Creating Vacation Mementos

I admit I’m writing this as I stare at the beautiful beaches of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on vacation with my family.  My husband and I (and we hope the kids) cherish these trips with our kids.  We love pretty much every second of them and know we’re creating memories that we will sit down and reminisce on over a glass of wine when we’re in the trenches of daily living (something that can make that long, hard day end on a high note).

One of the things that we often have to contend with, however, is what to do regarding those mementos that we (well, really the kids) often want.  Sick of the t-shirts that are worn once, trinkets that break after a week, or collecting hats until we have more of them than arms in the house, we realized we needed to do this whole memento thing differently.  Of course we have our pictures and we’re good about making a book each trip, something we thoroughly enjoy doing and enjoying later, but it’s not something the kids often want to look through.  I want our children to have their own mementos from these trips, but I just can’t justify spending money on crap that won’t serve that purpose long-term.

As such, we’ve instituted the create-your-own memento for our trips.  When you think about how much is available wherever you go, you know you can find something to make, hopefully with the entire family.  For example, if you’re at the beach, have the kids collect as many shells as they can and bring them home to create either wall art using the thick box frames, or decorate their lamp shade with them, or if you’re highly adventurous, decorate a table top and get a new piece of glass to fit on top.  Or you can have the kids pick different leaves and dry and press them on the way home to create a piece of art you can frame at home.  Or even just take pictures of the kids at different landmarks then have them create their own city map with the pictures of them at each location so they can not only remember the events from the pictures but learn a bit about geography too.  Even if you must deal with buying the trinkets, instead of assuming they’ll be played with, let the kids spend $5 each with the knowledge they’ll be building their own box frame.  The frame might have some trinkets, but also some pamphlets, tickets to places you went, sand if there was a beach, etc.  The joy of these frames is that you can literally kind of shove everything in and then hang it up.

Another option if for some reason you can’t find something to collect to create art is to create your own postcards.  Families often take lots of pictures and with print centres able to print just about anything these days, you can use Photoshop, Powerpoint, or even something as simple as Paint to create the images you want for your postcard.  Let every family member choose their own layout and caption and photos then print them up and frame them as a group instead of framing individual pictures (and print a few extra to actually send to people; even if you send it after you’re back, I’m sure they won’t mind).  For all of these, though, put the location and date on it for twenty years from now you may be happy for that bit of information.  With these pieces of art (wall or otherwise), you’ve got something far more beautiful and memorable than you would from walking into a store and buying something.

Importantly, the joy of these mementos is that when you look at them, you are reminded not only of the trip, but of the times taken to actually create them – kids included.  You can use these mementos to help trigger memories for younger children, having them tell the story of how they took part in making it which will only serve to strengthen their memory of the trip as well.  For all members of the family, the memories that will be elicited will be much more vivid and detailed when it’s coming from an action we’ve actually taken part in as opposed to something we bought.  Oh, and of course, in order to create these mementos you have to be doing things together so you actually ensure you’re getting quality family time while away, and the more involved you are in creating the memory, the stronger the memory is.  Isn’t that the entire point of a memento?


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By Tracy Cassels

March 31, 2014