small paper book surrounded by paper materials and art supplies

Connection during COVID-19: Let’s Make a Self-Isolation Memory Book

In the past week, the general conversation feels like it has shifted towards plans for “re-opening” and gradually, safely returning to a “new normal.” Some caregivers may be anticipating a return to work, and figuring out what that might mean for childcare and at-home learning. As we do our best to plan for what comes next, it feels like this current chapter of self-isolation might be drawing to a close. 

road sign that says "stay home"
Photo by Logan Weaver

I imagine that we all have a LOT of feelings about this! I know I do. Transitions and changes almost always come with ambivalence. There are some parts about the change that we are super excited about! We miss our friends and colleagues, we are sick of the four walls we have been spending all our time within, and we can’t wait to get outside more often. We might feel relieved that the sense of imminent danger and threat has lessened, and that our efforts to flatten the curve of COVID-19’s spread have been effective. At the same time, we might be surprised to notice that we also feel sad that this unique time at home is coming to an end. 

We didn’t choose our reality over the past few months. We weren’t planning on spending so much intense, concentrated time with our partners and our little ones. Our routines were disrupted, our anchors cast out, our worlds turned upside down and inside out. This has been challenging. It has forced us to use our resourcefulness, and to practice our adaptability. 

cell phone on top of child's crayon drawing
Photo by Charles Deluvio

But I wonder if there have been any unexpected joys during your time in self-isolation? Have there been any opportunities or experiences that were actually pretty great? 

Did this forced change of routine create space for a new hobby? Did you and your kiddo discover any shared interests? Did you suddenly have time to do something together that you’ve been meaning to do for ages? Did you learn anything you didn’t know before about your partner, your parents, or your kids? Were you forced to try something new? Did you discover your strength and resiliency through the process? Did you disprove a long-held limiting belief about yourself? (eg. “I can’t cook” or “I’m not artistic”) 

I bet you can answer “yes” to at least one of those questions. And I think that some of the discoveries we have made and experiences we have shared are worth remembering long past the pandemic. 

We WILL return to some form of “normal.” And, as hard as it may be to imagine right now, we will probably forget what this time was like.  I know for me, despite many challenges, this time at home with my partner has been unique and special. I want to remember the moments of connection we’ve shared, in the midst of immense global suffering, hardship, and fear. Both are true, and both are important. There’s space for the complicated and messy reality of positive and negative feelings. I want to offer you and your family that space too. 

Matryoshka dolls wearing surgical masks
Photo by Evgeni Tcherkasski

So for this week’s at-home art activity, I’m inviting you and your kiddo to create a “Self-Isolation Memory Book” together. 

Let’s make a self-isolation memory book!

Here’s what you need:

  1. A few pieces of printer paper
  2. Some cardboard to make the covers 
  3. A glue stick or white glue 
  4. Scissors 
  5. Writing or drawing materials (pencil, pen, markers, pencil crayons)
  6. Ephemera (a fancy word that means bits of paper, packaging, or other print materials that are meaningful to you. This might include a printed photo, a receipt, a tea bag label, a recipe, an amazon packing slip, a drawing your kiddo made, a stamp, a piece of mail – the possibilities are endless!)
  7. Any other materials you would like to use to decorate your book (stickers, washi tape, embellishments, buttons, pom poms, ribbons – you are only limited by your imagination!)

cardboard, collage materials, stickers, art supplies

Here’s what you do:

Invite your child to a brainstorming session. Tell them that even though there have been some tough or stressful moments, you have really appreciated this time at home with them. It’s been special and meaningful to be able to spend so much time together, and there are parts of it that you would like to celebrate and remember forever. You are going to work together to make a really special keepsake to remember your time in self-isolation. 

Come up with a list of things you want to remember about this time. Invite your child to offer suggestions too. It might feel really great to laugh about the silly moments, and remember the fun you’ve had. Here are some prompts to help you get started. I invite you AND your child to answer the questions. 

  • What is your favourite thing you have done together?
  • What is one thing you NEVER thought you would try, but now you have? 
  • What is one thing you learned about yourself? About the other person? 
  • Was there anything new you added into your daily routine? Did you like the addition?
  • What did you spend more time doing? 
  • What did you spend less time doing? 
  • Is there a problem you solved together? 
  • Did you communicate in any new ways? 
  • Did you make anything together?
  • Did you use any materials around the house in new ways? 
  • Did you discover or re-discover anything about your house/ back yard/ neighbourhood? 
  • Did you do something kind for someone? 
  • What made you laugh the hardest in the past week? 

Here are some fun ideas my friends and family have shared with me:

  • Making a blanket fort in the living room
  • Creating a hammock under the kitchen table 
  • Making drawings for healthcare and essential service workers 
  • Living room dance parties 
  • Baking together 
  • Drawing messages for neighbours with sidewalk chalk 
  • Flying a kite for the first time 

(During this process, you might even come up with ideas for more things you want to try in the next few weeks!)

Next, create a book to hold your memories. 

printer paper folded horizontally and being cut down the middle

Take a piece of printer paper and fold it horizontally (hot-dog style). Cut the paper in half along the folded line. Then, fold each half of the paper into three equal parts, to make a “Z” shape (see photo below).

paper being folded into a "Z" shape

Glue your two “Z” shapes together, to create an accordion shape with five “pages.”

folded paper and glue stick

Repeat this process as many times as you like to create the number of pages you want for your book. If you use one piece of printer paper, your book will end up having four inside pages. If you use two pieces of printer paper, your book will end up having eight inside pages. That’s what I did. 

accordion-folded paper and glue stick

Measure and cut out two pieces of cardboard or fancy paper to make the front and back covers of the book. The measurements for my covers were 3.75 inches wide by 4.5 inches tall. 

cardboard, ruler, pencil, scissors

Use a glue stick or white glue to attach one piece of cardboard to the front of your accordion pages, and the other to the back of your accordion pages. When you fully open the accordion book, the inside page and the back cover will show at the same time.

accordion style paper book and cardboard

Decorate the cover of your book. Add a title if you like! 

Fill your book with words, pictures, drawings, and materials that remind you of the memories on your list. You and your child can take turns creating a page, or you can work on the pages together. If possible, allow your book to be perfectly imperfect. In my opinion, this makes the memory book even more special. It will reflect who you and your child are in this moment, and visually capture the age and stage of your kiddo. 

blank paper book surrounded by art supplies

Read your finished book together! This is a little snapshot of your time together at home, during a global pandemic. That’s pretty unique. Now that you’ve created a memory book, you can look back on this time whenever you like.  

Here’s my completed memory book: 

Variations: 

  1. Instead of making a book using cardboard, paper, and art materials, make a photo album with printed photos of your favourite self-isolation memories
  2. Create your memory book in a digital format. Use Instagram stories, or make a google photos creation, or use another software program to combine words and images
  3. I’ve suggested focusing on positive things you would like to remember from this time, but that might not feel right for you or your family. Here are some other options: 
    • You could make a book about the things you can’t wait to do again AFTER self-isolation is over
    • You could make a memory book honouring a loved one who has passed away, or someone that you and your kiddo really miss right now
    • You could make a book about all the things you’ve missed during self-isolation
Android phone showing photo album
Photo by Chris Coe

Rationale (why I love this activity):

    • It allows space for honouring the positive that has grown from something scary, hard, or negative 
    • It acknowledges that we can experience joy and sadness at the same time 
    • It celebrates your connection with your child 
    • It serves as a tangible reminder and snapshot of your shared experience, that you and your child can return to in future challenging moments when you are feeling disconnected 
Sign that say "Lockdown" surrounded by foliage
Photo by Matt Seymour

Some things you might talk about: 

    • How is your child feeling about the idea that we might be slowly returning to a new normal (i.e. some things will probably change again)? 
    • What’s it like to remember fun, silly, moments together? How does it make you feel right now to think about those memories? 
    • What’s it like to acknowledge both the happy/ positive/ fun AND the sad/ hard/ scary about a situation? 
    • Is there anyone you might like to share your memory book with? Maybe a friend or a grandparent? 
    • What do you appreciate most about your kiddo? How have you noticed this during your time together at home? 
child playing with truck, sticks, dirt on patio stones
Photo by Markus Spiske

I would LOVE to hear your answer to that last question! If you want to share, send me a quick email or a DM on Instagram. And if the idea of transitioning to a new normal feels overwhelming, or you would like some support navigating your child’s intense feelings, I’m still available for online art therapy. 

See you next week! 

Written by Rubi Garyfalakis, DTATI, RP, RCAT 

Pinterest graphic with feature image and title of blog post

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