John Cowan - Creating a Museum of Memories

Publish Date
Thursday, 31 August 2017, 1:16PM
Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

By John Cowan

Give children a legacy of happy memories: a museum of recollections that they can wander through and again and again in later life. It will give them pleasure, but also roots, as they re-interpret their childhood experiences with adult insight. Here are few ideas I did with my kids.

Sleep out with your kids in a small tent.

Brilliant fun, and a real adventure, even if it’s just on your back lawn. There were enough night-time squeaks and scufflings around our compost heap to make it a really scary adventure.

Sleep marae style in the lounge

Drag the mattresses into the lounge and tell stories in the dark. Lots giggling, midnight snacks and torch-beam sword-fights. You might think, “Why am I lying on the floor when I have a lovely big bed just a few meters down the passage?” It’s making memories, and at least you’re not in a tent. 

Breakfast barbecues

Though I love to linger late in the sack, I must admit that parks and beaches are beautiful in the early morning. The kids loved the mistiness, the novelty and having the whole place to themselves. One time we did it, two pigs came running out of the bushes to scrounge our scraps.  And that was in the Auckland domain, not the middle of the bush.

Satellite spotting

“How boring!” said our oldest when I suggested this. But after he had done it he was the keenest to do it again. Get away from the city’s light pollution on a clear evening and lie on the grass.  The best satellite spotting is just an hour or so after sunset. There is something incredibly moving about that cathedral of stars… I bet you will find yourselves whispering after a while.

Tomb hopping

Old grave yards hold more stories than bones. The epitaphs, the family link-ups, the dates - all of it can be fascinating. For kids who live only in ‘now’, it connects them to the concepts of history, humanity… and mortality.

Have fun, and make time for adventures. Our kids are only going to have one childhood… and guess who is going to give it to them.

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About John

John has been with The Parenting Place ( for seventeen years as their senior writer and presenter.  He had various roles working with youth and families prior to that but actually started his working life as a scientist in neurophysiology at Auckland Hospital.  As well as writing and speaking, John is frequently on radio and television.

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