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Writing Triggers for Family Memories

I'm carrying on my mother's research into our family history. I've self-published some family memoirs & learned a lot about different eras.

Here I am as a toddler. There are many family stories I should record from that time in my life.

Here I am as a toddler. There are many family stories I should record from that time in my life.

Write Your Childhood Memories Down for Future Generations to Enjoy

Your memories of childhood may have receded, but with a little prompting they come to the surface again. Writing these down creates a wonderful legacy to leave your children and grandchildren.

For the past two years, I've belonged to a writing group that meets weekly. Each week we write about a different topic relating to our childhood. Having a memory trigger gets us started. Hearing the stories that each group member writes brings back even more recollections of our own. I highly recommend it. Take a trip down memory lane.

I'll provide a fresh prompt or writing trigger each week here. Use it to prod your memory, then write down what you discover. Your recollection may be just a paragraph or it could be five or six pages. As you find the nostalgic thoughts flowing again, take advantage and get it into written form. I try to provide enough prompts within each topic so that something will get you started writing. You don't have to record every aspect suggested. Chose a part that interests or inspires you and start writing the reminiscences from your childhood.

These writing prompts about your lifetime memories also make great topics for a page on Hubpages or a blog posting. Discuss the topics with your siblings, parents and friends to see what memories they share with you.

Spring Topics to Write about Your Childhood

  • Chose a photo from your childhood. Start with the basics of who is in the picture and how they are related and interacting. What happened right before or right after the photo was taken? Look closely at the photo. Describe the setting, the furnishings. Make the scene come alive for someone who can't see the picture.
  • Write down the family stories about your birth. If you don't know what happened the day you were born, ask family members. Was it a difficult birth? How did the family react to your arrival?

    How about your siblings? Do you know the stories that go with their arrival in the family?

Winter Writing Prompts

  • What was winter like when you were a child? Do you remember epic snowstorms? Search your memory for how cold it was and how you felt about it. Describe the feel of the snow and sensory details like sound, taste, etc.
  • As a child, did you do something impulsively that you regretted? Write about something stupid that you did. Tell about the aftermath and who was affected by this and how you felt. Did you have to apologize to anyone?
  • Did you have a crush on another child while in grade school? Tell how that turned out. Did you give them a valentine or other token of your esteem?
  • Did you ever get lost, maybe in a store or at a crowded event? Write about how that felt and try to include all the five senses in your description. Were you scared, how long were you lost, where were you?

Remembering Playing in the Snow - Memory prompts to start you writing about your childhood

Write about the activities of a winter day from your childhood. Describe the games you played in the snow and what you wore. Did you have boots, a snow suit, a hat with a tassel? Think back to snowball fights, snow forts, fox-and-geese, snowmen, etc.

Did you have ice skates and where did you skate? Did you have a sled? Describe it and where you went sledding. Do you remember making snow ice cream or sucking on an icicle?

My tabby cat on vintage chair

My tabby cat on vintage chair

Remembering a Pet

Write about a childhood pet

The topic for this week's memory trigger is pets or animals. Think about some animal that played a role in your life. Maybe you don't have a Lassie moment where the faithful dog saved you from almost drowning in the pond, but there's much you can write about an animal. (the photo show my cat, Gypsy)

How did the pet come into your life (shelter, abandoned, gift)? What appealed to you about it? Describe its appearance. Tell about endearing qualities of the animal. Did it also aggravate you? Was it closest to you or did it favor another family member? Were there any major incidents (illness, lost, conflicts)? How long did it live and how did you lose it?

If you didn't have a pet, did you wish for one? What kept you from having a pet? Is there a certain animal, domestic or wild, that especially appeals to you? Tell about encounters with animals at the zoo or a neighbor's vicious dog. Are you a bird watcher? What childhood experience shaped this interest?

Describe Your Favorite Superhero - From Childhood Days

Think back to someone you admired greatly when you were a kid. Maybe it was a cartoon character, a movie star or a real person. Tell what attracted you to them. What abilities did you like and want to acquire for yourself? Tell how they impacted your life or behavior.

Remember Being Punished as a Child

Write about that

Perhaps you were spanked or had to sit in the corner. Maybe you had your mouth washed out with soap. Think back to your childhood and getting in trouble. How were you punished? What was your infraction? Did this happen often or was it a rare event? Tell about how it made you feel and how you behaved afterwards.

Belonging to Clubs

4-H, Scouting or Informal Clubs

Did you belong to an organization like Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts or 4-H? Perhaps you started your own neighborhood club and built a backyard clubhouse to meet in. Tell about your memories of belonging to a club or not being in a club (did you feel left out). Write about what you learned from your membership and the good parts and hard parts.

What Did You Want To Be When You Grew Up? - A Teacher, a Fireman, or Other Professions...

My brother in his cowboy outfit in the 1950s

My brother in his cowboy outfit in the 1950s

Think back to your dreams of childhood. Perhaps you imagined yourself as a clown in the circus or as president of the United States.

Write about that dream and what made you want to be that. Note if you actually followed that dream or ended up as something else.

(photo of my brother from our family album)

Memory Triggers about Camping

Perhaps your family went camping with tents or a camping trailer. Write about where you camped and what you did and how you felt about those excursions. If you didn't camp with your family, write about camping with the scouts or camping in your backyard.

Try to remember the sights, sounds and smells of those outings. Did you have a campfire, tell stories, take hikes? Record your memories before they get away.

Make a Personal Timeline - to give structure to your childhood memories

I'd like to create a timeline of my childhood. Here are links that give ideas on how to do this. This week between Christmas and New Year is a good time to start working on this. I hope you'll give it a try. Put on it the major events of your childhood, like family moves or deaths or other events.

  • How to Create a Personal Timeline | eHow.com
    Each one of us has a personal timeline that began the moment we were born. This timeline consists of highs and lows represented by the positive and negative experiences we have had. Putting this timeline on paper is an excellent way to record your li
  • How to Create Free Timelines | eHow.com
    Timelines can be fun and simple ways to display a set of information in chronological order. A handful of websites can provide you with a basic timeline generator at no cost. All you need to do is input the information you would like on your timeline
  • Timeline of Abraham Bates Tower's Life - Civil War Veteran
    Here's an example of a timeline I made for my genealogy research.

Remembering Babysitters

from your childhood

Think back to babysitters you had as a child. Was it a teenager, a family member or a grown up? Write about fun times with the babysitter or ones that you dreaded. Tell about the occasions when you had a babysitter (while parents worked or took a trip or had an evening out). Were you well-behaved for the sitter or hard-to-handle.

Write about your experiences babysitting as a teen or being left in charge of your siblings while mom went out shopping.

Write about Your Cousins - and Your Relationship with Them

Were your cousins close in age to you and did you spend a lot of time with them in your childhood? Perhaps you've drifted apart or remained close over the years. Think back to the interactions, shared memories, family reunions and describe your cousins.

What Were You the Expert on?

Write about Childhood Abilities

I bet there was something you excelled at either at home or at school. Did you master tying your shoes and then teach your siblings? Were you the one that knew all the facts about dinosaurs? Maybe you were a whiz at memorizing Bible verses for Sunday School. Did you win all the marbles from your school buddies?

Think back over the years and write about your special talents, knowledge or interests. How did you get to be expert at whatever it was?

Memories of Childhood Hospitalization

Write about it

Were you ever hospitalized as a child? Tell about your operation, illness or accident. How serious was it and how did you feel during your hospital stay? Describe the sounds, the smells, the people around you. Write about your recovery or residual problems. Did you ever go to the emergency room or ride in an ambulance?

If you didn't have any illnesses, then write about a sibling or a friend who did.

Send a Warning Back in Time

Remembering a Hard Time from Childhood

If you could send a warning back in time to your childhood, what would you warn yourself about? Think of decisions you made, mistakes or something bad that happened unexpectedly. Possibly your life would be different if you knew it was coming and could change it. You can write it in the form of a letter to your younger self.

My curls back in 1950s. Must have been a special occasion.

My curls back in 1950s. Must have been a special occasion.

How Did You Wear Your Hair as a Child?

Write about your hair

Maybe you liked the way your hair looked or hated it. Was it short or long? Did your mom/dad cut it or did you go to a barber or hair salon? What color was your hair?

Did you ever cut it yourself and what was the result? How did you wear it on special occasions? Describe a bad hair day from your childhood. Take a look at your childhood photos to refresh your memory.

Were You the Oldest, Youngest or Middle Child in Your Family? - This week's memory prompt

"How Tall Are You?" by lulu22470

"How Tall Are You?" by lulu22470

Write about your place among your siblings. Did you get special privileges or responsibilities as the youngest or oldest? How do you think your birth order affected your thinking and behavior? Did you admire or resent your older or younger siblings?

If you were an only child, did you wish for a brother or sister? Write about what you feel you missed out on and what was special about being an only child.

My aunt Carol on her father's horse Brownie. There's quite a story about Brownie saving my grandfather's life.

My aunt Carol on her father's horse Brownie. There's quite a story about Brownie saving my grandfather's life.

Encourage Your Child to Write

I thnk it is important to encourage writing by your child as well as reading. Once they acquire a liking for these two activities, you'll have a lifelong learner and the skills will come in handy throughout their life.

What do you need? A place to write helps, plus some encouraging activities. Check out the book shown here. Possibly your public library has it or similar titles for borrowing or you can order them from Amazon. They should be just what you need to turn your child into a writer.

Were You Bullied?

Write about Childhood Memories of Bullying

This may be painful to write about, even after many years have passed. Think back to your school days. Was there a bully and did he/she pick on you or on another child? Write about your efforts to avoid the bully. What kind of encounters did you have? Did anyone help you or the other child? How did you feel and how did it affect your behavior?

Describe how the bully looked and acted. Think about why they acted the way they did. How does it make you feel after all these years?

Write about Elections and Politics from Your Early Years

Write about any experiences you had serving as an officer in a club or at school. How were the officers elected? Did you help a friend run for office?

Was there anyone in your family that served in an elected position from town mayor or any other office? When did you first become aware of national politics and presidential campaigns? Tell about the first time you went to vote.

Remember Shoes from Your Childhood

Write about your earliest memories of shoes. Describe what they looked like and if you liked them or not. Where did you go to get shoes? What kind of socks did you wear with them? Were you allowed to go barefoot in the summer time? Did you get shoes at special times of year for back-to-school or Easter? Were your baby shoes bronzed?

Write about Someone You Disliked

in your childhood

If there was someone in your childhood that you hated or strongly disliked, write about him or her. Tell what made you dislike them. Describe their personality and physical appearance. Were there some confrontations with this person or unpleasant events? Write about those. Try comparing them to an animal or using a color to sum up the way you felt about them.

Write about Toy Guns and Play - from your childhood

Did you have a toy gun to play cowboy and Indians? Perhaps you had a BB gun or a 22 rifle. Tell about your activities with these. Write about the pretend play with the toy gun and about what you shot at with the real guns. Did you go hunting with your father?

If you didn't have these, did you want one and what kept you from having one?

Every Picture Has a Story

My brother in his full cowboy outfit. I wrote about the time he fell off a saddle that was on a wooden fence. He broke his arm.

My brother in his full cowboy outfit. I wrote about the time he fell off a saddle that was on a wooden fence. He broke his arm.

Do You Know the Story of How Your Mom and Dad Met? - Write your parents' love story

Of course, you weren't there, but write down any family stories about their meeting, dating and wedding that you've heard. If they are still around, ask them or other family members. Do the same to record your grandparents' romance and also your own.

Here's my parents' story of their romance during World War II, Gail and Clyde Martin - Lasting Love.

Remembering Favorite TV Shows

Describe the television set from your childhood and how it is different from today's televisions. Did your family watch certain shows together? Remember TV trays and eating in the living room? Were there limits on what shows you could watch or time of day for watching? List as many shows as you can think of that you watched regularly as a child. Tell about your favorite show and the personalities on that show. What about that show appealed to you?

Make a Map of the Neighborhood Where You Grew Up

This will trigger childhood memories

Start with the location of your home, then fill in the houses on each side and put the names of all the people you can remember. Continue down the street. Try to remember what the houses and yards looked like and describe the people. Try to capture in words the feel of the neighborhood.

Family Difficulties

Was there someone in your family who was "special?" Maybe they were gifted or considered slow. Perhaps they had a handicap or a chronic illness. How did the family respond to their needs? Write about how it made you feel or how you coped with the situation.

Have You Used Any of My Writing Triggers?

Books to Help You Write Your Life Story

Although I've given you quite a few memory triggers here, perhaps you'd like some more. Check out these titles. Some are available for Kindle too.

  • Remembering - Life Story Triggers and Memory Essays
  • Living Legacies: How to Write, Illustrate, and Share Your Life Stories
  • Memories, Our Family Journal (prompts on every page)

Playing Board Games

Fun memories to write about

Did you play board games with your siblings or parents or friends? Tell about the board games you played when you were a child. Describe the game board and pieces. Did you ever cheat? Were you a good loser?

Remembering Rainy Days

Yesterday it drizzled all day. My mind went back to childhood days and what we did when it was rainy. This is a good topic for my family memory writing group.

Write about your memories of rainy days in summer. Did you play inside? We made a tent with a sheet over some chairs. Must have driven our mother crazy. Did you read (what?) or play board games (which ones?) or watch television? Did you cook something or have a special rainy day meal?

Did you like rainy days or did it make you cranky so that you fought with your siblings? Did you go outside and play in puddles? What did you wear?

Links to Other Memory Prompts

Write about Getting to School

Remembering school days

Tell about how you got to school each day. Did you walk or ride a bus or did someone drop you off at school? Think back to the details of this. If you walked, write about what you did along the way and what you saw. Who was with you? Tell about how you felt on snowy days or rainy days. If you rode the bus, record your memories of the sights, sounds, feelings of that.

Family Secret

Write about your family secret

Was there something you learned about your family that surprised or shocked you? How was the secret kept from you and why? Write about how you came to discover it. Tell how it made you feel. Are you now the keeper of the secret or does everyone know?

Dolls from Childhood - Photo Inspiration

Vintage dolls.

Vintage dolls.

Write about Your Doll from Childhood

Think back to your favorite doll and write about it. Describe the features, hair color, texture and capabilities of the doll. Tell about when you received it and how you named the doll. Did you make clothes for it? What eventually happened to the doll? Did you have many dolls or only the one doll?

Marbles or Jacks?

Write about memories of a childhood game

Let's focus on a competitive game like marbles or jacks that involved squatting down and playing on the pavement . Tell who you played with, what were the stakes, and your ability to play the game. Did you win or lose more often? Writing down the rules of the game and a description of where you played will help the memories come back.

Where Did You Grow Up?

A writing trigger about places

Tell how the state you grew up in influenced your childhood. What regional activities, accent, cooking, history and sights do you associate with that state and your childhood? Did you study the history of your state in school? If you moved around a lot, which state was your favorite to live in?

Write a Letter to a Childhood Friend

That you've lost touch with over the years

Even though you don't know where they are, write in letter form the memories that you shared with them. Try to remember the little incidents and activities you did together. How did you become friends and when were you separated or lost touch?

Writing Your Letter


Remembering Mother's Apron

Write about your childhood memories of aprons

Think back to the kind of apron your mother wore. Was it a bib apron, a half apron or a small fancy one for special occasions. Did you have an apron too and help in the kitchen? Write about shared activities with mom where she was wearing an apron.

Remembering Back-to-School

It's the time of years when the waning days of summer and the back-to-school sales reminds us of childhood school days. Think about your family's preparation for school. Did you get new clothes and new shoes or just spiff up the existing ones or get hand-me-downs from siblings and cousins? Was there a new lunchbox with your favorite TV or movie star on it? Write about those memories and about the first day of school, meeting the teacher and facing new classmates. Did you change schools or always go to the same one? Tell about your feelings at the start of the school year. Did you regret the ending of summer freedoms or look forward to school? Describe one of your classrooms in detail.

Here's a great example of first-day-of-school memories written by an Australian. It's marvelous.

Time Travel Back to Childhood

Write about a particular year or re-write it

If you could go back in time to a particular year in your childhood, what age or year would you revisit and why? Perhaps you would want to experience again a particularly happy time. Alternately you might choose a difficult time with the idea of seeing it from a fresh perspective. If you could rewrite that problem year, how would you make it better?

Memories of Sibling Squabbles

Write about your childhood memories

Think back to spats with your brothers or sisters. What did you fight about and how did you resolve them? Write about how your parents reacted to the arguments and any punishments or threats that occurred. Did any of these behaviors carry over into adulthood with your siblings?

Describe Your Grandmother

Write about her for your blog or your memoir

Start writing about your grandmother by making a list of keywords that you associate with her. These can be characteristics like huggable, strict or physical descriptors like roly-poly, white-haired. Be sure to add in foods that remind you of her and activities she did. How did you feel when you were around your grandmother? What kind of visits did you have (whole family visits or long summers on your own with her)? Write about an incident that sticks in your mind. Describe the scene and what happened and what it meant to you.

Write about Music Lessons or Playing an Instrument

for your blog, your memoir or a Squidoo lens topic

Think back to taking piano lessons when you were a child and write about your teacher, favorite or hated song, skill or lack of it. Maybe it was another instrument that you learned to play, so apply the same questions to that. If you didn't learn to play music, did you want to and what circumstances kept you from it?

Playing on a Swing - Write Your Childhood Memories - for a memoir, for Hubpages or a blog, or just for yourself

Did you have a swing (wood or a tire) on a tree to play on? Think back to fun times in the yard. Was there a swing set or a jungle gym or a slide? Maybe you went to a park to play with these. Describe how it felt to swoop through the air. Were there any injuries from playground equipment or incidents with other children?

Out to the Ballgame - Write Your Childhood Memories

Did you or a sibling play baseball? Write about going to little league games, playing sandlot baseball or not playing. Did you get picked last when teams were chosen for neighborhood or recess games? Was there a coach and how did you get along with the coach? Were your parents encouraging and attend the games?

If you didn't play, write about an excursion to a ball game. Were your parents fans of a certain team?

I could use this page as a lesson plan for a memoir writing class that might last a full year.

Write about Your Mother

Are you alike or different?

When you look at yourself, what do you see that reminds you of your mother? This can be physical attributes or a way of thinking/speaking/coping. Do you sometimes see your mother or hear your mother when you act or talk a certain way? Write about how you feel about that and whether you would want to be more like her or less.

Did You Believe in Fairies? - A writing prompt for childhood memories

Think back to the fairy stories that were read to you in childhood. Remember where you were when you heard the stories, maybe it was a bedtime story or at a library storytime. Did the idea of fairies scare you or make you want to meet the fairies? Was there one story that stuck in your mind? Write about the tooth fairy if that custom was followed in your home. Did you have pretend games that included fairies? Describe what you thought a fairy looked like.

Remember Young Love?

Write about your first crush

Think back to your school days. At what age did you first notice the opposite sex? Was there someone who pestered you or had a crush on you? Who was your favorite and did you try to win his/her affection. Tell about your fledgling romance and what happened to it.

Me and My Little Red Wagon

Many hours of fun with the wagon in the 1950s.

Many hours of fun with the wagon in the 1950s.

Write about Playing with a Wagon

Save your childhood memories

A wagon to pull or ride in is a popular toy for children. Think back to childhood days. Did you have a wagon and what color was it? Describe the wagon and tell how you used it. Write about other children playing with you and the wagon. Were there any accidents with the wagon or arguments? Did you give your toys a ride in the wagon? Try to remember who gave you the wagon.

If you didn't have a wagon, was there another pull-toy that you enjoyed? Did you want a wagon and were disappointed? You can also write about your own children and their wagon.

Write about Snow Activities - that you remember from childhood

Did you enjoy snow when you were a kid? Write about going sledding or skating or skiing. Describe what you wore for playing in the snow and who played with you. Did you hope that school would be closed by a snow storm? If you lived in an area that didn't get snow, write about your feelings over not having snow.

Mom's Rules - Write about limits set by your mother

As children we sometimes tested our parents guidelines and rules, so write about the behavior rules set by your mother. How did she enforce them. Write about memories of time-out, spankings, grounding or other ways your parents tried to get you to follow their rules. Did your friends have more freedom or more restrictions than you did? How about older and younger siblings; did they get more privileges?

Did You Write as a Child? - Triggers for memories of writing stories and poems as a child


Graphic provided by Zazzle
Writing a Story by evelynsaenz

Think back and try to remember when you first learned to write. Did you have good handwriting or was penmanship a struggle for you? Tell about your writing efforts from thank you letters to grandparents or a letter to Santa. Were you encouraged to write poems or stories? Do you still have any of these early writing efforts? Tell about what topics you liked to write about and if you illustrated your work.

Check out This Great Site I Found

  • Memoir Writing Blog - Women's Memoirs
    This website has a monthly contest, so enter your memory essay in it. A blog about writing memoir, journaling, autobiography, family or personal history, life story, Women's Memoirs provides writing tips, author interviews, writing prompts, memoir w

Write about Your Sports Experiences from Childhood

Think back to any organized sports that you played like Pop Warner baseball or team sports in school. Did you play sandlot baseball in the summer or were you not athletic? Were you the first one chosen or the last one when sides were picked for a game? Tell about a sport that you excelled at or one that you were hopeless with. Think about what your dreams were for sports achievement. Tell about some memorable games or awards you or your team won or almost won. Did your parents attend your games or coach your team?

Memories of Carnivals

Your childhood experieces deserve to be recorded

Think back to your childhood for an outing to a theme park or a carnival. Remember the rides, the lights, the special foods...

Now focus in on how it felt and write about the sounds, smells, colors and the feel of that experience. Did you get sick on the roller coaster? Beg for cotton candy to eat? As you write down the details, the memories should come back.

Remembering Mom's Housekeeping

Think back about your mom and write down the memories

Was Mom a spotless housekeeper or was it hit-or-miss? Do you take after her or are just the opposite? Write about how you felt about your mother's housekeeping style. Did it inconvenience you, did you have to help with the house cleaning or did you just take it for granted? Compare the conveniences you have today to what tools she had.

1920s Baby Photo

Treasured memories of babies.

Treasured memories of babies.

Writing about Yourself as a Baby - A writing trigger for family memory essays, blogs or your memoir

Most families tell cute stories or sometimes humiliating stories about funny things you said as a baby or toddler or something you did. Try to remember these stories and write them down. Maybe it was your first word or first step or the time you fell down the stairs and scared your mother to death. Find your baby book if there is one and photos of you as a baby. Look at the details and try to work those into your memory piece. Since your children and grandchildren will read this later on, try to include the things that were different then from the way babies are raised today. Cloth diapers and bottles of milk heated in a pot of water on the stove; it wasn't easy taking care of a baby in the good old days.

Another way to apply this writing prompts is to write about your child's time as an infant.

Write about Your Early Memories of the Family Cars

Writing Trigger - Autos

Think back to your earliest memories of riding in the car. Try to think about where you sat, what you could see and other details of the experience. Describe the car's color and upholstery. Tell about the toy cars you had or wanted to have.

Were you ever carsick? Did you squabble with your siblings about who sat by the driver or by the window? Think about other cars from those early days, like what cars a friend's family had or your grandparents. Think of cars the family had over the years you were growing up. Write about learning to drive.

The photo below shows my mother and her friends.

Remember the Family Auto

Photo was used in my mother's memoir, My Flint Hills Childhood.

Photo was used in my mother's memoir, My Flint Hills Childhood.

Writing about Your Childhood Religious Experiences

Think back to religious activities you participated in as a child. Was the family church oriented? How did you feel about your family's beliefs or lack of religious beliefs? Did you join in attending Sunday School, vacation Bible school, or the church choir? Write about your childhood memories of being baptised or First Communion or going to confession. Can you remember reciting a bedtime prayer? Do you have a favorite hymn? Tell about the family Bible or receiving your first Bible. Did you go to church camp or to church picnics or a revival?

If your family wasn't particularly religious, then write about that and how you felt about it.

Did You Experience Loss of a Loved One as a Child?

Loss of a pet, a grandparent, a friend

Write about your first experience with death. If it was a pet, did you have a funeral for it and bury it in the backyard? Write about that or about the loss of a person. Did a grandparent or uncle die? Were you old enough to understand what was going on? Write about going to the funeral or not being allowed to go. Try to remember little details about the experience to make your memory piece more vivid.

Memories of Moving to a New Home - Write about It

Did your family move when you were a child or did you always live in the same place? Write about your feelings when the family moved. Did you like the new place better or the old one? How did it affect your friendships, school, and activities? Describe the two places.

If you didn't move during your childhood, write about moving out when you reached adulthood. What was that experience like?

Write about Changes That Have Happened in Your Lifetime

What has changed since you were a child? Write about what is different, what has been invented, and how lifestyles have changed since you were a child. Think about the daily activities of today's child and how they live. What is better and what is worse about the changes over the years? Were those the Good Old Days or not?

Remember Something Precious to You

Memory Prompt for Writing Childhood Memories

Think back to some object that was important or precious to you as a child. Describe it. Do you still have it or was it lost or broken or given away? Tell why you considered it special. Who gave it to you or how did you get it? Where did you keep it?

This could be something simple like a feather you found or something valuable like a ring given to you by your grandmother. Think back to something you treasured.

Write about Going to the Movies as a Child and Young Adult

Think back to your early years and what the movie-going experience was like. Did you go often? With friends or with family? Describe the theater and how you felt about going to the movies. Tell about movies that you loved, hated, or found scary. Did you go to a drive-in movie theater? You could write about going to the movies with a date.

Tell about the foods that you remember from going to the movies. Did you have ice cream after the movie? Did you have a crush on a particular movie star?

My Mother's Memories of the Princess Theater in the 1930s - An example of what you can write with this memory prompt

Her description of the Princess Theater in Eureka, Kansas, takes you back to the 1930s. This is a great example of what you can write from your memories of childhood. Note how she uses all the senses (sight, hearing, smelling, etc. ) to bring the memory alive. Just click on the link below to read the piece.

Saturday at the Movies by Gail Lee Martin. Location: Eureka, Kansas. Year: 1930.

Write about Names in Your Family

How did your parents chose your first name and middle name? Were you named after someone in the family or after a famous person? Tell what you know about other names in the family like your siblings names and your parents' names. Expand it further if you can to write about grandparents and their names. Now think about the family names on both your mother and your father's sides. Do you know what nationality the names come from or if the surname was changed at any time? Add in some details about nicknames that you and others in the family had. What was the source of those nicknames?

Early Reading Memories

Do you remember learning to read? Was it a struggle or were you a bookworm? Write about reading role models that you had (parents, older sibling, teacher) or what motivated you to read. Think of the books you had. What were your favorites? Were they gifts? Did you go to the library, to storytime or get read to at bedtime by mom or dad? Where was your favorite reading spot? What kinds of books did you like best? Did you win any reading awards?

Family Roles or Labels

Think of the ways your family described others in the extended family. Who was considered the most successful? Who was the black sheep of the family? Who was smartest, the best storyteller, the best dressed, the most eccentric, the best cook? Who was considered the most talented or gifted and in what way? Who was most likely-to-goof-up?

List 10 descriptive words your family applied to you.

Complete this sentence for your mom: "Don't be so ___________."

Tips for Writing Memoirs

Women Working

Memories of your mother, grandmother and yourself

Did your mother have a job outside the home? How did you feel about it as a child? Did her role (homemaker/bread earner) affect your own choice to be a stay-at-home-mom or career girl? Write about what you wanted to be when you grew up. How did that turn out? What messages and values did your family promote that affected your choice. Make a list of jobs you've had over the years. Describe those and tell what you liked best and least.

Write an Unsent Letter

I read about writing a letter to someone who had died. This was a suggestion in the book, Families Writing by Peter Stillman. He presents quite a variety of ideas to get the whole family turned on to writing. The idea of the letter, in particular, caught my attention.

The letter can be to someone living, like to a friend about something you wish to tell them but for some reason can't. It could be to a grandchild that you don't yet have and express your hopes for their life or explain about your life in the letter. It could be to your great-great grandparent telling them how different your life is from their time and asking questions that you wish they were around to answer. It could be to an ex-spouse telling of your anger with the divorce and the circumstances around it. There are myriad possibilities with this concept.

Often when someone dies, part of the grief we feel centers on things we wish we'd expressed to that person. Writing a letter sounds like such a great way to release some of that pent-up feeling of regret. This is the writing prompt for the week.. It can be a private letter, not to be shared with a writing group if you aren't comfortable with that. That way you will feel free to really open up and commit feelings to ink on paper.

Give it a try.

Remembering Childhood Chores

Did you have regular chores as a child? Wash dishes, feed the dog, make your bed? How old were you when you learned to iron clothes or assume responsibility for a chore? Did the family work on some chores together like gardening or cleaning the house? What was the incentive or threat that motivated you to get your chores done? Did you get stars or an allowance? Write about your attitude towards doing the chores. Did you drag your feet or feud with your sibling about whose turn it was to do it? Did you vie to be the one to help mom or dad with some activity?

Start by making a list of chores you did, then expand on those while answering some of the questions above.

Remembering Childhood Illness

Write Your Memories of These

Think back to your childhood. Do you remember being sick? What remedies did your parents turn to? Was it a serious illness or the routine scrapes and tummy aches?

Write about your experience as the patient and also as the caregiver for someone who was ill. Was it your child, a parent, a spouse?

Do you remember the polio epidemics and getting the vaccine for it? Include descriptions of childhood friends being ill or family pets. Tell how the family coped with the disruption.

Did you ever pretend to be sick? Tell why you did that.

Childhood Memories - What Would You Wish to Change about Your Childhood?

Write about what you would change

Were you desperate for a pet or a baby brother that never materialized? Did you suffer a loss or setback that you would wish hadn't happened? Did you want to be Shirley Temple or an only child? Think about three things that you would change if you could. Write about what your life would have been like if your wish came true.

People from All over the World Have Visited This Page


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2010 Virginia Allain

Are You Writing Your Childhood Memories?

Jody Graham on August 17, 2016:

So many suggestions --most of them bring wonderful moments to mind, and I am anxious to put some special memories to paper. I definitely want to save all of these for the right time to do it. I have been blessed with wonderful , caring parents and three of the sweetest sisters ever who always tried to show their love to me ( the baby of the family) in many

different ways. Many thanks!

Wednesday-Elf from Savannah, Georgia on August 20, 2015:

This is a wonderful prompt for me to begin recording those family memories I've been considering writing down for my children and grandchildren. They may never read them, but I truly wish I had some (written down memories) from my own grandparents, so perhaps they will. Enjoyed your article very much.-

Margaret Schindel from Massachusetts on May 18, 2015:

Virginia, even though I don't remember much of my younger childhood I still found many wonderful writing triggers in this excellent article. And you're absolutely right that episodes from our personal lives that might seem insignificant to us can provide insights into the time in which we lived to future generations.

Sherry Venegas from La Verne, CA on May 18, 2015:

Very good outline for anyone starting their writing of family history for new members and generations to come.

Paul from Liverpool, England on December 28, 2014:

Definitely an eBook to be made out of this.

burntchestnut on July 15, 2014:

Actually, I have 9 childhood memory lenses on Squidoo, but you have writing prompts I never even thought of. Of course,. some of the things never happened to me, but I'll have to go through my lenses again and see about adding to them. Thanks!

Ibidii on June 02, 2014:

Totally awesome lens Virginia! That's me on the swing! I have many lenses in the queue about some of my experiences and my other families experience that I am working on. You just gave me a dozen more ideas!

tonyleather on February 09, 2014:

What an incredibly comprehensive and fascinating lens! Childhood does indeed provide a treasure trove of memories and great stories, which the triggers mentioned can evoke. Very useful and interesting! Thanks!

Joan4 on February 07, 2014:

My husband and I are both writing our childhood memories at this point. It's so very important that we tell our stories so that the children and grandchildren will not only share our memories but understand how our family fits into the history of our country and the world. Our granddaughter is fascinated with timelines -- understanding where we, her grandparents, fit in her history lessons. And of course, I treasure her questions and her interest! Your writing triggers are so varied! Love the ideas and thank you!

LouisaDembul on January 03, 2014:

What a fantastic idea! This would be nice for the children to read when they are a bit older. I know I always loved hearing about my mum's childhood.

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on December 31, 2013:

@Lynn Klobuchar: These sound like good plans for saving family memories.

Yes, feel free to put my link in your lens. Thanks.

Lynn Klobuchar on December 31, 2013:

What a wealth of ideas! As my sons move out of the house and into their own lives I realize the value of memorializing what has gone before. My own parents died rather unexpectedly and at relatively early ages. As I grow closer to the age my mother was when she died I realize how much I missed not being able to talk with them over the past 25 years. I am beginning a family cookbook that I plan to fill with other information about our family history. I have done a lens (my first) on the beginnings of it. Could I link that lens to this one if some readers are inspired?

Thank you!

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on December 24, 2013:

@TanjaCrouch: Thank you for pinning it and I hope to read some lenses of yours inspired by it.

TanjaCrouch on December 24, 2013:

This is a seriously fantastic lens. You have shared a wealth of information. I'm pinning this to Pinterest so I find my way back easily for reference. Thank you.

CampingmanNW on October 27, 2013:

An excellent lens, thank you. I have written a couple of squids about my own personal childhood adventures and they triggered another writing bonanza for my oldest daughter about her Mother (now passed away) and things she did not know about those early days. It seems one triggered memory leads to others, as you have written here. Thanks again

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on October 23, 2013:

@John Dyhouse: I have several lenses about self-publishing (based on my experience with my mother's memoir and my dad's). Just search "publishing" and "writing" on my profile to turn those up.

John Dyhouse from UK on October 23, 2013:

A great resource for ideas. I would love to belong to your writing group but this lens may well be just the thing. I have recently discovered my Mother's cache of photos which she surprisingly kept hidden away. With this and those photos I will be preparing our family history. THanks for the push.

AlleyCatLane on October 23, 2013:

Holy cow! I can't believe all the ideas you have come up with. i will definitely bookmark this so I can come back to get ideas when needed to overcome my writer's block.

Timsmansmall on August 21, 2013:

You have given me some ideas for writing here. Enjoyed your family memory triggers.

mel-kav on August 16, 2013:

Oh my gosh! This is such an awesome lens!!! I love it - just bookmarked it! Thanks for such wonderful writing ideas!

Anja Toetenel from The Hague, the Netherlands on August 14, 2013:

This is a GREAT resource, I love the triggers you suggest, they trigger my creative brain, wow! I have a special 'squidoo favorites' map in my bookmark menu and this Lens is part of my collection now, thank you so much for this brilliant Lens!

Colin323 on August 05, 2013:

Excellent lens; very useful as a prompt for short story writing and/or interviewing an older member of the family, e.g. grandparents, as these questions are equally, if not more important, for capturing their memories before they die.

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on July 20, 2013:

@verymary: It really is important to save these memories for future generations. You may think your life was ordinary, but 100 years from now it provides a window into who you were. I so wish I had some written memories passed down from ancestors from the 1800s.

Mary from Chicago area on July 20, 2013:

Very cool bloglike page here and wonderful concept! The blank page can be intimidating, and sometimes all we need is a good prompt to get us rolling. Answer many of these prompts & you have a really interesting "highlights" autobiography to pass down to future generations. Some of your prompts are questions my own kids have asked me; I've answered verbally but haven't written down. Need to commit to paper!

Sharon Bellissimo from Toronto, Canada on July 01, 2013:

What an awesome idea! I can tell you how pretty much every category triggered a memory for me. Thanks for this!

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on May 05, 2013:

@anonymous: Thanks for telling me how you plan to use these. That inspires me to keep adding more memory prompts.

anonymous on May 05, 2013:

Can't thank you enough for this fantastic resource! Couldn't stop scrolling! Memories tumbled out as I kept reading...Will certainly use the ideas you have magnanimously provided me, to get my 7th graders to create their memoirs. Gratefully,

PinkstonePictures from Miami Beach, FL on April 07, 2013:

Wow, this lens needs a revisit in itself. I have so many ideas popping away in my head and your prompts really had my head buzzing :-) Fabulous

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on March 08, 2013:

@cdcraftee: Keep on writing those great memory pieces that you do. You family will thank you for preserving those.

Christine Larsen from South Australia on March 08, 2013:

Oh no! Chuckling and chortling so much, I forgot to say thank you most sincerely for a wonderful lens. SO many useful prompts, on SO many subjects. Fantastic, as always Virginia.


Christine Larsen from South Australia on March 08, 2013:

Not yet Virginia. I have my fingers full just now writing 40+ years of farm memoirs... and having the time of my life. Now you tell me about writers in their 70's and 80's, and our local paper just featured a photo of a lady with her foot on a shovel to plant a tree... aged 104! - and I think to myself, I am but a kid in their eyes! Hallelujah!

Christine (chuckling at the 'kid' bit!)

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on March 07, 2013:

@GypsyOwl: I'm thrilled that you want to make a memory book for your granddaughters. It is so important to pass along the family history and traditions.

Deb Bryan from Chico California on March 07, 2013:

Your collection of memory prompts for writing about family memories is remarkable! I enjoyed scrolling through them and I want to use them to help me to start a memory book to give to my granddaughters. Your weekly group sounds like a fabulous way to be inspired. Thank you for all your work in collecting and sharing this great guide to writing down our memories.

Carpenter76 on March 01, 2013:

This is such a great idea! Have to do this soon :)

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on February 27, 2013:

@pauly99 lm: I'm glad some of the memory triggers hit the spot for you. Hope you write about some of them.

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on February 07, 2013:

@rattie lm: Actually it is pretty amazing how differently we remember an incident.

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on February 07, 2013:

@rattie lm: Please do write some of your memories. If you post them on a blog or on Squidoo, let me know so I can visit.

rattie lm on February 07, 2013:

@John Dyhouse: G'on! make it up! Somebody in the family will correct you.

rattie lm on February 07, 2013:

Absolutely delightful lens.I have bookmarked this becaue I keep saying that I need to write my memories down. My parents have passed on and there's so much that I don't know about them.

ChroniclesofaWa on January 20, 2013:

What better inspiration than writing your childhood memories! Thank you for this tip. I was feeling a bit dried up with ideas lately. I''m so glad I came by your lens. :)

Ann Hinds from So Cal on January 16, 2013:

Coming back to bless this lens and leave a comment so I can use it as one of the lenses that inspired me to do something with all the family history I have gathered. This lens is truly a work-of-art when it comes to getting people motivated to learn what they need to know before it's too late to ask the questions. Thanks!

Titia Geertman from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands on January 10, 2013:

Thank you for stirring up my childhood memories. It really is a nice thought to write them down, because soon enough one won't be able to anymore. Things get forgotten, things get thrown away, things don't get told. Really a great idea. Blessed by this angel.

CristianStan on January 07, 2013:

Very informational, memories are the only thing we can keep after time moves on, and writing them down is the safest way

Digory LM on January 04, 2013:

Wow, I love this lens. I had so many ideas evolving in my head as I scrolled through. Thanks you very much.

Paul from Montreal on December 29, 2012:

Great lens ideas, your topics definitely triggered some memories!

LifesaJourney on December 29, 2012:

Beautiful! A great reminder that we need to capture the memories and stories of the people we love. Thank you for sharing.

Stephanie Tietjen from Albuquerque, New Mexico on December 24, 2012:

I think you are an expert on this subject. This is a wealth of information for writing. I'm working on a lens about my brother whom I lost 16 yrs. ago (still in draft form), but I may write more after reading this page.

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on December 18, 2012:

@John Dyhouse: Talk about your bits of memory to someone. Get out old photos and see if that triggers more memories. Draw out the floor plan of the house you lived in or the school you attended or map the neighborhood. The more you think about it, the more memories will come back.

John Dyhouse from UK on December 18, 2012:

There are so many prompts here, what a wonderful read. My problem is that many of my memories are very bitty, only partial and not sufficient for a whole story / lens / blog / etc.

gottaloveit2 on December 17, 2012:

Back to visit this beautiful article. So important for so many reasons.

nifwlseirff on November 26, 2012:

Great writing prompts, both for personal writing and for use in class! Thank you!

shewins on November 20, 2012:

These are great writing prompts. I think it's funny how many people answered the poll saying that they are going to write using these prompts. I wonder how many actually will. I think I will suggest some of these to my mom. She dwells on the past sometimes, maybe if she writes some of her memories down, it will help her feel that her past won't be forgotten.

Lorelei Cohen from Canada on November 20, 2012:

Fantastic way to look at writing prompts. We often forgot the vast store of knowledge that we carry within us.

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on November 02, 2012:

@Gayle Dowell: Family memories are treasures to be saved and passed down. I hope you do that.

Gayle Dowell from Kansas on November 02, 2012:

I really love your writing prompts. What I cherish most from my grandparents are life books that I bought for them to fill out. They wrote about some of these topics and it is something I've really enjoyed reading. Hope to do this for my children and theirs.

anonymous on October 16, 2012:

What a wonderful lens. I'm working on a heritage project at the moment, and these prompts have given me lots of ideas to use when collecting material.

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on October 14, 2012:

@efriedman: That is worrying that we won't have letters to save and become part of our family lore.

efriedman on September 26, 2012:

Thanks for encouraging people to save and share memories, even more important in a digital age where much communication is temporary

EbooksFreeWeekl1 on September 22, 2012:

Very nice lens. It is good to be able to rehash hopefully pleasant but many memories and chronicle them. Thanks for the inspiration.

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on September 19, 2012:

@willie50: I'm so glad you are ready to start saving your memories. It is so important for your family.

willie50 on September 19, 2012:

thank you so much for the ideas, one of my sons keep asking me to write about the family and about my own story, with your tips in here, it will be much easier, as I didn't had a clue of where to start. Thank you Great lense

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on August 26, 2012:

@Zienna1: I'd say, just choose one prompt and write about it. Then another and another. Don't worry at first about sequence. Later you can re-order them and make it flow. Just get those memories on paper.

Zienna1 on August 25, 2012:

No, not yet. But I'm really planning to do it one of this days..Where to start is the hardest part.

Annbulance2000 on August 18, 2012:

Wonderful ideas. I have written my first lense on childhood memories of learning about nature in the garden with my Mum. I love the 1950's, there are some lovely images from that era on your pages. Thank you for a great read and ideas.

selah74 on August 17, 2012:

I'm trying to get my parents to write memories and stories from their lives. I'll have to suggest some of these. thanks

violann lm on August 15, 2012:

WOW!! what a great lens!! So many great ideals to get rid of writers block. I will be using some of these, probably most of them. Thanks for writing this a lot of great info.

jejoju on August 05, 2012:

This is a great lens trip down memory lane but it is too big. (My memories.)

It didn't take me long after reading a few words to remind me. Had to add this to my favorites. Absolutely the best lens to find topics to write about.

Spiderlily321 on August 02, 2012:

You have some excellent ideas on things to write about. Perhaps I will use some of these as well. Thank you so much for the ideas. This is a great lens!

MarcStorm LM on July 30, 2012:

Someday I still have to get around to writing my memoirs before my memories get completely faded and then I double think what the specifics were. What a great article and a constantly updated set of ideas to write about. Top Notch!

Angela F from Seattle, WA on July 29, 2012:

This is such an awesome lens for writers. I'll be back when I'm feeling the itch to write more about the yesterdays. *blessed

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on July 29, 2012:

@anonymous: I hope you found some topics to write about. Your family will appreciate your recorded memories.

anonymous on July 29, 2012:

I don't know how I have missed this one before! I love it. thanks for sharing it Virginia

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on July 21, 2012:

@Melissa Miotke: I'm really glad that the memory triggers worked for you. I hope you'll write about those memories.

LadyKeesh on July 21, 2012:

This lens is so helpful to learn myself even more. The memories of my past help shape my present and my future.

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on July 19, 2012:

@chft55 lm: It's good to start early. Ask your parents and grandparents about their early life and write it down.

chft55 lm on July 19, 2012:

Great ideas! I'm still a child (sort of), but I'm pretty sure I can use some of these anyways!

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on July 16, 2012:

@favored: I hope to see some family memory lenses from you soon!

Fay Favored from USA on July 16, 2012:

I love this page - you're right, writing brings back memories. Seeing photos also stirs the mind. You did a wonderful job pulling things out of our memory banks.

Onemargaret LM on July 15, 2012:

Makes sense to me. I have a lot of family memories to write about. Some good; some bad.

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on July 10, 2012:

@Frischy: It's my favorite of all my 500 lenses. I hope you'll write some childhood memories to share.

Frischy from Kentucky, USA on July 10, 2012:

This lens is a masterpiece! Any writer can benefit from the prompts you suggest. I am in love with your illustrations. This may be my favorite lens of all time!

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on July 08, 2012:

@StewartClan: I'll check back to see what you write about family memories. They fascinate me.

StewartClan on July 08, 2012:

I love this lens. I was interested in it because I have written a lens called My Childhood Memories of Camping which has one or two tales within it. I plan to do more of those sort. I think they are more interesting to read for people. Feel free to have a look if you like.

I am definitely going to use some of these tips to start to write. I want to do it for my sons so they can remember the things I tell them. Thanks for building this lens.

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on July 04, 2012:

@Blonde Blythe: I hope it inspires you to write about your childhood memories either for Squidoo, a blog or just for your family.

Blonde Blythe from U.S.A. on July 04, 2012:

Wow! This is an awesome lens! Very unique, interesting, and thought-provoking! :)

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on June 20, 2012:

@anonymous: Great thinking. I hope you will write those memories down to preserve them.

anonymous on June 20, 2012:

Under "Make a Map of the Neighborhood Where You Grew Up " I found it interesting to go to the 1940 Census record and look at my neighborhood and who was living there then...it brought back lots of memories.

anaisfraiche on June 20, 2012:

I tried to do it once but stopped halfway but this lens is a great inspiration to begin again. Thanks.

IncredibleArtWorld on June 01, 2012:

It's definitely something I'd like to do one day. Great lens! Thanks for the time you put into it.

Celticep from North Wales, UK on May 30, 2012:

so many ideas for things to write about! will certainly bookmark this lens and pop back for more memories again soon :)

Millionairemomma on May 26, 2012:

I loved the tips for triggering memories. I didn't consider buying memorabilia to be one until now. Excellent suggestion.

MariaMontgomery from Coastal Alabama, USA on May 19, 2012:

What a lovely lens. Well done. Wow! You brought back so many memories for me. I need to think about this.

DebMartin on May 12, 2012:

Thank you for this. Recently I found all my childhood books and I have been enjoying them again at the age of 59. Fun.

Winter52 LM on May 10, 2012:

What a great bunch of prompts. They did exactly what they promised to do. So many memories are bubbling to the surface lol.

anonymous on May 09, 2012:

Your lens are so encouraging and inspirational. Thanks, I have really enjoyed.

tnabooks on May 07, 2012:

Great suggestions for capturing our memories! Thank you for this lens. :)

peggygallyot on May 06, 2012:

This inspired me to start my memories lens. Thank you.

brendajoy on May 04, 2012:

What a wonderful lens. You have so inspired me. Now that I am a great-grandmother, writing my childhood memories seems all the more important to family continuity. Thank you for this lens.

Pam Irie from Land of Aloha on May 02, 2012:

This continues to be one of the lenses I find most inspiring. Coming back to see what's new and glad I did. :)

FashionMommy on May 01, 2012:

Great lens. Writing can bring back so many good memories and it exercises the brains too.

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