I cannot believe it’s December 1st. We better get going on some sentimental and homemade gift ideas for those you adore. Because sometimes, in this world of buy, buy, buy, it’s extra special to get a sentimental gift.

For the buying stuff, there’s a “gift ideas” post from my girls HERE, and some of my own favorite things HERE. And those things are always good. But on to the sentimental gifts, because giving something from your heart that you just know they’ll love has the power to make your face look like Claire down below don’t you think?

It’s such a great feeling!

So here are a few more gift ideas with that in mind:

Have a Picture made into a Puzzle

When we were all going through some pretty emotional things when Lucy first got her diagnosis, a friend gave us this puzzle:

It was just a small thing, but to us, such an incredibly kind gesture, and we loved putting it together with Lucy. Those words “we love Lucy” were so reassuring to us. The beginning of her “village.”

I found a few ways you can do this puzzle idea on Amazon that would make that easy to do.

Make family movies readily accessible

My kids ADORE watching home family movies so one year I had all of our family movies digitized and put on DVD:

It was one of our favorite gifts ever and the kids would watch them every Sunday afternoon.

The bad news: DVDs are hard to watch nowadays!!

I’d love any advice on getting these more accessible again. Let me know if anyone has any ideas!!

**post-edit note, Angela reached out to me in the comment section of this post and she switched all these puppies to a thumb drive I had her make for each of my kids for Christmas last year. BEST GIFT EVER that they love to watch. Her email address is angela@cactuscottagephotos.com for anyone who might be interested.

Christmas Teacher Gift Idea

When my kids were in elementary school I was always looking for good ideas for teacher gifts. This was one I thought was cute (and easy!) that I probably found on Pinterest:

Create your own art

Ok, this is Mother’s Day and not Christmas, but it’s one of my favorite gifts ever:

I hope teenage boys (and of course girls too!) can know if they draw a picture for their mother her heart will turn to mush.

Yes, the best gifts are really from the heart.

I LOVE this one Lucy did as well:

It still sits, framed on my desk.

Gifts like these mean the most to me! These kids are pretty good at coming up with sentimental stuff!

Art Prints

My sister gave this print to my mom and sisters after we had a little “MFME” gathering way back when:

We had read an essay about this very painting that was SO BEAUTIFUL, and Saydi wanted us all to be able to remember it. This print still hangs in my closet and I love it every time I walk by.

I talked all about that painting over HERE, and linked the article, and also talked about it again HERE.

Bake Bread for Neighbors

This was actually just something we did for an outgoing bishopric years and years ago, but home-made bread is always a sentimental “gift” as far as I’m concerned, the best way to get in and talk to neighbors!

And when you have a little girl who can give it out like this?

Even better:)

Sometimes working together to make something seems to be a lost art in our crazy fast-paced world, so I loved doing things like this with my girls around Christmas-time.

I have three recipes for bread that I love, you can check them out if you want HERE, and HERE, and HERE (that last one is for easy-peasy artisan crusty bread that would be fun to give out to neighbors with pesto sauce or good olive oil).

A Special Note on a Frame

Again, another seemingly “little” gift that meant so much to us.

Lucy got baptized when we lived in China. (You can read all about that back HERE...it was a pretty special day for all of us.) We were on the other side of the world from most family so our church became our extended family.

One family gave Lucy a special picture in this frame and wrote their note to her on the back.

Such a sweet and sentimental gesture.

Make a T-Shirt Blanket

I always save all my kid’s club/sports/camp/high school t-shirts and have them made into a blanket for them when they graduate. This would be a fun Christmas gift as well.

My neighbor made this one, but I need to find someone to make Claire’s!

Gift Idea for Missionaries

It’s tricky to figure out gifts for missionaries, especially when they are far away. This was a fun, sentimental gift idea we did for our missionaries to help them feel the love from home while they were away for Christmas:

(Everyone wrote on the ornaments, even as many extended family members as we could get, and we added pictures and thoughts too.)

Giant Cardboard Coloring Kits

I’m putting this on the “sentimental ideas” list because Lucy LOVED to color, and also she adored animals of all shapes and sizes, so this gift her sister gave her one year was very sentimental.

As you can tell, it was adored:

…Adored by her older sister as well!

I can’t find that exact Unicorn any more, but there is a cute little “fairytale castle” that can be colored HERE, and a spaceship HERE.

Photobooks as Christmas gifts

One of my very favorite gifts of all time was when my sister-in-law put together a whole year of this blog and printed it up for me.

I know that was not an easy task so I appreciate it even more.

There are so many pictures just hiding in phones and computers that never see the light of day again and I’m a huge fan of printing them out.


Of course, Chatbooks is a huge go-to for this kind of thing. They are the BEST company, I think I can say that without any bias even when I know the owner (love you Vanessa!). They make it so easy to print up pictures! (and there is a 20% off sale going right now!)

I used to do a yearly photobook for each kid each year:

a spread of Chatbooks for my kids for Christmas


I used Blurb to do a mission photobook for Max (two volumes), and I was so excited to give him those books! So fun to re-live those mission memories through pictures and all his letters I put in there.

Also I finally made Lucy her “baby book” one year:

She had been waiting patiently for that sucker for LOTS of years (we usually look at baby books on every birthday and she was dying to know exactly what time she was born and what other names were on our list of options for her, etc.)

Lucy is my biggest printed book fan, and has asked for another one this year and my heart is aching because I don’t know how in the world she’ll be able to see the pictures.

The Gift of No Gifts

This may be one of the most memorable “sentimental” gifts we gave our kids, because it was the ONLY physical gift they got one Christmas:

A tiny stocking we gave our kids one year for Christmas when we gave no gifts.

That little stocking just had a couple Hershey’s kisses in it and that little note. It was the Christmas we spent in Ecuador working in a home for kids with special needs, and we sat there on Christmas morning and just talked about the experiences we were having and how they filled us up with so much love and gratitude.

(You can read about that trip back HERE.)

A Monogrammed Tie

When one of Grace and Claire’s friends passed away (such a very sad story), Grace and her friend got these ties made for all his brothers and dad, monogrammed with their friend’s initials on them:

They came up with this idea all on their own and I thought it was so very thoughtful.

A Journal

I am a huge journal-keeper so I think any kind of journal is so precious, and such a wonderful gift.

I love this one Abby gave Lucy a couple years ago filled up with all kinds of ways to “choose kind” along with places to write your feelings.

Lucy reading her special journal Abby gave her for Christmas

(You can find it HERE.)

I think there is nothing better than for kids to learn to write and express how they feel, especially in this world of ours right now.

And speaking of journals, my uncle had my Grandpa’s journal printed up for ALL of his Grandkids one Christmas.

SUCH a kind gesture, and so filled with goodness. Lucy particularly LOVED it so much.

Neighbor Gift Ideas

I should have put this up with the bread, but it’s a super easy gift idea…

an idea for a neighbor gift: salsa with a note

Maybe not overly “sentimental,” but quick and easy if you need ideas!

Make a Video

This was one of my very favorite gifts my kids have given me. They put it together for Mother’s Day one year and it was golden. These are just screenshots of parts of it, but it was SO THOUGHTFUL!!

Olive Wood with a Thoughtful Message

One last thing: As I said yesterday, I’m a sucker for olive wood, and I love the significance of a wooden spoon.

I gave some to friends with this note one year:

a sentimental gift idea with a wooden spoon and a note to go with it.

And then we gave one to all our Relief Society ladies the next year:

I wrote up a post about more details on that, but here are some pictures for this post.

And there’s a wrap!

There you go, some sentimental and homemade gift ideas for you!


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  1. A thought has just popped into my head – do you do little videos for Lucy in which you describe what is happening or where you are (the landscape)? For example: “We are at Bear Lake and there is the most vibrant sunset right now. You are wearing a blue swimsuit and still have wet hair, because you have been swimming all day and your smile is so big.” (Or something like that…)

    I thought that she might like such little videos to listen to and have a mental picture, if she whishes for printed book even though she hs difficulties seeing the pictures.

    1. This is such a great idea! I’m going to have to ponder a little on that one to figure out how to make it work but I love it!

  2. Hey Shawni!
    I am a professional photo organizer and not only do I organize people’s photos but I also digitize old media… like DVDs! I live in Mesa and would be happy to digitize your DVDs and make a flash drive for each member of your family. I only charge $5 per DVD. If you are interested email me at angela@cactuscottagephotos.com

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