Don’t get us wrong. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a family vacation. It can totally be fun. (Well, besides the prepping, packing, unpacking, expense, bickering, navigating through an airport, long car ride, or time change with small children.) But there are plenty of other ways to create amazing childhood memories for your kids that they’ll always remember and don’t involve weeks of planning and several paychecks.
A recent Reddit thread answered the question: “What’s a great experience your parents gave you that I should give my kids?” The answers were super simple, and oh-so-heartwarming.
Focusing on small moments of fun
User beckdawg19 pointed out that while big vacations are cool, “It’s the repeated little things that build big memories. I think of my mum setting up the kiddie pool, making virgin margaritas and nachos, and having a ‘beach day’ in the back yard. Or my dad pulling the couch out in front of the TV, making popcorn and fun snacks, and setting up a movie night.”
Kyro0098 seconded their love of the little things. “Carving pumpkins every year, baking sweets for the neighbours at Christmas, movie nights semi regularly, and board games on the weekends. Just an hour to three hours of quality time. It makes a difference.”
“Camping” in your house or yard
When user tibOlt sang the praises of “Setting up a tent in the living room and ‘camping’ when they are super young” others chimed in with variations on that core memory. “When we were little we would get to ‘camp out’ by moving the couches around with blankets on the ground and watch a movie on Disney channel and get to sleep out there” said Broadwayzrose. Homebrand_Exercise added, “My parents would also fill the tent with shredded newspaper for extra fun.”
ForgottenForest265’s parents went the extra mile. “My mum would tie a sheet to the ceiling fan to make a teepee style tent and would play jungle noises on a speaker. Then we could all go inside with flashlights and tell ghost stories.” And GenTek_Scientist_001 rightly took exception to the age conditions initially set forth. “Why super young? I’m 26 and I’ll living room camp right now, try me.”
Greeting them warmly after work
It’s easy to be cranky after putting in 8-12 hours of work that you possibly don’t love doing, then commuting home. But if you greet your kids happily, they’ll remember. When user marsmattacks reminisced: “My sister and I used to run and hide every evening when my dad got home from work. When he found us we’d always try and wrestle him to the ground. He did that almost every day for years, after coming home from a long work day. Looking back on it years later, it’s evidence of how much he loved and cared about us…I don’t know if I’d have the energy or patience for that now that I’m that age.”
Netheroth concurred, “Running to say hi to dad when he came back from work was a highlight of my day. Now that I know how gruelling an adult day at the job can get, I am even more amazed by the loving way he always greeted me.”
Having an indoor picnic
What’s better than plopping a blanket down in the grass and enjoying some of your favourite snacks? Doing it inside, of course. Middaymovies wrote fondly of having indoor picnics with their mum. “She would put a blanket on the floor of the living room and we would eat sandwiches and watch one of our favourite movies.” (Wonder if that’s why they grew up to have such a cosy username?)
BigMarcus83 affirmed the positivity of this memory-making technique for both him and his child. “I do this every other day with my 2year old daughter. She loves getting her posse together (half bald dolls, Teddy bears and lego men etc) She goes mad shouting ‘Pic pic daddy, pic pic.’ Tonight she was cuddling me overtime saying that she loves me. It has been the most affectionate that she’s ever been with her speech. It would have brought a tear to a glass eye.”
Creating a treasure hunt
In terms of simple, inexpensive excitement for a child, you can’t beat an old fashioned treasure hunt. User Zauqui can back us up on this. “My family would make Easters treasure seeking at home. They would give me a paper with a hint, that leads to another hidden paper with a hint, and so on, until I would hit jackpot! Lovely memories, and I actually wish they would have done it other times, and not only in easters. Random gifts, birthdays, the like.”
Drawing contests…and homemade concerts
What’s one parent to do when the other parent is at work? Prepare for a musical extravaganza, naturally. User Pristine-Evening describes how their dad handled their mum working nights like a pro: “My dad, brother and I would have drawing contests, and one year we formed our own band..The Beetles (misspelled on purpose). We rehearsed for months..my Dad was on his drums, my brother and I on our guitars, neither of us were very good, but one night after all our practice we finally felt confident enough to host a concert for my Mum. I still remember it fondly 25 years later.”
Take them to the theatah, dahling
It doesn’t take much to be dazzled as a young kid. Redditor pupperonipizzapie remembers: “They took us to live stage shows from an early age — not expensive Broadway stuff but just local community theatre…Totally eye opening and awesome…to hear real people sing and see people dance.” Zealousideal-Slide98 agreed to the wow factor of seeing “the local high school’s choir musicals in their auditorium. To a little kid, these were grand productions!”
Daughterof312 pitched in other cost-friendly options including: “High school shows, renaissance fairs, community theatres, even taking kids to see friends put on backyard productions and encouraging your kids to try.”
Now who wants to create an epic dance routine to “Thriller?” Meet you in my backyard in 20. Anyone? Bueller?
Everything eventually circles back to food
Raise your hand if you have memories of making things in the kitchen with one of your parents or grandparents. User 2l8tochooseausername hailed the importance of family food preparation: “Have some traditional recipes for your family (they don’t even have to be anything extravagant, just something the kids seem to enjoy), and involve them in the preparation. You can give them the easy/safe tasks at first, and eventually teach them the whole thing.”
If you’ve ever bemoaned how hard it is to involve little kids without it becoming a messy fiasco, Creepgyal69 has got you. “Even buying a pizza base and topping it yourself, or beating ice cream until it’s soft and adding different stuff to make custom ice cream will be fun. For inspiration there’s a YouTube channel called emmymade which has got a lot of novel and child-friendly creations.”
And here’s your reminder to write down those recipes for future generations, even if you don’t think they’re special (If you make them every week for 10 years, rest assured, your kids will remember them.) User idle_isomorph says: “On her deathbed, my grandmother made us a cookbook of her recipes. Not fancy stuff, just her meatloaf, biscuits, cookies.. all the stuff she made often. All the kids and grandkids got copies and we all cherish it. When we use it, and share food and conversation with friends around the table, we feel that she is with us again.”
A trip to the library
Oh, the simple pleasure of a trip to the library as a kid — where everything is “free” and your parents won’t say, “We’re not getting that today.” Rachpeas remembers it fondly: “Up until the age of 10 my mum took me to the library every single week. I absolutely loved it. I could check out anything at all, she never policed it. I read voraciously. She made lots of mistakes as a parent but because we did that consistently it made everything else a bit better. I’ll never forget that.”
Let them eat cake (late at night)
You know how, if you have small children, after a long day with nary a moment to yourself (self-care, who’s that?) you can’t wait to put them to bed and have an hour to yourself? This is a valid feeling. But the next time you want to rush your kid back upstairs to finish watching Squid Game, remember this, in the words of Katiekat27:
“This is really small and silly but it remains one of my favourite memories almost 40 years later. One time when I was a teeny tiny kid I woke up in the middle of the night. I walked to the kitchen where my mum and dad were. They for some reason were eating cake, and instead of sending me back to bed they gave me a slice and let me sit and eat with them. It was so magical. Doing little things like that can make such a lasting impression and create these perfect moments that they will look back on decades later with so much love.”
Who’s got the tissues?