Lara Palamoudian
rEAD TIME: 7 Min
When you think back to your own childhood, what are your happiest memories? Playing hide and seek? Helping with the baking (and the spoon-licking) in the kitchen? Having a family can be expensive but creating happy memories really doesn’t have to be – our Vitality Childhood Memory survey showed that in many cases the best ones are free
any of today’s children are used to life’s little luxuries. They have access to phones and tablets, games consoles and foreign holidays and keeping them entertained can be a drain on parents’ wallets. But, often it’s not these things that they will remember and appreciate most as they grow up. In many cases, it’s simpler times spent with family, doing something sporty or creative, or playing back-to-basics board games that lead to long afternoons filled with laughter. These are the happy memories that will stick with them for life, and during lockdown they became even more important than ever. For many families confined at home, it’s been a chance to live life slightly differently, creating more opportunities to interact and spend quality time together. As well as home schooling, perhaps you’ve dusted off the cookbooks, maybe you’ve helped your children build a den in the spooky cupboard under the stairs, or joined them as goalie in the garden? The pay-off has been more meaningful connections, plenty of those “do you remember when?” moments and a helpful hand with budgeting. All habits we can use as we move into the future. So, what is it that makes these memories so special? “It’s things like a sense of being together and being included, a moment of connection and shared purpose,” says Chartered Psychologist Suzy Reading, author of
Stand Tall Like a Mountain (Aster)
estimated that their favourite childhood memory cost just
Interestingly, the value of our happiest childhood memory seems to significantly appreciate as we age, a whopping
of people aged
considered theirs to be priceless. “This could be because as we get older we learn more about the realities of life,” suggests Suzy. “Happy childhood memories can remind us of simpler times and the good in our lives. They can keep us connected with what’s important to us. And as we age, we can sometimes have a greater perspective about how challenging family life and parenting can be, so it’s possible we can see memories through the lens of this greater understanding.”
So, if we’ve learnt to appreciate the benefits of low-cost family fun going forward, do we really need to hand over large sums of cash to make sure our kids remember the good times? We asked more than
people for their thoughts in our Childhood Memory survey*. Almost half of those surveyed
estimated that their favourite childhood memory cost just
or less but when asked to put a value on the activity that provided their happiest memory, the average amount was
, while a third of our respondents said it was “priceless”.

*Data taken 17-20 July 2020 survey of 2036 UK adults, Censuswide for Vitality

“Activities and shared experiences such as spending the day together in nature for example, can contribute to a feeling of identity, cultivating the skills of gratitude, appreciation and compassion which serve us well our whole lives long.”
Sarah Romotsky,
Director of Healthcare at Headspace
of people aged
considered theirs to be priceless.
And it looks as if we’re becoming a nation of frugal families, as some of us go on to have our own children, because more than
of people agreed that the most valuable family memories are created during activities that are completely free. This isn’t always easy in a world that encourages a desire to own material things, says Suzy. “It can be hard work to show children that material possessions are not the route to happiness. But it’s good to have open and honest dialogue about appreciation, kindness, compassion, curiosity and gratitude,” she says. “This way, we can teach our kids that these are the true gifts in life.”
of people agreed that the most valuable family memories are created during activities that are completely free.
If you want to help keep family memories alive, one easy way is to keep pictures around your home to remind you of meaningful connections and fun times. “There’s great potency in creating a happy memory bank of photos,” says Suzy. “These tap into the skill of savouring, helping us relive precious moments with all our senses, and also provide talking points.”
Our Childhood Memory survey:
Top 5 ways to make family memories
A day trip to a theme park or the beach
Go out for meals
Mealtimes together at home / Playing board games or cards
Cooking or baking
Watching TV or a movie at home / Visiting family
and what’s more…
The amount normally spent on a
craft project
of people said
is a favourite free family pastime
Meet the Experts
Suzy Reading
Suzy Reading is a Chartered Psychologist, specialising in wellbeing and stress management. She is passionate about empowering others with the tools of self-care and helping people commit to sustainable, positive lifestyle choices.
Vitality Benefit
Help turn those childhood dreams into reality when you invest in your child’s future with a
Vitality Stocks and Shares Junior ISA
. Vitality members could pay no product charge when you stay active.

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“We’ve been getting our exercise going on lots of nature trails and woodland adventures; we have spent lots of time exploring with our mum this year. Ask your parent to help you make a booklet of common bird photos, and then tick off how many of them you see on your walk.”
“And don’t forget your camera!”
Go on a nature trail
“We learned about the importance of recycling and whenever we have an empty cardboard box or packaging, we keep it and turn it into something creative. The robot was a school project. We kept all leftover packaging for a few weeks and then built it.”
Recycle and create!
Yvadney Davis
, blogger on
, mum to Lolo, 5, and MG, 8:
“We live minutes away from a large nature reserve and it’s a great place to enjoy some freedom for the afternoon. “For city kids, it’s great to walk on tree-lined paths, build dens, pick berries, run in meadows and climb trees. Mother Nature certainly works her magic on us because our spirits are always lifted when we spend time here!”
Escape for an afternoon
Jamie and Tom
, parents to Lyall, 11, and Richard, 10:
“Our usual active ‘outdoorsy’ lifestyle was disrupted by the pandemic and as we live in Leicester we were home longer than we expected. So we had to make the most of the little things at home. But for us, there’s nothing better than simple fun in the garden. We’ve got out the paddling pool and some comfy deckchairs, and put a sprayer on the hosepipe for fun. We do a lot of gardening together too, and have a barbecue at least once or twice a week so we can eat outside whenever the sun comes out. So for us, 2020 will be remembered not for the lockdown, but for all the fun we've had.”
Take the fun outside
“We did a challenge set by a friend of our mum’s who works in the music industry. We researched the history of the pyramid stage at Glastonbury and watched some iconic performances on the stage. Then we had to make a pyramid and send photos. We loved watching the different singers and then it was up to us how we made the stage. We had an idea to use our big dolls to make a band called ‘The Dreams’ who were singing for our little dolls in the crowd.”
“We also decided to do some camping indoors. We made s’mores over the cooker and set up a mini tent in our bedroom. We had torches and lots of blankets and we talked before we fell asleep and ate marshmallows.”
Create a festival in your living room
“I come up with most of my ideas while walking the dog with my mum and dad. We talk about it, and when I get home I draw plans. I once made a tennis-playing robot, which lived in our living room and scared the dog.”
Invent something!
Tinuke Bernard
, blogger on
, mum to Princess, 12, and Rainbow, 3:
“My children have quite a large age gap between them so it can be challenging to find activities they can equally enjoy. But it’s far from impossible! We enjoy going to new places – towns, cities or coastal villages – and exploring them together. We spend the car ride singing along to the radio and talking about what we think we will see or do at the location we’re about to explore. Once we’re there, both girls will have a bucket list of things they would like to see or do there and we walk around, snapping photos to share with family once we’re back home. “It’s a brilliant way to get in loads of walking for our health as well as a way to create new memories, try new foods and have a great laugh.”
Become bucket-list explorers
“I like to bake with my mum as we dance around the kitchen to our favourite tunes (I’m in charge). It’s so much fun for us and something we’ll always do together. My favourite cakes are carrot cake or classic Victoria sponge – decorated with anything sparkly and bright!”
Bake yourself happy
“I love gymnastics and spend a lot of time … upside down, flipping and tumbling. I want to be a contortionist when I grow up.”
Love gymnastics, singing or dancing? Put on a show