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Grandmother Appreciation Gift Ideas

In-Law Appreciation Day

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

I have a five month old and have devoured your previous advice columns (happily cloth diapering with GMD prefolds and flip covers, thanks!). I read the columns about crazy in-laws with amusement and sympathy, but find myself with somewhat of the opposite problem. Maybe answering a question about a great in-law relationship will be something different to think about?

My mother-in-law takes care of my son once a week, driving an hour each way to our house. The arrangement lets my husband be a stay at home dad four days a week while still working part time as I work full time at a job I love. It’s a perfect setup for my husband and me both personally and professionally, and I have no idea how we would be able to replicate it without her. I worried that we would have problems with parenting preferences but she has been incredibly respectful of our wishes and (not surprisingly) fantastic with our son.

So what can I do to thank her for being so great and make her time taking care of my son easier? Her birthday is coming up and I’m trying to figure out what we can do to show our appreciation and also anything we could do to make taking care of the baby more fun. When he gets older we look forward to getting tickets for them to museums or the zoo or other fun trips, but he’s 5 months old. We’ve offered to buy any food/snacks she wants and the only thing she’s asked for in the house is diet soda. Somehow supplying two cans of diet soda per week doesn’t seem adequate… So do you or the other readers have any tips for what would make a care-givers day?


Wow. What a breath of fresh air through the in-law zone of the question queue! Look, everybody! It CAN happen! It CAN work! It DOES exist! Let’s all ooh and ahh over the mythical unicorn-in-law.

I bet your mother-in-law already thinks her current schedule and time with the baby is pretty fun. Outings will be nice down the road, but right now, a whole solid day of sweet, squishy baby time is probably her jam. Goodness, I just officially said goodbye to the baby stage of parenting like, five minutes ago and I’m already itching to get my hands on somebody else’s baby for a fix. (A temporary fix. That I can hand back after a couple hours. And then go home and sleeeeeeeeep.)

That’s not to say a nice show of appreciation isn’t in order, or anything. She’s obviously more than happy to help out and spend time with her delicious grandson, but you certainly don’t want her feel like you’re taking the arrangement for granted. Which again, I bet she doesn’t. Your letter is clearly aware of how lucky you are and dripping with a need to let her know how much it all means to you. I bet real life reads like that too, in more subtle ways. Like nice cold Diet Cokes.

Here are my top grandparent/caregiver appreciation ideas, and then I’m pitching this one right into the comments for further brainstorming.

1. Photo books. A customized “Grandma and Me” photo book would be a very sweet memento of their time together, particularly if she takes photos of your son during her day with him that you could include. Get those photos off the phones and memory cards and into a book, complete with text or a dedication where you and your husband can express how thankful you are. (Plus a photo book can be displayed if she wants, or tucked away on a shelf if she’s not one for “clutter,” unlike a framed photo or wall collage that she might not really have space for.) (Editor’s note: we have reviewed some custom photo book options herehere and here.)

2. Personalized jewelry. Spend some time on Etsy and you’ll be amazed by all the cool and creative jewelry ideas you can find for grandparents. Lockets, photo pendants, charm bracelets, initials, birthstones, — even lines from her favorite baby book or lullaby — you name it, you can find something that fits her style and will perfectly commemorate her special relationship with your son. (Just be warned that a lot of jewelry on Etsy now uses an overly loose interpretation of “handmade,” so research the shop a bit to make sure you’re not just buying something mass-produced overseas with a ridiculous markup. Personalized or custom-made products tend to avoid this problem, though.) (Editor’s note: Our friends at Cool Mom Picks have written about some of the most unique jewelry for moms.  We recommend looking through their archives.)

3. A letter. Oh, write it down! Tell her! Even if all you get her for her birthday is a nice sweater or Amazon gift card, whip out some nice stationery and crib from your letter above. Thank you for driving an hour each way. Thank you for providing the perfect setup for my husband and I both personally and professionally. I have no idea how we would be able to replicate it without you. Thank you for being respectful of our parenting wishes and thank you for being so (not surprisingly) fantastic with our son. 

Another suggestion for general relationship strengthening, from my personal experience, is to remember that just because she’s a grandparent doesn’t mean she’s stopped being a mother. A mother who also wants to spend quality time with her child. Make sure your husband stays mindful of this and doesn’t let his relationship with her devolve into a employer/hired caregiver arrangement where he simply relieves her of duty at the end of the day, or doesn’t really have any interaction with her beyond her babysitting duties. Maybe he could drive out her way and take her out for a special birthday dinner, just the two of them, or some other mother/son outing he thinks she’d enjoy. I think that would be a lovely way to both thank her for being an amazing grandmother, and also for being a great mom.

Published October 31, 2014. Last updated March 12, 2018.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Myriam

    October 31, 2014 at 11:44 am

    Gaz cards! I have to say, I also have in-laws like that, it’s amazing!

  • Liz

    October 31, 2014 at 11:52 am

    What a great letter! You are truly so lucky to have her in your lives and nearby. It sounds like she loves her grandson very much. I highly recommend Pinhole Press accordion brag books! Her grandson is a huge part of her life, so I bet she would just love being able to whip out something like this to show friends that ask about him. In my opinion, it’s better than pulling out a phone and having to flip through it to look for the picture you wanted to show. I made one for both my mother and my mother-in-law about their grandkids, and they were great gifts. I am sure anything you do will be something she appreciates! You are a very thoughtful daughter in law!

  • MR

    October 31, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    Please write her a letter! You can even make it more fancy and write it in calligraphy on some beautiful cardstock, with a few cutouts or something and frame it if a letter doesn’t feel like enough. I did that for my mom one year. She has it displayed in her room and looks at it every day. I made that for her over 15 years ago, and it still means so much to her. Letters are not expensive, but they are PRICELESS when the content is sincere. I bet she would treasure it always. My Aunt wrote a letter to my Grandpa telling him how much he meant to her, and he carried it around in his wallet for the rest of his life, pulling it out to re-read. People like to feel appreciated and needed. Putting it in a letter will let her pull that out and look at it again whenever she needs a boost. And if you go the framed display route, she’ll even be able to put it up on the wall and get that “See, my daughter-in-law thinks I’m awesome!” boost. It is wonderful that you guys have a great relationship. I’m happy for you guys! 🙂

  • Elle B

    October 31, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    If she is a person who would like to display something, a digital frame is also an awesome option.  We did that for my MIL, pre-loaded with baby pics, but then others got added on as he grew.

  • Kerry

    October 31, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    I really like Amalah’s last point. Adult sons don’t always realize how much their time means to their mothers….especially when they live about an hour away, which is too close for official “visits” but too far for just dropping in to do laundry. 

    And if you do write a letter, I’d suggest thanking her both for her support AND raising such a supportive man to be your husband. Complimenting someone’s children almost always goes over well, and depending on generational differences and what circumstances led up to him being a stay-at-home dad, it may be really nice for her to hear.

  • Caroline

    October 31, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    This brought a lump to my throat! She will know that this is a ”season”, this will not be forever, that things will change, your little dude will grow and change and be at school and she won’t always be able to do what she does now, so she’s grasping it with both hands, and how absolutely amazing she sounds. Definitely write a heartfelt letter, and definitely get your husband to go and do something with her – not necessarily on her birthday specifically – but just generally, the two of them. Take her for dinner, treat her to a spa visit, whatever she loves. Is she a garden person? Get her a generous voucher or some gorgeous plants, whatever her ”thing” is, do it. She has saved you so much money and heartache and worry that it’s incalculable. Such a nice letter, makes me feel happy! 1 day a week is nice, it’s not excessively taking advantage, but still gives you and her what you each want. Perfection!

  • Kim CS

    October 31, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    We have a similar, wonderful situation here. Another idea is to go to a paint your own pottery place and do a plate or something with foot/handprints. We made a footprint “love” platter that is displayed at both grandmas.

  • Joanna

    October 31, 2014 at 8:57 pm

    photo calendar!!!!

  • Melinda

    November 1, 2014 at 5:03 pm

    My own (future) MIL is awesome as well. She’s been nothing but sweet and welcoming to me from the very beginning. We’re moving in with her while we look for a house when my BF gets out of the Navy. She’s even cutting back her work hours to spend more time with her grandkids, including our new baby. My BF ADORES her, but she’s never smothering or intrusive. 

  • Rachel

    November 3, 2014 at 12:15 pm

    I’m a person who doesn’t handle direct praise very well; it makes me very uncomfortable. If you suspect your MIL is the same, I’d probably avoid something like writing a letter. Instead, I’d focus on things your MIL would enjoy. Offer to take her out to dinner, buy snacks for her that you’ve seen her eat at her house, etc.

  • Dawn

    November 5, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    My MIL was the same with my son; she was his primary caregiver for 18 months when my work welched on my approved alternative work schedule my first day back from maternity leave. We paid her and supplied all of her favorite beverages and snacks but it didn’t seem like enough. She didn’t take a lot of pictures so we put together a photo book for her. 

    The bonus? Your son will have an amazingly close relationship with her. To this day, Grandma is hands down Noah’s most favorite person in the entire world (though I’m working my way up the ranks:) )

  • groovymumma

    November 7, 2014 at 6:02 am

    My MIL travelled interstate to look after our kids for the weekend, and we appreciated it so much! My husband picked her up at the airport and took her out for a nice dinner (rather than bringing her home for the bedtime chaos with the kids) and she was just thrilled. She said that he was the only one of her four children who had ever taken her out for dinner. So I certainly second that suggestion.