We (wrongly) assume December babies are Christmas babies. In reality, Yuletide celebrations result in September birthdays (which may explain why it’s among the most populous birth months in any given year). Still, if you got naughty around Valentines’ Day and in the weeks that followed, your precious bundle will pop out around the holidays. And while your friends and family may already be stressed trying to find you the perfect end-year present, new-borns are a little easier to shop for.
Their typical gifts are things they won’t use or even notice until mid-July of the following year. At which point, they will proceed to break them the first time they touch them. So if you’re opting for toys, pick something sturdy that can withstand six months of neglect followed by three days of rather violent abuse in the name of play. Unless it’s a rattle. If it’s a gift that makes any kind of noise, the flimsier the better, so frustrated parents can easily hide crush them when they get too loud.
Many baby presents are more for the benefit of their parents, so find out if they have a registry (or nudge them to open one). You don’t want to bombard them with formula and diapers – which are great, expensive gifts – only to discover they’re religious breast-feeders who prefer cotton nappies as part of their environmental stance. Oops! So begin by finding out what the parents want and let that inform your shopping. If you’re lucky enough to have laid-back baby-makers, the process gets significantly easier.
Make some memories
A few decades ago, you’d buy someone a camera so they could capture all those special moments. Today, the average smartphone rivals a pricy Nikon, especially in the hands of a doting parent. So consider buying accessories as well. You could purchase a palm-sized printer that connects to smartphones and prints out instant pictures, just like a polaroid. Or you could buy a Christmas scrapbook or photo album. It should be just for Christmas, so as the baby grows, they have an expanding archive of holiday memories.
A practical extension – especially for the tech savvy family – is to buy them some extra storage space on the cloud. Pay for additional GB on their Gmail, Drop Box, or whatever service they use. Ideally, you could do it via monthly subscription and buy them a year’s worth or more. They’ll need it for all those baby ‘selfies’. Still on the practical side, you could use local crowdfunding platforms to open a ‘baby account’ where friends and family can throw a few dollars over the holidays or during birthdays. By the time baby turns 18 or even 21, they may have enough for college (or a second-hand car).
Toy lives matter
The danger in practical gifts is they neglect the baby’s right to … well … be a baby. We’re getting kids into educational activities at increasingly younger ages. And the screens they’re exposed to make them grow up so much faster. They see their peers on Disney or Nickelodeon (or even on Stranger Things) and dismiss childhood pursuits. So while they’re still babies, embrace the joy of play. Fragile toys are a no-no, but stuffed animals are always a hit. They can withstand rough handling, and even when they’re old, faded, and eyeless, they still offer comfort to their now older owners. Some even become heirlooms!
You could go for typical choices, like bunnies and bears. Or something exotic, like a giraffe, hedgehog, or elephant. You don’t have to buy a stuffed toy in isolation though. Consider a gift hamper like the Cheeky Monkey, which comes in pink and blue for traditional families, or a more neutral red for those wary of gendering their kids. Cheeky Monkey is a striped … monkey … accompanied by a squeaker and a bib. The hamper also has some chocolate for mum (and dad, if he can get at them!)
The monkey will be baby’s first playmate, and the squeaker will help develop their motor skills, exposing them to sound, texture, and autonomy as they first figure out how their hand motions cause that cute squeaky noise. (This will probably be the first toy their parents have to hide, but the baby can enjoy it, at least for a little while).
Check that any stuffed playthings you purchase are colour-fast and machine-safe, because they’ll need a lot of washing. You can also buy other bits and bobs like teethers and faux biscuits – dishwasher-safe please! And for the word-loving family, board-books are always a good choice. Parents can start reading to infants from day one, and as they grow, the kids can read the books for themselves, even as they literally tear the words apart. Fun!