Photo-themed gifts are a hit

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By Deanna Godman

It can be difficult to come up with gift ideas for loved ones. It is hard to come up with new ideas year after year that will be used and appreciated. The wow factor is always a plus, too.

In 2007, my sister-in-law and I started a tradition for her mother’s Christmas present. We gather six to 12 photos of our children from each month of the year, along with drawings or other memorabilia. We both write a summary of each month, outlining the details of our families’ activities. Sometimes we also interview our children during the month, to get answers to those questions that change often, like “What is your favorite color?” or “What is your favorite toy?”

We use 12x12 page protectors that are divided into 4x6 slots and hold 12 photos, and put the pages in 12x12 binders. These supplies are available at craft stores. Any notes or drawings we include are cut down to 4x6 to fit into the pockets.

Last year was the first year I thought to make one for my mother, too. Both of our mothers live in other states and only see the children a few times a year. Having this collection of annual photos helps them to feel connected with their grandchildren.

I have also given the grandparents memory cards for their digital photo frames filled with photos of their grandchildren from the previous year.
This year, my sister-in-law and I have decided to make our jobs slightly easier by making the yearly photo collection into a photo book online. There are several companies that make photo books, like Shutterfly, Mixbook and Paper Coterie, and there are always specials being advertised to help with the price. This way, we will also be able to order copies to keep for ourselves if we wish. At the moment, we are only able to see these photo albums when we visit, and neither of us ever thinks to make a copy for ourselves while we are working on the one for Christmas.

This project can be as simple or as elaborate as one wants to make it. I often have difficulty choosing six to 12 photos each month, and I like to write a lot about our experiences. It would be much more simple and still much appreciated if I only used one photo each month and had a simple caption.

This does not need to be a gift for grandparents only, either. As I have mentioned when writing about other memory keeping projects, I would have loved to have received a photo album of my grandmother’s yearly adventures when I was a child. One of my favorite things to do when I visited her was to look through her photo albums and have her tell me about the pictures. Now that she is gone, I do not have access to her photos anymore and she is no longer around to tell me about them.

It would be so cool to have received photo books from my grandparents highlighting their vacations and daily lives, either while I was a child or with their photos from their own childhood or my parents’ childhood. I know it sounds like something that would underwhelm a child at Christmas, but it would not be underwhelming if it was what the child was used to receiving.

When I was a child, my maternal grandparents had 15 grandchildren and were retired so all of the gifts we received were handmade.

These gifts of love were all the more special because of that. One of my favorite gifts was my grandmother’s graduation photo that was given to me when I was nine by my great-grandmother.