Laurie Moulton knows that life is fleeting – and she knows that she wants her two sons to have a storehouse of family memories. When her oldest son was 18 months old, cancer took her sister-in-law and left four children without the chance to grow up with their mother.
“Now I’m intentional about making great memories,” says Moulton, who lives in Webster, NY, and recently published Let the Adventure Begin! Theme Nights for Families with Young Children:Fun & Easy Family Night Activities ($14.99, Family Theme Night Books). She has released a companion book, Memory Making Meals: Fun & Easy Family Dinners ($12.99).
The Moulton family aims for one family theme night a week, where they might build a pyramid out of toilet paper rolls, walk the plank on pirate night or pretend that Mom and Dad’s bed is the whale that swallows Jonah, a biblical prophet. But usually it’s more like every other week.
“You have to keep it easy or you’re not going to do it,” says Moulton, who included a chapter on faith-themed nights.
Experiences that are out of the ordinary, like eating dinner under the table on backwards night, are more likely to stick with us because the brain stores those situations more permanently than the day-to-day experiences, says Daniel DeMarle, an education specialist who works with families touched by behavioral or developmental challenges.
The making of a spider bread bowl for our "Man vs. Wild" theme night.
Of course, leaving a memorable legacy might not be the real goal, DeMarle adds. What most people, like Moulton, want is a meaningful legacy.
Vacations and theme nights aren’t enough on their own, he says. Loved ones need traditional, or routine, experiences like eating dinner together, too. Sprinkle in some chances to build confidence, like a long hike or building a tree house, and before you know it you’ve got yourself a stockpile of meaningful memories.
"Worms" made of hot dogs and barbecue sauce to go along with our theme of living off the land. (That's a gummy worm in the sippy cup.)
“When my children are grown and look back on their childhood, I don’t want them to only remember that mom was always busy cleaning and doing the dishes,” Moulton writes in Let the Adventure Begin. “I want them to have fond memories of fun times we had together as a family.”
Something tells me she’ll succeed. I hope we all do.
Mmmm... Crumbled up cookies and chocolate pudding look like dirt but taste great!