Photo books from Aunt Sara Beth

Clementine will turn four tomorrow, so we had a party at our house yesterday afternoon and evening and invited some family and friends. Clementine was a holy terror, having skipped her nap with all the looming excitement, and spent much of the party whining or screaming at the other children (mainly her brother), but at least it made the other parents of toddlers feel better when their kid had a tantrum too, right? It’s a good thing she’s so stinkin’ cute, that’s all I’m sayin.


I’ll show you some pictures of the dress I made for her birthday (got it finished!! YAY!!!) later, but today I want to show you one of the most thoughtful gifts Clementine got yesterday, from my sister-in-law, Sara Beth: a photo book. Every year she gives each of my children a book on their birthday, and it’s become one of the gifts I appreciate the most. Admittedly it is also the one gift that my children usually tear open and then immediately toss aside. But later, they always ask me to read them over and over and over, and the books make it into the bedtime story rotation. Moreover, my guess is that, unlike most of the other presents (toys, bikes, games) that will be given away or grown out of over time, these presents will remain with them and be cherished their entire lives.


(one of my all-time favorite pictures of Mr Rae and Clementine)

Sara Beth has been giving these to my children every year since they were born. And she doesn’t just throw a bunch of photos into a book and order it. She even comes up with a THEME for each book, which I think is just downright brilliant! The theme for the book pictured below, for example, was the four seasons. So there were pictures from each season of the year. Elliot got that book for his second birthday.


Here’s a couple other examples of themes from past years:


“I love…” for Clementine’s third birthday


“I can imagine…” for Elliot’s third birthday

The time and care she puts into figuring out a theme and then curating the pictures is really amazing. She has a knack for choosing pictures which — though maybe not always the most wall-worthy — really document what each child enjoys and bring out their personality. I personally have attempted (rather unsuccessfully) to create annual photo books for the kids myself (through Snapfish or Shutterfly or MyPublisher, etc), so I know how much work this is. We have boxes and boxes of printed photos in the house…but guess what the kids enjoy looking at more? Their books!


For Clementine’s book this year Sara Beth picked the theme…”FOUR!”


“four outfits mommy made for me”


“this is me in four seasons”


“four places I have traveled this year”

And this is the page that makes both of my kids belly-laugh:


You want to know one more thing about this gift that is completely and totally brilliant? Sara Beth always gives them TWO identical books. One for now — for dirty fingers, ripped pages, to be loved — and one to keep nice in the closet.


I know posting about photo books may be a bit off-topic for a blog that is primarily about sewing, but I thought you would enjoy seeing these! I think it’s a great idea, and maybe it will give you gift inspiration. Do you have other great ideas for cherished gifts? I’d love to hear about them.

35 thoughts on “Photo books from Aunt Sara Beth

  1. I LOVE this! Thank you so much for sharing! (We may have to steal this idea for our house too…;)

  2. I use shutterfly to make photo books for my kids every year for their birthday. I don’t have the time or space to scrapbook like I want to, so this helps. One day they will be given all of the books for their own houses and they will have an entire volume of photo scrap books about their lives. I love that your SIL does that for your children, and gives you two. Smart lady.

  3. WOW! all i’m sayin’ to sara beth …. amazing … thank you for show and tell, rae … happy birthday to clemintine ….

  4. We do something similar. Every Xmas we gift the grandparents and great grandparents with photo books of “our year”. They love them and we always keep one for ourselves. I love gifts like this

  5. What a great idea. I loved looking at the photo albums my mom put together when I was growing up, but I love how these are is kid-centric (because kids love books about themselves) and can be on their book shelf. My have to steal this idea when we have kids of our own.

  6. Great idea and amazing execution! I’m so going to steal this idea for my new nephew! Thanks for sharing!

  7. So beautiful, and will be such lovely books to remind you all of those early years in years to come. Just gorgeous.

  8. Rae, please tell your sil how much we all love this beautiful idea. The books are gorgeous and how precious that the kids enjoy them so much!

  9. I am just floored! This is so amazingly special. What a treasure! So much time, energy, and thought goes into these. Please tell me she doesn’t have any children of her own! πŸ˜‰

  10. Well I now know you you not only have talented family genes, you married into the artistically talented. I’m jealous. She is a keeper

  11. Fantastic idea! Love that she gives you two. We do this as a gift to our inlaws when they take us on vacation, so I KNOW how much work it is. Very special present. Happy birthday to your little nap striker!

  12. Thank you so much for sharing such a wonderful idea!!! I am a Mom to two boys under 3 and I’m always looking for ways to remember this fast paced/wonderful/crazy time. Can you please say which photo book company she uses, they’re beautiful. With so many options out there it would be great to get a good recommend. Thanks again.

  13. What a wonderful idea! I especially like that the books have a new theme each year. Sara Beth is a wonderful Auntie! Can’t wait to do a book of “Firsts” as we are expecting our First Grandchild any day! ~ Thanks, Rae!
    And Happy 4th Birthday, Clementine!

  14. What a wonderful gift! Thank you for sharing – I think of your blog as not just for sewing, but for creativity. What lucky kiddos to have such a thoughtful Aunt!

  15. wow, lots of work and what a brilliant idea. I also love the fact that she gives 2 books each time. really considerate.

  16. I wish that I had an Aunt Sara Beth to make these books for my children. They’re just wonderful.

  17. This is pure genius! My little one is about to turn one, so I’ve been thinking about making a photo book to share with the grandparents, and of course, one for us to keep as well. I love the idea of writing the book with the child in mind with the various themes, and then giving them their own copy to read, play with, and enjoy.

  18. This is so awesome! I love the themes and what a great idea to make two so you don’t have to stress about one getting messed up. I’m guessing that these are mostly your photos from your flickr that she uses?

  19. I love the way you have personalized the text as coming from the children themselves. With some thought and preparation these books are wonderful, and encourage the children to read as they get older. Not forgetting you can make as many copies as you like. Really nice.

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