Scrapbooking Early Childhood Years
From his or her first haircut to the first day of preschool, those early childhood years are full of wonderful experiences—both for you and your child. It’s a wonderful time to be a parent, and a wonderful time to capture in a scrapbook.
Yet this stage in your child’s life can seem to go by so quickly. Wondering how a busy parent can preserve those memories? From photo ideas to journaling tips, we’ve got a few parent-tested ideas to get you started!
Organizing Your Album
As with any scrapbook, you have a couple of choices for album organization. You might scrapbook your photos chronologically. This is perfect if your child is a toddler right now. If you’re going back and scrapbooking early childhood photos of someone who’s older, you might opt for a “chapter” sequence, where you group photos by section rather than chronological order. In this case, you might have a chapter for “Likes and Dislikes”, “Milestones” and “Events and Occasions”.
Whichever way you decide to go, here are a few ideas for topics to scrapbook:
A small child changes so much from day to day—sometimes it can take you by surprise! A physical growth chart, recording changes in weight and height, makes a great “snapshot” of a child’s progress. You can also do this visually: Every month throughout her toddler years, I took photos of Lauren holding her favorite Winnie the Pooh bear. Flipping through her album, I now see Lauren getting bigger while Pooh seems to get smaller!
Likes and Dislikes
Every few months, I record a conversation with Lauren, where I ask her to tell me her favorite things. As she grows, the conversation changes from just listing her favorite foods and colors to more “grown up” topics like best friends and favorite stories. You’ll be amazed at how some of the same things come up consistently—and how dramatically other things change!
Be sure to record those milestone events in your child’s life: First haircut, first tooth, first trip to the pumpkin patch, first time seeing the beach or snow. Lauren’s first trip to the dentist was a milestone for her—not just the visit itself, but how she told the dentist and me that she really wanted braces. To her, they were the ultimate “big girl” thing to have! (Just like our 12-year old neighbor—Lauren’s idol!)
Some of your child’s “first” moments will also reveal something about you. I scrapbooked photos of Lauren to document her first pigtails…the moment when she finally had enough hair! While this little milestone wasn’t a big deal for Lauren, it was a pretty special moment for me.
Events & Occasions
Christmas, birthdays and other annual events are pretty important to a small child—and a child’s reaction and anticipation to those events make for fun scrapbook pages. Take photos of gifts, food and party guests…and be sure to record the child’s Christmas or birthday party theme wishes for each event.
I like to save Lauren’s Christmas wish list. Rather than mailing it off to the North Pole, Lauren puts her list (which she dictates to me) in “Santa’s Mailbox”—a metal mailbox that hangs from our tree. One day, the letter is magically gone…and I get to keep it. Looking back over past lists is so fun and really captures Lauren’s changing personality.
Don’t forget to include pictures and journaling that represent your family’s traditions for these events and occasions. How did you explain them to your child, and what was his or her reaction?
First Day of Preschool
There are so many preparations that go into this momentous day…for the child and the parents! Record those preschool preparations: Shopping for new clothes, picking out the lunchbox, new shoes and school supplies. Don’t forget to write down how you and your spouse felt during those preparations—excited, wistful, just plain teary. Take photos of the school, your child’s teacher and your child in that “first day of school” outfit.
Any child heading off to school will soon start bringing home those pieces of artwork and schoolwork. Save samples of his or her handwriting to watch as it progresses. When there’s no more room on the refrigerator for those papers, you can scan them all and load them onto a CD to store in your album, or simply reduce them on a color copier and scrapbook them individually.
High tech offers you more and more ways to preserve your memories. Try recording your child singing a few of his or her favorite songs. A toddler or preschooler will soon grow out of that childlike willingness to sing for you. Record conversations between the two of you, or between the child and your spouse, relative or friend. Don’t worry about the topic of the conversation…just try to capture the child’s vocabulary, voice and inflections.
Each Christmas I record Lauren’s Christmas Special. I put in a blank tape, give her the microphone and let her go for five minutes. She sings songs, tells jokes and basically hams it up. (I act as emcee and give her the cue when it’s time to wrap up.) Each year’s special is on the same tape, so we can listen to “Lauren’s Third Christmas Special” when she didn’t quite know all the words to Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and compare it with her fifth Christmas Special when she added her own flair to the song. (I also send copies of this to Grandma, who thinks they’re the most precious thing in the world.)
Not every scrapbook page has to present a major milestone—some of the sweetest pages are those that capture the child in his or her own world. My co-worker Susan remembers the way her daughter would concentrate so much while playing that she would breath really heavily. Little things like this really capture the sweetness of a small child.
Every child has a favorite toy…that tattered bear or beloved doll that seems to accompany your child everywhere. What’s the story behind this toy? Was it a gift, and from whom? Does it have a special name? Has this toy had any adventures of its own--being lost, for example? How many times have you had to repair it or send it through the wash? A simple picture of your child and the toy, plus some factual journaling, will tell the story for generations to come.
Your child’s vocabulary will grow so much during this time—be sure to record what they say in their own language. Like most toddlers, my daughter invented many of her own words, with special words for certain people, places and things. It seems every child has his or her own word for a certain blanket, a grandparent, or a favorite toy. Record those special words—and their translations—in journaling that lists “according to…”.
Personality traits really come to light during those early childhood years. Is your child quiet and thoughtful or gregarious and outgoing? Who does he or she resemble in the family? Remember, everything is new to a toddler and small child…how does yours react to those new things? Some things will be funny and some scary—yet it seems everything is pretty surprising! And what’s your experience, seeing these everyday things through a child’s eyes?
Your toddler or preschooler will also start expressing a unique personality with more independent speech. When Lauren first discovered jokes, she would repeat the same one over and over and just crack herself up. Pretty soon she was making up her own jokes—and repeating those over and over!
Keeping Track of It All
When you’re busy chasing a three-year-old around the house, it might seem hard to find time to journal or scrapbook. Yet every parent will tell you, those little moments can slip away so quickly—and can be forgotten.
One way to keep track of your child’s progress is to keep a Parent’s Journal. You might jot down a list of things on the computer, and either log them there or print out pages and keep them in a binder or notebook. I recommend adding to this list about once a week. It doesn’t have to be time-consuming, just capturing the highlights of the week. Some things to record:
- favorite food
- favorite outfit
- favorite story
- favorite game
- favorite toy
- length of naptime
- play dates (with whom, for how long, where)
- activity of the week
- saying of the week
- height and weight
- clothing size
If keeping a Parent’s Journal becomes a bit overwhelming, you can also jot notes down on a regular calendar. That way you have the date and the information in one place.
I love experimenting with different types of film and went through both a black-and-white and sepia stage. If you have a digital camera, I encourage you to experiment when printing your photos. Try a black-and-white or sepia print and see what you think. The look is timeless and somehow can magically turn the most ordinary photos into gorgeous works of art. If you’re not digital, simply pick up a roll of black-and-white film and give it a try.
Scrapbooking these pages is a fun (and sometimes necessary) way to remember those little details that can so easily be forgotten. I’m still amazed at how easy it is to please Lauren now that she’s five and a half, in comparison to when she was two years old and only ate about seven different foods. Whether you record these memories in your family’s main album or dedicate a whole book to your child’s early years, I think you’ll find it becomes a pretty treasured keepsake in the years to come!