But often, the mistakes or the unexpected are hilarious and what kids remember best. In our house, for instance, we all remember and laugh about the brown frosting on a birthday cake they made for me when it was supposed to be purple—caused by too many drops from the wrong food coloring bottle. The kids also remember my counting cookies into individual containers so each one got the exact same number. It was something I always did and they still laugh about it as grownups.
A recent study from Harvard confirmed my longtime thinking and my children’s recollections that simple, mundane and ordinary memories — not dazzling, over-the-top trips or hugely expensive gadgets — are what people remember most fondly. Small parcels of time well spent shape long-lasting memories that are the backbone of family unity and the glue that holds families together.
Mundane rituals foster closeness
Young children like routines, such as reading a book together for a few minutes every evening or eating breakfast together, because they foster a sense of warmth, closeness and security.
Joint activities, like preparing a meal together, (very young chidren can help wash veggies, mix pancake batter or set the table), provide time to talk and allow children to feel as if they are contributing to family life. Afterward, sitting down and enjoying what you’ve made together — no matter how “messy” the pancakes look or how imperfect the place setting — is both a reward and a warm memory your children will look back on fondly.
Clap hard for imperfection
Another way to cultivate togetherness and create memories is to hold impromptu talent shows at home for your children and their friends. Give the youngest a spoon to keep the beat on a pot. Whether or not you have future singing or playing sensations — or can even hold a note or remember lyrics yourself — fun abounds in the midst of unrecognizable tunes banged out and sung enthusiastically and loudly.
Your children will recall your enthusiasm — not whether or not the event was perfect or close to concert quality.
Often, just being together in the same room and paying attention to your child can be enough.