I let two basic rules guide me when it comes to buying gifts for wee ones:
- No clothes (they’re just going to get ruined anyway)
- No toys that make noise (hopefully this keeps me in the good graces of all the parents)
On some level, the gifts we buy for kiddos are really just gifts we buy to impress their parents. This could be something that appeals to Mom’s favorite sport team or a nod to Dad’s extreme nerdiness. Babies can’t tell stuff is for them anyway and toddlers just love the concept of getting something new.
One of my favorite aspects of being an auntie to my two nieces is showering them with gifts every time I see them. So take it from me, here’s a rundown of some good go-to gifts for your favorite little smoosh:
Itty Bitties: Soft and Squishy
Really, at this age, they’re too small to know what is happening when it comes to gifts. They don’t really have distinct preferences (yet), but as a society we tend to heap pink and blue gendered stuff on them from a young age. You kind of can’t go wrong with something soft and loveable: sure, a teddy bear is classic, but who could pass up more exotic options like a llama or sloth? Or if you’re feeling literary, maybe grab this classic-style Piglet plush. Have a baby with a big imagination to buy for? Let them get snuggly with Pikachu or a baby dinosaur.
If you’re more of the “homemade with love” type, I’m currently digging the We Are Knitters kits. WAK curates gorgeous kits of yarn, needles, and patterns to make adorable baby hats and blankies. And yes, the “easy” kits really ARE super easy to make. (Bonus, they send really cute stickers with each order!)
Every baby needs a good bookshelf to get started on the path of literacy and secret worlds. My go-to picks may seem a little old-fashioned, but I find that most people are happy to have them in their collections and really, how many copies of Goodnight Moon does a family really need?
Beatrix Potter has seen a bit of a resurgence due to a certain naughty bunny’s rise as a film star, but to me, there’s no better way to enter her world than with the entire collection of stories, where Peter Rabbit is only the beginning. Similarly popular due to recent films, I don’t think you can ever go wrong with Winnie the Pooh and the whole Hundred Acre Woods gang. This collection includes 20 Pooh and friends stories and is beautifully illustrated.
Bigger Babies: Interactivity!
Currently, I’m obsessed with testing out new art supplies on my niece. She loves painting and drawing and we love to create art together. These were my tried and tested list of art supplies when she was just starting out:
Bath crayons and markers are great because they will eventually get used up. And we all know little kids are super dirty and therefore tend to need a lot of baths. I like this kit because it comes with a little bit of everything: crayons, markers, and toys. The super awesome gift-giver might think ahead and pair this with the gift of a scrub brush and some cleaner for Mom and Dad.
If your mini-Monet does best on dry land, you may want to check out these cute egg-shaped crayons, which are perfect for fat baby fists, or the crazy crayon, which puts an entire rainbow into a single stick.
The Chu books are the best way to put growing baby on the path to nerdom. Sci-fi/fantasy fave author Neil Gaiman has written plenty of children’s books, but these board books are perfect for the tiniest readers. Gaiman wrote the Chu books after being told his other stories couldn’t be published in China, because the children were depicted as being smarter than their parents. In an interview with Salon, he said the message of the Chu books is that even a small child’s small actions can have a large effect. Not to mention, you’ll absolutely die when baby learns to “read” the key lines along with you: “ah, Ah, AH CHOO!”
Toddlers: The Fight for Baby’s Independence
I find toddlers really interesting. They are often smart and inquisitive but frustrated by an inability to clearly communicate. Now that they’re walking and talking, everything grabs their interest and can be turned into something fun.
Next on the baby artist’s journey, I introduced watercolors and big brushes, along with these very cool dot markers. I love that little artists can explore color and texture easily with these supplies.
Everyone’s gotta eat, right? Toddlers are basically tiny drunk grownups who fight fiercely for their right to do things their own way. Set them up for success as a future badass by having them look the part of a superhero at mealtimes.
And finally, one of the great things about kids this age is how impressionable they are, and how eager they are to learn and parrot back what they know. Take advantage of this by buying books with a real life lesson involved! My favorites are Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls and the Little Feminist Board Book set. And guess what, you can read feminist books to little boys too — it’s good for them!
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