How to Help Your Kids Document Their Best Moments of the New Year

Want to teach your children to appreciate life a little more?

Looking for a meaningful New Year’s project your family can do together?

Journalist Harlan Miller once said, “I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar of it every month.”

In this article, I’ll show you how to do just that.

Make a family jar of joy. It’s a simple way to see the good things in life; to prolong the feeling of celebration and festive holiday cheer throughout the year.

Make a family jar of joy, a simple way to see the good things in life; to prolong the feeling of celebration and festive holiday cheer throughout the year.

Why Make a Jar of Joy?

We’ve all heard the expressions and received the advice: “Count your blessings,” “Think positively,” “Find the good in every day”… But the busyness of family life can make this hard to remember or put into practice.

Make a jar of joy and fill it with mementos from happy events and notes about positive things that happen to your family throughout the year.

Your jar will provide a tangible reminder to look for the good in life and an instant mood boost anytime someone in your family feels blue. Just open it and read some positive thoughts.

At the end of the year review the contents and remember all the good times you’ve had. It’s a simple way to bring your family closer together.

The ability to remember the good times and see things positively is an essential skill for building resilient and emotionally secure children. A joy jar can help teach your children to be grateful for the life they have and to appreciate the small moments.

Using a jar as a way to keep mementos of the best parts of the year is an excellent way to help children focus on life’s excitements. It will help encourage their reflective skills and show them that there is more to life than work or school.

boys with big ball

A positive, grateful attitude is a priceless skill to teach your kids. Remember the fun times with a jar of joy.

Collecting souvenirs as the year goes by can be a fun experience in itself. When you open the trove again and sift through the memories your family has placed there, it will be an entirely joyful experience of its own.

Plus, it will give you an automatic source of inspiration next Thanksgiving!

Your joy jar may be the start of a new family tradition.

You Will Need

  • A jar
  • Card or paper
  • A pen


  • A label or other decorations for your jar
  • Christmas cards, birthday cards or postcards

Preparation Time

From a minute to a year

Activity Time

Five minutes over a year


Wherever is appropriate

#1: Preparation

First, tell your family what you’re going to do together: You’re going to write down joyful moments as they happen over the course of a year. It’s that simple!

Every time something nice happens, every time something lovely happens, make a little note and put it in the jar of joy!

note in jar

Make a habit of writing joyful moments each week and adding them to the jar.

Pick out a suitable jar. It can be a mason jar, a peanut butter jar, a cookie jar or something that isn’t really a jar at all, like a basket or a dish. Get creative with the vessel you use for your jar: it could be a box, a washing line, a notice board or even a treasure chest!

You can reuse a jar you’ve got around the house or buy something more elegant and tasteful. Just make sure it’s big enough to collect a year’s worth of notes. The bigger the jar, the more joy!

We used a recycled candy jar from an Olde English sweet shop that cost nothing at all. The jar will hold a prominent position in your life for a whole year, so make sure it’s something you like.


Select a jar big enough to contain a year’s worth of notes.

You can assign a jar to each member of the family or use a collective jar. A shared jar is a nice way to recall experiences you’ve done together and celebrate the joys of being a family.

Decorate your jar with your kids or print a label for it. You can make it fancy or keep it simple—your choice.

You’ll also need to make cards to record your moments on. You can use index cards or slips of paper.

note paper

Create notes to write memories on.

Better yet, reuse Christmas cards and birthday cards for your notes. Just cut them into smaller pieces that will fit into your jar. Write your happy thoughts directly onto the cards that brought you holiday wishes from relatives and friends. What a great way to keep the Christmas spirit alive!

cutting old cards

Keep some holiday spirit in your home all year long. Use old Christmas cards for your notes.

You can use souvenirs to record joyful events, too. For instance, make a note on the program from a play or recital, and include ticket stubs or invitations in your jar. Photos, too. Anything that will help your family recall positive, happy memories is fair game!

#2: Record Events All Year

Start right away! Write a few notes with your kids as soon as you’ve got your jar and cards ready. Talk about what you’re grateful for right now. Write down something that made you smile today.

note cards

Talk to your kids about what they’re grateful for. Write down what makes your family smile.

What should you include in the joy jar? Here are a few ideas:

  • Memories of special events and good times spent with others
  • Compliments, stories and kind things that people have said
  • Praise for your kids
  • Notes about things people have done that made you happy
  • Messages people have sent you
  • Cute things your kids said or did
  • Good grades and other goals you’ve achieved
  • Anything that makes you happy or glad

If your children are young, you can encourage them to add drawings or salvaged treasures, like shells from the beach.

You can even encourage guests who stay at your house to contribute to the jar. They’re a part of your family as long as they are with you, after all!

jar on display

Keep your jar in a prominent place so you’ll be reminded to fill it.

Continue to add to the jar through the year. Schedule it as part of your routine. Put it in a prominent place. Like many projects, it will only work if it becomes a habit.

#3: Look Back Over the Year

At the end of the year or whenever your jar becomes completely full, take some time to review the contents of the jar with your kids. Read the notes and talk about the events or memories that they recall.

written notes

At the end of the year read the notes and reflect on all the good times your family has had.

Take your jar to Thanksgiving dinner or other winter holiday gatherings. These are especially meaningful times to open the jar and count your blessings. Rather than put children on the spot by asking them to recall something they’re thankful for, ask your kids to read something they added to the jar this year.

read notes

Have your kids read about happy times when they’re feeling down.

You can also use your jar of joy as an antidote to sadness or stress. If your children are upset, encourage them to look in the jar to remember the good things that have happened.

joy jar highlights

Keep a jar every year for a fun way to reflect on past happy times. Screenshot from

Your jar of joy may soon become a meaningful family tradition. Start a new jar each year and create an archive. Looking back at jars of joy from years past will be a joy-making experience all in itself.

cutting paper

Start a new tradition. Create a new jar every year.

Some Final Thoughts

As writer Marianne Williamson said, “Joy is what happens when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.”

Give your family that permission! A jar of joy kept throughout the year will help your family recognize and remember those joyful good things and lead to a happier life.

What do you think? Have you got ways to record all of the good things that happen in your life? What ways have worked for you? Please tell us about it by leaving a comment or photo.

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About the Author, Emma-Jane Lee

Emma is a teacher, educational consultant and writer living in southwest France. She writes on a range of educational and lifestyle themes. Other posts by »


  1. Thanks, Emma-Jane! This is such a great idea. I’m constantly reminding my kids to think positively, look on the bright side, count your blessings… A Joy Jar will be a helpful reminder of that without my having to nag!

  2. KJ Ammerman says:

    Great idea, Emma-Jane! This is an easy 3-D scrap book for the year, only much easier! :) Thanks for sharing!

  3. emmalee72 says:

    Thanks KJ – I can’t tell you how nice it is to look through them the following year. The hard part is remembering to keep doing it!

  4. Crystal Foth says:

    This is such a cute idea. I love the idea of using recycled cards for the little notes – I’m cringing thinking of all the cards I tossed! I’ll start saving them now! I also like the idea of creating a collection of jars over the years. Really great idea for family bonding and appreciation! Great post!

  5. emmalee72 says:

    I do re-use some and recycle them, but I also keep the messages people write in them, from grandparents or cousins, because they always remind us how much we are loved. That’s something worth keeping, I think!

  6. […] I received an email last week linking to this post about a “Jar of Joy,”  I immediately knew it would be perfect for the final, 12th day […]

  7. Tim says:

    Great idea, I have just rescued the old Christmas cards from the recycling. Now to find a couple of jars and get the kids creating

  8. This is a great idea, because it fosters gratitude. So simple and at no cost!
    The other day, I was looking through last years highlights on Facebook, but looking through a family gratitude jar would be so much more valuable.

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