The photos I treasure most from my childhood are a monthly series my father took during the first year of my life. Month one, I am lying swaddled on the bed next to a single marshmallow topped with one unlit candle. Then for each of the next 12 months I am propped up or sitting next to the number of marshmallows that correspond to my age. By one year, there I am, standing next to a tray with a dozen marshmallows and candles, attempting to dump the whole thing. The photos are a wonderful visual timeline of my transformation from infant to toddler.
As a new parent, every milestone your baby hits is cause for celebration, whether it’s a monthly birthday or a first step. And these days, especially with smartphone cameras always at the ready, they are simple to document and save forever.
Sure, there are baby books; I don’t know about you, but my sons’ are only partially filled out, making me feel constantly guilty. Although most parents start out with good intentions to track their children’s continual growth, daily life somehow gets in the way. So here are some simple and fun ways to capture those precious childhood moments and preserve keepsakes of your children's lives and your family history forever:
- Monthly photos:
Track your child's rapid growth the first year with monthly photographs similar to what my father took. Take a photo of baby next to the same stuffed animal or in the same rocking chair holding a sign that announces “1 month,” “2 months,” etc. Frame them in sequence, ending with a photo of baby’s first birthday.
Photograph baby’s gummy smile as each new tooth appears. Later, pair them in an album with similar pictures as baby teeth fall out.
- Watch me grow:
Plant a tree in your yard in honor of baby’s birth. This can be another great annual photo op to mark the passing of time.
- Little prints:
Using nontoxic fabric paints, create a yearly imprint of your child’s hand and footprint on a plain canvas tote bag, sweatshirt or apron. Date each with a colorful fabric pen.
- Treasured quilt:
Save baby’s adorable tiny T-shirts, booties and bibs and stitch them together to make a unique keepsake quilt or wall hanging. You can also collect these and other memorabilia (your first sonogram, hospital bracelet, baby announcement, front page of the paper the day baby is born, etc.) and make a shadow box.
- Family dictionary:
Most babies have their own vocabulary – like calling mittens “glubbies,” or saying “yum yum” when he or she wants a bottle. So why not create your own dictionary? Include family expressions, nicknames and even funny things your growing child says.
- Start a blog:
Instead of recounting all the amazing things your new baby is doing individually to friends and relatives, you can blog it to an audience of your choosing. Create a personal website/blog that is password protected and post photos, videos, milestones and your musings on life with baby. Someday your child will enjoy reading all about his or her beginnings on this online keepsake.
- Dear Darling:
If keeping a daily journal is too time-consuming, consider writing a letter each month of baby’s first year. Thereafter, write an annual letter on your child’s birthday summing up the year's accomplishments. List favorite foods, books, friends, likes and dislikes and reminisce about things that happened in your family and the world.
And lastly, don’t forget, even though you have thousands of photos stored on your phone and computer, it’s nice to occasionally print some out or make a book that you can peruse and talk about with your little one instead of a bedtime story. Sometimes it is nice to be a little old school.