Edmonds Kind of Play: A New Year’s tradition that teaches kids gratitude — create a Memory Jar

Did you make it?!? Can you believe Christmas has come and gone? I swear time moves at a different rate between Dec. 23 and the day after Christmas. Things go from “I can’t wait for Christmas” and the ever present “Is it Christmas yet?” to remembering all those toys don’t make kids stop asking for stuff or fighting with their siblings. In fact, it seems to make those kinds of things happen more often. I picture us after Christmas like people who just finished an Olympic foot race, standing there, hands on our knees, sweaty and panting while passing out “we made it” handshakes and back pats. All while the winner carrying their flag is somehow still running after all that effort. I, personally, limped past the finish line this year, Santa managed to leave a receipt in a stocking, which thankfully went unnoticed, I left a price tag on a present, and didn’t get the out-of-towners their stuff until the end of last week. In fact, I am sitting next to a couple of small gifts now.

WP_20131230_007I am always looking for ways to help the kids be grateful for what they have, especially around the holidays. Just yesterday, on my timeline, I saw this Wall Street Journal article explaining, “Concrete benefits come to kids who literally count their blessings.” Scientific validation of the stuff you do as a parent is intoxicating, right?

So, last year around this time, a friend of mine posted something very Pinterest-y, which typically makes me shiver a bit, but this one really struck me. It basically said why not grab a jar and fill it with notes about all the fun things you do this year, then next New Year’s Eve, open it up with the family and talk about all the great stuff you did. It initially felt like it was a big commitment and I figured it may go the way of the Happy Meal toys, a huge deal and then somehow under the couch and missing a part almost instantly. However, it was kind fun and very little work so I wanted to share it with you guys. Here are the “Cliff Notes” to make your own.

Step 1 – Get a jar
Step 2 – Mostly clean out said jar.
Step 3 – Add random pieces of paper with fun memories on them
Step 4 – Sit together while reminiscing about the highlights of the last year, reminding your kids what fun you provide, being far from the buzz kill their “but Mooooom” denotes.

In doing some research, read — clumsily Google-ing “jar” and “New Year’s Eve” between clicking on embarrassing slideshows on gossips websites — I found out people call them Memory Jars. I also found out some people make theirs a lot fancier than I made mine, we just used an old spaghetti sauce jar. Some Memory Jars I saw online have ribbons and adorable little signs with the year on them. Ours has none of that BUT seeing as I never managed to get all the sauce out of the lid, as an added bonus, our memories smell like garlic.

I just counted and in our jar there are 15 pieces of paper, ranging from index cards to construction paper, to torn corners of my shopping lists. Some months we did a few and I’m sure some months were skipped altogether. While I won’t say every memory was written without some whining involved, a few of them were the idea of my oldest and any time either kid wants to take a second and be grateful I am beyond thrilled.  Because, one, it can be tricky to give them perspective about what they have and two, I know a complaint is around the corner.

While I am skeptical that the reading of the notes tonight will keep the 4-year-old interested, I really hope it will be the start of a fun tradition that puts the focus on the fun and not who got the cup with more root beer.

– By Jen Marx

Jen Marx

Jen Marx, an Edmonds Mom of two young boys, is a traffic reporter by dawn and writer and PBJ maker by day. She is always looking for a fun place to take the kids that makes them tired enough to go to bed on time. You can contact Jen with your local event at play@myedmondsnews.com or find her trying to make sense of begging kids to ” just eat the mac n cheese” at SnackMomSyndrome.com. If you have a kid-friendly event you’d like to share, email her at play@myedmondsnews.com.

  1. The memory Jar sounds like a great idea. My Edmonds News is a great addition to Edmonds. Reading the advice from Aunty Freeze from an old school newspaper was a kick and a half. Then there are the local folks who have started the Polar Dip on New Year’s. It’s always good to learn more about Edmonds Past and Present. Thanks, M.E.N.

  2. This is a great idea, and really sets a wonderful example for kids to follow. I am a total supporter of teaching gratitude and acknowledgment behavior to kids at an early age. If you are interested in the work our company, IIL, is doing along these lines, please visit us at http://www.GratefulLeadership.com. We believe with practices like memory jars (I would love to include that idea in my talks and writings if you don’t mind), we can turn great kids into grateful leaders when they join the work force. And wouldn’t that be wonderful for the next generation! Keep up your heartfelt work of giving us all concrete ideas for spreading these critical values.

    Best, Judy Umlas

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