I've got two exciting anniversaries coming up - This Saturday is the one-year anniversary of the blog and it's also the day we officially decided to start our garden! (I'll be celebrating my bloggiversary on Friday if you want to stop by). I wanted to find a fun way to document the first year of our adventure into gardening for the boys, because at 3 and 5 years old, they aren't big blog readers. I thought about making a photo album from the past year, but how often do you see young kids thumbing through photo albums? Instead I found a way to combine our first year of gardening into a game that my boys love. So we came up with "Our First Garden Memory Game."
I should warn you that if you try this, it's much more time-consuming and fiddly than I originally anticipated, but the end result was awesome.
I went through the past 12 months of garden photos and tried to pull out a representative group showing some of the gardening events that would be memorable to the kids. We've got our first harvest, hornworms, ladybugs, making a space toad house, building a tent from garden stakes, fishing for tadpoles, making mud puddle angels, and even pictures of the pets, the whole family making butter and some close-up photos of our best harvest.
I made a grid in Photoshop and placed each photo inside 2.5 x 2.5 squares on the grid so I had 12 photos per page. I printed out two copies of each photo on cardstock paper. I made 36 matching pairs and tried to get an equal number of both boys because…well, if you're a parent I don't need to finish that sentence.
Then I cut out the photos so I had 72 little square photos. I then got some green construction paper and folded it into thirds lengthwise and then folded it down into four squares widthwise. This makes a nice green backing for each photo and gives each one a nice green mat effect. This step was very time consuming, but we have another fun memory match game I printed out from Jan Brett's website that the boys love, and although it's done on cardstock, my 5-year-old has figured out that if you stare hard enough at the backs of the cards you can make out some shapes and colors and make a match every single time. This sends my 3-year-old into an unrecoverable downward spiral. To prevent this, I went with the green backing.
I then glued 72 green squares to the backs of 72 little square photos. You only need one tiny little bit of glue in the middle, so this step went pretty quickly.
I then put the cards inside a laminating sheet, leaving just enough space between each one to be able to cut them down to size. The problem with this was that the green squares were each about 1/8th of an inch too big to fit perfectly inside the laminating sheet. This would have caused me to use a TON of laminating sheets since only about 6 per page fit. So I sat there with scissors cutting a thin strip of paper off the edge of every single side of 72 little squares - the entire time thinking, wow - this was clearly a dumb idea. But I made it so that I got nine per sheet, so it was worth it. So if you try this, make your backing squares small enough so you can line up plenty of them inside a laminating sheet BEFORE cutting out all the individual squares.
I ran them through the laminator and ended up with a handful of laminated sheets of memory cards. I cut them out and the game was complete.
My mom found a cute green box at a craft store for $1 that we decorated to use as the game box with a little graphic I also made in Photoshop.
The boys are in love with this game. Because 36 matching cards are entirely too many to use at once at their current skill level, we start out each game with each boy picking out a handful of pictures they like and the remaining ones get put back in the box. We then mix their cards together, flip them upside down and start the memory game.
The boys are more thrilled with this game than I expected. I love hearing them get excited about the photo and then start talking about the memory associated with it. I knew it would be a memory game, but I didn't anticipate the garden memories that went along with it. It's great hearing them say "Ohhhh - this was when we learned to shell peanuts!" and "Oh! I remember when we planted those seeds in that tray!" and "Look how dirty Jace is!" and "Look! There's Nanny making butter!" I know that as they get older, we'll be able to keep adding cards into the game until they're finally using all 36 matching pairs at once. It'll be fun in a year or so to look back at how little they were in the pictures and remember the first time we planted a family garden.
A personalized memory game like this would be tons of fun for any child - from a first soccer team, to a kindergarten class, to a fun summer vacation. Kids love turning over pictures of themselves and family members and talking about the memories associated with the pictures. Making our garden has been such a great memory for us and I'm glad to know that the boys won't soon forget their first year as junior gardeners now that they have this game.