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.

More

Andy Grammer, the pop singer and songwriter behind feel-good tunes like "Keep Your Head Up," "Back Home," and "Don't Give Up on Me," has a new album out—and it is seriously fabulous. Titled simply "Naive," Grammer says it's "all about how seeing the good in todays world can feel like a rebellious act."

"I wrote this album for the light bringers," Grammer shared on Facebook. "The people who choose to see the good even in the overwhelming chaos of the bad. The smilers who fight brick by brick to build an authentic smile everyday, even when it seems like an impossible thing to do. For those who have been marginalized as 'sweet' or 'cute' or 'less powerful' for being overly positive. To me optimism is a war to be fought, possibly the most important one. If I am speaking to you and you are relating to it then know I made this album for you. You are my tribe. I love you and I hope it serves you. Don't let the world turn down your shine, we all so badly need it."

Reading that, it's easy to think maybe he really is naive, but Grammer's positivity isn't due to nothing difficult ever happening in his life. His mom, Kathy, died of breast cancer when Grammer was 25. He and his mother were very close, and her life and death had a huge impact on him.

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via Stratford Festival / Twitter

Service dogs are invaluable to their owners because they are able to help in so many different ways.

They're trained to retrieve dropped Items, open and close doors, help their owners remove their clothes, transport medications, navigate busy areas such as airports, provide visual assistance, and even give psychological help.

The service dog trainers at K-9 Country Inn Working Service Dogs in Canada want those who require service dogs to live the fullest life possible, so they're training dogs on how to attend a theatrical performance.

The adorable photos of the dogs made their way to social media where they quickly went viral.

On August 15, a dozen dogs from Golden Retrievers to poodles, were treated to a performance of "Billy Elliott" at the Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada. This was a special "relaxed performance" featuring quieter sound effects and lighting, designed for those with sensory issues.

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"It's important to prepare the dogs for any activity the handler may like to attend," Laura Mackenzie, owner and head trainer at K-9 Country Inn Working Service Dogs, told CBC.

"The theater gives us the opportunity to expose the dogs to different stimuli such as lights, loud noises, and movement of varying degrees," she continued. "The dogs must remain relaxed in tight quarters for an extended period of time."

The dogs got to enjoy the show from their own seats and took a break with everyone else during intermission. They were able to familiarize themselves with the theater experience so they know how to navigate through crowds and fit into tight bathroom stalls.

via Stratford Festival / Twitter


via Stratford Festival / Twitter


via Stratford Festival / Twitter

"About a dozen dogs came to our relaxed performance, and they were all extremely well-behaved," says Stratford Festival spokesperson Ann Swerdfager. "I was in the lobby when they came in, then they took their seats, then got out of their seats at intermission and went back — all of the things we learn as humans when we start going to the theater."

RELATED: This sneaky guide dog is too pure for this world. A hilarious video proves it.

The dogs' great performance at the trial run means that people who require service animals can have the freedom to enjoy special experiences like going to the theater.

"It's wonderful that going to the theater is considered one of the things that you want to train a service dog for, rather than thinking that theater is out of reach for people who require a service animal, because it isn't," Swerdfager said.

The Stratford Festival runs through Nov. 10 and features productions of "The Merry Wives of Windsor," "The Neverending Story," "Othello," "Billy Elliot," "Little Shop of Horrors," "The Crucible" and more.

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