My kids are lucky enough to have more clothes and toys in their lives than they know what to do with. So when it comes to their birthday I often opt for other things such as experience based gifts like mini-putt, or aquarium tickets. But in their early years (the first three birthdays of my 8 year old and the first birthday of my still young 1 year old) I have a tradition of making a printed out photo album of the previous year. These great keepsakes have become a bit of a rarity in this digital world of ours.
I’m all for digital photography (despite my random rants about the disappearance of dark rooms) but the sheer amount of photos we take digitally (I take a crazy amount) makes going through them in the future very overwhelming. I get anxiety if I have to sort out my photos or try to look for a particular one. What we are getting in incredible choice, freedom and flexibility has come at a cost of overdoing things to the point where photos are more often taken for short term boasting than for long term memories.
Each month or two pick out a few photos and print them, either for that empty frame or the one with marketing strangers that you haven’t had time to use, put them in a frame to hang on a wall or to eventually have a full album full of major moments. It’ll help you filter through the clutter in the short term and make it more satisfying to look through in the future. You’ll be amazed how much easier it is still to have a printed photo album than to go through the hundreds of almost identical photos in your hard drive (I would also suggest the same for videos, where you pick key ones and make a DVD of a trip or a year in your life).
Use special occasions as triggers, reunions (which you can use as gifts to those that attended), early birthdays (before they start demanding the latest toys or clothes), trips, or certain holidays. I would just do random yearly ones, that way you get a range of key moments and memories, and you’ll realise soon enough it’s those day to day moments that mean more than the staged ones for holidays or reunions.
I already find my 8 year old full of glee when he goes through his first three birthday presents, much more thoughtful than a toy he would have outgrown by now. Just print those digital photos out!