“Time in a Bottle” Memory Time Capsule

by Jaki Ryan

As the new year approaches, the opportunity to reflect and preserve our family’s memories and traditions, and what best represents our world today, can be
recorded in a time capsule.

If you could capture the essence of your lifetime or generation with one item what would it be?

Some people believe that it should include electronic devices that reflect our ever changing technology. Others believe it should preserve meaningful personal items, such as a poem or a treasured message from a loved one. Regardless of what you decide to place inside, creating a time capsule can be a fun experience for your entire family–away to bring your family together to share precious memories.

Whether you create a time capsule as an annual tradition or to mark an important event in
your life, a classroom project, or a community project, the method in which you employ is a matter of personal preference. Time capsules can range from decorated paper towel tubes or oatmeal containers to commercially made airtight containers. The mailer tube pictured below was purchased for $1.80 from the U.S. Postal Service. Extra care must be taken, however, if your time capsule is to be buried in the ground.

Important Events

This process is an opportunity to discuss important world events that have happened in your child’s
lifetime and previous generations. To introduce your child to your family’s history, start by looking at old pictures that depict his of her growth. Then move back further in time by sharing your own childhood and the photos of grandparents. When choosing items for your child’s time capsule, discuss the significance of each object and why your child feels it should be included.

You will need:

Choose One: Empty shoebox, mason jar, plastic milk carton, coffee can, oatmeal container, cookie or popcorn tin, or a commercial airtight container.

Markers, crayons, stickers, construction paper or decorative contact paper

Glue or heavy duct tape


time capsule gift

How to Create a Time Capsule

1. To begin, find a clean, sturdy container.

2. Decorate with contact or construction paper and stickers, if desired.

3. Gather personal items, such as photos of family members, friends and adored pets. The quality of some objects, such as photographs, or newspaper clippings,can deteriorate over time. Place all objects subject to wear and tear in a protective covering or copy important documents onto acid free paper.

4. Record the exact date on all artifacts, if possible.

5. Add a piece of your child’s artwork, perhaps a handwritten letter or story, a handprint and a current toy. In 25 years, what will the finders of your time capsule think of Woody from the movie, Toy Story, or
current history: fashion magazine (clothes, hairstyles), games, music, a newspaper headline, a new coin or postage stamp, movie listings,grocery receipt, a local map, etc.

Choose items from different time periods–childhood, teenage years, and early adulthood. Another fun idea is to record your child’s voice. The child could also write a letter to her future self.

6. It is not a good idea to store valuables, such as family heirlooms, money, orexpensive jewelry as these items may be damaged or lost over time.

7. Include an inventory of items and a note–the infamous message in a bottle.Some objects may have special meanings that may not be clear in the future.Include a short description of each item. Remember, most children today have never seen a 45 record or an eight-track cassette tape!

8. Place items inside the capsule. Each child could create his or her own
time capsule or create a family time capsule. Each family member could include 2-3items of significance.

9. For a longer-lasting capsule, choose a metal, glass or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid to keep the air out. For added protection, seal edges with duct tape. Seal the capsule with duct tape over the top of the lid and down the sides.Sign and date the seal.

10. After replacing the lid, explain that the capsule is to be hidden away until a certain date. Help your child decide when the capsule should be opened. For a child, five years is a good starting point.

11. Hide the capsule in a dry, dark place, such as a basement, bedroom closet, or attic. Time capsules don’t have to be hidden away. It is best not to bury the time capsule in the ground. This method is best reserved for profession historians. The earth speeds decay and is likely to be lost or destroyed.

12. Congratulations! You have preserved time in a bottle!


Mary Forman

Mary is an educator and a parent of three children. She is the author of 7 children's books, loves arts and crafts and teaches parenting classes at Washington Community College.

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