First Birthday Gift: A Time Capsule of Books!

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What is more joyous than celebrating a child’s first birthday and watching their response to their first taste of cake?

The first year of life is filled with momentous moments and some pretty major milestones; sitting up, rolling over, first steps, first words. Each day is filled with new adventures and every day seems to bring a gift. If you truly think about it, what does a one year child really need as a gift for the first birthday party?

But what if you give a first birthday gift not for the one-year-old child, but for the 18-year-old young adult they will be?

That’s right.

Create a book time capsule for the first birthday!

First Birthday Gift: A Time Capsule of Books

First Birthday Gift: Book Time Capsule

Friends and family won’t give the typical stuffies, onesies, or toys for a first birthday gift. Instead, the guests will each give a wrapped book that is significant to them. All the books will then be stored away until the momentous 18th birthday party.

It’s simple but extremely meaningful, especially when a handwritten note and card is included inside the book. Imagine the great-grandparents and grandparents that might not be there in 18 years. However, their words will be encased in the special book they pick out.

The new adult will not receive just one special book but a pile of books from so many significant people who have loved and supported their lives from day one. This is especially important as the young one sets out in the world on their own. The books truly become treasures at this point.

When we think of a book to present to any 18-year-old, especially at graduation, Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Places You Will Go is the first book we all think to give. But dig deeper. Spend some time to find the book that is truly a piece of you.

I already have a stack of books for my granddaughter, Ada Ru, when she turns 18. We created a time capsule for her on her first birthday. It’s safely hidden in her basement, just waiting.

First, I wrapped up Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Betty. Ada Ru is actually named after Ada Lovelace, so this was the perfect choice. I was even able to grab an autographed copy!

Incidentally, if you don’t know this amazing series, you must discover these books. Each book features a second grader in a classroom of precocious children: Iggy Peck, Rosie Revere, Sophia Valdez, Aaron Slater, and Lila Greer, Teacher of the Year! Here’s the letter that is safely tucked inside that I wrote to her when she was turning one.

These are my other favorite picture books that have powerful messages that I’m saving for Ada. I found them after the time capsule was sealed, so I am saving these as a birthday bonus or other milestones in her life.

Sometimes You Fly written by Katherine Applegate is the perfect book for a birthday time capsule. Inside, the milestones of childhood are celebrated, from first birthday to graduation, and the lessons of life in between. This book will give you goosebumps. The simple text is simply powerful in the messages.

I Wish Wish Wish for You written by Sandra Magsamen is exactly what you think it might be, what you wish for the child receiving this book. It is filled with all the wishes you would actually hope for any child growing up.

May You Love and Be Loved by Cleo Wade doesn’t release until May 7, 2024 but this book needs to be on your radar for a first birthday gift. As a roadmap throughout your life, Wade has words of wisdom that you will find relevant to return to for inspiration, a reminder of your values, or just a warm hug.

Picture books are a fabulous gift to the recipient. They offer so much of the wisdom you have discovered yourself in life. But I believe a book for the time capsule should be a book that is special to you and holds great meaning to you. Remember, you are also creating an adult library for the 18-year-old young adult.

Time Capsule for When Baby Turns 18 Years Old

These are some of my favorite books I will add to Ada’s time capsule… 

This was my mom’s favorite book. She wrote her own thoughts on the pages throughout the book. I cherish this book like no other because it was so personal to her. Seeing her handwriting brings her immediately back to me and fills my heart with happy memories. Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krause Rosenthal is an ordinary book of ordinary random thoughts, alphabetized from A – Z. Open the book to any page and find delight in the ordinary. You’ll be satisfied (and completely relieved) that you are ordinary, too.

I consider this Sophie Blackall’s masterpiece. She created it during the lockdown of our pandemic to remind herself she did have a lot to look forward to. It reminds us that it is the small moments in life that give us pleasure.

Thing to Look Forward To: 52 Large and Small Joys for Today and Every Day is a book to be shared with everyone you love to celebrate what we all look forward to; hugs from a friend, the sun coming up, going somewhere, anywhere, and my favorite, drawing faces on eggs to make you happy when you open the refrigerator.

Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary is the book that made me fall in love with reading. This would be fun in a book time capsule for the recipient to learn about me. Yes, I love quirky kids that make me laugh at all of their antics. Ramona made me love Junie B. Jones and then Ivy and Bean. I know anyone I gifted Ramona to, would be transported back in time to my childhood and a book that transformed me.

My mom was an avid reader and used to pass her latest read to my sisters and me. Our reading tastes were very similar. When she died, I stopped reading. I didn’t know what to read or how to even pick a book out for myself.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple is the book that brought my love of reading back to me. This book is fabulous, fun, and an intelligent, smart read. Plus, Bernadette’s daughter reminds me of a teenage Ramona. I am forever grateful to have discovered this book and would recommend it for young adults transitioning to adult books. It is just a perfectly great book.

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman is a book I give when someone tells me they don’t like to read and perfect for a time capsule.

Anxious People is an example of how connected humanity really is, all found inside an apartment during an Open House sale. The book is filled with twists and turns, bizarre characters, and crime that has or maybe hasn’t happened. It will restore your faith in humanity. Add it to the young adult’s home library.

Don’t miss out on gifting Grapes of Wrath in a book time capsule. I don’t know how I got to my late 50s without reading a John Steinbeck novel. How was this not required reading in high school or college? I do believe that everyone must read this book to understand the history of our country during the depression. The last chapter still haunts me as I continually process the greatness of this book and this author. The book is ready to celebrate its 85th anniversary this year and it is still relevant and still telling.

Speaking of John Steinback, I consider Amor Towles the modern-day John Steinback. His book, The Lincoln Highway, is by far my favorite of his books. The actual Lincoln Highway starts in Times Square in New York and ends at Lincoln’s Park in San Francisco, California. This story takes place over 10 days as the main character, Emmett, travels on the Lincoln Highway, trying to right his life and start anew. Towles is as brilliant as Steinbeck, giving us novels rich in characters and themes.

Books at this level are few and far between and live inside of you for a long long time. In fact, I would have to say this is my favorite book of the last decade.

But Horse by Geraldine Brooks is another one of my top favorite books…and another book I would give for a book time capsule gift. This is a historical fiction book that touched me to my soul. I loved how the story is intertwined with the past and the present: slavery, the Civil War, art history, Smithsonian artifacts, Black men still being targeted today, and the most extraordinary horse of all time. It’s another important novel of our time. (And, it’s the reason my traveling book club decided to go to the Kentucky Derby!)

It was hard to pick just one book for Ada’s time capsule. I went with a book that was based on her name. But, I have so many books that have importance on my own book shelf that I will want to share with her as she grows. I think I’ll have to make a supplemental book time capsule.

What book or books are most significant to you? 

What would you include in a first birthday gift time capsule?

I’m excited to see what you would pass on to a future generation!

First Birthday Gift: A Time Capsule of Books


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