The Best Christmas Gift I Ever Thought Of – A Memory Book (Plus Free Photo Book!)

Making a memory book with your kids

This Saturday I’m re-running a refreshed and updated post from my archives, because I love this gift idea so much that I want to make sure you know about it.

I was reading this post on frugal gifts over at Frugalwoods, and it reminded me of the best gift idea I ever came up with. Do you have a relative that has everything – maybe a grandparent, or great-grandparent? Do you have kids? If so, I’d suggest you have them create a special memory book for the loved ones in their lives. Don’t have kids, or your kids are young to do this? Stay tuned to the end of this article where I have an idea for you.

I came up with this idea soon after my beloved grandmother was diagnosed with terminal cancer (mesothelioma) almost three years ago. You see, my grandmother was a special person in the lives of my boys. She helped take care of the kids when my husband was away from home for a month, that time he almost died of septic shock.  She, my mother-in-law, and my mother would take turns trading time watching them, so that I could care for my husband, go to work, and continue my MBA. She was also very close overall to both my boys, her only great-grandchildren, who were ages 7 and 11 at the time. She was the one who came to “grandparents day”, she came to their book fairs and all their school events, and we would go to her house for Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Her passing would be the first time my boys had to deal with the death of a loved one. When their great-grandfather had passed away years before, they were only four and not quite one, so it had a much different impact on them.

After she was diagnosed, her birthday was coming, and I struggled to think of what kind of gift I should give her. The prognosis of mesothelioma is very poor, especially at her age (over 80). She only had months to live. She didn’t need things, she didn’t want food, she couldn’t leave her house to use a gift card-so what could we get her that would be meaningful and show her just how much she was loved? So I thought of the idea of having the boys make her what I called a “memory book”. After we made it, I wished I had made it sooner, so I wanted to share the idea with you.

Christmas Gifts Kids can Make

What’s a Memory Book?

This was a book where I had the boys draw a series of special memories with great-grandmas, and assembled them into essentially a book that we gave as a gift. After picking up the scrapbooking supplies, I had the boys write and draw 18 pages worth of special memories with their great-grandmother. I supplemented that with two pages of photos of them spending time with their great-grandma over the years, assembled it together, and we gave it to her for her last birthday. I think this makes an even better Christmas gift, though, because it’s thoughtful, doesn’t cost a lot, can be made by young kids, and will be special for years to come.

So what’s the step by step?

  1. Buy and Assemble Supplies – You’ll want to use coupons for this one, and you should be able to pick these up at any hobby store (JoAnn Fabric, AC Moore, Michaels, Hobby Lobby). You will need
    1. One Scrapbook
    2. 20 scrapbooking pages – I had my boys pick out 10 each that they liked, because they would each do half the book
    3. One pack of white scrapbooking cards. You could also just buy white cardstock and cut it into squares or rectangles
    4. Stickers (I had each boy pick out one pack) – optional
    5. Glue dots, other glue, or tape
    6. Pens and markers, or crayons
  2. Print Photos – I used the collage mode at Walgreens photo online, but you can use any photo printing you like. Again, use coupons-they’re always having a deal
  3. Choose Themes – My kids sometimes have some trouble coming up with ideas on their own, so if I had just told them to sit down and make a memory book, they would have struggled. If your children are more creative than mine (or older) and won’t have this problem, that’s great! But mine needed the structure of a theme to come up with good memories. I picked nine different themes, one for each page, and had each boy make one page on that theme. Each page had four white cards -two drawn cards with pictures, and two written card with memories. Examples included memories at school (like going to Readers workshop or seeing a school play), favorite things to do together, favorite holiday memories, favorite thing about your house, favorite foods to eat, what makes you special, and so on. You can pick any themes that make sense for your kids relationship with the gift recipient
  4. Have Kids Write & Draw – We did this over the course of a month. Every weekend day I would have them sit down and we would make a page. Since they each finished two pages each per weekend, it took about a month for them to do the entire book. Technically I think I had them do their ninth page on a weekday night so it would be done for her birthday. You could do this as a massive one or two day project, but it might be easier if you spread out the time a bit.
  5. Assemble and Give – Use the glue dots/other glue/tape to adhere the memory cards and photos to the pages your children select. Then have them put on any stickers or other decorations. Write the theme at the top of the page. Then you slip each page into the scrapbook, and there you have it – a special, thoughtful memory book for very little cost but a lot of thought and effort. After coupons the supplies should total about $20, but it’s going to be a bit more or less depending on the specifics of what you buy

And that’s it! The monetary cost might be small, but it’s very meaningful and special. Your kids will be proud that they made it by themselves, and the recipient will love it. My grandmother kept this book with her to show all the friends that came to visit during her illness, and it was displayed at her funeral. Today the book is in our home, for us to look at together whenever we’re missing great-grandma. It remains a special way to remember her and all the things they did together while she was with us, and it’ll continue to be special for years to come.

If you have a lot of photos to use, you could also use a service like Shutterfly to create a photo book. Want one free (just pay shipping)? Use my referral link and we’ll both get a free photo book!

What If Your Kids Are Too Young? Or You Don’t Have Kids?

As I mentioned above, my boys were seven and eleven, so they were old enough to draw and write the book themselves. You can use this same concept with a younger child, particularly if you have photos, or even make it yourself. You can either do this exact same thing but with printed photos, or you can use a service like Shutterfly to create an awesome photo book.  If you use my link, we’ll both get a free photo book (just pay shipping) – it’s a win/win.

What’s the most thoughtful gift you’ve ever given or received? What ideas do you have for frugal gift-giving? Are you going to give this a try? Let me know in the comments!

Want to learn more about teaching kids about money? Check out this great page with my top articles and resources I’ve found from around the web.

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3 thoughts on “The Best Christmas Gift I Ever Thought Of – A Memory Book (Plus Free Photo Book!)”

  1. At Michaels you can get a calendar for $1. where you put your own photo on each page. This is great for folks who are not real crafty. It still makes great memories.

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