After the First Year:

Marking Childhood Milestones

By Christa Melnyk Hines

Your baby is about to celebrate her first birthday. You’ve probably been celebrating her development since birth in a baby book and by snapping reams of photos along the way. After all, babies seem to change right before our eyes in their first year. But how will you record the exciting months and years ahead? Here are a few ways to capture moments, milestones and memories as your baby grows from toddler to teen.

Say what?! Kids typically begin developing the ability to speak in two to three word sentences between 18 months and two years. Keep track of their quips, funny comments and profound observations in a quotes journal. A simple notebook will do the trick. Running around? Write down what they said on a scrap of paper. Note the date and their age and slip it into your notebook or your purse to record later.

Remember this? Compile photos annually into a scrapbook or a digital photo book. Among the snapshots of day-to-day outings, family vacations and birthday parties, include a page dedicated to highlighting your child’s accomplishments for that year. For example: learned to ride a bike, started kindergarten, learned to swim, lost first tooth, first home run, etc.

Dear Sugar. Ask friends and family to a write a letter to your child on her first birthday. Or write a letter a year sharing anecdotes and observations about your child’s development, achievements, disappointments and why you are proud of her. These letters make a precious gift for when your child turns 18.

Talk to me. While you’ll probably video your child in action throughout childhood, take a few minutes each year to do a short interview once they start talking. Ask questions like, “what is your favorite food?” “What do you want to be when you grow up?” “What is your favorite thing to do?” “Who are your buddies right now?”

Keep it simple. Throughout the year, collect mementos in a manila folder. Include projects, letters, report cards, notes from teachers, pictures and letters by your child, medical records and school photos. At the end of each calendar year, school year or birthday, go through the file. Pick out the items you want to keep. Write the year on the folder tab and stash it in a bin designated for your child.

A year in pictures. Have you ever seen a compilation of photos of a child taken every day in the same location for a year? It’s fascinating to watch a child grow up in a photo time lapse. Try these apps: Photo 365 or Everyday.

Try this on for size. Take an annual photo of your child in an oversized t-shirt with the date of their high school graduation. She’ll be swimming in it for the first photo, but by graduation she will have grown into it.

Measure up. Many of us use a wall in the house to pencil in our kids’ height over the years. But what if you have to move or you want to repaint? A variety of creative wall-hanging growth charts are available on the market or you could DIY. Make a large wall measuring stick out of a 1’ x 6’ x 6’ wood board (instructions for the DIY Growth Ruler are available at Check out Pinterest for other crafty designs and instructions.

Hand, hand, finger, thumb. Beginning with your child’s first birthday, make wall art out of his growing handprints or footprints. Paint an 8” square canvas with acrylic paint. Once the background paint dries, use a contrasting color and paint your child’s hand with a foam brush. Then guide his hand to stamp it on the canvas. Use a paint pen to write the age of your child below the hand print. Voila! You have the first of a series of annual handprints. For more information about this project titled “yearly handprint canvas,” check out

Patchwork of memories. Every child has t-shirts they love and wear over and over again. Over the years, they’ll also collect shirts of sporting events, favorite teams, camps, organizations and other activities that they’re involved in. Hang onto those items and have a quilt made out of the shirts to give them when they graduate from high school or college.

Tell me a story. Record funny, harrowing and exciting stories throughout parenthood. Keep them in a file called “family stories” on your computer. Don’t forget to include your child’s birth story. Either record the anecdotes and stories in an audio file or write them out. You’ll love pulling up and sharing these stories with your kids as they get older – and they’ll love hearing them!