Whether you’re looking for a special activity for an elementary school class, a unique way to celebrate a birthday, or you just want to do something fun and meaningful with your family, putting together a time Capsule can be a wonderful way to capture memories and preserve a moment in history. Time capsule ideas run the gamut, depending on the purpose of the project and the people involved, but there’s really no limit other than your own creativity. As long as you put some serious thought into the capsule, you’re guaranteed to create something that captures the spirit of everyone involved.
Four Tips on Creating a Time Capsule
The most important aspect of any time capsule will, of course, be its contents. But as with anything, the devil is in the details. Here are a few simple tips to create and preserve a meaningful time capsule and ensure that this is a fun activity for the participants.
Tip #1: Give Yourself Plenty of Time
It’s only fitting that you take your TIME when creating a time capsule, right? Seriously, though, this isn’t the kind of project you want to rush through in a single afternoon. You don’t want to open the container in a few years and think, man, did we just fill this thing with whatever was in the room at the time? And hey, THERE’S the remote control! Start your preparations and planning well in advance so that you can make the capsule as meaningful as possible.
Tip #2: Pick a Cool, Dry Container
Metal is the preferred option when choosing a container for your time capsule. You want something that will not only seal up tightly, but will stay cool and dry – much like a humidor. Humidity and heat can do a lot of damage when given enough years, and you don’t want to open up your capsule only to find a soggy, moldy mess. For best results, you may want to actually purchase a container meant for time capsule purposes online.
Tip #3: Set the Date
A time capsule only works when you set an unsealing date in stone. This isn’t something you want to just willy-nilly open in six months on a boring afternoon. If you’re doing this with your kindergarten class, you’ll probably want to set a date that coincides with their graduation from high school. If you’re doing it with your children, you might set the date as the day they turn 18. Or you might just want to pick a date ten or twenty years in the future. The important thing is to have that date etched out ahead of time.
Tip #4: Store the Capsule
The traditional way to store a time capsule, of course, is to find a place in the yard and bury it. This is not the best idea, for a number of reasons. For one, there’s no telling what moisture, insects, and even curious dogs might do to your capsule while it is buried underground. For another, you might have a big move in the ensuring years and leave your capsule behind! Or you forget exactly where you buried it! As long as the capsule is sealed and safe, it’s better to keep it inside.
Now that we’ve covered some of the basics of preparing and storing a time capsule, let’s go over some simple recommendations when it comes to the fun part: What you will actually put inside the container! Here are a few short DO’s and DONTs that can help make sure you come out on the other side with a successful, fun project.
DO choose time capsule contents that are meaningful and personal.
DON’T include perishable items such as food and/or drink but a personalized glass is fine.
DO include a document chronicling every item in the capsule and its reason for being chosen.
DON’T choose items that risk spilling or spoiling the rest of the time capsule.
DO include items that speak – loudly – to the personalities and interests of the participants.
With that ground covered, let’s get specific. After all, you can be possessed of all the tips and tricks in the world and still be left with not a single clue about what to actually put into the time capsule. We obviously can’t telepathically peer into your life and make the decision for you, but we can offer you some generalized hints and suggestions that you can then use to make the best choices for you and your friends/class/family/partner.
Let’s get going!
If you’re making a time capsule with children, the key is to capture who they were at this moment. One great way to do that is to include commemorations of their accomplishments. They got a trophy from karate class? Put it in! They got a glowing report card? Perfect! They got a terrible report card? Hey, that might honestly be even better.
A “Favorites” Drawing
Remember when you were a kid and you had a “favorite” from virtually every category of life? You had a favorite song, a favorite color, a favorite movie, a favorite food, and right on down the line. These favorites tend to get murky and disappear when you’re older, but wouldn’t you love to look back and see what your 10-year-old self had to say about these matters?
A Contemporary Photograph
When it comes to time capsule ideas, this is the one inclusion that should be in every single suggestions list. Even in the age of smart phones and social media, most of us simply don’t take enough pictures. Make sure that you include one of every participant (preferably in a group) so you can be instantly transported back in time when the day comes to open up the time capsule and reflect. Put your picture in a nice frame so it will be ready for display on the day of the unsealing.
A Price List
One of the best things about a time capsule is it shows you just how quickly things change. One great way to capture that phenomenon is to include a price list of things you commonly purchase. Not only might you be surprised to see how prices change, you might even find that some of the things you buy today aren’t even available in the future!
If you’re putting together a time capsule with a romantic partner – a boyfriend, a husband, etc. – this can be a beautiful idea. Write romantic letters to each other, seal them, and then put them into the capsule unread by the other partner. What a joy to read those letters years down the line (assuming you’re still together when it’s time to open up the container, of course!).
A List of Plans
This is one of our favorite time capsule ideas, and it’s one that you can implement even if you’re the only one participating in the project. Make a list of what you’d like to accomplish over the next ten, twenty years – however long you intend to keep the capsule sealed. Make a list of the places you’d like to visit, the career goals you’d like to make happen, and the personal achievements you want to experience. Use their inclusion to inspire you to get these things done. You may be amazed at how much you can cross off the list when the day finally comes to look inside. You may be even more amazed at how much you’ve changed as a person in the intervening years.
A Current Newspaper
This is one of the best ways to commemorate the exact date that you seal the time capsule. Simply grab a local or national newspaper and stuff it into the container. It will perfectly mark the occasion and give you an instant sense of time and placement when you open up the capsule. In addition to a newspaper, a current TV guide book or a magazine currently on the stands can give you a sense of what’s going on in the world of entertainment at the moment your capsule was created.
A Popular Toy
Imagine opening up a time capsule today and finding a Beanie Baby from the late 1990s or a Teddy Ruxpin doll from the 80s. This is the kind of magic you can make happen by putting a contemporary, popular toy inside the capsule. Now we don’t expect that you’re going to buy a PS5 for the purposes of sealing it away in a box, but what about a “Baby Yoda” doll? Or maybe something that references “Tiger King.” These are the ephemera of today’s pop culture, and they’ll give you an instant hit of nostalgia when you look back on them in a few years.
A Face Mask
Okay, this one is pretty 2020-specific, but c’mon. Will you ever be able to look back on this year without thinking about the pandemic? A face mask is one of the cheapest (and yet most effective) ways to commemorate a year that most of us would frankly like to forget. Regardless of our readiness to move on, though, the fact is that we all lived through this trying year together, and you’ll want something inside your time capsule to remember how much strength it took to make it to the other side.
Hey, what could be neater than getting your sister a 30th birthday present…a few days shy of her 20th? How fun would it be to get your son a little something for his 18th birthday while he’s still in kindergarten? This is one of our favorite time capsule ideas, because it gives everyone a chance to open up a special surprise on the day of the unsealing. Indeed, you may not even remember what you bought when your friends and family open up their presents!
Signatures from All of Your Friends
If you’ve been here for enough trips around the sun, you’ve already realized a sad fact of life: Not all of those “lifelong” relationships you made when you were in school were destined to last. Facebook has closed the gap on some of those long-lost friendships to a certain degree, but we still like the idea of collecting signatures – or even photos – of all your friends for inclusion in the time capsule. You might be amazed to read some of the names when you open up the container…
Your Pet’s Photo
You can play with this from a number of different angles, but a simple picture of your current pet is the most direct way to commemorate them. If you want to augment that photo, you can include a toy your pet enjoys, an extra collar he uses, or anything else that comes to mind. The sad thing about pets is that they are seldom destined to be with us until the end. Maybe that’s what makes them so special – that inherent knowledge that they’ll only be with us for a brief time. Pay tribute to that time by including them in the capsule.
This is a time capsule idea in line with our earlier suggestion about a price list. For all you know, some of your favorite restaurants won’t be around in ten or twenty years. Or, even if they are, they may have dramatically different menus on offer. Why not collect a handful of menus from your favorite eateries and include them in your container? You may be surprised at how much has changed (including your personal tastes) in the intervening years.
If you’ve got a new baby in the family, this is a precious way to commemorate this special moment in time. Include some of their baby clothes in the time capsule – just one outfit will do – and they’ll be able to look back and appreciate them when they’re older and the container is unsealed. Caution: If you’re going to go this route, you might want to include a box of Kleenex as well. When you realize how quickly time passed, you’re going to need them.
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