I’m not shy about the fact I didn’t come from a family made of money. 

I’ve lived in trailers and felt the terrifying feeling you feel when a tornado is coming. I’ve laid my head on many a thrift-store couch and the majority of my clothes as a child were from a consignment store. Oh, who am I kidding, the majority of my wardrobe today is from Goodwill. I can’t help it and am not ashamed of the fact I’m a hand-me-down, thrift-store girl at heart. You have no idea the steals I’ve found at a thrift store. Ah, I’ll save those stories for another day. But I’m a simple girl raised to love simple things.

That being said, when I was little, I didn’t do all the things kids do today. At 25, I’ve still never been to Disney World. I didn’t go to the beach until I was nearly a teenager and that was because my best friend’s family took me. Most of my classmates seemed to go to these places nearly every chance they got. 

Money can’t buy love, and it can’t buy a childhood or the memories made during one either. 

As always, my mama found a way for my childhood to be a special one. She made sure I had the toys I wanted — one way or another. Whether it came from a yard sale, was on deep clearance or was something that had to be saved up for, she always made it happen. 

Growing up with a stay-at-home mom meant I took a particular interest into washing dishes, laundry and other chores. I remember having the best time with my Red Devil toy vacuum and washer/dryer set. That being said, I longed for a kitchen of my own. And, well, you guessed it: Mama made it happen.

I got home from school one day to find the closet of my little double-wide bedroom turned into a whole kitchen. I had a little wooden stove Mama moved in there, and she made me a fridge out of what I think was cardboard and I even had a pantry stocked with root beer and play food. Closets don’t have windows obviously, so Mama created a picture-perfect window over the “sink” with curtains to top it all off. It was just like the real kitchen a couple rooms over where I spent so much time trailing Mama’s feet and admiring whatever she did. 

I remember spending so much time in that little closet. I loved my Barbies and have tons of memories playing with those and my babydolls, but it was my Mama-made kitchen that was really special and a memory I will pass on to my kids one day. 

Parents today feel a lot of pressure to give their kids everything and entertain them with all the latest gadgets other children have. But I’ll tell you right now, it won’t be the slime, the hoverboard, tablet or the LOL dolls your children will grow up to appreciate. It’ll be the things you put special thought into that’ll create real, unforgettable memories. 

It doesn’t always take money to give a child what they want. A washer/dryer can be made out of cardboard, so can a fridge or a stove. There are plenty of ideas on Pinterest or Google if you take the time to look it up. The ever-popular (for whatever reason) slime can be homemade with a simple recipe instead of store-bought, and I guarantee the memories — and messes — made while concocting it alongside their family is what children will remember once they’re grown. 

Despite living in a world that makes you feel like you have to have it all, be the one who knows a child doesn’t necessarily need what they think they want. When we had my nieces for Christmas one year, everything they asked for, they got. Most of those things, such as dang Hatchimals (your guess is as good as mine), were quickly forgotten. It was the dirt-cheap, thrift-store dollhouses they asked for while shopping alongside Mama and me one day they spent hours upon hours playing with. 

What children need is a fun childhood and no matter how that’s brought to them — whether it’s with fancy toys or a cardboard fridge — it’s the little things they’re likely to fondly reflect on when they’re older. They’re not gonna remember watching YouTube videos on their tablets, and they’re not gonna care about that hoverboard in a few weeks. The memories, homemade toys, playtime with their parents and quality time as a whole are what they’ll remember. 

Forget the pressure. Make it simple and have fun making memories with your kids.

Santana Wood is the managing editor of Tallapoosa Publishers’ newspapers. She can be reached at santana.wood@alexcityoutlook.com