on babies and birthdays

In slightly more than one month, my baby will officially not be a baby anymore. I'll save all of my sappy musings on this subject for another time. For now, I'm going to talk presents.

A good present should fit the child's personality. Or just look like him.

As a mother of two small children, I have both given and received numerous baby/toddler gifts. In my experience, there are 3 simple rules that govern gift selection for this age group:

- It must not be large
- It must not require batteries
- It must not be loud

Or, if 3 rules are too many to remember, think this: Would I be happy to have this [and a toddler] in my house? (Uncle Hunter: this means "3000 Stickers" is NOT a good idea.)

There, now that we've gotten that out of the way... what makes a good baby/toddler gift? As with any other occasion, I'm a firm believer that you should get whatever the recipient has asked for. Of course, most people probably won't give out a list for their child's birthday (although, I have heard of birthday registries - really?!). Personally, I think old-fashioned is the way to go - parents will like it, and so will the kids (once the batteries run out on all the other stuff they got). Here are some of the best ideas I've seen: 

- a classic book with a coordinating gift (my brother and sister-in-law have perfected this gift - think The Velveteen Rabbit with a sweet Build-a-Bear bunny, Angelina Ballerina with a tutu and butterfly wand, Curious George with a stuffed monkey (see above).)
- books in general are good. With the younger set, board books are the way to go. It seems like most little kids love Karen Katz and Eric Carle.
- puzzles are also good. Melissa and Doug has a great selection of puzzles for all skill/age levels - I'm going to have to go against my noise rule to recommend the fire truck and train ones. SO cute how excited they get when they figure it out and it makes noise!
- outdoor "stuff." We live in South Florida, so pool/beach stuff is always fun. (See beach ball and swim wings below - does it get much better than that?) In other places, a little gardening kit would be fun, or sand toys, or even just a soccer ball or wiffle ball set.

The life of the party.

- a tunnel. My friends got this for Kate when she turned 2, and it was SUCH a good idea. It is big, but you can fold it up, and the kids wear themselves out with it! (Make sure you find the kind with velcro, so it's easy to fold up!)
- cute shoes. A one-year-old is just starting to walk, so parents will love (and use) sweet little early walking shoes. I vote for Pedipeds - classic and nice, hard to go wrong.

For one-year-olds, sturdy wooden toys are great. Oompa Toys is a great site to find really cute pull toys, cars, and musical instruments (and organic stuff, too).

A wooden baby banjo. Gotta love hippy toy stores!

Another scenario: you get invited to about 29 one-year-old birthday parties for all the babies in the mommy group or at the library, and you don't want to spend much on gifts. Hear me out on this: a giant $3 rubber ball from Wal-Mart. Seriously. You don't know pure joy until you see a small child with a ball bigger than he is. People might think, "that's lame," until they see how AWESOME all the kids think it is. So easy. I'm also a big fan of Sea Squirties (little rubber squirty bath toys). Another simple thing that all kids seem to love.

I expect you all to follow my rules for my children's upcoming birthdays. (Because all 2 of you who read this are invited.) And remember: if you have kids, I can retaliate; if you don't, I can feed mine sugar and send them to your house with your exciting gift :-)

Happy partying.  

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