Making a Grandparents Memory Book

Make a Grandparent memory book

They say that memories can last a lifetime, but what about memories meant to outlive us? How do we share our memories with our loved ones after we're gone? Making a grandparents memory book is an activity you can do with your grandchild which will not only share your memories with them, but will make new ones for them to cherish.

What is a Memory Book?

Basically, a memory book is a collection of memories, gathered and written down to be shared. A memory book can include photographs, news clippings, or other mementos to be preserved and passed on. They can be written as events take place throughout the course of a lifetime, or all at once as a series of recollections. They can have a theme, like family vacations or life milestones, or they can have a more general, journal-like scope. Essentially, a memory book is whatever you want it to be.

Many memory books you can purchase come pre-formatted; all you have to do is write down your own answers to questions in the space they've given you. These you can find online or at bookstores. There are even online digital services that compile your memories into a book you can order and distribute to loved ones (for a fee, of course).

couple looking at a memory book

photo by @cottonbro

All these are lovely gifts to give a grandchild, each filled with your unique stories and photos, but they lack something that making your own grandparents memory book does not—making a memory you and your grandchild can share.

Making a memory book with your grandchild is an activity you both can enjoy. It means spending time together, not just passing memories back and forth, but building on them. The very act of making a memory book together is precious bonding time with your grandchild.

This article will give you some starting tips and guidelines for making a grandparents memory book with your grandchild. Ultimately, what you choose to create is your own, so get creative! Whatever theme, format, or even design you end up choosing will be unique to you, and the memories you make while creating it will make the book that much more special.

How Do I Make a Memory Book?

One of the best things about making your own is that your book will be truly one-of-a-kind. Purchasable books come pre-formatted with various themes, and some even let you add your own pictures, but they are limited compared to what you and your grandchild may want from your own. As you follow this guide, remember that these are just suggestions. There are countless ways to create a keepsake, so long as it is special to you.

a journal-style book with colorful pens

photo by @pixabay

Getting Started

Before you add glue to the back of a single photograph, there are some things you should prepare before starting your grandparents memory book. Going through these steps will help you come up with a clearer idea of what kind of book you want to make, how to do it, and whose help you'll need. Let's get started!

Choose a Theme

Choosing a theme for your book will make it easier to focus on what stories and photos you want to include. You may prefer certain topics like holidays, family recipes, places you've lived, etc. You may want your book to be your own life story, highlighting milestones or dividing sections into formative eras. You may want it to be about more of the family, with pages dedicated to genealogy and stories passed down through generations. You may even choose for it to be about your grandchild, the memories you have of them, and advice you want them to have forever.

A theme is just a way of organizing your memory book into something manageable. It can be whatever you like, depending on your personal and family values and what you want to share with your grandchild. Some other theme ideas are:

Family Traditions

What are family traditions that were passed down through you that continue to this day? What are some you remember from your own childhood that haven't survived? What are new ones that you've started, or seen start in your lifetime? Gather photographs, cards, letters, games, recipes, and anything else you can think of around family holidays. Invite your grandchild to draw their own memories, pick their favorite traditions, or ask you questions about what traditions have meant to the family, then and now.

Book of Firsts

Who was your first friend? Your first pet? What was your first job? Your first vacation? What are your first memories of your grandchild? What are their first memories of you? Invite your grandchild to ask questions about what they are interested, and don't forget to share the important moments that you wouldn't want the book to go without.

Words of Wisdom

What is the best advice you've ever received, and how did it shape who you are? What was a difficult moment in your life, and how did you get through it? Who were your role models, and why? Include quotes, stories, songs, or other moments of inspiration that helped shape your life experience. Let your grandchild include things that make them happy, or things they struggle with, or ways in which you've shown them support. These are life lessons that will stay with your grandchild, long after you've gone.

Choose Your Format

Now that you've decided on your theme, it's time to choose what your book will eventually look like. There are pros and cons to the different formats available, but they all fall into two categories: physical or digital.

Physical Memory Books

Physical memory books are more traditional than digital formats. You can make yours a journal, scrapbook, photo album, or anything else you can creatively come up with. Physical memory books allow you to work side-by-side with your grandchild, placing photographs, hand-writing captions, and adding creative embellishments like drawings, stickers, or dried flowers from the garden. They allow you to paste keepsakes right to the page, but be careful when choosing your supplies. Look for "Acid-free," "pH neutral," or "Archival Safe" on the labels of paper, adhesives, and anything else you're using with your priceless photographs. When in doubt, ask your local craft store.

Digital Memory Books

Digital memory books come in almost as many forms as physical ones. Some desktop design programs have templates for scrapbooking or making digital photo albums. Other web-based or browser-based programs have similar features. Some websites offer scrapbooking services where you can pick a template, upload your own images and text, and download it to view and share digitally or even order a published copy. These services vary in cost and take some of the fun out of making your own book by hand, but they also can be easily shared with loved ones, and you won't ever have to worry about spills or sticky fingers!

the hand of a child coloring with crayons on paper

photo by @pixabay

Building your Memory Book

Ask & Answer Questions

Once you have decided your theme and format, it's time to gather material. We provided some examples of questions and topics around the themes in the previous section, but this is a great time to sit down with your grandchild and find out what questions they have for you. As you ask and answer these questions, think of what anecdotes you want to include with them, what photographs or other keepsakes might be relevant, or other ways in which you can bring these memories to life. Let your theme be your guide, and have fun with it! You never know what forgotten stories might come up.

Example Questions
  • What was your favorite food growing up? Do you have fond memories related to it?
  • What technological advancement did you live through? How did it change daily life?
  • What is it like being a grandparent?
  • What are your memories of your own grandparents?
  • What were your grandchild's parents like growing up?
  • If you could go back anywhere, where would you go?
  • What's the craziest thing you've ever done? Silliest? Bravest? Most embarrassing?
  • What is your favorite book/movie/song?
  • What makes a good person?

Gather Photos

This is a great opportunity to dig into old photo albums, letters, time capsules, and more. Photographs and keepsakes like greeting cards, artwork, handwritten notes, recipes, and brochures from favorite travel spots add a lot of character. These mementos might bring back their own memories, themselves. Include a poem or the lyrics to a special song, press a favorite flower between the pages, or describe a memorable scent and why it is special to you. Draw something from your childhood that never made it into photographs. It doesn't matter what the art looks like; what matters is the memory!

a collection of old family photos to include in a memory book

photo by Suzy Hazelwood

Ask the Family

You can ask for your family's help at really any stage of this process, but getting their input after you and your grandchild have the theme and general ideas decided will help your family focus on what they can contribute. Requesting photos from previous holidays is a simpler ask than suggesting your busy cousins rummage through all their own photo albums for who knows what's in there.

It's up to you how much you want your family's help. It isn't just photographs that they can provide, but their own questions and memories. Ask them what they would want to know about their grandparents that they never got to ask, or ask them what they would want to pass on to their own grandchildren, one day. Maybe they have their own version of a memory you might want to include.

For memory books with a family-focused theme, dedicate a page to each family member, including photos of and stories about that person. For those still with you, ask them for words of advice or good wishes to pass on to your grandchild. For those who are not, ask other family members for memories of the loved one who's departed. These can be delivered as simply as over the phone or email, or family members can send hand-written cards in the mail to be pasted into your book, or even scanned in if you're making yours digital.

Add Finishing Touches

Whatever your theme or format, you may want to include some finishing touches to your keepsake. These are things that might not have fit into the rest of the book but still help paint the picture of a life well-lived. Some ideas for finishing touches are:

  • Meaningful or memorable quotes
  • A timeline of events, like birthdays, marriages, and other important dates
  • Traditions that are culturally or religiously significant
  • Dreams and goals for the future
  • Photographs of making the grandparents memory book itself
a family sharing a hug and memories gathered in their memory book

photo by August de Richelieu

Assemble and Share

Once you have every question, quote, story, photo, and keepsake gathered, it's time to put it all together. How you approach this will depend on whether you've chosen a physical or digital format.

For digital books, scan and upload your photos, mementos, and other items along with any items you have stored or were sent digitally. Depending on what program you've chosen, you will have varying customizable features in creating the final look of your book and how to share it with others. Whether the service offers a digital download or a book you can order copies of, you'll have a final product all your own.

For physical books, whether you've been adding pages as you went or decided to do them all at once, now's your chance to add the last personal touches. Ask your grandchild to draw pictures to go along with the photos, or to add stickers to pages of text. Be careful with certain markers and pens, though, as some can bleed and damage paper and photographs. Remember to ask your local craft store when in doubt.

A few last tips: add dates, places, and names to photographs. Photographs are always more meaningful with their memories attached. Hard covers might look more professional, but books that allow you to add pages over time mean this project can grow with you and your grandchild. Make photocopies or a digital backup, just in case.

Finally, don't forget to share your creation with us! Let us know in the comments how it went. What you would have done differently? What did you learn about yourself, or your grandchild, or your relationship? What was your favorite moment working together?

We'd love to see what you created. Share your photos of your grandparents memory book with us on Instagram with the tag #generationsofstyle.

Main photo by @andreapiacquadio_

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