Program Guidelines

The following guidelines are meant to give you the benefit of our experience. We have few "guidelines" as we feel it is important the boxes come from your heart. We will not give you a lot of "do's" and "don'ts". However, there are some things we have learned along the way which may be helpful in creating a box that will last as a family heirloom.

  • First and most important is this: Create a box that you would like to receive if you were in the family's situation. You do not have to be the best painter, collager, stamper, or artist. You just have to create a box from your heart. If it is something you would want to receive, then there will be a family suffering a loss who would also appreciate it.

  • As a basic guideline, the boxes should be approximately 7" to 12". There are uses for boxes as small as 7", and as large as 24". ALL sizes of boxes are needed!

    They should be at least 3" deep, but may be deeper. They can be in any shape. Large stars, ovals and octagonal boxes, as well as traditional square and round boxes have been used in the program.

    Some hospitals request that we not use rectangular boxes as they are reminiscent of coffins. The boxes are meant as an affirmation of the life of the child, so the hospitals prefer not to have a symbol of death given to the family.

    However, if rectangular boxes are what you have, go ahead and use them as there are some hospitals who do not mind using this shape. Please, do not paint flowers on the rectangular boxes because it will give them the look of a coffin.

    The boxes will typically be used to hold the birth certificate, clothing, footprint and hand print, photographs, etc. but some of the boxes are used for SIDS babies or babies with birth defects who have lived for several weeks, so all size boxes are needed!

  • It is not necessary to be a member of the Memory Box online mailing list to participate, but you must coordinate your boxes through our system so that we can make sure the hospitals are getting the correct number of boxes!

    One of our challenges is when people do not tell us they have delivered a box; we may assign someone else to send boxes to the same hospital. As a result, one hospital may get more boxes than it needs while another goes without boxes. You are welcome to invite others to work with you or to involve your local moms group, church, painting chapter, art guild, etc.!

  • Because the boxes are usually mailed to the hospital, we suggest paper mache boxes as they weigh less and cost less to ship. Please be sure to seal and varnish the boxes as the families will keep them for a long time; apply a little wax to the inside rim of the lid, this will make sure that the lid does not stick to the bottom and makes opening the box difficult.. Paper mache is a wonderful surface which will last a lifetime or more!

  • Appropriate subjects are flowers, sun, moon and stars, animals, teddy bears, angels, children's toys, dolls, rosemaling or other scrollwork. You can paint, collage, decoupage, stamp, and decorate the box in any way you feel is appropriate.

    Some social workers have stated to avoid religious or holiday themes as the parents come from different cultures and religious backgrounds, but most said angels were okay.

  • Be sure to finish the inside of the box by painting it, lining it with fabric, or using a product like "Soft Flock". Varnishing the inside of the box will also help protect the papers and cloth from deteriorating from the acid in the paper.

    If you would like to include a saying or poem in the box, please click on the links. Any saying can be used, as long as it is appropriate to the situation. The sayings on this site are examples of what would be appropriate, and you are free to use them, if desired.

    Be sure to sign your box. This is a work of art to the family who receives it. If you wish, you may include the program web address and/or your email address, so the family can contact you. This also gives the family a way to learn about the program. We have provided examples of enclosures you can use in your boxes here.

    Once the box or boxes are completed and ready to mail, please register with our online system (linkwill open in a new window), please check out our tutorial for more details. Please activate your account and send the required email to our administration in order to allow us to fully install your account. Once you have received an email from our administration confirming the installation of your account and you have boxes to send, please log into the system each time new boxes are ready to be mailed and notify us by filling in the blanks in the form.

    Please check out the detailed tutorials for Chapters/Guilds/Painting Groups and individual Painters both will open as .pdf files. The program chair will send you an email with the name and address of the hospital or hospitals where you are to send the boxes.

    Each time you are ready to mail boxes, please log into our system in order to complete the form and submit it. Do not just mail boxes to the same hospital you mailed to last time!! We need to track how many boxes go to each hospital because some only need two or three a month, while others need a dozen. We will try to connect you with the closest hospital to your location each time you are ready to mail boxes.

Thank you for your support and help!