The Ultimate List of Family Heirlooms to Pass Down to Your Kids One Day

Updated: October 21, 2019
Here is a list of 25+ items or family heirlooms parents might consider passing down to their kids for sentimental reasons or to honor their family's history. It may even create a new family tradition that will last for generations.
woman looking through box of family heirlooms to pass down

In a world where minimalism and Marie Kondo style tidying up are gaining traction, many families can find themselves clearing out and downsizing. Which leaves us questioning what to save to pass on to our children. 

More: The Importance of Developing a Strong Family Narrative for Your Kids

Family heirlooms are often not worth as much as the story that goes along with them. The stories are what keep family histories alive, develop a sense of understanding, and establish lasting family traditions. Here is a list of 25+ items parents might consider passing down to their children.

Recipes and Cookbooks 

Many families have recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation, or perhaps there is a dish that you make that you know is your son or daughter's favorite. Some of the best memories parents and children have are from being gathered together around the dinner table. Gifting your child with a family recipe or well-loved cookbook is a wonderful heirloom to pass down.

Digital and Paper Photographs 

We live in a digital world these days. It’s much easier to go back and relive your kid’s childhood than ever before. Whether it is a digital or paper copy, passing along photos will give your children the opportunity to relive their favorite moments.

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checklist of family heirlooms to pass down to your kids

Scrapbooks and Photo Albums 

If you have pictures and scrapbooks from before everything was digitalized, this is an even more lasting gift to pass down. Perhaps of family members that are no longer with you, or family that your child never had an opportunity to meet. Scrapbooks are filled with a rich history that is important to keep in your family. Don’t forget about baby books; they can also make a special memento.

Stories 

As stated earlier, family heirlooms are often not worth as much as the story that goes along with it. When families gather together, whether for holidays, vacations, or just because, storytelling can be a wonderful way to bond. Share the stories that helped shape your family into who it is today.

Toys 

You don’t have to save every toy your child owned, but set aside a few that you would like to pass along.  Perhaps their favorite toy you just can’t bear to part with, a toy from a very special or memorable moment, or perhaps something you think their current or future children might want to play with.  Memories are sure to be relived through these special items.

Vintage Clothing 

A wedding dress or christening gown saved from previous generations are meaningful items of clothing you might pass down to your kids and are a great reminder of their previous owners.

Handmade Clothing 

Have family members who knit, crochet or sew? Save special items such as sweaters, dresses, hats, etc. to pass along. They might not always be worn regularly, but special talent went into creating those personalized items.

Quilts/Blankets 

Similar to handmade clothing, if someone in your family created special blankets or quilts, they can be a meaningful item to save and pass along to your children. Whether functional or decorative, the amount of time that gets put into creating these pieces is worth saving.

China or Dinnerware 

Something most young couples no longer register for when getting married is fine china.  If you have a set from your marriage, or vintage dishes that have been passed along to you, this is a great item to save and keep in your family.

Silverware or Cutlery 

Similar to china, if you have authentic serving pieces consider saving them for your children.  Quality is different these days, and original pieces make meaningful gifts.

Jewelry 

Consider what pieces of jewelry you have that might be worth passing down to your children. It could be an item that is particularly meaningful to you, or one that your child coveted when they were young.

Letters 

The art of letter writing is quickly being replaced with emails and text messaging. If you have family letters, consider saving them for your children. Letters can accompany the family stories that are retold and passed from generation to generation.

Furniture 

Some family furniture has been passed down the line for years and years.  Maybe something that was handmade, refinished, purchased with wedding money, or specially gifted. Furniture can have more meaning than meets the eye.

School Work 

While I don’t encourage saving all of your children’s schoolwork, it’s a good idea to save a handful of extra-sentimental pieces. Maybe a special art project or spelling test. Being able to hand these down to your child can hold a lot of meaning as you remind them how far they have come.

Art and Home Decor

It’s possible you have special art pieces in your home you think your child will appreciate one day, whether it’s a small watercolor you’ve picked up from a local artist, or a framed print from a family vacation. It doesn’t have to be of high monetary value to be meaningful for your child.

Holiday Decorations (ornaments, menorahs, wreaths, stockings, candles, etc.) 

Holidays often hold vivid memories for so many families. Decorating for certain holidays can immediately bring on that wave of nostalgia.

Tools 

Tools that have been passed down from generation to generation and survived the test of time are a wonderful keepsake. Perhaps a hammer that has been used for years to fix small jobs, or a family engraved tool.

Champagne Flutes 

Items, such as champagne flutes, that are only pulled out during special occasions tend to stay in great shape and can be a meaningful item to pass down. They are usually reminiscent of celebrations and happy times.

Collections 

If you or a family member have spent years collecting items, keeping the collection together and passing on to the next generation is great. They may even choose to make their own memories by continuing to add to the collection. Don’t let your years of hunting for coins, stamps, records, etc. go to waste.

Baby Clothes 

There’s nothing cuter than seeing a baby in a vintage outfit. Picture a newborn coming home from the hospital in the same outfit their mom/dad wore home. Hang on to the meaningful items and let your children carry on the tradition.

Military Memorabilia

If you or someone in your family has served in the military, chances are there are meaningful pieces of memorabilia that have been saved. Keep this in the family for the rich history and pride.

Even though memories last longer than tokens themselves, this is a comprehensive list of items that parents should consider saving for their children for sentimental reasons. While some traditions are passed from generation to generation, young families will have many opportunities to also create their own traditions with the help of these items.

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