DIY for Cross-Cultural Families: 8 Lightweight Gifts

There are so many clever DIY gifts out there on the internet, but I’ve been on the lookout for DIY, lightweight (weigh less than 100 grams), and upcycled gifts you’d actually be happy to receive. Bonus points for gifts that don’t take too long to make.

I don’t know about you, but I sure hate paying exorbitant international postal fees for gifts. On several occasions, I’ve paid more than the cost of the gift in postage.

Licking my proverbial wounds, I would immediately resort to online shopping for the next gift. There really are so many great gifts you can buy online for multicultural families.

This holiday season, I really want to keep the giving simple, inexpensive and yet meaningful. Of course, send cards to family and a few friends across the ocean. Cards from the other end of the world are always special to receive.

But then, for those few people who we really want to ship a gift to, it’ll need to be lightweight and handmade.

So, here is a selection of our favorite DIY gifts for cross-cultural families like ours, that won’t cost you a month’s rent in shipping costs:

1. Send a funky lightweight embroidered necklace

Embroidered makes it sound like a crochet necklace, but this ain’t your granny’s necklace! I fell in love with this gorgeous necklace tutorial as soon as I stumbled across it. But, as mum always says: measure twice, cut once. My first attempt at this Frida Kahlo style necklace would have been snug on a premie! (Image courtesy of Molly Makes)

2. Send them a handmade puzzle

We had a few blank make-your-own puzzles on hand. You could also paint a lovely picture on cardstock and cut it into puzzle pieces.

We just sent two puzzles this year: one large (A4), one small (A5). Each weighed under 100 grams when wrapped and placed inside their envelopes. The trick for our postal system is that the envelope is no thicker than 3cm. So, we shipped our Yvonne Coomber imitation puzzles flat (already made).

3. Send them a personalized calendar

I find personalized calendars are about as popular as photobooks with grandparents who love admiring their offspring daily. You can use an online print company to cut down on shipping costs from your location in Timbuktu or Rome. Or, why not combine your own collage using a photo and illustration from your child, with one of the many free calendars you’ll receive over the holiday seasons.

4. Send your handmade ornament

Sometimes you just have to laugh at how badly you can botch up some of these Pinterest masterpieces. Preparing for this article, one of my children and I attempted a gorgeous paper star ornament. It ended up looking like a smashed spaceship. So, I grabbed some loo rolls, paint, glitter, and glue gun out of the cupboard and whipped up my own ornament that had a petal for each member of the family. And of course, it’s post-friendly being thinner than 3cm.

5. Make them a travel journal

You might remember that I am big into travel journals for me, for the family, for the kids. I feel as if they just help you process your travels in such a mindful and tangible way. Why not make a small travel journal for that friend who is anticipating a big trip this coming year?

Fill it with questions that show you know and appreciate them. Would they enjoy a drawing section? Would they enjoy a reading list at the end? Do they love maps? There are so many journal printables online, but my favorite pages are the ad hoc ones I have made for my kids as we went along.

Once filled out, these journals make for such a wonderful keepsake.

6. Send them a handmade spinning season wheel

This is a helpful gift for a family with younger kids. It can be hard to understand seasons and holidays spatially. We made one this year to help the kids understand the Christian holiday calendar, but you could tailor it to whatever seasons or holidays you’d like to include.

Add a brad, and make your arrow spin. To make it lightweight, you can just use cardstock but then let your friends mount it on cardboard on the other side of the world.

gifts DIY

7. Send them a lightweight DIY map luggage tag

Most cross-cultural families I know adore maps. There are so many fun things you can do with them: cover a notebook with their favorite place, cut out shapes of your country linked to theirs, use maps as wrapping paper.

I received one awesome map gift one year that meant so much: several map luggage tags, featuring my countries. Here is one straightforward tutorial to make a meaningful map luggage tag for your traveling friend. (image courtesy of HGTV)

8. Simply write a letter

If these ideas stress you out, why not write a handwritten letter? Letters are very lightweight. Or, if age appropriate, invite your child to write it. I promise it will be meaningful. It might take you both a few sittings. It doesn’t have to be long.

My little boy just wrote a little letter to his grandfather on the other side of the world saying:

“I love you. Will you write me back? Love, your grandson.”

It was in cursive and had a sewn trim border. My boy was beaming with pride. We all know what grandpa’s most meaningful gift of the season will be…

So, there you have it. Do you know of fun DIY gifts that don’t cost the earth in postage to send it around the earth?

Wishing you a wonder-filled and meaningful holiday season.

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Esther is an Adult Third Culture Kid, who loves to run, to see her three young kids caring for each other and to chat with a friend under the vines. Recently, she's been writing all about cross-cultural marriage, raising bridge-builders, and her family’s intentional move from city life in the USA to a rural French village. You can read more of her articles on

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