Like most parents of young kids, we take a lot of photos of our kids. But what good are all those cute baby and toddler photos if no-one’s ever going to see them?
If there’s ever a willing audience for baby photos, it’s the grandparents and great-grandparents. Doubly so if they live a long way away. But not all grandparents are completely comfortable with smartphone apps, Facebook, or even email. Sure, we could post them on Facebook, but we’re not really ones to plaster baby photos all over our Facebook wall. Besides, our Facebook friends include a lot of people who aren’t really that interested in seeing a constant stream of baby photos. And most of our kids’ grandparents and great-grandparents don’t use Facebook. We have a dedicated photostream just for family, but not everyone in our extended families uses an iPhone.
So here are some ideas for sharing baby photos and photos of the kids with the grandparents in ways that provide a tactile, lasting memory they can hold in their hands. They don’t involve mastering yet another online app (and you becoming a computer help desk). And they also don’t involve going out in public wearing a “World’s Greatest Grandma” t-shirt.
Send a Postcard
Who doesn’t love getting a real, old-fashioned postcard in the mail? Somehow there’s something much more personal and intimate about it that getting an email. And try sticking an email on the fridge!
What if you could turn a photo on your phone into a postcard the grandparents can hold in their hand a few days later half a world away?
Turns out there are services out there where you simply upload a photo you’ve taken and have it delivered with the regular snail-mail as a custom cardboard postcard. And you can often do this right from your phone with an app.
My personal favorite–and the one I use regularly–is Touchnote.
Here’s how it works: you upload a photo either through the iPhone app or through the website, add a personal message to be printed on the back, enter the recipient’s address, and hit send. Touchnote takes care of the rest–they print the card and mail it. It takes seconds to create and a few days arrive, but you end up with a high quality, glossy postcard delivered in the mail.
Touchnote has printing presses in several countries that help speed things along. So if you’re sending a postcard to someone in Australia, the card is actually printed and mailed in Australia, making it much quicker than sending by international mail. You’ll get email updates when your card is printed and mailed. I’ve found that it typically takes around 4-5 business days between placing the order and the recipient getting it in their mailbox.
You pay with credits. It works out at $1.99 per card. That includes printing and postage. There are other services where you can order postcards in bulk, and they work out cheaper per card, but the thing I like about Touchnote is that you can create much more personal, individualized cards rather than a mass produced blast.
Tip: This is also a great way to send a personalized postcard while you’re traveling. Just use the phone app to create and send the card on the go. It’ll often arrive quicker than waiting for international post, you end up with a completely unique postcard, and you don’t have to deal with lines at the local post office wherever you are.
Make a Photo Book
Photo books make great gifts. Grandparents have a knack for already having everything. But it’s a safe bet they don’t already have a book of recent photos of their grandkids.
You’ll need to plan this one a few weeks in advance. First you’ll need to design the book. All of the services have their own free software for doing this, and some offer an alternative for doing it online that doesn’t involving installing any software. They’re generally straightforward and simple to use.
Designing the book can be as simple or as complicated as you like. You can add captions or not. You can have multiple images on each page or have double-page spreads. You can have a 20-page book or a 250-page book. You can have a hard cover or soft cover. So basically you can spend 10 minutes on it or spend weeks on it–it’s entirely up to you.
Once you upload the completed book, the manufacturing process typically takes about 10 business days or so. Some take more, some less.
Prices vary, but you can get started for under $20.
Make a Calendar
This is along the same lines as making the photo book, but you can make a wall or desk calendar using a different photo for each month. It’s functional as well as fun.
For an extra nice touch, you can mark up special dates–the kids’ birthdays, for example.
Make USPS-approved Postage Stamps
A service called PhotoStamps lets you use your own photos to create USPS-approved postage stamps that work like any other legal stamps for mailing within the United States.
Like the postcards, it’s simply a case of uploading your photo, customizing your design, and placing the order. The sheets of stamps then get printed and mailed out to you.
Prices vary by how many stamps you’re ordering and what kind of stamp. A single sheet of 20 49-cent stamps works out at about $1 per stamp, so it’s about twice the price of a regular stamp.
These customized stamps work just like any other stamp for postage within the United States but don’t work for sending mail to international addresses.
Tip: These are also a great idea for mailing family holiday cards, thank you notes, or baby announcements.
Make a Christmas Ornament
For those who celebrate Christmas, decorating the Christmas tree has to be in the top three quintessential family activities. While the ornaments you can get an any department store will get the job done, they don’t compare with having personalized ornament that’s brought out every year.
They’re printed on metal and will last for years. There’s no reason they won’t still be in pristine condition when your kids have kids. And starting at about $10, they make for a great stocking stuffer.
Classic Framed Prints
And oldie but a goodie that’s hard to beat. Just have a print made (or print one at home) and find an inexpensive frame. Voila!
Some places, like FrameBridge, make the whole process easier by letting you upload a digital photo, choose the framing options, and have it shipped directly to the recipient.