with it. The idea here is that this is something you do in the long term, so they remember it. For instance, my mom always added a sticky note with a note, smiley face or picture to my lunch every day. They really helped me finish the school day when it was a bad day.
Here are a few ways to add special notes to your kids’ days:
- In their lunch boxes
- On their bed for when they come home
- Add a mailbox outside their door for mail
Remember it can be a silly face, a picture, a card, simple note, or even a letter. You can also trade off days with your other half. You can both do it everyday too. I find that these are most effective when they open them when you are not around. It can really help if they are missing you such as in school. If one parent gets home a lot later or works in long shifts, then having that parent leave a special note for them. That way, they still feel the love even if you aren’t home for bedtime etc.
4. After school routine
The minute your kids get off the bus or jump in your car after school, connect with them. They will be wanting to tell you all about their day. If you wait, then the moment is over. Additionally, if something went bad, they might not be willing to tell you later. However, connecting right away will help them feel secure and loved.
The routine I use to ensure my kids and I connect after school in a fun way is that we do two truths and a lie. They absolutely love the game and we all have a good laugh over the crazy things they come up with. By making it a game instead of just chatting, I think they will remember it. Plus, it adds fun.
You can also do a snack time together or play a board game after school with your kids. Maybe you always grab bagels after school or just on Fridays as a special treat. They will be sure to remember that. Just pick something that works for your family and stick with it.
5. Check-in Time
Throughout the day I am constantly asked by my kids to do things either for them or with them. One way to reduce the whining and tears when I can’t do it at that moment is that I do a check-in time.
What is check-in time? I block off time each day for each kid. During that time, I give them my complete undivided attention to do whatever they want to do. I want them to remember that I always made them a priority. Their needs and wants were heard.
This way when the questions start on “can you do this”, then they know the routine. They know I will get to it and I won’t forget if I say later when we check in after school with each other. Additionally, some kids really crave undivided attention because quality time or acts of service are their love language. Kids will go great lengths to get that attention if they can’t find it with you.
Things that we might do during this time is to have their favorite snack, fix a broken toy, help with homework, learn something together, practice a sport, play, read their favorite book, do an art project, or decorate a bedroom. Sometimes, they just want me to listen or they want to show me things or just have me watch them play.
6. Dinner time
Dinner time is such a wonderful time to connect as a family. We try to eat together as much as possible. When I was little, my mom would let one of us pick out the table cloth every night. I absolutely loved doing this. My mom had gone to a fabric store and picked out a bunch of fun kid fabrics. She then cut it to size with pinking shears so it wouldn’t fray. My favorite ones were themed robots, balloons and space. I really remember the fun I had in getting this responsibility and how much more I liked eating dinner because there was a fun design on the table.
Another dinner time tradition I that I added for my own kids is each child is in charge of one dinner a week. This all is with my help of course. This means that before the week starts, each one will pick a meal. They will then add the ingredients needed to the grocery list and help cook that night. It is a great way to teach a life skill and spend quality time with your kid. They also get to feel valued and that they’re contributing to the family.
Another fun dinner time activity is to start each dinner out with a silly or fun question. All too often, our dinner table becomes adult talk and we forget to include kids in the conversation. Another fun one is that everyone takes a turn talking about their day.
7. The bedtime routine
Putting my kids to bed is sometimes the hardest part of my day because by this point, I’m exhausted. However, I know that I want my kids to go to bed feeling like a million bucks. I think there is no better way to end the day. Therefore, our bedtime routine is the usual of reading books, brushing teeth, and putting on pajamas, but it also includes a chatting session at the end.
I like to start out by talking about everything that they did that day and reflecting over it. I follow up with asking them what their favorite part of the day was. I then tell them my favorite part of the day, such as “I loved watching you swim at the pool today” or “I felt so lucky to spend time with you at the park” or “I was so proud at how hard you worked on your school project”. I end with tucking them into bed with an I love you.
Create Memories Once a week
Typically, this all happens on the weekend because the week is so crazy. I try to dedicate time to our family being a family each week. I think as your kids get older; it becomes harder to get everyone together. Therefore, I make it a priority to at least twice a week doing something as a family.
8. Family Night
I know many families do this because it is such a great way to bond as a family. At our house, Friday is family night. We start the night with take-out, usually pizza. Once in a while, we will do a fancy dinner party complete with menus, flowers, candles and fancy outfits. The girls really love this.
The night is filled with games and ends with a movie. We take turns on who gets to pick the movie. We try to let everyone pick a game, so the night isn’t just about one kid.
To change things up, we usually consult our library. There is so much stuff you can check out besides a book. Our library has a telescope, science kits, puzzles and board games so be sure to check your local library.
9. Kid Date Nights
To ensure everyone has a relationship with everyone in the house, we “date” our kids. This means one of us will do an activity each week with only one kid. We switch up the pairing, so everyone gets to do this with mom and dad on a regular basis.
We try for one kid date night a week. I know so many people who really only had a relationship with the one parent who was home more. I also know people who aren’t really close to either of their parents. I strongly feel that going on dates with your kids can prevent that. It is time for you to chat, bond and have fun one on one.
Since we have girls, we also do special dates such as daddy daughter dances and girls’ shopping or spa days. I absolutely love shopping for fall clothing and back to school items (I don’t know why). Our spa days are anything from getting haircuts to doing DIY facials at home. I did both of these with my parents and couldn’t wait to do them with my kids. Our big girls’ shopping day is before the school year starts.
10. Family Morning
This is a way newer tradition and I don’t think as common as family night. However, it is for sure something worth adding in. We do family morning on Saturday or Sunday morning. The day starts with everyone staying in pajamas. Their dad makes blueberries pancakes for everyone. Some weeks we actually all go out for breakfast instead of doing the big breakfast at home.
In addition to a fun breakfast, create a family activity. In the summer time, our Saturday mornings are for garage sale shopping. Other ideas are a morning walk or bike ride, volunteering at the humane society or habitat for humanity, arts and crafts, baking, or take a class together.
We never did a family morning as a kid, but my friend’s family did. I slept over a few times and was there for their big Saturday morning. To this day, I remember it because it was so fun to have a big breakfast.
Create Memories Once in a While
Here are some things we try to do every few months. The more ways you can try to connect as a family or connect with your kids outside of the every day is important.
We either try to camp or do a day trip in the great outdoors. With the amount of screens and technology today, I think that it can be so hard to connect as a family. The constant distraction that comes from phones can be removed out in the wilderness. Your kids might complain the whole way up the mountain on your day hike but trust me, they will remember it. I was one of those kids. My parents would do day trips to the beach. I complained a lot (basically the whole way there) but always had fun. I now really appreciate the effort my parents put in to get me outside and enjoy the day.
12. Surprise or somewhere new trip
Don’t get me wrong, I love going to the same places. There is just something so special about returning to that same cabin on the lake every summer. You start to create memories there and every time you go, you cherish all that time spent there.
However, there is something to be said for the first time you go somewhere new. Even if the trip is hard or doesn’t go as planned, adventure is a great way to make memories. When we go somewhere new, we make it a surprise. We give our kids clues and the anticipation mounts.
By making it a surprise every time, it becomes something our family does and something our kids can remember and cherish.
Surprise “just thinking of you” gifts
After birthdays and holidays, do kids really need more gifts? Well, there is something super special about receiving a gift just because someone was thinking about you.
I remember being at my friend’s house when her dad came home. He went to the zoo with her younger sibling. He had bought her a moon ring. He said, Hey! I saw this in the gift shop, and it made me think of you. I thought you might like it. To be honest, I was so jealous. I wished someone would get me gifts just because.
Now I realize that there is a big difference when the gift is expected vs. unexpected. A child knows they will get presents on their birthday or on certain holidays. However, these gifts are not necessary. They didn’t have to get them. You never asked for the gift. It was just because you are special to me and I was thinking of you or it reminded me of you.
Small “thinking of you” gifts are great after a parent was away for a few days for work. When my dad brought home a gift for me after being gone, I always felt like even though he was gone, I was still a priority.
13. Take a class as a family
Depending on the weather, we try to plan activities that get your blood pumping. If going on a bike ride or playing outside isn’t an option, sign up for a class. Learn pottery together or take tennis lessons. If the whole family isn’t working, sign up in pairs. Take a dance lesson with a child while the other parent helps with a hobby for another kid such as coin collections. As parents, I find that we sign our kids up for a lot of extracurriculars but almost never with us.
What also sticks out in my mind from childhood are traditions. Just think of all the holidays you remember from your childhood. Even if you don’t remember what happened, you can almost feel the excitement and anticipation of your younger self.
14. Seasonal Traditions
Seasonal traditions are some of my favorite memories growing up. I absolutely loved carving pumpkins and apple picking in the fall. Because these were so important to me as a child, I wanted to make an effort to do some for every season.
Additionally, seasons come with their own smells and smell is closely tied with memory. This means every time you smell pumpkins, sip apple cider or make gingerbread cookies, then you will think of all those past memories. Now, I make an intentional effort to plan and do season-based traditions every year.
In the fall, we do pumpkin picking, apple picking, baking pies, walks in the fall foliage and evening fires. In the winter, we always make hot cocoa, read books in cozy blankets and slippers, make snow creatures and do indoor camping. In spring, we fly kites, we garden, and we take a walk in the rain. Lastly, in summer, we always do water activities, camp, and spend evenings outside under the stars.
15. Crazy Birthday traditions
While birthday parties are great and I love having them for my kids, I don’t think they are family centered. I think birthday parties are best for friends. Instead, we do Birthday traditions such as waking up the birthday kid with a pancake cake with candles singing happy birthday. We did that in my house growing up. Everyone makes a card for the birthday kid to open at breakfast. Other fun ideas are filling the house with balloons. The number of balloons being how old they are. You can also celebrate the time they were born depending on the time. The family gift is always a photobook that highlights their year.
Pick a fun and unique tradition so your kids will say at our house on our birthday, we did this. The uniqueness of the tradition will make them really feel part of the family. Also, just a great way to celebrate a birthday.
16. Holiday traditions
I loved holidays as a kid because my family would get all into it. One of my favorite parts was the house decorations. Therefore every year, I buy lots of holiday decorations on clearance so we can go full out. We always decorate the house together for every holiday and play the correct holiday music. On the same day, we usually incorporate one or two holiday activities, one of which is always holiday food.
Additionally, we have traditions for each holiday that we do every year. For example, we read a Christmas book every day for the month of December. We also always go boating on the 4th of July.
Another really fun holiday tradition is to pick a holiday most people don’t do anything on and make a tradition for that holiday. Remember being unique in traditions makes your kids feel like part of something special, their own family.
Creative and fun ways to remember their childhood
Let’s be honest, you already take a zillion photos of your kids so lets put them to good use. I think there are some memories that can only be saved by creating something such as a child’s foot print. I love decorating my house with what matters most to me, my family.
17. Hang up pictures of them over the house
I love to hang photos up of my kids all over the house. I have photos from all ages. While I do this for me, I think there is also value in it for my kids. They know just how much they mean to me because I want to hang up their photos and pictures they drew.
18. Growth chart
If your kids are still little, start a growth chart. I made one out of wood and measure them every year, if not more. Some people do this on a wall but I wanted to be sure I could take it with me if and when we moved.
19. Write letters to them every year
Start this today, seriously. I can’t think of a better gift to give your child. Even if they don’t remember everything over the years, when they are older, they will get to read about their childhood from your viewpoint.
If your kids are older, write a letter about each year starting from the year you were pregnant. Look at photos and talk about what they were like. Talk about how much you enjoyed watching them grow. Tell them how proud you are of them. Share stories of them throughout the years.
20. Make a book of their artwork
If you have saved art through the years, keep doing it. When you are ready, you can get all of their artwork laminated and bound. The book is like flipping through time as their art matures. If your kids are still really little, buy a plain white book and have them fill in a paper every now and then.
21. Child author
Similar to the idea of making a book of their artwork, have them write a story each year. It will be just as precious as flipping through their artwork. When you read their stories, you will automatically remember the little one who wrote it even if they are all grown up now. Plus, they will get a kick out of it when they are older.
22. Hand or foot prints every year
I wanted handprints from my kids every year but I had a hard time trying to figure out what to do with them. In the end, I decided to have them do a print on a Christmas tree skirt every year. Another idea is to do stepping stones of feet each year and make a path in your garden.
23. Make them photobooks for each year
We take so many photos and yet rarely look at them. They are all just sitting in files on the computer. Looking at photos is a great way for kids to build memory, so each year I make them a photo book. I pick photos out and use Shutterfly. I make each kid one. I work on it in multiple sessions which is why I use Shutterfly. I really like their platform.
Pursue a memory with your kids Today
I strongly believe every child should have someone who will never give up on them, no matter what. I want my kids to know that so I try to show them every chance I get how much I love them.
Not every day is perfect and usually far from it. These are the things I strive to do every day or once in a while. Making memories with your kids can be as simple as a special note in their lunch box to always flying kites on the official first day of spring, no matter the weather. Throughout the years, they will remember the effort you put in and the time you spent together. So, start by just adding one thing to your every day.
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