Ask Design Mom: Mother-in-law Gifts

December 15, 2006

Ask Design Mom Question:
Dear Design Mamacita —
I adore my Mother-in-law. But unless I’ve just recently been with her, I never know what to give her for Christmas or Birthday. I’ve done sweaters, jewelry, lotions, gardening and kitchen stuff, and with each subsequent gifty time I feel like I’m just struggling to remember which category I chose last time so as not to repeat myself too close to the last time. Please help!! I know you can! Thanks so much, in advance, Laurie

Design Mom Answer:
Well, Dear Laurie, I need to ship my MIL’s gift today. And a gift for her birthday which also falls in December. So your question is too timely. And I love the categories you list above because they are just the kind of thing you give to someone you know personally but not that well. So I’m thinking, let’s just expand the list.

Remember my friend’s boutique that I posted about here? I’m mentally walking through her inventory, because it was Mother-in-Law gift heaven. Here are some ideas:

1) A super-cozy bathrobe.
Maybe in deep red because it’s Christmas. Or, if she’s more of an artsy gal, go with a printed kimono type robe. At the boutique there were some gorgeous bathrobe choices, but they all came in L/XL and we realized that no one wants to give or receive a robe that’s L/XL, so we carefully removed the part of the neck label that indicates size, making the robes seem like one size fits all.

2) Custom Stationery.
Something traditional unless you’re confident she would like something a little more funky. Everyone has to write thank you notes at some point, so you can be sure she’ll use it.

3) Go Handmade.
I saw these coasters made with wrapping paper on a recording of Martha yesterday when I was folding laundry. Totally love this project. Super easy. And you could pick wrapping paper that would go with her decorating style. Or paper with a Holiday print. Maybe a set of 8, each with a different paper. See coasters in the pic at the top.

4) Hat, Gloves & Scarf
When I think Mother-in-Law accessories, I think Chicos. They seem to cater to our parent’s generation. She may already own a set, but it’s nice to have a few options. If she’s not a hat, gloves and scarf gal, maybe a pashmina type shawl.

5) A book or a subscription.
These are my total default gifts and I know I’ve mentioned them before. Hard to go wrong here. You could choose something pretty generally liked by Mothers-in-law, like Oprah Magazine or you can even add a year to a subscription she already has and loves. For books, think coffee table. Maybe something about the part of the country she lives in.

6) An Umbrella.
I love everything Pare makes. A very cool and unexpected gift for anyone.

7) A donation in her name.
Help end world hunger by purchasing some poultry or a goat in her name for a village in a 3rd world country. Try Heifer International.

There’s a start, Laurie. But keep checking comments — I’m sure lots of Design Mom readers will add excellent ideas.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

{ 2 trackbacks }

Gift ideas for mothers in laws
October 16, 2010 at 2:58 pm
Gift Ideas For Mothers-In-Law | Glamour'n'Gifts
October 28, 2010 at 9:14 am

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anonymous December 15, 2006 at 9:17 am

I’m giving my step-mother-in-law a monogrammed linen tote from Ballard Designs. They have two sizes, I got her the smaller one in a limey green color with her initials in brown. Only $19 and very useful!


2 Allison December 15, 2006 at 11:06 am

I am giving my mother-in-law a darling tote from Red Envelope that has spots for 3 photos. This is perfect for her because that is exactly how many grandchildren she has. She’ll love to show off her little grandbabies to all her friends.


3 TftCarrie December 15, 2006 at 1:01 pm

My mother-in-law is getting your #7 but from Mercy Corps. They have great “kits” that can be catered to the interests of the recipient. And, they are a very highly rated charity on Charity Navigator.


4 Anonymous December 15, 2006 at 1:53 pm

I like the idea of giving a museum membership…to her favorite art museum, history museum, science museum…whatever her interest. She can take her friends to exhibit openings and her grandchildren to children activity days and get discounts at the museums shops, classes, or whatever they may offer to their members. A gift she can enjoy all year long.


5 laurie December 15, 2006 at 5:02 pm

great suggestions one and all. thank you thank you thank you. i think i’m going to make coasters!!


6 rebecca December 15, 2006 at 6:01 pm

One thing my husband have done in years past for our parents is to get them tickets to the symphony or opera. They have loved it.


7 Anonymous December 18, 2006 at 9:32 pm

Thanks for the kind words about Heifer International. I joined Heifer as new media director last year and really appreciate it when someone blogs about us.

We have a new BlogRaising program that lets bloggers like you help us get the word out about Heifer and raise the money we need to do our work. To learn more, just go to

I hope you are able to take part.

Again thanks for the good words.


8 Anonymous November 21, 2009 at 3:14 am

i made homemade kahlua (recipes can be found online, very simple) and attached a decorative red or green bottle (from hobby lobby) with cardstock that listed recipes for white russian cocktails as well as kahlua cake. the whole gift was around $15.00 and everyone was so intrigued that i could make my own kahlua, which is also great over a scoop of vanilla ice cream. i will do this again for others this christmas


9 tara December 7, 2011 at 12:42 pm

That is such a cool idea! Did you just buy a funky bottle to put it in?


10 Anonymous December 11, 2009 at 8:48 pm

What the f*ck is a 'tote'?


11 Anonymous December 14, 2009 at 1:18 am

Its a bag.


12 neliswa April 28, 2010 at 9:50 am

i wanna buy my mother in law a mother’s day gift and i have no idea what to buy her,i was thinking of a nice fancy diary i haven’t made my mind up,what do you think?


13 Lisa December 2, 2010 at 11:56 am

I’m trying to figure out what do for my mother in law this Christmas, she’s an amazing mother and woman, completely selfless and has recently done something to help me in a huge way and I want to show her I appreciate her.
I’m a graphic designer so I have an artistic flare, the problem is last year I painted her a picture of her sons and now I’m kind of at a loss of how to top it. I want it to be something personal not just store bought and I’m completely drawing a blank. Any suggestions would be great.


14 Shae April 2, 2011 at 8:46 am

I realize that Lisa’s post is outdated but you never know when someone might stumble upon this when looking for ideas. So on that note, for all you artsy girls out there, try making a scrapbook, your local Ross has inexpensive scrapbook kits and scrapbooks as well. If that seems like too much work or you don’t have all that much time to do it, go for a shadowbox instead. They’re fun and personal.


15 Mandy October 14, 2011 at 10:18 pm

I don’t see or talk to my MIL very often. I never have any idea what to get her for christmas, birthday or mothers day… We have never had one on one time so I really don’t know things she likes. Plz help me!!!


16 Kristi November 12, 2011 at 2:28 pm

My MIL has three sons and loves pictures. I had all the wives send pictures of their families (digital). My MIL is very had to buy for so I got a digital frame and had it loaded with all kinds of pictures of her, her children and grandchildren. She absolutely loved it.


17 Christie October 26, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Do you have children? Maybe you can get her a professional family photo. That’s what my husband and I do. We get our family photos done every year at Picture me photo studio that’s in Wal-mart and give them out as gifts every year. That way I get a new and updated family photo done for my wall AND get all our family Christmas gifts. I’ll spend around $100 and give everyone the same pose so there’s no arguing. :-)


18 Vicky December 26, 2011 at 11:37 am

At least i’ve found the perfect gift for my mother in law, she was very happy yesterday. Year’s of walking & looking & worrying for nothing. Now i know, she prefers a handmade gift.
You can see it at my blog


19 toni January 31, 2012 at 10:18 pm

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has beautiful jewelry boxes online. I also purchased my MIL a bookmark from Tiffanys which she loved, and a crystal serving plate. None of the above gifts are more than $70.


20 Mario June 22, 2012 at 8:02 am

I’ve been blessed with my mother in law, I can’t complain. For her birthday I wanted to give her something special, unusual. So I found a site (this is for real) called (if yo don’t know it yet, it’s in english too) and they did to me a personalized song with funny lirycs I wrote (but I’m a bad singer). Regards!


21 Emmie December 7, 2012 at 1:56 pm

This year, we decided to buy both of our mothers some nice luxury sheets. I figure everyone enjoys a nice set of cotton sheets, and they probably wont buy them for themselves. We went with Lee, they were pretty affordable and we found a coupon code online.

Merry Christmas!


22 Victoria February 26, 2014 at 5:22 pm

My MIL is a super caring christian lady. She is very simple and I had trouble finding her something more original and meaningful than a gift card. I ended up hitting the wood-shop in the garage and made a tiny door& steps that can be nailed to a tree. With a sign above it to say “This is where my guardian angel lives”


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: