Create Fun Photo Books
Use photographs to create a family counting book (one Hamilton, two Hamiltons, three Hamiltons, and so on) or a color book (Rosie wears red, Charlie wears green). Have a large family? Assign everyone one or two letters of the alphabet. Ask them to photograph themselves holding an object that begins with their letter, unless, of course, their own names will do. Arrange the photos in a small album or scrapbook, or attach them to sturdy pieces of poster board cut to a manageable size (I traced a board book), and keep them together with a binder ring.
Our own creation was a personalized version of Goodnight Moon, bidding goodnight to my older son's room. It does not matter that he no longer sleeps in the crib or plays with the toys shown in the photos. It is a favorite, special to him in the same way that his baby books and first shoes are precious to us.
Build Your Own Games
Young children love matching pictures and testing their own memories. A stack of digital prints or a single roll of film can easily become an exciting game of concentration. Photograph friends, family members, pets, and favorite things. Print two sets of pictures and mount the photos on index cards or trimmed cardboard. Place all the cards face down, flip to find matches, and you have a homemade memory game.
Board games can also be modified to reflect a personal touch. Create a crossword of names, places, or things important to your family and make your own version of Scrabble Jr. Draw a grid of one-inch squares on a large piece of painted cardboard (two feet by two feet) and copy the crossword design. One-inch square tiles can also be cut from cardboard and painted for letters. I recently completed Cousin Scrabble, cutting out tiny cousin heads from discarded photos and gluing the right face next to the right name as clues for our son. Dad found the floating heads a little weird, but my child loved it.
Record Your History
Create a record of your family history. Family gatherings provide the opportunity for audio or video recordings, but if no big event looms in the future, invite (or coerce) family members to jot down a family story on an index card or piece of paper. Some may be reluctant, but don't worry, they'll be glad you did later. Collect the cards in a recipe file or slip the pieces of paper into a photo album. Ask about first steps, first days at school, first dates. Ask about the good times as well as the bad. See how many different versions of the same story turn up. Remember your own childhood.