Easy DIY projects to help keep ties with faraway family and friends strong.

By Kathryn Streeter
November 11, 2020
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Credit: Getty Images

It’s that exciting time of year when beautifully designed holiday cards featuring professional family photos flood our mailboxes. They never cease to bring lots of warm laughter and feelings of closeness, especially when coming from family and friends who live far away. Each lovely customized photo greeting card shows tremendous thought. Particularly during difficult times, these cards are apt to be doubly treasured.

But after the holidays are over, then what? It’s heartbreaking to toss them, but also seems pointless to store them. Many of these cards feature the dear faces of family and friends and their kids, after all.

Though this particular holiday season may lack traditional family gatherings, these three creative crafts from experts using recycled holiday card photos will help to keep ties strong with those we love but perhaps can't be with.

DIY Holiday Card Placemats

In this kid-friendly craft project, Sara Kappler, director of marketing for Green Kid Crafts, literally offers your loved ones a seat at the dinner table all year long. Kappler’s pro tip: Do a mock-up of your arrangement before beginning.

Supplies:

Directions:

  1. Look through your holiday stack and cut out pieces that have the most meaning to you. Photos, kind words, or silly drawings all work. 
  2. Use glue or tape to arrange your cut-outs onto your paper or cardboard. You can arrange in a shape or cover the whole surface. Don’t forget the other side too! 
  3. Use self-adhesive laminating paper, or simple strips of clear packing tape to cover the surface of your collage. To protect and make them spill proof, try to reduce air pockets and to get every edge. Use scissors to trim edges. 

Your finished masterpieces work well for kids’ activity mats as well as daily placemats. “We’ve even been known to use them as tea party and special birthday party placemats,” says Kappler. However used, they’re bound to be great conversation starters and powerful reminders of the people who love us.

DIY Holiday Memory Book

Amber Kemp-Gerstel, TV personality, full-time crafter, and blogger at Damask Love, challenges you to summon your inner crafter and assemble a holiday memory book to celebrate those you love. Consider making  it a tradition, and assemble one each year to watch the people in your life grow and change. Kemp-Gerstel’s pro tip: If applicable, include a photo featuring you holding the gift that accompanied the card. This will help you make the connection between giver and gift all year long.

Supplies:

Directions:

  1. Cut away chosen photos from cards. Set aside.
  2. Choose bits of wrapping paper and ribbon to add razzle-dazzle to your pages. Secure with glue stick.
  3. Creatively glue photos on pages.
  4. Cover your creations using page protectors to preserve your masterpiece. 

DIY Holiday Ornaments

“A great way to upcycle photo Christmas cards received from loved ones is to turn them into ornaments!” says Anna Olsen, crafted content manager for JOANN stores. Rather than tossed in a basket, as happens in my home, the Christmas tree offers a perfect backdrop to showcase beloved faces. Anna adds that this idea entails just a little bit of creativity—but will offer endless amounts of heartfelt memories throughout the season. 

Supplies:

  • Holiday-themed cookie-cutter
  • Scissors
  • Hole-puncher
  • Glue stick and/or glue gun
  • Holiday fabric, decorative ribbon, chenille stems (also called pipe-cleaners) to use as hooks for hanging
  • Beads, stickers, glitter glue, or other add-ons to embellish your ornament

Directions:

  1. Kids can use a cookie-cutter to trace a holiday shape onto the card (centering the family as the focus) and cut out the shape.
  2. Punch a hole at the top of the shape and attach decorative ribbon, strip of fabric, or chenille stem to create a hook for hanging on the tree.
  3. Add beads to the hook or glitter to the photo for a fun embellishment.
  4. Adorn your tree!