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Rituals Create Lasting Memories for Children

The simple rituals from our childhood can bring back such vivid memories of people and places we cherished.

I grew up in a family that valued rituals. When I was a girl, I visited my grandmother almost every weekend. As soon as I walked into her apartment, I headed straight to the white porcelain candy dish on her coffee table and helped myself to jelly beans, lemon drops, and sour balls.

Now her candy dish sits on my buffet. But when my granddaughters come to visit, I put it away, since my daughter doesn’t want them to have too much sugar.

My granddaughters have different “arrival” rituals when they come over. The four-year old runs straight for the large blue exercise ball and we do our trampoline routine. I straddle the ball, holding it tightly between my thighs while she bounces on top. As I sing “Pop Goes the Weasel,” she jumps up and down trying not to fall off. And when she does, she begs for more. It helps her release a tiny fraction of her boundless energy and provides a great thigh strengthener for me.

When my eight-year old arrives, she goes out to the pond to feed the koi. They’re so tame they eat out of her hand. She’s named all six fish and loves to stand by the window and watch them swimming around among the lily pads.

Next, they run to the closet for more of their favorite rituals. The older one puts on my roller blades, which are several sizes too big for her. We lace them up and she skates back and forth across the solarium tile floor. The little one gets out a hula hoop and wiggles her little body, keeping it spinning for several rotations before it falls to the floor.

In the morning they ask for our breakfast picnic ritual that we started on a rainy morning a year ago when we couldn’t go outside. I get out the picnic basket and we pack it with leftover paper birthday plates. We spread out a blanket on the solarium floor and I serve scrambled eggs on toasted English muffins. They put candles in their eggs and we sing “Happy Birthday” to each other very quickly so the wax doesn’t melt into the warm eggs.

The power of these rituals and the need for them are stronger than we realize and help create the bonds that define our relationships. According to Meg Cox, author of The Book of New Family Rituals,

These everyday traditions determine how we experience our families and demonstrate hands-on love to our children and grandchildren.

My wish is that when my granddaughters grow up, they’ll reminisce about these childhood rituals we shared and create new ones for their children and grandchildren.


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