Coming up with a gift idea for our parents or in-laws can be frustrating. Most of our parents are at the age when they are downsizing and are not looking to add to their collections, closets or cabinets. They have come to the point in their lives where if they want something, they buy it for themselves. Unfortunately, that makes gift-giving more challenging. Create something that will touch their hearts. For larger or more time-consuming gifts, consider pooling your resources with your siblings and make it a group gift.
1. Take pictures of the children or grand-child(ren) holding large poster board letters that make up the family name and arrange in a multi-photo frame. This works well for families that can’t get together for a large group picture.
2. Decorate grandma and grandpa’s yard with individual handprint stepping stones. Use kits from a craft store and embellish with shells, mosaic tiles or beach glass.
3. Design a family/mom ring or necklace using the birthstones from everyone in the family. While you might find what you are looking for at the jewelry store, don’t overlook shopping on Etsy or creating your own from beads at the craft store.
4. Gather up your parents’ reel-to-reels and VHS tapes and have them converted to DVD. You can convert them yourself using software like Honestech or search for conversion services in your hometown.
5. Give them a puzzle made from a treasured family photo. Check out www.shutterfly.com for custom puzzles. It’s a great activity to work on with grandma or grandpa this summer.
6. Remind mom and dad how many lives they touch by interviewing their family and friends on video. Ask questions like, “What kind of friend is she?” or, “Tell us a funny story that involves our mom or dad.”
7. Keep the traditions of storytelling going by giving your parents a guided journal to record their own memories. Try: “A Grandparent’s Legacy: Your Life Story in Your Own Words” by Thomas Nelson, available on Amazon.
8. Get a family DNA screening from ancestry.com and see where your ancestors originated. You will not only discover your ethnicity, but you may even find some long-lost relatives. Pets are family too. Check out www.dnamydog.com to see what makes up your mixed-breed dog.
9. Craft personalized flowerpots using kids’ hand or feet prints and add the line: “Watch us grow.” Let older kids autograph the pots near their prints. Fill with herbs or flower seeds, and display on patios or in kitchen windows.
10. Make personalized coasters. Use family pictures, little league and school logos or maps depicting family homes across the country. Look for do-it-yourself coasters at craft stores or create them at your local photo-processing centre.
11. Preserve a loved one’s handwriting by creating signature jewelry. Etsy, for example, offers many sellers who make custom jewelry from your handwritten name or small message.
12. Snap pictures of letters from recognizable signs around the family’s hometown and place in individual frames to spell out the family’s first names. Arrange on the wall in a Scrabble-like display.
13. Compile your family tree with the help of online research tools like www.ancestry.com. Start with the basics and trace your family back as far as you can or make a current family tree including the extended family’s birthdays and anniversaries.
14. Recreate childhood pictures of you and your siblings to make a ‘Then and Now’ scrapbook. Your parents will enjoy a good laugh (and a good cry) as the memories come pouring in.
15. If you enjoy cooking, make your parents’ lives easier by creating meals and freezing into portions for two or put together some ready-to-crockpot freezer meals. Include a personalized recipe book so they can recreate the meals themselves.
Pam is a freelance journalist living with her husband and three children. She finds joy in giving gifts that fill hearts rather than fill shelves.
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