I saw my sister’s post recently on her year-end activity with her son, and I think it’s so beautiful.

This is what she wrote:

If you are looking for something to do with your kids as the year ends, I recommend this.

It is our second time to do this with Philip.
I made a keynote of his entire year and especially focused on moments where he grew in character, spirit, faith, joy, sense of family, maturity, and relationships!

I also added maps this year to give him a sense of where we are in the world and where his friends are in reference to him.


So simple when you see the result, but it’s a product of hard work. If you’ve tried picking one or two photos out of a thousand from your recent vacation, you probably know what I mean.

What do I love about this year-end tradition she started two years ago?

  1. It gives us parents an opportunity to really take notice of things and observe our child and make reflections of their year. It’s not that I don’t think parents don’t take notice, not at all! It’s just that based on my experience, I honestly thought memories are enough. Presence over anything. When my son does something, I always think I’ll remember it clearly even someday. But you know what? The reality is…with so many things happening everyday, so many new things my son discovers, or explores…I forget things much sooner than I thought. Having this goal of doing a year-end in mind would remind me to take notes. And also, someday, I’m sure it would serve as a great keepsake not just for our child, but for us as well! I love how at the end, my sister also had a page where she wrote down the highlights / firsts of their year – my nephew sleeping over at our place, travels, school, etc.
  2. It serves as your child’s memory bank. Do you remember what happened when you were a toddler? I bet not, and just like many of us, you rely on your photos together with your parents’ stories of what happened then. There is a term for this – infantile amnesia, a term coined by Sigmund Freud to describe our lack of recall for the first three or four years of our lives. Why do we tend to forget that? Because for things to become memory, they must undergo bundling in the hippocampus, a brain structure located under the cerebral cortex. But some parts of the hippocampus aren’t fully developed until adolescence, making it hard for a child to complete the process. Also, in our early years, we create a storm of new neurons in the hippocampus (called neurogenesis) which can create forgetting by disrupting the circuits for existing memories. In a study in 2009 (conducted by Peterson, Professor Qi Wang from Cornell University and Yubo Hou, an Associate Professor from Peking University), it was found that children in China have fewer memories than children in Canada do. The finding, they suggest, might be explained by culture: Chinese prize individuality less than North Americans and thus may be less likely to draw attention to the moments of an individual’s life. Westerners, by contrast, reinforce collection and keep the synapses that underlie the personal memories vibrant. They concluded that if a memory was very emotional, children were three times more likely to retain it. Dense memories – in which the kids understood the who, what, when, where, and why – were five times more likely to be retained than disconnected fragments (I wrote about memory HERE and you will see the connection when you read it). This year-end tradition provides an opportunity to recall events, bring back memories and emotions, understand the who/what/where/when/why, and reinforce past events and happenings. Your child may end up remembering or forgetting them, but it’ll always be there to serve as an external memory bank should any of you need it. [Source: Ohlson, Kristine. “The Great Forgetting”. April 2017. P.52-55. Reader’s Digest Asia]
  3. It’s a great opportunity to do thorough reflections. Just like what my sister did, you can discuss┬ámoments where your child grew in character, spirit, faith, joy, sense of family, maturity, and relationships! Or add more. You can also discuss what your plans are for the coming year – and the plus is – you can involve your child in the process.
  4. It’s a great way to support your child’s sensitive periods. Maria Montessori has talked about a child’s sensitive periods in her books. As you read about it, you’ll slowly notice all of it as your child grows. I love how my sister included not only maps, but FLAGS in their travel photos. Why? Because my nephew, who is turning 4, is in the period where he really wants to understand all the signs (which is usually a child’s first “reading”), flags included. I love how he learns flags not just by memorization (through his absorbent mind), but through context (which proves to be a better memory-building tool much later on).
  5. It’s fun for the child. Learning about him/herself helps develop his/her sense of self, which is crucial especially in their early years. At the beginning of life, they are just developing themselves, hence, their focus is on themselves and not others. This kind of activity naturally puts your child in the spotlight, but also introduce him/her to the world and his/her community – a simple and subtle way to inject the social aspect.

I was not able to do this for P, but it’s not too late. I can make one and present it to him later this year. Also, I plan to have the photos printed and put them in a box (a “memory box” per year). When we open it someday (say, we open the 2017 MEMORY BOX), I’m sure it will be such fun to look back at the photos (with descriptions at the back) and reflect on how much P has grown or how much we’ve done or what fun we had!

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