Kristen Swain Photography



new england families, COUPLEs, and landscapes

Top Gift Ideas for Moms this Holiday Season


November 27, 2023


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With Thanksgiving already behind us, that familiar sparkle of the Christmas season is beginning to shine through. With that also comes the familiar creation of Christmas lists and to-dos, organizing who to shop for and what to buy them. At the top of our lists are usually the people closest to us: husbands, wives, and children. Following that, the first name on my “shop-for” list is always Mom

There is a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson that is dedicated to his mother; although brief, it sums up beautifully the one thing that a mother wants most:

You too, my mother, read my rhymes

For love of unforgotten times,

And you may chance to hear once more

The little feet along the floor.

Mothers give themselves to their families wholeheartedly, and most times, the one thing they want most is their children around them, happy. Even if their children are grown and out of the nest, there will always be a longing for the times when little feet were prancing along the floor. 

There are plenty of gift guides out there with lists upon lists of Amazon links, extravagant activities, and fancy stocking stuffers (as a frequent Strategist user, I can attest that these are indeed life saving). But I also think it’s nice to be reminded that whether you are a daughter, son, dad, or anyone with a mother-figure in their life, I can guarantee that there’s nothing she would want more than to spend quality time with those she loves. 

That being said, here are a few of my gift ideas for the mom in your life that deserves a break, some love, and some special treatment this holiday season. 

An Old Photo for Her Desk

One thing my mother loves to do around the holidays is blow the dust off the photo albums and look through years of memories. No matter how many times we do this, we always discover things we’d since forgotten about — maybe your 5th birthday party on the farm, or your parents’ wedding day, or that first girls’ trip she took to Charleston after you were born! Photos have a way of bringing families together in that “remember when?” moment. Perhaps this year, you get ahead of the game by finding an older photograph that you know is a favorite memory, one that is sure to make her smile, laugh, or cry happy tears, and frame it. If she is the type of person to go through her photo albums only once in a while, this will probably come as a huge surprise, and it will mean the world to her that you took the time to select a particular photograph that you know she love and cherishes.  

For a beautiful frame that will compliment her space and show your *expert* taste, you can opt to order a MUSEA frame which I offer in an 8×10 size, but can accommodate a 5×7 matted print (or an 8×10 mounted print if the photo memory is worthy of a larger size!). The upside to a smaller print — as opposed to a wall-hanging photo — you also take away the need for measuring and hanging. All she has to do is open it and place it on her desk, mantle, or wherever she’d like to be reminded of a beautiful memory and your thoughtfulness. 

A Relaxing Spa Day 

I quite literally can’t think of one mother I know who doesn’t deserve this. The life of a mother is full of action, planning, and often a “go-go-go” mentality, especially when she’s also shopping around for gifts. Giving her an experience, rather than stuff, is such a great way to say “you deserve a break.” This could be in the form of a gift card, or perhaps a date you plan together to take a few hours and get a massage; For the ultimate in local pampering and luxury, surprise her with a gift card to The Spa at The Mandarin Oriental, although forewarned, she might never come home! From lava stone therapy to oxygen facials, there is no place I’d rather be to relax and reinvigorate my body and mind, and I’m sure she’ll agree! 

If you’re really ambitious, you could allow her to treat herself at home: a new fluffy bathrobe, some bath bombs, and upscale soaps she wouldn’t normally pick out for herself. I love these kinds of gifts, since they can apply to so many moms and mother-figures in your life — and they’re all guaranteed to appreciate it. For bathrobes, I love Weezie and Heidi Carey for their elegant, tasteful charm. You also can’t go wrong with a variety of soaps and oils, such as Jo Malone (the Lime Basil Mandarin is a crowd pleaser!) or Byredo (gypsy water is my all time favorite!)

The Hobby She Wants to Pick Up

Maybe she mentioned that she wanted to take up painting again, or baking bread, or writing or hiking, but never got around to buying the necessary accoutrement. Be the encouragement for her to sink into an activity that she’s been wanting to try, but perhaps didn’t have time for. If you’re unsure of what she might like, taking the opportunity to learn something new together can be even more special because that means more time spent with you! A few of my favorites:

  • A watercolor set (Winsor & Newton makes beautiful sets that also come in pocket sizes)
  • A fresh notebook or set of stationary and a beautiful fountain pen (The Paper Mouse in West Newton is by far the best stationary store in the Greater Boston area, and the people working there are so knowledgeable) 
  • A disposable camera and a few rolls of film (this is a cute one, doesn’t take much setting up, and it’s so fun to see the results afterward — no prior photography skills required!)
  • Beginner embroidery kits from Rosita Studio UK: learn the basics with the Floral Embroidery Kit or take your linen napkin game up a notch and try the Monogrammed Napkin Kit.

Photo Sessions for Mothers

Once again, I come back to the gift of an experience (or experiences). A guaranteed way to say “I love you, and I want to document our life right now” is with the gift of a photo session involving the whole gang. Sure, gift cards can seem simple, but not when they entail a day spent with the family, frozen in time, with beautiful photographs to treasure forever as the end result. I’ve sometimes heard people express that they wish they took more photos here and there, but not once have I ever heard of anyone regretting photos they had taken.

If you really want to step it up, a “Growing Families” Collection consists of three photo sessions in a 15-month period, which carries you through 2024 and beyond! This one is especially great for new mothers, or moms with younger children, allowing her to document her family as her kids grow throughout the seasons– and one of them is bound to make the Holiday card next year (always thinking ahead for you)!

Mothers, I’d love to hear in the comments what you would like to see under your tree this year! 

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