If you’ve got a baby on your holiday shopping list this year, chances are you’re scratching your head trying to figure out what to buy. It’s not like baby can tell you what she wants, and she probably doesn’t need another swaddle or onesie.
Don’t panic just yet! We’ve got you covered with the best expert-recommended, parent-approved ideas we could find.
Ideas for Newborns
While a newborn won’t be able to interact quite as intentionally as an older baby, there are plenty of gifts you can buy that will stimulate and entertain his growing brain. Because newborns are born with poor vision, they love contrasting colors and patterns—think black, white, and red (1).
One place to look is Manhattan Toy, which has a whole line that comes in black and white, including a mobile, a crinkly tiger, and a soft cloth block (2). Another great idea is the board book “Look Look!” by Peter Linenthal (3), which has simple text and black and white visuals designed to grab baby’s attention.
Quick tip: Avoid the kinds of things given at baby showers (swaddles, clothes, diapers, tummy time gear, etc.). Unless Mom and Dad specifically ask for something, chances are, they have what they need for the newborn stage. You might consider a gift geared toward an older baby instead.
Past the newborn stage, babies begin to gain incredible new abilities, including rolling, grabbing, reaching, and even sitting up. They also start putting everything into their mouths as they explore the world around them. This means that baby can interact with toys in a whole new way (4). Look for soft, washable toys that baby can put in her mouth and easily grab, like this cloth book (5) or these soft blocks (6).
Rattles are a classic, but that’s not to say they’re cliché. Rattles entertain as well as help with hand-eye coordination and cognitive development (7). Because she can now grab it on her own, baby will love a rattle like this (8) or this (9).
Sensory play is a word you’ll probably start hearing around this age. It may seem like a fancy buzzword, but it just means introducing baby to different shapes, colors, and textures (10). To engage baby’s sense, look for a set of textured balls (11), a colorful car seat toy (12), or a set of play keys (13).
Around 7-9 months, baby is really coming alive. From mobility to fine motor skills, it’s a fun, busy age. One of the things the Mayo clinic recommends for play is teaching cause and effect (14). Look for toys with buttons to push (15), or an activity cube like this (16) with gears and beads that spin.
As baby gets better at sitting up on his own, he’ll be ready to move from the sink or baby tub into the big tub (17), so finding fun bath toys to keep him entertained is another great gift idea. Bath squirters (18), cups (19), and bath pipes (20) are all fun ways for baby to play in the water.
All baby’s skills are coming together. Your little darling is on the move and hungry for entertainment. Many of the previous suggestions will still be fun, but now that she can do even more, she needs a safe space to explore (21). A plush climbing toy like this horse (22) or these blocks (23) provides a fun way for baby to climb and explore safely.
By now, baby has developed a pincer grasp and improved hand-eye coordination, so look for toys that capitalize on her fine motor skills (21). Toys like (24) and (25) allow baby to take advantage of newfound depth-perception (26) as she reaches for small objects and places them inside larger openings.
If you don’t want to buy a toy, consider giving money. Financial expert Dave Ramsey suggests opening an Education Savings Account (ESA), which lets you “invest up to $2000 per year.” The great thing about an ESA is that the earned interest isn’t taxed (27).
You might also consider a Gymboree class pass (28) or a membership to a children’s museum. Gymboree has classes tailored to babies of different ages, and children’s museums usually have fun play areas safe for baby to crawl or toddle around in. After all, play is one of the most important ways that babies and children learn (29).
It’s also never too early to start reading. Reading boosts emerging language skills, teaches baby about the world, and encourages social development (30). Board books are sturdy enough to hold up to all the rough playing baby will be doing. Look for books with fun rhymes and colorful pictures, like Sandra Boynton’s “Moo, Baa, La La La” (31) or the Classic BabyLit series (32).
Babies don’t need lots of toys, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself when selecting a gift. You might even want to consider spoiling Mom and Dad instead. Happy parents make for a happy baby (33). Buy them a gift card for a restaurant or couple’s massage so they can have a much-needed night out. You might even offer to babysit.
When all is said and done, the holiday season is about caring for one another, and what better gift is there than the gift of time?