by: Michael Kabel

    Your children grow up fast - sometimes too fast! The early weeks and months of a baby's lives are a steady parade of milestones. So much so, it's sometimes hard to keep up with the exact details as each one comes along. For new parents especially, simply caring and feeding for baby can absorb all their energy, leaving no time or creative energy to "double back" and carefully keep records of baby's first words, tooth, lock of hair, and many more other important occasions. 

    The baby memory book is a specially designed album that's like a cross between a record book, a scrapbook, and a photo album, with tables, pockets, and places to make a permanent record of a child's first early milestones. Most finer baby memory books arrive already well organized and are for the most part self-explanatory, so the time spent decorating them can be largely devoted to expressing your own creativity. As you create the baby memory album, the book essentially walks you through the steps necessary. You fill in all the important details, and add custom trim provided by the book itself or from other scrapbooking materials. 

    Many baby memory books organize themselves chronologically, creating a timeline of baby's achievements and milestones that unfurl as the child grows older. Memory books often extend well into childhood - reaching ages as high as seven or ten years, to include such childhood items as report cards, sporting trophies, essays and test results, and many others. Some other memory books are centered around the type of event itself - physical developments, achievements in speech and communication, special celebrations, and first accomplishments. The choice of organization is largely up to the individual user's tastes and own expectations. There's no right or wrong answer. 

    A great way to decorate, as mentioned above, is through the use of scrapbooking materials. In recent years the hobby of scrapbooking has enjoyed tremendous growth. Browsing the aisles of many hobby stores such as Michael's, Hobby Lobby, and A.C. Moore, you'll often find entire rows of decorative scrapbook elements, from specialty paper to decals and appliqués to fit almost any taste or décor. Of course, many baby memory books will come complete with decorative elements, but you may still wish to embellish them with custom decals and accents of your own choosing. Especially if your memory book extends past the toddler years and into childhood, you may find yourself wanting extra decoration. 

    Some - but certainly not all - common memory book topics include:

The Baby Shower: It's easy to picture this category as the prelude or overture to baby's life, and some common decorative elements might include photos of the guests (of course) but also the invitation, a sample of the favors given out to guests, and perhaps a menu or list of the food and beverages served. As with any time you attempt to preserve a memory, the use of sensory detail is your most important tool. Whatever records made of the sights, sounds, smells, etc will help you evoke the memories of the event in the years to come.

First Records: This category includes a space for baby's birth certificate and pages to include the footprints and handprints taken both at birth and even sometimes at the first and second birthdays. It may also include a family tree reaching back one or more generations, similar to the trees historically found in family bibles but with an accent more on fun and amusement rather than solemn notetaking. Finally, this section might also include hospital records, such as baby's ID bracelet, and photographs of baby arriving home from the maternity ward. Immunization records and early doctor and dental records might sometimes also be included, depending on the tone and manner set up by the book's décor and themes.

Physical Records: Also mentioned above, physical records are similar to first records but are of a more immediate and personal nature to the child itself. Physical records could include a lock of baby's hair, a keepsake or impression of their first tooth, and a growth chart where baby's height and weight are recorded at regular intervals over childhood. Along with the first records above, in this respect the baby memory books actually serves a very useful purpose in becoming a reference source for parents diligent in tracking their child's development. The decoration of this section might sometimes be comparatively restrained or austere, as its more sober purpose is left to speak for itself, uncluttered with potentially off-tone accents or decoration.

Holidays & Celebrations: This might be the most fun category of them all! Baby's first Christmas, their first Halloween, their first and second birthdays...there's really no limit to all the celebrations you can keep track of! Like the baby shower category pages, these pages can include as many photos, gift mementoes, lists and inventories, and special accents as you please. Especially for first holiday celebrations, which by tradition and simple human nature are bound to be an extra source of cheer for the proud parent, the category pages are frequently resplendent in a sea of decorations. Finding the room for everything you wish to include might be a trick, so be careful to discriminate carefully, picking only the details you feel might evoke the strongest memories when you revisit the pages in the future.

As a final thought, you might also consider organizing your baby memory book around some part of the event or the child itself you want to celebrate. Many baby memory books are available specially made for boys and girls alike, or to emphasize a family's faith, heritage, or cultural background. There are many themes to choose from, and many are also available personalized. Ultimately, the choices and final design are completely up to your own distinct imagination.