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Dressed for Christmas

Dressed for Christmas

Eli and pumpkins

Eli and pumpkins

 
Holiday Gift-Giving: Beyond Toyland Print E-mail
Thursday, 30 November 2006

As we continue this week’s series on holiday shopping, I’m turning our attention beyond the toy stores today; for toy recommendations see yesterday’s blog.

Toys are always appreciated (especially by the kids themselves!), but there are other options out there that are fun, useful, and don’t take up so much precious square footage.

First is the obvious – cute clothing. Every new parent starts out deluged with adorable onesies and tiny dresses and overalls, but the older the baby gets the slower the trickle of clothing coming in. So clothing – especially well-made, sturdy clothing – is always appreciated if researched well. By that, I simply mean check on sizes; don’t assume the size is the child’s age – ask the parent. And make sure you have a feel for the family’s taste on clothing: a leopard-print outfit for a little girl who only wears red will not be a huge hit. Likewise, dressy clothes are cute but less useful than, say, a couple sets of Carters outfits with inter-matching onesies.

But the holidays are also a time to have a bit of fun and get items parents can’t themselves justify, so now’s the time to indulge in those saucy-slogan onesies and cute tees. My favorite stores for these kinds of things include The Retro Baby Babesta (check out the Space Baby line), Uncommonly Cute (Word to Big Bird!), Arty Pants (What Happens At Grandma’s, Stays At Grandma’s), and Tot Shop. You’re sure to find something cute and original at one of those stores.

If you’re not sure quite what you’re looking for, check out My Retro Baby for vintage-inspired baby gear with a modern twist. Or take some time to browse through Mom 4 Life one of my favorite online stores filled with thoughtfully selected items for mom and baby. They’ve got a down-filled sleep sack that I’d have snatched up if I’d seen it before they sold out last year. Washable, no less. If you’re looking for a more modern sensibility, Sparkability has choice toys and gear with clean lines and reasonable prices.

Now let’s talk about going off the map a bit here. There’s nothing wrong with buying something that’s not been specifically requested, as long as you think through the gift first. Please don’t buy something for a friend as your subtle way of trying to impose your baby-rearing values on her; giving a co-sleeper to a friend who’s Ferberizing is not helpful, for example. And before you buy DVDs for the baby, make sure the parents are allowing the baby or toddler to watch television. (Along those lines, most parents I know appreciate it if you check in with them before buying a bunch of “character” stuff – Thomas the Tank, Dora, etc.) Likewise, books that have helped you are great to pass on to a new mom as long as they don’t come with hidden criticisms. Giving your girlfriend The Womanly Art Of Breastfeeding when she’s in the process of switching her 6-week-old over to formula so she can go back to work is not appropriate! Passing on a general reference book, like Baby 411 is fine. And lastly on the subject of books, I think the book I reviewed recently – The Frantic Woman’s Guide to Feeding Family and Friends – is a great gift if it’s to a close friend that won’t read anything into it, like “You don’t know how to cook!” I found it to be an easy, helpful book for moms trying to get ahead of the family meal dilemma.

If you’ve got a favorite piece of baby gear, by all means pass it on – just don’t be offended if it doesn’t work for the next family. Something like the Tubby Bundle may be your best friend at bath time but seem superfluous to your girlfriend. And I’m happy to give a Lovey if I think the family’s open to that sort of comfort object, but can’t take it personally if Baby doesn’t bond with it the way Maddie did.

Top of Maddie’s list for any gift-giving occasion is books. And books. And books. Kiddo’s got quite the library, and she reads through all of them. If you’re bewildered about what’s age appropriate, find a knowledgeable sales person. Newborns are happy for you to read them the phone book; we started collecting picture books early on. As Maddie became more involved, we moved to board books – easier for her to turn the page – and soft books with pages that crinkle and so forth. We’re back to the classic picture books and Little Golden Books, but every child’s different. At a store like Barnes and Noble, they have a whole section of award-winning books, so it’ll be hard to come up with a clunker. In general, Sandra Boynton, Eric Carle, and Charles Fuge are authors who are hard to hate; check out my Top 5s Page for specific recommendations.

Finally, think about the intangible gifts you can give, tailored to the specific family. A family membership to the zoo is a fantastic gift, one they’ll get miles out of all year long. Tuition at a toddler music class like Music Together is a wonderful grandparent gift if the family shows interest in something like that. You get the drift!

So remember – you don’t have to buy out FAO Schwarz to give a great gift to a friend, and there’s more you can put on baby’s Christmas list than the TMX Elmo.

Tomorrow, we’re going to talk about ways to give if you’re flat-out broke, as well as what to give the family who has everything.

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