Bye Bye Beijing! Memory Keeping

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Remember the weary day you dragged the kids off that dreaded long-haul flight and tumbled headlong and wide-eyed into the capital of China? Probably all too well. Whether you’ve just arrived or are about to leave Beijing, have fallen in love with the city or are aching for home shores, there is one thing for certain: Living in Beijing is a completely unique experience, one that passes far too quickly, especially for youngsters.

Preserve and celebrate your child’s time in Beijing by using these simple, whimsical memory-keeping ideas. These projects are fast and easy but will be treasured for a lifetime, and all are perfect farewell gifts for friends leaving Beijing.

Visual Journals

This idea is particularly good for older kids. The journal can be used for any subject - travel, a school trip, special experiences and events. If your child is a diary-writer, it could simply be a daily account of Beijing life.

Using a spiral-bound journal, gather together bits and pieces: tickets, postcards, stickers, letters, invitations, photos and other memorabilia. Kids can paste them into the journal and title each page, adding their own drawings, designs and thoughts.

Have your child decorate the front of the journal or wrap it in Chinese wrapping paper, using double-sided tape.

Scrap Book

For younger and older kids alike, this scrapbook idea is also perfect for the family in general. Using a large scrapbook, have your children create a title page - perhaps “Our China Adventure” or “My Life in Beijing” or “A Mandarin Odyssey.” Decorate the exterior or wrap it in Chinese paper.

A scrapbook is really just that: a book for scrapping and storing of memorabilia. Paste in anything and everything that will lie flat, including photos, and don’t be afraid to layer your pages. You can label certain pages if you like or just periodically record the date as you go. Have kids contribute to this book regularly and watch it grow fat with priceless memories.

Friendship Book

Just like a visitor’s book in the doorway of a country manor, this allows kids to revisit their friendships when they return home to ‘real’ life.

Use a small book, title it and have the kids decorate the cover. Have them collect mementos from their friends to paste inside - notes, cards and photos work perfectly. They can also have their friends write messages and autograph the inside.

Another idea is to catalogue friendships by entering friends in the book, bio-style. Add photos, stories of fun times together, drawings, descriptions of friends and a list of their favorite things.

Some ideas for a friend’s bio page:
My friend:
Favorite colour:
Favorite food:
Favorite thing about Beijing:

Window Box

All you need for this 3D project is your memorabilia and a deep picture frame (available at IKEA, or you can have one made at a framer’s shop).

Print off a photo of your child. You can cover the entire background of the frame with their picture, or you can crop it and add your own clip art and text around the photo using decorative paper or even your childís artwork. You can also add clip art to the inside of the glass for a real 3D effect.

Once the background and photo are in place, allow your child to add their own mementos, toys or souvenirs to the front of the picture, layering them for visual interest.

These frames are great because the memento can be changed around. You could do one for each season of the child’s first year in Beijing ñ kicking amber autumn leaves, skating on Houhai, sniffing pink blossoms and running through a water fountain. You could also do several of their favorite Beijing places.

Concertina Cards

These cards are quick and easy and make for great gifts. From a large piece of cardstock (available at markets and art supply stores), cut a long strip at least 12cm wide. Fold into a concertina strip, making a sharp crease along the edges. If desired, you can trim the card into a circle or give it rounded corners.

Kids can put a title on their card and then paste in photos of their favorite Beijing places, things, events, pastimes, friends or even travels. Use colored paper, stickers, red tassels, hongbao and other flat decorations.

You can also print off quotes to paste in, or have your child write in it, adding their own personal touch.

Fast Photo Books

Make quick and easy photo books that kids can use as brag books or as an excuse to revisit their memories. They can be photos of school events, travels, parties - the list is endless.

Pile a stack of photos on top of each other and cut two pieces of card to serve as a front and back cover. All photos and card must be exactly the same size. Line up the left-hand edges so they are perfectly aligned and clamp the photos together with bulldog (aka binder) clips. Brush this left-hand edge of the photos with a thick layer of craft glue and allow to dry for at least eight hours. Undo clips and decorate your front cover with a title, stickers and other embellishments.

Memory Picture

Print a large (at least 20x25cm) black-and-white picture of a Beijing street scene - the hutongs in summer, Houhai lake in winter, the Great Wall or your child’s favorite place. You could also print one of your child’s special interests.

Using a color photo of your child, cut out their head and hair neatly. Their face itself should measure at least 4x4cm.

Now think about the ‘body’ you can use for your child. Is your child into sports? Are they a dancer? Do they like to hike? Decide on your theme and scour the Internet for pictures (preferably drawings, artwork or clipart) that you can print off and cut out.

Glue the body and face of your child onto stiff cardboard and cut out carefully. Using double-sided thick foam tape (available at local markets), place your child into their Beijing scene. The tape raises your child up against the black-and-white photograph, giving them a fantastic 3D effect.

Take your finished picture to a framer and have it matted and framed simply. This makes a unique and very special memento of your child for many years to come.

First published in beijingkids magazine and on the beijingkids website. Photos by Luna Zhang.

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