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Ditch the expensive birthday parties: 6 ways to make real memories for your kids.

There's one main thing kids want us to spend on them, and money isn't it.

Julie is a 33-year-old mom of two living in San Diego. She found herself stressing out about what to do for her 3-year-old's birthday.

Then it hit her: Did she care about lavish birthday parties when she was young? The answer was a resounding no.

"I can't recall any birthday party I had growing up," Julie told Upworthy. "My fondest memories of my childhood came from the little things my parents did with me."


So Julie scrapped her plans for a large birthday party and put on a small family gathering instead. Her daughter still had a blast.

In parenting, it's easy to forget — it's the small things that matter. So how can we create those "small moments" that our kids will treasure?

We talked to parents all over the country and asked them what they do to build these small happy moments with their kids, without the stress. Here are six simple, but cool ways that real parents have found to create fun, lasting memories with their kids:

1. Turn car time into karaoke time!

Even a routine car ride can build great memories. Just ask Alonzo from Massachusetts who looks forward to that time with his 13-year-old daughter.


Alonzo's daughter caught him by surprise with a quick selfie before their daily drive started. Photo from Alozno, used with permission.

"When I pick her up from school, I make a point to listen to her music as we drive around and I even get into it with some singing of my own," he said. "But most importantly it's a time for us to talk openly like daddy-daughter buddies. We both truly enjoy that time together."

2. Take a picture of your child once a week. Then make a 52-photo slideshow (it will blow your kids' minds.)

A dad named Brian shared this, and it's a simple (but brilliant) activity to do for anyone who is expecting to have a baby soon. Just be sure to have your camera ready. Here's how to start:

  1. Pick a day of the week
  2. On that same day, take a picture of your child every week for a year
  3. Label the pictures, "Week 1, Week 2, etc."
  4. Put them all in one folder on your phone or computer

"By the time the child reaches his or her first birthday, there will be 52 photos that you can play on a slideshow for friends and family," Brian said. "Watching the transformations unfold week-to-week during the first year of life in a slideshow format is truly breathtaking."

Here's an adorable example of the subtle transformations our babies can make. GIF via stutterfly29/YouTube.

Of course, parents will take countless photos of our kids throughout the course of their lives, but Brian believes that having photos designated for this particular project is totally worth it.

3. Celebrate even bad weather, with one-on-one time.

Erin, a mom of four boys in Connecticut, believes in spending quality alone time with each of her kids to help create memories. Even if it means getting dirty in the process.

Erin gives her son the green light to get dirty on rainy days, and he loves it. Photo from Erin, used with permission.

"Whenever it rains, I take my 20-month-old outside, strap on rain boots, and stomp in the mud puddles," she said. "That's our way to spend time together and it makes him so happy. Rainy days can create the best memories."

4. Plan a "Daddy Camp-In."

Camping is a lot of fun, but what about camping indoors? Amy, in Georgia, explained how her husband Sam treats their two daughters to a fun adventure they call "Camp-In."

Amy snapped a photo of the end of the daddy-daughter camp-in. Photo from Amy, used with permission.

"Sam will prepare dinner, organize an indoor hike around the house where the kids will see strategically-placed stuffed animals masquerading as wild animals, tell funny stories, and sleep in one of the kids' rooms," Amy said.

"Our daughters love it and they talk about it for days before and after each one."

5. Make a family time capsule for the year.

Seven years ago, Ed in California started a tradition where each family member keeps mementos of special events throughout the year. It could be anything from a photo to a movie ticket stub.

At the end of each year, the family goes through all of it together and it becomes a fun tradition to relive those moments often forgotten about during the hustle and bustle of daily life.

But then they do something else.

Ed's daughter is preparing to bury her family's latest time capsule. Photo from Ed, used with permission.

"We place all of the year's memories into a time capsule and bury it with the agreement that we won't dig it up for 10 years," Ed said. "Since we started this seven years ago, we are due to dig up our first one three years from now. My daughter says we can never move because of the capsules!"

It's a great idea for turning memories into traditions.

6. Start the ritual of "Magical Mornings."

Aimee is the founder of FamilLeague and lives the life of a busy entrepreneur. Even though she's always on the go, she always takes time to curl up in bed with her 5-year-old daughter Athena before each day begins.

"We call it 'Magical Mornings' where we lay in bed and talk about what we're happy and grateful for," Aimee said. "It allows us to be clear in thought and in a good mood before the chaos of the day begins."

The life of an entrepreneur doesn't stop Aimee from enjoying some quiet time with her daughter Athena. Photo from Aimee, used with permission.

The best news? We don't have to break the bank to create amazing memories with our kids. We don't need extravagant parties or expensive gifts.

As a matter of fact, many of the best things we do with our kids don't cost a dime. Because in reality, the main thing our kids want us to spend on them is our time. And that's the way it should be.

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