What is a Memory Box? How to make one

Make a memory box to help remember past events and great for saving memories for the future

Simple to make or buy memory box. Just buy or find a rigid cardboard box

A memory box is a time capsule that connects an individual or group of people with the past through the items that the box contains.

A memory box is different to a memory book.

There are many reasons why you may want to make up a memory box, maybe to help preserve your own families memories, to educate children or maybe, as we are going to do today, for somebody with dementia to help stimulate their memory.

Why Use a Memory Box?

Memory boxes can be used in a multitude of ways and you can make one using almost any sized box or container. You can use any objects that you can get your hands on that reminds you or connects you or somebody else with the past.

They are really simple to make and can be a great fun way for you or the individual or group to reminisce over a past event or a particular time in history.

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Making memory boxes for somebody with dementia

There are many benefits to creating a memory box for a person with dementia. They help with bringing back memories and are great for helping with communication.

Memory boxes can be used to help you encourage the person to talk about the objects in the box. What memories does the person have about the items. Use the items to ask questions about their connection with the item and allow them time to think and talk about what connects them to the time or event.

In most cases a person suffering from a memory loss disease will lose their short-term memory but retain their long-term memories. This is why using a  memory box can help bring back happy memories and events from their past.

This can help to stimulate their long-term memory and also help with communication between you and the person.

If you are making a memory box for a group of people, maybe for use in a daycare or help group, try to use general items that all the group can relate to rather than tailoring to an individual.

Watch a video on how to make a memory box

Below you can watch a video made by Hannah West on how to make a memory box. She talks about finding inspiration about what to put in the box and how to put one together in a simple and easy to understand way.

What goes in a memory box?

Anything can be used to put in a memory box but before you start to think of items you could use, it is well worth considering whether you are making it for a particular timeline in history (eg. 1940’s, 1960’s) or if you are making a general memory box of the individuals past.

You may want to tailor the items to a particular time in the person’s life, maybe the pets they had, the person’s childhood, their family, their work, their holidays or even their vehicles they used to drive.

If you are making a general collection of the persons past history then try to include many objects that you think they could relate to.

Making a group memory box

You can make memory boxes tailored towards individuals or a group of people. This could be in a day centres or care homes. If you make one for an individual they can be more personal items in the box. If you are making one for a group of people then use more general items from a particular era or event.

Make a memory box for a day centre or group of people

  • Think about the average age of the group before adding the items. Most people of a certain age will have a recollection of the items from a particular era or event.
  • Try not to tailor the items to any one individual.
  • Use photos showing the trends in clothing, old vehicles, sporting events, historical events such as royal weddings.
  • Sweet wrappers, old food tin labels and postcards are ideal.
  • Old money such as notes or coins.

A memory box tailored to an individual

  • Include photos of when they were younger, also photos of friends and other relatives. Try not to include any photo that could be upsetting especially if of a loved one that has passed away, ie. wife or husband.
  • Something that reminds them of the work they used to do, maybe a tape measure for a builder or joiner.
  • Old tickets from places they visited.
  • Small items the person may have collected from holidays or places they visited.
  • Books they like.
  • Sporting memorabilia.

If you are making a memory box for use in a day centre or care home you can pick up many cheap items to use from charity shops.

What you will need to make a memory box

It’s really simple to make. The first consideration is to think about how you are going to contain the items. In other words what kind of “box” are you going to store the items in.

You could use something as simple as an old shoe box, and old sewing box, a sturdy cardboard box or even an old suitcase. Some memory boxes can be bought. Or you could buy a ready-made memory box as a gift idea.

The box should be sturdy enough to contain the objects and remember if you are using a box made from card or paper then it should be stored away from somewhere that is damp.

You could put in any object that will fit comfortably in the box or container you are using to contain the items. Photos, letters, toys are all good examples of what you could use but try to avoid using precious items or heavy objects.

Use labels to help with identification

It can also be a good idea to label the items. Maybe a note accompanying each item or a sticky label giving times and dates the object was used, dates a photo was taken, people’s names in the photo. Signage is great for people with dementia to help them easily locate areas and items in the home.

Labeling items and objects can help greatly if a care worker or other family members such as grandchildren use the memory box with the person with dementia, as they may not be as familiar with the items as the person who made the box is, especially if it contains personal memories of the person. We have sticky and rigid signage for sale at our shop

How to use a memory box

Similar to a time capsule, a memory box is designed to be used to help people remember the past. It can be used at anytime and almost anywhere. It can be used when a person may feel agitated or restless to help distract them from other worries, or used to aid with communication. Talk about the items and what memories the objects have for them.

Try to keep a memory box close by, ideally situated in a place that is easily accessible to the individual or group.

If you are using the memory box in a group of people you could take out one item at a time and go around the group asking them individually of a memory they have with the item, how the item was used or if they owned one.

Let us know your thoughts below if you have any hints and tips on making a great memory box



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