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Best Ideas and Tools for Preserving Family Memories

Sweet ideas to help you capture those special moments

Author Kari Hanson

Published on: June 29, 2022

Vintage family photo standing by a car at the side of the road

“The longest, shortest time” is how author and podcast host Hillary Frank described parenthood, and I think she nailed it. This phase of life is exhausting and moves fast, and the idea of preserving family memories feels both vital and overwhelming.

When it comes to capturing memories — especially during this wild period — it can start to feel confusing. Am I keeping the right things? Am I missing important moments? While we can’t answer those questions for you, we can suggest a variety of clever ways to capture those special moments.

"Man sitting on a couch writing in a journal"

Write it down

Journaling every day (or every week) can feel like a lot of work for busy parents. Thankfully, there are plenty of other ways to jot down those precious memories.

  • Created by local Seattle author and yoga instructor (founder of 8 Limbs Yoga Centers), “This Life of Mine” is a user-friendly journal complete with writing prompts and beautiful art. This book is a great way to capture memories and would make a great gift for a loved one.
  • Texting counts as writing, right? So much of our life happens over these quick, simple messages: birth announcements, cute kid quotes and telling your friends you got the new job. Keepster message book pulls your texts into a beautiful book, rather than letting them scroll out of sight, lost to the great internet void.
  • Letters to Me, When I Grow Up” is a neat book containing 12 letters with writing prompts and space for your kids to write letters to their future selves. Stickers are included to seal each letter. Put them away in a time capsule to be opened when they are older, or pull them out on a rainy day — the timing is all up to you.

"family chopping vegetables together"

Get cooking

Cooking can be a deeply meaningful tradition. From time spent in the kitchen together, to tastes and smells that can invoke childhood in an instant, food holds a major place in family memories. Luckily, there are many options for creating a personalized cookbook so recipes and traditions can be passed down.

  • Heritage Cookbook lets you add recipes and images and then invite others to contribute to your personalized cookbook. There are free and paid memberships, as well as a large selection of options to make your cookbook truly your own. Some of the options are a bit pricey, but there is enough flexibility to keep costs reasonable.
  • Looking for an option to preserve family recipe cards? Recipe Card Cookbook allows you to upload images of your recipe cards and create a simple cookbook.

"Family outside smiling and taking a selfie"

A picture is worth a thousand words

  • If you are like me, you probably have hundreds (maybe thousands) of digital photos. Timeshel is a great tool to print a few of those images each month to share with family and friends. You can choose either 10 or 30 prints per month, and it’s easy to change your option from month to month. You select images straight from your phone, and high-quality prints come in the mail.
  • If you would rather have your prints in a scrapbook format, Chatbooks is an easy and inexpensive solution. You can print a 30-page photo book (60 pictures), straight from your phone.
  • Recently also pulls images directly from your phone (from a preselected album or folder) and mails a printed magazine monthly, quarterly, or one at a time. Each issue contains between 25–150 photos.
  • Maybe you have the opposite challenge — boxes of photos or VHS tapes sitting around collecting dust. Scan My Photos will digitize your photos, videos, slides and negatives. You can choose to have individual photos scanned, or send them in a big box and get them all scanned. See the website for more details about the process and pricing.

"Mom holding hands of a little boy walking and dad taking a video on a cell phone"

Ready, set, action!

There is something about video that brings back moments, and preserves memories, in such a powerful way. Thanks to modern cell phones, video is easier than ever to capture. But, as with photos, those videos are often forgotten and rarely rewatched. Here are two options to make great compilation videos that you will actually want to watch again:

  • 1 Second Everyday is the popular app that puts together one second of video each day and then creates a chronological compilation. (Relive a whole year in just six minutes) Features include a calendar and a notification to remind you to take a video each day, as well as a useful editing tool. This app twice won the “Best Use of a Mobile Camera” Webby Award. There are paid and free membership options.
  • My Life Journal is a calendar journal app that allows you to add a picture, text, video and audio clip each day. The app makes a compilation video at the end of each year based on all your entries. You can share your entries with others, or keep them private. There are free and paid membership options.

"Young girl holding up a microphone"

Is this thing on?

Audio recording of family members or special events can be a magical way to preserve memories. Interviewing family members can be a great way to capture history and stories, and here are a few tools that can help:

  • StoryCorps was founded nearly 20 years ago with a mission “to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.” Using the StoryCorps mobile app, anyone, anywhere can record an interview and upload it to the Library of Congress. Talk about preserving memories!
  • If the thought of conducting your own interview makes you nervous, Artifact has you covered. A professional interviewer will conduct a virtual 30-minute interview, which will then be edited (with music added), resulting in a professional quality 20-minute audio piece. This option is kind of pricey, so you might want to save it for a special occasion or milestone birthday.

"Child smiling and holding up painting of a rainbow"

Artwork and school milestones and memories

Most parents have a dedicated drawer or multiple boxes stuffed to the brim with kids’ artwork and treasures. Add to that stack report cards, awards and other school documents, and you’ve got a paper mountain!

Luckily, there are options to help clear out all that clutter and capture those memories in a way that allows you to easily share them with family and friends, such as Keepy. This app allows you to upload and save your child’s schoolwork and mementos, add audio recordings, and share them with family and friends. It even has a store where you can order photo books, prints on canvas and much more. The app is free, and there are a variety of paid monthly membership options.

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