She Says… Gifts, Gifts and More Gifts

It seems like everyone I know is having a baby, and everyone Owen knows is turning 3. The number of baby shower gifts and toddler birthday presents we have had to buy in the last few months (and the next few) is mind-boggling. Every time I get an invitation, I think, “Oh yay! A fun party! But WHAT do I get for a present…”.

In general, baby gifts are easy because I usually go for a medium-sized gift from the parents-to-be’s registry (because, really, it’s annoying when everyone gets you a receiving blanket and you still don’t have things like sheets that you really NEED), and then supplement with something little that I loved when Owen was tiny. Or, if I can carve out the time, a homemade item (I’m teaching myself to sew… very much a beginner) like burp cloths made from cute fabric or a baby quilt. Ok, I’ll be honest… I only gave a baby quilt once, and it took me the entire 9 months that I knew one of my dear friends was pregnant to make it. So that was kind of an exception. But still, homemade things are a favorite when I can swing it. But lately? Not so much.

My top 3 little “somethings” to add to my registry gift:


This “Baby Banana” teether/toothbrush makes me giggle. And Owen ADORED his.


These black and white flashcards are mesmerizing for babies.


This CD is my favorite. Owen and I listened to it every single night for his bedtime routine since he was 12 weeks old. I never switched it up because it was too perfect. I know it’s getting a little passe to give a CD, but whatevs.

And, if the friend is someone who I know well and I think would appreciate a book to read, I will often lend/give one of my two all-time favorite new baby books: Happiest Baby on the Block and Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. I found them both to be immensely helpful. But in general I think parenting books are something the parents-to-be should choose for themselves.

For some reason, I find toddler birthday gifts to be much harder to pick out. It’s hard to know what the kid already has at home (easier if you can spy on their toys at a playdate), or what kinds of activities they enjoy. I should be good at this… I see my kid playing every day. But this one always kind of stumps me.

Recent favorites have been:


Automoblox. These little cars that you take apart like a puzzle. Owen loves making “mixed up cars” and “limousines” by putting them back together in funny ways.


I Spy books. Owen could play I Spy forever… either with the book or just looking out the window. He’s remarkably good at remembering where things are. Way better than I am. And it’s been a good tool to practice taking turns at home for us.


Any Melissa & Doug wooden puzzles, really. But this one is a particular favorite at our house. Owen can do all four of the puzzles all by himself (though he prefers to have someone sitting with him so he can talk about it the whole time).

So here’s where I ask for help. What are your favorite go-to new baby and kid birthday gifts? I need some fresh ideas.


11 responses to “She Says… Gifts, Gifts and More Gifts

  1. My absolute fav gift is a book called “The Birthday Box” by Leslie Patricelli.
    It’s about a little boy who gets a puppy for his birthday… but the entire book is about all of the adventures he has with the box. The illustrations are super cute and it’s a fun tongue-in-cheek story for parents, since we all know that kids love the boxes the best, no matter what you give them!

  2. For a 1 year old, I almost always buy a collapsable tunnel. So fun!

    For a new baby, I like to give the book Baby 411 and something else they registered for.

    As they get older I find it tougher to buy, but the cheap toys like a ball or slinky never get old.

  3. For new babies I love, love giving children’s books! Always a classic or two (Goodnigt Moon, Hungry Caterpillar, etc) & then maybe a newer favorite we red a lot or “first word”type picture books.

  4. I’ve long been a fan of Melissa & Doug’s birthday cake as a bday gift for toddlers and preschoolers. My daughter got it for her 2nd birthday and still plays with it occasionally now (she is 7). Love long term toys like that!

  5. For babies I like to give bath toys, because they are often forgotten by other gift-givers. Also Sandra Boynton board books (The Going to Bed Book and Moo, Baa, La La La are favorites in my house).

    I can’t remember anything about 2-year-old gifts (I’ll be back there soon), but for 3- and 4-year-olds I usually give board games (simple ones like the Eric Carle ones), crafts or art supplies (Melissa and Doug has paint your own toys or make your own jewelry kits), or books (I usually give The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton or anything by Mo Willems). And costumes/dress-up clothes and props are always a hit with the 3-year-old set.

    For older kids (5 and 6) I’ve been giving books like National Geographic Weird but True – kids that age are obsessed with little factoids about everything, and I figure their parents appreciate getting something other than another toy.

  6. For new babies I like to get an outfit they can use “now” – so size usually 3 months. Then something for about 6 months down the road. I also give them my “must-have” list that saved us when our daughter. 1. Soother pacifier 2. Sound machine 3. Swaddles with velcro! (we learned the hard way with the velcro, attempted the regular cloth swaddles first, total joke, she broke out in about two seconds and it was soooo frustrating! Go velcro!) I also NEVER get stuffed animals, cuz really, babies don’t use stuffed animals, I have shelves of them just sitting there waiting to get re-gifted to someone else!

    For older kids I usually try and get something a bit out of the ordinary. When my nephew turned one I got him the soft block toys, when he turned 2 I got him a small pop up tent, when he turned 3 I got him a game. He just had a baby brother so I got him some wooden dinosaur magnets for their fridge. I try and never get anything that needs batteries, that lights up, that makes noises, that turns on and off… (i.e. something that won’t drive the parents up the wall) and also something that isn’t big, who knows what space they may or may not have.


  7. Go to baby gift add-ins are:
    1. Angel Dear Lovie. Yes, another soft toy, but these are insanely cuddly and every kid I know immediately attaches to them. My 6 month old loves his like crazy. Plus, they’re cute.

    2. Oball rattle. The way it’s built, it was the first toy my kid could grasp, and now that he’s older he goes bananas over it.

    3. LINKS. Any kind. They make a really cute package topper! We love these:—Doos-Link-Along/dp/B001CSMD3Q/ref=sr_1_1?s=baby-products&ie=UTF8&qid=1363124872&sr=1-1&keywords=fisher+price+links

    4. On the Night You Were Born. I ugly cry every single time I read this. We brought it to the hospital with us and read it to our son the night he was born. Such a sweet little book.

  8. @Stef, That book looks adorable. We have her “Yummy Yucky” book and Owen thinks it is HILARIOUS. This one is definitely going on my list.

    @Liz M., Yes, someone gave me Baby 411 when Owen was born and I referenced it A LOT in the early days. Great pick.

    @Kate, Great idea! I love giving books too… especially the lesser-known ones that Owen really liked.

    @cindymeltz, Cute! I haven’t seen that. Off to Google…

    @Julie, Good call on bath toys. That’s a fun addition to a registry gift if they need a tub, too. Also, games are a brilliant idea for the 3 year old set. We are not QUITE there yet with Owen, so I hadn’t thought of that. I’ll have to check out the Eric Carle ones.

    @Caroline S., You can never have enough clothes, that’s for sure! Swaddles are one of my favorite gifts as well, because we had a lot of experience with them. Although funny you say the velcro ones were your favorite, because I found Owen busted right out of those and the sound of the ripping velcro woke him up! He needed a straight jacket. For realz.

    @Brie, GREAT list! I too love those Oballs. Great for little fingers.

    Thank you!

  9. For babies, if there’s a registry, I go for that. Or I do onesies in various sizes – I could never have enough onesies, especially for summer babies who rarely wear full outfits! I’ve always done books for birthday parties, anything by Mo Willems, and the hardcover ones from Barefoot Books that come with CDs (Driving my Tractor, Up Up Up, etc.) Ethan LOVES those and I think they’re great gifts, especially if the birthday kid has a new baby sibling – when Miles was born, Ethan loved sitting with his “music books” while I nursed Miles. And Miles loved the music! Ethan got a bunch of board games for his 3rd birthday, though, and we have never looked back – it’s now his favorite gift to give! There are some really great ones by Peaceable Kingdom – they’re cooperative games so everyone works together to win! Love them! This is one of Ethan’s faves:

    And this one is great, too, though definitely takes some space – and patience! 🙂 Good for anyone who likes I Spy!

  10. I have to second the Oball as a good infant gift, or the toy called the skwish and tobbles.

    (And this is totally for a close friend, but if you are talking about a shower gift, I love the idea of a pedicure or massage for the mother and then a small token for the infant. Not gonna lie. I got a massage during a recently “sprinkle” and was like “” I do love handmade baby items! And others may argue, but I think aiden and anais swaddle blankets are a nice gift. Can be used for a zillion things.)

    For the 2-4 crowd, there is a brand called Peaceable Kingdom, sold on Amazon, that has some really cute games and flashcards. We love the Hoot Owl Hoot! game

    My standard 4 yo gift is the following play and grow cutting book (it is so cute and turns into a really cute story!) And then I get kid scissors, glue sticks and glitter. I like the idea of non-toy gifts. And this one is like a craft and a book in one!

    A gift we got that is awesome (I think fun for boys and girls) is the STOMP ROCKET! So fun and my boys love launching it while jump on it.

    Finally, I am a sucker for good books. Don’t get me started…but the ones that really capture our boys’ attention are both Staake’s Look! A Book! series:
    Dare I say even better than the traditional I Spy books–and gender neutral. And Press Here is a standard gift, too.
    I’ve given Press Here with dot paints, since it sort of mimics the book in terms of the “dots.”

  11. I have a medical background so I usually give the boring things off the baby registry like the thermometer, nail clippers, infant tylenol, baby rub, etc but almost every time, the parents don’t have that stuff yet so hopefully it is useful.
    For 1-2 year old gifts, I second the tunnel idea because my daughter loved hers. Also, I like the mega blocks and my daughter has enjoyed a VTech toy that is shaped like an apple that has all the letters on it and will do letter sounds, time, animals, songs etc.

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