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handmade birthday gifts

As soon as I received the invitation to Zak & Zoey’s First Birthday Party, I began thinking about a unique gift for them.

play pen

I knew they didn’t need more toys, as you can see! This space used to be Steve & Tram’s beautiful formal living room, now turned into a huge play pen. Or as Tram calls, it Romper Room! Kids change your life!

I was searching for something personalized, unique, made just for each of them. There are plenty of things that you can get that are personal for people. For example, these Personalized Photo Wallets could be a great thing for some people for some of the older people in my family. The options are limitless, I have found the craziest things whilst looking around recently. Did you know you can even custom your own bobbleheads – how cool but crazy is that?!

Unfortunately, I don’t think my one-year-olds would care for this.


I turned to Etsy. If you don’t already know about Etsy …”Etsy is a website where you can buy and sell handmade or vintage items, art, supplies and so much more. Etsy is the world’s most vibrant handmade marketplace.” You can literally buy anything crafty from this site, literally anything! From a Personalized Diamond Painting to hundreds of rolls of washi tape, there is no limit on crafting supplies.

I typed “1st birthday gifts” into the search bar and began strolling through all the possibilities.

etsy chalkboard

The first thing that caught my eye was this personalized chalkboard sign. I immediately sent an email to Tram asking for the twins’ favorite toys and foods and their first words, heights, weights, etc.

She replied, “Aww, you are SO SWEET!!!! We think alike! I’m actually having Steve work on this chalkboard 1 year mark too. I’m sure it’s similar to what you were thinking! I’m sorry to have spoiled your idea if that’s what it was.”

Darn, back to the drawing board.


Next I spotted the party hats! I could not pass those up and absolutely had to order one for each, but that wasn’t a gift they would be able to open, so I needed something more. During my search I stumbled across some beautiful hand made wooden 21 keys unfortunately not what I was looking for at this time, but I made a note of where they were from as my youngest sister is 21 next year and it’s definitely something she’d treasure for years to come.

etsy scrabble art

Finally, I found this! The best part? I can make this myself! I have a boxful of scrabble letters, I have blue and pink craft paper leftover from Tram’s baby shower and I have glue. All I needed were the shadow boxes.

pile of tiles

If you don’t happen to have extra scrabble tiles lying about and you don’t want to break into your Scrabble game to poach them, they can be easily found online, including on Etsy. Just type “Scrabble tiles” in the search bar and you’ll be amazed by all the options.

twin art

How to make Personalized Scrabble Shadow Box Art

  • Scrabble tiles
  • Shadow box
  • Craft paper
  • Glue stick
  • Washi tape, if desired
  • Tacky glue
  • Any other embellishments desired

lay them out

The first step is to decide what words you want to use and then line them up in crossword puzzle style to make them all link together.

zoey plan

This is actually the hardest part. Some words are hard to link together without running into each other. Keep at it, adding another word or two to make the words you really need to use, fit together.


Once you have that all laid out and decided upon, measure from side to side and up and down. Add an inch or two in each direction and write those measurement down. Jump in you car and head to Michael’s or Hobby Lobby and search in the framing section for a suitable shadow box.

shadow box

If you don’t have some sort of craft paper or wrapping paper in the correct theme at home, pick that up at the craft store too. If found the cute little birthday cakes with one candle to add to mine.

cut paste

Open up the frame and use the glue stick to glue the decorative paper to the inside backing of the frame. As you can see, my sheet of craft paper was not quite big enough, so I tried to cut and paste pieces along the edges.

lay it out

That looked horrible, so I used some washi tape along the edges to hide it and it looked even better than if it had just been craft paper alone.

Next, lay out the tiles in the pattern on the paper so they fit exactly as you like them. Then use the tacky glue to start gluing them in place.

Zoey's art

Let everything dry and then put the frame back together and voilà, a personalized and cute gift for a 1st birthday, an engagement, wedding or whatever!

Zak art

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1 Marissa { 03.17.15 at 11:03 AM }

These are so cute!

2 Tram Mai { 03.17.15 at 5:14 PM }

This was such an amazing, beautifully thoughtful gift!!! We LOVE it!! It will be cherished forever!! You are the MOST creative person I know and I love that this gift came from your heart (and hands!!) thank you so much and the birthday hats are ADORABLE!!! A great keepsake!!!

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