How to Buy Gifts for New Parents that Don’t Suck


It seems like we’re going through another baby boom in my world. Several people I know have either just had or are about to have babies, which is wonderful.

As a knitter, it’s not too difficult for me to come up with gifts for new little ones. (Heck, I wrote a whole book about knitting for babies and am still giving away the samples.) But I know other people have a lot of trouble deciding what to get new parents to celebrate their new arrival. How to buy gifts for new parents that don't suck

So as both a mom and a gift giver, I thought I’d offer some dos, don’ts and suggestions to make shopping for a small human a little easier.

Please Do These Things

Do make something if you can. I know, I’m a maker, so I probably value the handmade a little more than the average person, but I know that handmade gifts are made with love and show that you put a lot of thought, time and energy into the gift.

Even if you’re not what you would consider crafty (please don’t say you’re not creative), you can make a tied fleece blanket or decorate a onesie or iron a patch onto a burp cloth.

all natural onesie
I loved this little onesie, which represents my desire to be greener.

Do make it personal. There are so many great onesies and other gifts that play on the parents’ passions, from the Level One Human onesie for the gamers out there to building blocks with the periodic table on them or onesies with future just about anything written on them.

These items are sure to be big hits at the shower (if you care about such things) and will make the parents smile every time they use them (more important).

Do think about books. Not parenting books (though one about hiding vegetables might not be a bad idea) but your favorite children’s books, or a collection of board books full of simple designs and pictures that are fun for babies.

Most people don’t think about books at that age, but reading can, and probably should, start that early so it’s nice to have some options.

940 Saturdays journal
A page from 940 Saturdays.

Or consider a book that’s a keepsake. I was sent a copy of the 940 Saturdays Family Activities and a Keepsake Journal by Harley A. Rotabrt, and I think it would be a great, low-stress way to document life with a little one. Each Saturday has a half a page for the parents to fill in with what they did, which would make brief life updates easy and give them a cool keepsake to give their child when he or she is older (it also includes a booklet with tips for journaling and ideas for what to do with all those weekends).

Do consider utilitarian items. It may seem kind of boring to buy plain onesies, receiving blankets or burp cloths (which you could always decorate, ahem), but they will get a lot of use. If you’re a parent try to remember what you used the most and buy that.

Do think about seasonality. Everyone wants to buy (or knit) cute little baby hats, but a kid born in July might not need them for a while, so make sure you buy or make the right size clothing for the age the child will be in that season.

baby gifts playmat
If I bought baby gifts, I would buy a playmat over and over.

Do shop the registry. If the parents set one up, it’s full of things they actually want. No guess work. Nice.

Do be willing to buy a gift card. Choose a store they registered at or somewhere you know they shop. They’ll be happy to have some help when they find out what they really need for that kid. (Or to buy diapers, formula, baby food when the time comes…)

And Please Don’t Do This

Don’t buys gifts that make assumptions. There are gifts that assume certain life choices and you shouldn’t buy those things unless you’re absolutely certain what those choices are.

A mom who isn’t breast feeding doesn’t need lanolin cream (plus, what kind of a gift is that?), a cloth diapering mama doesn’t want disposable diapers, non-Christians are going to find it hard to be gracious when you give their kid-to-be a personalized Bible.

baby gift ideas
See? Books are yummy.

Don’t buy newborn clothes. Some kids are already bigger than this at birth, and even if they aren’t, kids grow fast. And honestly, unless it’s winter, they’re probably not wearing a lot of clothes in the early months anyway. Start with 3 to 6 month clothes (or bigger, depending on the seasonality of the item) and the parents will be able to get a lot more use out of them.

Don’t buy things that are too fancy. This goes for making, too. Unless I’m making for a knitter — and often even then — I choose yarns that can be washed by machine. Don’t buy clothes that are super fancy/frilly/hard to take on and off/too precious to be puked on or peed on. Because that and more is going to happen.

Don’t buy toys that play music, flash lights or make noise unless asked for. Some parents just really don’t want those things in their homes, and they should get to make that choice. Even if they bought annoying musical toys for your kids. Maybe.

What do you think of this list? What would you add? What were some of your favorite — or least favorite — baby gifts? I really want to know.

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