The art of giving (when the recipient is too young to know that they’re getting)

If your life is anything like mine, it currently feels like there is at least one friend/acquaintance announcing a pregnancy or birth every week!  This can mean that a bit of shopping is in order.  I blogged previously on how I think you can ensure you buy a great gift, but there are still times when you could be quite stuck.  Babies are a prime example, particularly newborns, and if the parents do not know whether they’re gaining a son or a daughter.  Unsurprisingly, I still have some advice, most of which was passed on from my mother.  Here are the basics:

  • Clothes are good gifts, but there are still some bad ideas. Avoid buying any clothes with integrated hands and feet – extremities grow fastest, so a baby can irritatingly outgrow the mittens/socks which are sewn into a body suit before their body does!  The item is then sadly wasted (unless the parents don’t mind cutting the hands and feet of the outfit off)
  • Even if you know the gender, buy neutral colours and patterns – you may not know the parents’ exact taste plus, sonographers can get the baby’s gender wrong
  • Never buy clothes in “newborn” size, even if the baby is premature – they will fit for approximately five minutes and, again, be a waste of money. If you want to really impress them (this is my favourite trick), buy clothes the baby can wear in six or nine months time.  You have to think about this carefully, because you’ll have to make sure you think ahead and buy something seasonally appropriate (there’s an art to this!  If you’re shopping in November or December, there will be a lot of cold weather clothes, but when a December newborn is six months old, they won’t need a puffy coat!), but your gift will be mightily appreciated: EVERYONE buys for newborns or up to three months old.  Parents are overwhelmed with new babygros and tiny clothes, then suddenly end up with a limited wardrobe a few months later.  Extra bonus – if you buy for when the baby’s older, there’s a better chance of you getting to see him or her in your outfit
  • No baby can have too many socks. They fall off constantly, get eaten by washing machines and generally go missing.  Socks are a great padding gift, they’re cheap and will be appreciated.  Scout around and you can even get more exciting baby socks – I hit a triple whammy when my cousin’s daughter was born, as I found a three-pack which had a pair that looked like ballet shoes (my cousin loves ballet and her daughter was the first girl born into the family in 25 years), plus a pair which had “born in 2013” on them
  • Think about how you purchase your own clothes – it’s rare that we buy one item which is only ever suitable for wearing as part of one outfit. Buy neutral layers so that parents can again get a good amount of wear out of it, and potentially mix and match your items with others (when my cousin’s daughter recently turned two, I picked two dresses, and a cardigan which matches both… and is in a neutral colour which will work nicely with other things in her wardrobe)
  • It can be quite difficult to find nice clothes for baby boys, but the range on the UK high street is improving. You don’t have to spend a fortune: I’ve previously found some really nice, well-wearing items in places like Asda and Tesco, but my favourite place to shop for baby and toddler clothes as gifts is definitely H&M – they usually have a fantastic variety and are very reasonably-priced

Having said all of that… parents tend to receive lots of clothes.  And some people don’t like buying clothes (you’re strange, by the way).  So here my tips for non-clothing items:

  • Never, ever buy a soft toy. Again, parents are overwhelmed with these.  Unless you are an aunt/uncle/grandparent/godparent, step away from the stuffed animals.  Now!
  • As with general adult gifts, ask if there’s anything you can get for the parents. Do they have a registry?  Is there anything they’ve been struggling to get?  See if you can help them out.  They may want sheets for the cot, or a nice blanket, or even have set up a savings account for their baby
  • Mum’s favourite thing to buy is cutlery, she’s particularly keen on this as a christening gift. It’s a nice present, a child’s first set of “proper” silverware – my sister and I still have ours, and buying a nice miniature set that they can have for special occasions when the adults of the house bust out their own nice set is a good chance for the child to feel involved
  • Hand down something you love – one of our family friends had a great knack for picking fantastic young adult books (she gave me Harry Potter before it became famous – yes, those days existed! – and introduced me to another young adult author whose work I fell in love with and also became very popular), and that has inspired some choices in me. Particularly if a child’s parents are bookworms, I like passing on a novel for them to ultimately read together.  I tend to pick my favourite child-centered classics, such as Black Beauty, The Secret Garden or The Wizard of Oz – leave things like Pride and Prejudice for them to hate when they get to school!
  • Remember the parents – even if it’s something you think is small by comparison, it’s a nice thought. Whether it’s a bottle of wine, box of chocolates or a promise of a night of babysitting, something for them to try and enjoy is a nice touch

Hopefully that’s given you some ideas!  I’ve already found the main gift for my closest friend who’s due next… but I need to wait until she gives birth and knows the gender of her baby before hitting the online checkout.

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