Best and Worst Gifts for Babies
Gift ideas for newborns through 1 year
The Worst Gifts for Babies
Anything Too Easy or Too Difficult: “Avoid the wrong toy for the age of a child”, says Dr. Ari Brown, author of Baby 411. “Even if your child is a prodigy, it’s a good idea to follow the intended-age use for a product. Otherwise, you may be setting yourself up for potential injury.” Plus it’s plain frustrating for kids to get excited about a toy then not be able to enjoy it because it’s just too hard.
DVDs: “TV is not a universal thing, and it’s a little political,” says Emily, a mom in Boston. “Some parents try to abide by the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation of ‘no TV before 2.’ So this is like sending steaks to someone who might just be a vegetarian.”
Messy Toys: At this age paint sets, for example, might not be welcome by parents or appreciated by babies. Most young children under 12 months lack the attention span and dexterity needed to complete a project, especially on the surface where you’d like them to paint, instead of your walls. “Anything messy including art stuff is to be avoided,” says Tami, mother of two in New York. “If you want a creative gift, stick with crayons (not markers), doodle pads, and stuff like that.”
Fill-in-the-Blank Baby Books: Sometimes a great idea can turn into a nagging, I-should-get-to-that sensation for even the most well-intending parents. Instead of letting these pile up on the shelves, says Cori in Italy, let parents choose these kinds of keepsakes on their own.
Bargain Brands: Everyone loves a good deal but if something falls to pieces immediately, it’s hardly a great value. From stacking blocks to strollers, savvy parents will appreciate an investment in equipment that will not only last but be helpful along the way. Plus, these days many parents are picky about the materials used and even where the item is made, says Emily. When in doubt, it’s best to go with non-toxic materials from reputable brands produced locally.
Loud Toys: “Plastic toys that make a lot of noise are the worst,” says Cori. “Even though the children tend to like these, they drive parents crazy. Also, they could be over-stimulating for the baby.” It’s even more dangerous when you consider that babies play with things close to their faces, points out Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Separation Anxiety Solution.
Denise and Alan Fields, authors of Baby Bargains, add another factor. “Some toys are intended for ‘outdoor use only.’ This is the secret code that means, this toy is really loud. Prolonged exposure to sounds at 85 decibels or higher can cause hearing damage.” When in doubt, skip anything that seems to overdo it.
Small Pieces: Not only are small pieces a safety hazard, they can really be a pain. Marie in Massachusetts says she dreads toys with lots of small pieces to pick up. At the end of the day, it’s the last thing a parent wants to deal with.
Anything Huge: On the other hand, many families, especially urban dwellers, live in small spaces. This means anything oversized might be out. “We live in New York City and my father in-law bought my daughter a rocking horse, a huge rocking horse,” says Tami. “And she doesn’t even like it because it scares her.” If you have a big gift in mind for a baby, just touch with the parents ahead of time.
Stuffed Animals: It’s the most mentioned item on our what-not-to-do list. “I was always leery of giving or receiving stuffed animals,” says Kate in Cleveland. “While a few are great and the boys loved to cuddle with them, after they had run their course you couldn’t do anything but throw them out. I have yet to hear of a charitable organization that will accept a donation of stuffed animals.”
What to Look for in Baby Toys
Instead of wasting money on things that won’t work out, says Pantley, look for these qualities as you shop for your baby:
- Long-term play value: Will this hold your little one’s attention for more than a few weeks?
- Durability: Will it hold up when sat on, thrown, jumped on, mouthed, or banged?
- Solid simplicity: Babies don’t need complicated toys.
- Challenge: Look for toys that teach but do not frustrate.
- Appropriateness. Does it match your baby’s thinking, language, and motor skills?
- Interest: Will it encourage your baby to think?
- Stimulation: How does this toy foster creativity and imagination?
- Interactiveness: Does it engage your child or just entertain him as he watches passively?
- Versatility: Can your baby play with this in more than one way?
- Washability: Well-loved toys tend to get very dirty!
- Fit with your family value system: Does this toy reflect your family’s values? For example, is the toy friendly to the environment? Does it promote diversity? Are you comfortable with what the toy represents?
- Novelty: Is this toy different from others your baby already has? You don’t want a toy box filled with 30 different kinds of rattles!
- Fun appeal: Is it something that you will enjoy playing with, too? Toys that encourage you to play along with your baby are ideal.
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