What do grandparents really want for Christmas?

I mentioned yesterday that I have been trying to figure out what to give my parents for Christmas. We usually give a couple of small things – some things from us and some from the kids.

My mother is tough to buy for. She doesn’t like to cook like my mother-in-law. She is particular about jewelry. (You can’t buy the cheap stuff.) And she’s not an avid reader. Although for the last few years I have given her and my Godmother a year subscription to Soap Opera Digest and they love that! (I forgot about that. Good that’s one thing I can do.)

My dad is relatively easy but I feel like I give the same things every year – movie passes, historic fiction novels, undershirts. You get the idea.

So I asked my mom again this year, what is something that you really want? And she says, “Pictures of the kids are always good.”

She has big framed photos of both our family and my brother’s family in her family room. So every other year we update it with a new family photo with the $10.99 (now $14.99) deal at Portrait Innovations.

I also usually do custom-made calendars with photos of the kids on Shutterfly for both grandfathers and Michael’s brother but it is very time consuming.

Last year I did ornaments with photos of the kids for Michael’s family.

This year, Shutterfly has a new item – a cloth tote bag that you could put photos on. I thought my mom might like that.

So other than photo-type products, I am looking for some inspiration.

So what are you giving to grandparents? Are you giving clothes, jewelry, trips to visit you, photos of the kids?

What are the best grandparent gifts?

68 comments Add your comment


November 30th, 2011
12:22 am

Careful with the picture idea – get a professional one of the entire family done – not those lame school photos with purple ink crossing your kids’ faces! Lost my grandmother a couple of weeks ago – wish she was here to worry about purchasing a gift for.

usually lurking

November 30th, 2011
7:12 am

We don’t buy gifts for the adults anymore. We all have way more than we want or need. We buy gifts for disadvantaged kids instead. My mom, SIL and I have a blast on that shopping trip every year. That said, kids pix and restaurant gift cards worked well for us in the past. One year when all the sibs from my husband’s side were together for the holidays, I arranged and paid for a photographer to do family pix as the gift.


November 30th, 2011
8:20 am

I usually donate to a charity (one that is important to my parents) in their name for a Christmas gift. My parents live in an RV over the winter, so they don’t have a lot of room for “stuff”.


November 30th, 2011
8:28 am

Get one of those digital frames, and load it up with pics of the kids and other family members. Ask other family members for pictures too…..My mom and Dad love their frame. We got it about 3 years ago for them.

Have your kids make something by hand. Those are the best gifts. Take pictures of them, cut them out, and make magnets of them. Mom and Dad have several of these of their grands.

Make those plaster hand prints.

Tons of tv shows are on DVD, get them a series, like The Closer, or Modern Family.

One of the things my parents love are AMC or other movie gift cards. They love to go to movies. At least once a week they go see a movie.

Paquet du 10

November 30th, 2011
8:57 am

Using the word "flotsam"

November 30th, 2011
8:58 am

Why buy anything?

This notion of having to buy for others is a fabrication of the merchandising industry and nearly everyone of you have fallen in to it. If you think they will love you any less because you did not buy some piece of junk they may not like, then you have serious relationship problems and I suggest therapy, or an estrangement from parents/in laws.

Do you ever get tired of sharing your dysfunctions with us?

Mrs. G

November 30th, 2011
8:59 am

I’m running into this problem with my mom! She is picky and, if she wants something, she will buy it herself (yesterday I found out that a singer that she likes had a new CD come out in August and I thought that that would be perfect – although small, it would be something that she would genuinely like…well, I asked my dad and she already has it! So, then, I asked him if he thought that she would like a Kindle, because I know she doesn’t have one. He responded that she already has an iPad that she can read on. Ugh!).

One year, for her birthday, I bought her a t-shirt with her favorite band’s name on the front (I thought that it would be something cute to wear with jeans or whatever) and she STILL hasn’t worn it (that was four years ago). Then there were the cute Victoria’s Secret PJs with matching slippers…I gave them to her for Christmas and went to visit her the next summer and they were still in the box in her bedroom! She claims to have worn them now, but still. I want to get her something that she will LOVE and I feel like it’s a lost cause! I asked her what she wants and she told me that she wants socks. Which I got her last year. And the year before. They seem like such a “blah” gift, but, if they are what she wants…I guess I’ll go sock shopping this weekend.

We had hoped to be giving our parents ultrasound pictures this Christmas to tell them that we were pregnant, but we haven’t had any luck with the pregnancy part yet, unfortunately.


November 30th, 2011
9:00 am

TWG…have you seen those books that you can record a voice on? I saw the commercial with the Father/Soldier that was precious. His kids sent the book to him. Maybe you could send one to your parents with your kids reading it. I would love to have one of those with my kid’s voices when they were little and a book we enjoyed together. Do your kids play a instrument? Maybe a recording of that would be nice! I love it when my daughter comes home and plays the piano here. If you really wanted to get elaborate, you could take them to a studio and record them singing. I use studio here but do not know one near you. Or just do it yourself.

I am perhaps old enough to be a Grandparent…52. I agree that we do not need stuff. I would prefer to spend time doing interesting things with the people I love. When I have grandkids, I hope we can take them places. My husband and I talk about this more and more.

We are not close in distance nor relationship to either of our parents and the grandkids have not seen them in years…they would probably not recognize their grandkids on the street.

That being said, I just sent food gift baskets from Costco to our parents. They are a really good price and the shipping was free. My FIL lives in a smaller town where these items would not be available. He has enjoyed the things we sent before. BTW…he sold his house and is moving. No one told us. He has lived there for over 35 years. I found out by accident. I said WHAT to my husband and he said OH WELL.

The items in the basket would be enjoyed by my Dad and step mom too. As mentioned last year, my Dad sent us A BOOK for our entire family to share. He eventually sent a check for our kids to split, after some discussion of how one book would perhaps not be enjoyed by four different people and two do not even live at home. The topic of gifts with grandparents is kind of a sore subject here and has been forever. We do not get birthday gifts from my Dad at all. We DO NOT need anything but it would be nice to be remembered. We do get a card.

On a funny note…my daughter got two different birthday cards from FIL with $20 in each. My son did not get one and his birthday is a week later. My husband got a card that said, ” enjoy lunch on me!” an empty card and I got mine the next week with $20 inside. We still laugh about it. Our birthdays are a week apart…the kids and then us. We shared.


November 30th, 2011
9:03 am

A gift card to a nice restaurant may be appropriate.

Also, one doesn’t “do” custom-made calendars and ornaments. Perhaps you meant “give” or “make”?

Mrs. G

November 30th, 2011
9:10 am

@Cranston – “Also, one doesn’t “do” custom-made calendars and ornaments. Perhaps you meant “give” or “make”?” This totally cracked me up because it’s totally something that my dad would say (with a raised eyebrow and a look that suggests that he interpreted “do” in a perverted way. Although you may not have meant it that way!). I’m having one of those days, so thank you for the laugh. :)


November 30th, 2011
9:10 am

@Cranston, there are 26 non-slang uses of the word “do”. Theresa used it properly.


November 30th, 2011
9:19 am

There’s another idea….custom made calendars. You can do this at WalGreens…

Coffee cups with the kids pictures on them…..OR there’s some you can decorate yourself. Have the kids do that. DOn’t decorate it for them.

My parents have an ornament that has a voice recording of all the grandkids wishing them Merry Christmas….


November 30th, 2011
9:28 am

Ask them if they really WANT a gift.

I’m getting to the point (and I’m nowhere near grannyhood) that I don’t care if I get a gift. It’s enough to get the family together and have a good time. Plus I’m finding that I have enough “stuff” that more “stuff” is more cleaning, storing and so on.


November 30th, 2011
9:32 am

I struggle with this as well – what do you buy for people who pretty much go get what they want and have lots of stuff already? So I splurged this year on concert tickets for New Year’s for a group my parents love. It’s a combined milestone birthday, anniversary, and Christmas present – the tickets are in the 6th row, so I feel good about how they’ll react (after they yell at me for spending the money, of course!) :o)

The past few years I have hand-made calendars from DD’s school art. You want time-consuming? Each one was different. Everyone loved them, but I don’t think I can pull it off this year…

@Mrs. G – LOL, sounds like your dad and mine are similar. I was hoping to have some news for Christmas, too, but am disappointed. Why is it so much harder the 2nd time around? Just don’t say it’s ’cause I’m so much older!

My beer is colder

November 30th, 2011
9:52 am

If I was your grandparents?…….I would want you to move far away…..Somewhere hot and desolate.

I bet....

November 30th, 2011
9:54 am

We don’t buy gifts for the adults, only the kids. We made that arrangement several years ago and it works well. We all make a donation in the family name to a particular charity that we all hold dear. No need to stress over and buy something they don’t want or need. OR another option is for the adults to draw names. That works well for a friends family. We (the adults) just enjoy spending time together over the holidays and watching the younger ones! Stop stressing over it and enjoy!!


November 30th, 2011
10:19 am

Well my parents aren’t grandparents yet (unless you count my puppy :p) and I also had many problems getting them to tell me what they wanted that they weren’t already buying for themselves. I even tried to get them to set up wishlists on amazon, but they would put things on there then go buy the items themselves and forget to take it off the wishlist!

I knew they love watching movies and tv shows- the older ones- so last year I got them a netflix subscription. I also had to get them a wireless router and teach them how to get online with their wii, but they LOVE it! My mom gets to watch Dr Who and my dad gets to watch John Wayne movies in addition to a bunch of other stuff I’ve never heard of. I was worried when netflix went all screwy earlier this year but they seem to have calmed down now. So, that’s my parents’ present this year too.


November 30th, 2011
10:28 am

Candlesticks always make a nice gift.

Veteran of a Thousand Psychic Wars

November 30th, 2011
10:49 am

Shun Christmas and celebrate the winter solstice as it should be…….And once was.


November 30th, 2011
10:51 am

I am not a grandparent yet, but my children have very busy schedules. So I can tell you that the gift that already means the most to me, is the gift of time…


November 30th, 2011
10:55 am

You can always have your pics made at a gun club with santa….Its in Phoenix!



November 30th, 2011
11:06 am

This just in from my friend who posts ALL sorts of things on Facebook. If anyone has parents that do not have a GPS ( amazing but true) this is a GREAT deal:

Get the Tom Tom 5-inch GPS with Lifetime Maps for just $99 on Amazon.

We bought one for my Dad last Christmas and I forgot all about it.

I remember when we bought my parents their first microwave and MR. COFFEE coffee pot ( late 1970’s) . They fussed that they did NOT need those things at all but AMAZING they eventually liked them. Anyone else remember the perculator ( sp?) coffee pots or worse yet the kind they put on the stove ( my great grandma). We now have a Kuerig ( sp?) and I love it but it but the coffee is expensive. TWG perhaps your parents would like one of those and the coffee too. You can snap them on sale for around $125 and the best price I have found on coffee is at Costco…80 pods for $38.


November 30th, 2011
11:06 am

As a grandparent, I like pictures, I like time with them (kids and grandkids), I like things related to my interests (gardening), I like magazines. I think the calendars are great. One of the things we got my mom was a sweatshirt with the grandkids’ names embroidered on it. (If someone isn’t finished with having babies, allow space for additional ones.) I like things they have made–scarves, hats, aprons–and things that display things I treasure. I have a display of old postcards my granddad sent my grandmother and his mother, starting in 1909. I love things that are hard to cook, like pralines. My family rarely gives me something I don’t just love.


November 30th, 2011
11:07 am

I realize many have a GPS on their phone, as do all three of mine. Not me… I cannot read the tiny map and drive safely at the same time, so I have a Tom Tom.


November 30th, 2011
11:10 am

catlady, good idea about the knitting. I taught my daughter how to knit about 6 years ago. She has knitted me several scarves and when I wear them I always get compliments. TWG, see if you can teach Rose how to knit or even make a pot holder. You can see how to do it online, really neat! I knew how to knit but forgot how to cast off and the first scarf was REALLY long but again, a funny memory.

My sister made pralines for Thanksgiving and we still have a few…want some…lol.


November 30th, 2011
11:21 am

Is knitted the best word…not sure…perhaps I should have said she has KNIT? Where are the grammar police when you need them?


November 30th, 2011
11:25 am

My parents are impossible to shop for. They are well off and their needs and wants are pretty modest. Anything they want, they buy for themselves. We usually give them something picture related (i.e. the calendars, the mugs, etc), but I am getting tired of that stuff!

We spend a lot of time together since they live in town, so the whole “gift of time” thing is moot.


November 30th, 2011
11:30 am

Last year for Christmas my daughter gave me a Roku player and a Netflix streaming subscription ~ and a couple of months later she gave me a second Roku player for the bedroom! I use them every day!

Hands down

November 30th, 2011
11:35 am

I’m giving my father in law a gift card to a strip club.


November 30th, 2011
11:41 am

I like the digital frame idea, I think I will get one for my dad and my grandmother. Thanks for the idea!
My mom told me a few things she wanted and I will probably pick up a little something extra for my son to give to her as well.

Father Christmas

November 30th, 2011
11:45 am

Why don’t the atheists just stay off the blogs about Christmas? I’m not trolling your sites belittling you for your non-beliefs.


November 30th, 2011
11:59 am

I agree with the digital picture idea – I bought that for my mom and put pictures of my daughter from the moment she was born until now. My mom can continue to add pictures as my daughter gets older. My mom proudly shows off her picture frame to anyone who comes over to visit.


November 30th, 2011
12:00 pm

I actually found some really great ideas for pictures on a site called Pinterest. You can take a painters canvas and put a nice print on it making a canvas print. I am doing this for the whole family.

Making baby Jesus cry for over 2000 years.

November 30th, 2011
12:05 pm

@ Father Christmas

Who made you in charge of all blogs? Who are the atheists here? Did you ever really research the Christmas holiday?


November 30th, 2011
12:06 pm

Ahhhh, yes…the benefit to having Jehovah’s Witnesses for in-laws…no gift buying! Both of my parents are deceased, I have 1 brother and my husband’s family are JW…my Christmas present buying budget is VERY reasonable (and does NOT involve credit cards! w00t!).

What about a purse-sized photo book? Coffee mugs with the kids’ pics on them? Would they enjoy having professional pics done WITH the kids? You could always buy a portrait studio gift certificate for something like that.

Also, when I’m stuck trying to decide on a gift for someone, I love checking out thinkgeek.com and redenvelope.com…not necessarily to BUY something form one of those sites, but I can usually get some great, unique ideas!


November 30th, 2011
12:12 pm

For my mom, we picked up a couple of pedicure gift certificates. She just got her first pedicure EVER this month and loved it. We’re also getting her a couple of smaller items to go with these.

I also like the idea of making a donation to a charity in the other person’s honor. Or you could pick up a name from a Christmas wish tree and shop for a person in the other person’s honor. :)


November 30th, 2011
12:24 pm

Great ideas here that just reminded me of something I saw at Costco ( yes I love to shop there…it is across the street from the MOG…haha).

Blankets or purses with pictures on them. I think the purse is $29 and the blanket is $69. I would love to have either of those items….if I had grandchildren. I am not ready for them yet but when my kids finish college, then maybe. Those need to be ordered NOW!


November 30th, 2011
12:41 pm

Give the gift of an “experience” with the grandkids. Buy the grandparents/grandkids a day’s pass to the zoo, the science museum, the aquarium, etc. Make sure to include a gift certificate to their fav restaurant so they can have lunch together as well. The special time will mean more than something that sits on a shelf and memories are worth a fortune……………


November 30th, 2011
12:45 pm

Many years ago, when we realized that my in-laws did not need any more stuff, we started giving them a joint themed gift. The first year it was “a day on the town” They had to open the gifts in order and read what we had written to go with each one. The gifts were a certificate to get coffee and a donut for breakfast, then certificates to get a car wash in the morning, something for lunch, a movie in the afternoon, and to a restaurant for dinner. Themes for other years have been “a trip around the world” with items from different places or gift cards to ethnic restaurants, etc., an evening at home, with gift cards for everything that they would need to have friends over for dinner. We did this for 10 or 15 years with something different every year. They loved telling their friends about what the theme for the year was.


November 30th, 2011
12:50 pm

The digital frame is a great idea – there are always new pictures to be added. Also, the Keurig IS definitely a must-have item for coffee lovers. You can get one at Bed, Bath and Beyond using a 20% off coupon to bring the price way down. Only spend the extra $ on the bells and whistles if your parents will actually use those other settings. BB&B also has a great selection of coffee to choose from. Costco finally has more options for coffee as well. It used to be only Caribou Morning Blend, but now there is a Starbucks version (less coffee, higher price than the Caribou), Paul Newman and a “Donut House” blend. The “real” Dunkin Donuts locations have the K-cups that you can purchase as well. Hubby loves them; he likes them a lot more than the “Donut House” blend from Costco. Happy shopping!


November 30th, 2011
1:07 pm

Nice idea Polly – My Grandparents came over from Italy back in the 1920’s and last year I went on Ellis Island’s website and did a search (takes a while) and got the log and the picture of the ship that my Grandfather came on. Sent it to Mom for Christmas – It comes in a nice case – but to have that little moment of history in her hand was very cool!

Father Christmas

November 30th, 2011
1:09 pm

I don’t have to research it – I was there.


November 30th, 2011
1:10 pm

@kk…I would LOVE this with my future grandkids. That is a GREAT idea for TWG when they come back here to visit and she can go and visit with her friends too…a double gift!

My kid’s grandparents would have hated it. Years, ago we took my Dad with our family to see the Grinch, when he came here one year after my Mom died. You would have thought he was getting all of his teeth pulled. He was probably 60. My husband’s parents never did anything alone with our kids.


November 30th, 2011
1:13 pm

@ jg…love Ellis Island! It is a fascinating place. My grandmother came, with her parents, in 1911. They were from the Netherlands and had NO money. They dug in people’s trash cans for potato peels to make soup, at first. We are blessed and have no idea what that kind of life was.


November 30th, 2011
1:19 pm

Instead of something material, why not purchase an unexpected weekend vacation rental? Meet the grandparents at a secluded mountain cabin or go to the Florida coast. Give them a wrapped calendar with the long weekend circled and the reservation slip neatly folded inside.It would give them something to look foward to in the near future.


November 30th, 2011
1:21 pm

A WiFi digital frame is a great gift. We gave my grandmother one last year. She has a Kodak email address that she doesn’t have to actually check. We send photos to it and they just pop up on her frame’s slideshow. It’s on a timer to turn on every morning and off at night. My aunt scanned a lot of her old family photos and uploaded those too. She loves it!

Red and Black Peachy

November 30th, 2011
1:24 pm

I am getting my mother a 50 inch flat screen TV. My mother is frugal and the extreme sacrificer when it comes to herself but she indulges my children. When it comes to gifts for her I try to always get her something frivilous. She will love the TV in her family room but it is nothing she would ever purchase for herself.

Ace, the man in the elevator

November 30th, 2011
1:27 pm

Typical Christian response from Father Christmas. Instead of forgiving and accepting others beliefs, he instead attacks and is judgmental.


Cousin Eddie

November 30th, 2011
1:29 pm

Jelly of the month club. A gift that keeps on giving the WHOLE year.

Roswell Jeff

November 30th, 2011
1:39 pm

I didn’t read through the comments yet, so I apologize if already mentioned.

Have the kids make them something. My son and I are going to make my Father a bird house and my Inlaws an Owl House. They love to watch wildlife. We have gotten them hummingbird feeders in the past and they love to watch the hummingbirds all summer long.