Jan. 1, 2000, has come and gone. The parties are over (or in the distant future for those ushering in the "real" millennium next year). It's time to toss out the confetti and tweeters and move on -- or is it? The millennial hoopla could be sparking all sorts of questions and ideas in your children.
"I remember thinking a lot about transition years as a kid," says Kathy Erskine, a writer and mother in McLean. "I remember thinking about the significance of leaving the `olden days' behind as we moved from one decade to the next." This being a big transition year -- changing not just decade but century and millennia -- Erskine and her family hope to mark the whole year in some memorable ways. Families wishing to do the same might try some of the following projects, which help kids commemorate the present and preserve memories.
When planning activities, Erskine, like most parents, tries to keep her children's ages and interests in mind. Six-year-old Gavin enjoys keeping a journal and so each week he will sit down with his mom or dad and talk about some recent happenings or thoughts before he writes. Fiona, 2, who wants to be included with big brother, can participate by drawing and cutting pictures out of magazines to make her own visual journal.
Erskine also wants to create audiotapes of the kids talking at various times of the year and to help them put together "time capsules" or decorated boxes containing hand prints, artwork, photos of favorite toys and lists of favorite books and activities. "This way there's a record not just of what the kids have done but of how they've developed," she says.
She hopes to continue a family tradition from her own childhood: planting a tree. "My mother would take pictures of me each year beside the pine we planted in the yard," Erskine says. "It was fun to see how we both grew and changed over time."
Families looking for projects to preserve their memories will find great ideas in "The Kids Guide to the Millennium" by Ann Love and Jane Drake (all ages, Kids Can, 1999, $7.95), which is chock full of creative ways to interweave past, present and future.
For example, you and your kids may wish to design a millennium T-shirt or family quilt. Or try writing down predictions of life in 2050 and sealing them in an envelope to be opened that year. "The Kids Guide" includes a timeline from 1 A.D. to 2000 in the right margin of each page, offering intriguing glimpses into the world at particular times.
This year can give kids a chance to reflect on personal, family and even world history and see their times in a larger context. Through Ellen Jackson's "Turn of the Century" (age 6 to 11, Charlesbridge, 1998, $17.95) kids can travel back in time and meet 11 children, each celebrating the new year at the turn of a different century. The lively stories are fun to read aloud, and the detailed illustrations may inspire a family chat about changes in houses, clothes and manners since the year 1000.
If the idea of a millennial family project sounds complicated and time-consuming, the reality can be wonderfully simple. Erskine laughs when asked where she finds a spare moment for new projects. "It doesn't really take much," she says. "The important thing is [for your family] to just do something -- anything! You don't need a special box or album. [The project] doesn't have to be beautifully put together. Your kids will treasure it anyway -- and so will their kids."
The following books provide a peek at the past or suggest activities for capturing the present and pondering the future.
"THE CENTURY FOR YOUNG
PEOPLE," by Peter Jennings and Todd Brewster (ages 9 and up, Doubleday, 1999, $29.95). Momentous events of the 20th century are explored in word and photo. Especially powerful are sidebar reminiscences of participants in those events, including Lucy Haessler, who marched for women's suffrage at the age of 10; and Sharpe James, who credits Jackie Robinson's breaking of baseball's color barrier with broadening his sense of what he, as a black child, could achieve in America.
"MAKING MEMORY BOOKS," by Amanda Lewis, illustrated by Esperanca Melo (ages 7 and up, Kids Can, 1999, $5.95). Step-by-step instructions on designing pages, creating collages, attaching photos, decorating borders and collecting memorabilia can help kids fashion a unique album commemorating this millennial year or other occasions.
"MY LIFE ACCORDING TO ME" (ages 7 to 11, Klutz, 1999, $14.95). Writing with the attached silver pen on black pages is only part of the fun with this journal. Suggestions such as recording dreams, listing favorite things and exploring funny memories further enliven the process.
"THE OFFICIAL M&M'S BOOK OF THE MILLENNIUM," by Larry Dane Brimner, illustrated by Karen Pellaton (ages 7 to 12, Charlesbridge, 1999, $6.95). Talking candies explore the meaning of the millennium and development of the calendar. Full-color illustrations, fascinating trivia and humorous asides help bring the subject alive.
"1,000 YEARS AGO ON PLANET EARTH," by Sneed Collard, illustrated by Jonathan Hunt (ages 8 to 12, Houghton Mifflin, 1999, $15). An intriguing look at 12 civilizations at the turn of the last millennium. Vikings were attacking Northern Europe, the Chinese were printing large numbers of books and Native Americans were constructing elaborate mounds around Cahokia, their thriving city in Eastern North America.