How One Crafty Mom Uses Scent to Create Memories With Her Kids

Photo-illustration: Marissa Dickson
Photo-illustration: Marissa Dickson

As parents, we're tasked with keeping our kiddos busy on the daily. When you have young children — especially those who aren't in school yet — the days can feel incredibly long, and you might constantly find yourself trying to think up new ways to eat up some time without creating more mess and work for yourself. One thing some of us more experienced parents have learned is that leaning into your own childhood and finding inspiration in the things you enjoyed doing when you were younger is a surefire way to engage your kids, and have a little fun yourself.

From games and crafts to certain foods and scents, raising kids can be super nostalgic, and drawing from that nostalgia can help you and your little ones form a deeper connection. After all, us Millennial parents are a part of the Y2K generation, and everything we loved and devoted ourselves to wholeheartedly back in the day is trendy again. From friendship bracelets and claw clips to disposable cameras and scented candles, today's kids are bringing it all back.

One mom who has been keeping her beloved childhood pastime alive is Amber Kemp-Gerstel. Kemp-Gerstel is a former psychologist, content creator, television personality, and Millennial mom-of-two. On social media, she's well known for her crafty ways, sharing her joyful personality and colorful perspective with her followers. Whether she's showing them how to customize a tote bag and craft the perfect DIY holiday gift or sharing her favorite budget-beauty and fashion finds, her content resonates with other moms who grew up in the '80s and '90s.

"I've always been crafty since I was very young," Kemp-Gerstel says. "It all started with a sticker collection and friendship bracelets — very '80s of me! I even tried to start a friendship-bracelet-making business one summer, but it turns out you can't turn much of a profit when it takes you two days to make a single bracelet." Kemp-Gerstel has since expanded her skillset and dabbles in scrapbooking, journaling, card-making, knitting, sewing, and more.

As a busy mom, Kemp-Gerstel is always looking for ways to maximize the time she spends with her two boys: Markus, age 9 and Maxwell, age 3. Crafts and kids typically go hand-in-hand (most families have the clutter to prove it), but not every kid is a natural artist — Kemp-Gerstel's boys included. However, since crafting is such a huge part of her life, the savvy mom has figured out how to include her boys in ways that feel good to them.

For example, she's had to get creative with how she presents the idea of a craft project. "They aren't so interested in traditional markers, paint, crayons, etc.," Kemp-Gerstel says. "Instead, I lean on more hands-on learning activities that have a creative angle." She's also learned to shift her definition of crafting in a way that allows her to meet her boys where they're at. "I try to go into it with a rough plan and minimal materials," Kemp-Gerstel explains. "Kids can easily derail the project when there are too many options. For maximum enjoyment, I try to set out the materials, get them excited about what we're going to do, and then jump into the project."

Embarking on any project with small kids, however, can get messy fast. "It's nice when clean-up is minimal because at the end of a crafting session, no matter how fun it is, most kids are ready to run off and move onto the next thing," she says. "I'm all about keeping a trash bag nearby when we do crafts." Glad's ForceFlex Pine-Sol™ Original Scent Drawstring Trash Bags are a particular family favorite. "Sometimes I'll loop one over the back of a chair or on a drawer handle," Kemp-Gerstel says. "That way I can easily throw away scraps and off-cuts." As an added bonus, the scent of the trash bags is super nostalgic, and brings back memories of Kemp-Gerstel's own childhood, which only adds to the experience.

"Pine-Sol™ was the scent soundtrack to my grandmother's house," Kemp-Gerstel says. "She cleaned every wood surface with Pine-Sol™ so to me, it just smells fresh and familiar." Now, thanks to Glad's new scented trash bags, her kids will be able to share in that scent memory as well, not only sharing the joy of completing a fun craft together, but also having a specific scent that reminds them of quality time with their mom.

"Scent is so closely tied to memory. There's no escaping it," Kemp-Gerstel says. Just like the Pine-Sol™-scented trash bags remind Kemp-Gerstel of spending time with her grandmother, making a scented craft with your kids, like Kemp-Gerstel's DIY scratch-and-sniff stickers, can help turn a singular moment into the best kind of core memory.

And don't forget: these moments are about the quality time you're spending together, not the end product. As Kemp-Gerstel puts it, "Perfection is no longer a priority. It's more about the experience — the storytelling, memories, and pride that come along with making something with your kids."