Gifts, Parenting

Sentimental Gift Ideas to Make While Your Kids are Little (and Give Them When They’re All Grown Up)

My son is turning one this week and as soon as I stop mourning the passing of his oh-so-fleeting baby days *sniffle*, I am getting to work on a sentimental gift I plan to give him when he’s older.

To kick it off, I gave each of his daycare teachers a 4″x6″ notecard and asked them to write him a note. I will put their notes in an album next to this year’s “school photo”. (Yes, you read that right. Our son’s daycare class of eight munchkins ranging in age from 6 weeks to 18 months had a picture day).

Daycare Class Photo Day
Our Son’s First School Photo

Over the years, I will fill this album with every one of his school photos along with notes from his teachers. At the end of the album, I want to add graduation photos and notes from his grandparents, aunts and uncles, and (of course) my husband and I. I am planning to give him this album if and when he heads off to college *sob*, in the hopes that it will help him to remember the village that raised him.

This got me thinking. What other meaningful gifts can I give my son that I need to get cracking on now? Below is the list of sentimental gift ideas I have come across.

Before you get overwhelmed I should clarify that I will not be attempting all of these. I may be an aspiring supermom but I’m not that organized. In the interest of preserving your sanity, I recommend picking one and sticking with it.

Good ‘Ol Fashioned Notes

  • Annual birthday letters: recap every year in a letter to your child on their birthday. Save these over the years and pass them on when they get older.
  • Email him: create an email address for your little one and start periodically forwarding pictures, videos, thoughts and stories that you know you’ll want to remember and share. When they get older, simply give them the password.
  • “Open when” letters: write letters now for your little one to open at specific points in their life (graduations, wedding, becoming a parent). You might also consider writing one to their future spouse to open on their wedding day. You never know if you will actually need any of these, but you’ll be glad you have them if and when these major events roll around.
  • Notes or artwork from him to his future self: when your baby is old enough to participate but still young enough to “say the damndest things”, have them write a letter to their future self. You could have them decorate an envelope to keep it in or draw a picture to go with it as well.
  • Annual questionnaire: have your kids respond to an annual survey. You could include questions like “what is your favorite toy?”, “what is your favorite subject?”, and “What do you want to be when you grow up?”. One day, you can put all of their survey responses together with photos of them at that age.
  • Travel log: if your family travels often, start keeping track of places your child has been. You could track their travel on a map or in an album with tickets, photos and other keepsakes from each trip.


  • Replicate a photo from your childhood: pick a photo of you or your partner at your child’s age. Try to find a similar backdrop and outfit and recreate the photo with your child. This would be particularly cute if you could save the outfit and keep it going for more than two generations. This would also be cute as a mother’s/father’s day gift for your partner.
  • Take the same family photo every year: this one won’t be a surprise to your child because they will have to participate every year; however, it’s still a really sweet idea. Get a picture of your family in the same location with the same outfits each year. Bonus points if you have a baby that is adorably perched on someone’s lap. The “lap-child” will get progressively funnier each year once they hit their teens.

Christmas Traditions

  • Christmas cards: Save a copy of each year’s Christmas cards and photos with Santa. I won’t be doing this one because my son’s first encounter with Mr. Claus was pretty traumatic.
My Little Guy Meets Santa
Santa’s Biggest Fan
  • Notes to Santa: Have your child write a note to Santa which you can save for them along with annual Christmas cards.
  • Annual ornaments: every year, buy your kids a Christmas tree ornament that represents what they did that year. One day when they have their own sparse little Christmas tree to decorate, you will help them to kick-start their holiday decorations.

What did I miss? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments. What other sentimental gift ideas have you considered or tried?

Looking for gift ideas you can give your little one now, check out my attempt to document my son’s Christmas wishlist from his perspective.

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