I think many parents have realized that babies don’t need much. Once you start celebrating holidays and first birthdays, you also come to the conclusion that other people love to buy your baby toys and clothes. This is followed by the discovery that, 98% of the time when your little one opens a present, he/she seems to care more about the wrapping paper and the boxes than the actual gifts. I could’ve probably put a bunch of junk mail in a box and my kids would’ve been perfectly content opening that and playing with the mail, the box, and the wrapping paper at the age of 13 months.
It’s now the holiday season. Our stores look like Santa’s sleigh threw up all over aisles 7, 8, and 9. We’re seeing Christmas commercials and other reminders of the upcoming holidays. Those of us who are new parents and who celebrate in December have probably given some thought to planning for what is to come. That is, we are thinking about baby gifts.
Both of my kids were born around Thanksgiving, despite being due closer to Christmas. For my first child, I did not plan a thing for the holidays. There was no need to come up with any baby gifts for such a young child. At a month old, he needed nothing. I’d gotten everything he needed and more at my baby shower. When I was preparing for the birth of my daughter, I made sure Santa Claus had a few things tucked away for her in case she came before Christmas. Most of it was clothing and books. Santa didn’t go crazy; he just did enough so my son wouldn’t wonder why Santa came for him and not his sister.
Both of my children were around 13 months old for their second Christmases. I knew they had plenty of toys and clothes coming their way from friends and relatives. While I knew there were a couple of toys I really wanted to buy my kids, I also decided that many of their other baby gifts would be as functional as possible. I also made sure I thought ahead a bit; what would my child need later that we didn’t have now?
For example, for one of my daughter’s gifts her second Christmas, I went to a local bicycle store. I asked if they would recommend a particular toddler bike helmet to me. Of course, we weren’t going to go out and bicycle with a one-year-old in December. However, I bought one for her for Christmas anyway knowing that she needed a helmet for the following summer so we could let her start riding in our bicycle trailer. She ended up being just as excited about her bike helmet as she was the regular toys.
Knowing what I know now, I’d like to share with you my other favorite baby gifts for the holidays.
1) Diapers, Diaper Cakes, Wipes & Diaper Cream
I once made a diaper cake for a one-year-old’s birthday. It went over very well. That was fewer packages of diapers for the child’s parents to worry about buying. For an older baby or younger, not potty trained toddler, I’d make sure to put a really fun little toy in the diaper cake or make sure that the diapers had a favorite character on them. For the tinier kids, if you just wrap a package of diapers, they’ll enjoy ripping the wrapping paper off and that’s perfectly okay.
2) Eating & Drinking Utensils
Babies will grow and eventually need their own spoons and forks, sippy cups, straw cups, and non-spill cups. Think ahead about what your child or the child you’re buying for might need in the future. Pick up any one of these items and wrap it up. Bonus points if it’s colorful, sparkly, or has a beloved character pictured on it. I purchased a specific non-spill cup for my daughter for Easter when she was about 18 months old. She requested the cup be filled right away. She then proceeded to carry it around all day and didn’t even bother with the toy she also received.
3) Snack Containers and/or Snack Cups
Babies may not need them for snacks at the moment, but they will be there for later. It’s just one less thing to think about. Babies also consider these toys, too. Once babies develop a grip, suddenly you have something baby can hold onto and explore without worrying about them choking.
4) Winter Gear: Hats, Mittens, and Snow Pants
Snow in Vermont doesn’t tend to last too long until late December. The last couple of years, our big snowstorms haven’t even occurred until at least February. Even if your baby doesn’t walk yet, having snow pants can be a great idea. You never know when your baby will be refusing to nap and you have to clear the driveway. You can just stick their snow pants on, put them in your infant sled, and pull them around the driveway while stopping every ten steps to shovel a little. I know this from experience. Speaking of which, another good baby gift idea is…
5) An Infant/Toddler Sled
As long as the baby can sit up and you have him/her strapped in, this can be a whole lot of fun!
6) Bath Toys
While technically toys, many people don’t think about how useful they can be. They are so versatile! Use them in the bath during the winter months, then transfer them over to a water table outside in the summer. Just make sure they are easy to clean and don’t hold too much water inside of them. Hot gluing the hole closed will make these toys less likely to grow mold.
7) Bath Items: Soap, Lotions, Vaseline
Obviously, these ideas are very functional. They also make great stocking stuffers.
Both of my kids loved to crawl through tunnels as babies. They still love using theirs at ages 6 and 3 for make-believe play. The tunnel becomes a cave quite often these days. Tunnels are enjoyable and most are collapsible and easy to store. This is one of those baby gifts with longevity.
9) Growth Charts
Growth charts make for some nice decor and can really be a wonderful keepsake once the baby’s all grown up and moved away. Find some unique charts on Etsy.
10) Piggy Banks
There are so many piggy banks out there. You can find one you think is cute or one that matches the theme of the baby’s room. They even make ones that talk and sing. There are lots of possibilities here. This is also a great way to make sure your child learns about saving, spending, and donating money. You can never start this lesson too soon.
11) Savings Bonds or a Contribution to a Savings Account
Your child might not know about or understand this. But it isn’t wrong of you to think about using a small portion of the money you’d set aside to spend on them as an investment in their future.
12) Wooden Blocks
Whether you want to invest in a quality set or make your own, wooden blocks make a terrific gift. My husband used wood scraps from a project and made our kids wooden blocks. They use them for many different purposes now that they are older, including making bridges over or raising their train tracks. I have no doubt my children will use these blocks for a few more years.
And last but not least…
13) Memberships to Museums and Attractions
I’m sure many of you have heard people say, “Buy experiences rather than stuff,” or some similar saying. Our family has two memberships to local attractions and they have been invaluable. Sometimes you just need to get your kids out of the house and distract them. With memberships, this is much easier because you have places to go without having to figure out if you have enough cash or enough room on your credit card. Some memberships are also pretty versatile and get you into other museums or attractions for free or at a discount, too. While I wouldn’t let a baby unwrap a membership card for fear that they might rip it, you can try to print off a picture from the location’s website to wave around.
If you were stuck on what to get that special baby in your life, remember to think about functionality and long-term usability. If you stay on that track, you can’t go wrong when thinking about baby gifts. This not only will help you prepare for whatever stages your baby will enter next, it will spare you space. It will also make for a more environmentally-friendly holiday without as many plastic toys. Just remember to recycle the wrapping paper!