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Gift Guide for Babies & Toddlers

Shopping for gifts can be difficult no matter who you’re buying for at times and knowing what to buy for babies and toddlers is no different. It can be overwhelming and stressful for parents and loved ones alike.

This gift guide is meant to help you consider some options that are developmentally appropriate for infants and toddlers while keeping your budget and priorities in mind.

*Note: See below for specific gift examples by age/stage.

Tips for Shopping for Babies & Toddlers

  • Are there any practical needs that must be met?

    • Gifts don’t always need to equal toys. Gifting a box of diapers to a 9 month old will not offend or disappoint and if you feel the need to include something more “fun”, a new teether or ball will be just the ticket and won’t inundate the home with too many toys “just because”.

  • Consider your budget.

    • Sometimes the best gifts for babies can be found for very little money. Just because something is expensive doesn’t mean it’s the best choice.

  • What is the child’s home like?

    • If Baby lives in a small home or apartment the quantity of “stuff” needs to be considered so the home doesn’t become cluttered and overwhelming for the family. Think about gifts that meet practical needs (ex: diapers), are consumable (ex: baby wash) or can be used for several years (ex: blocks).

  • What is the baby interested in?

    • Observe to see what stage of play the baby is in to help narrow down gift choices. There are many toys that can be used for long spans of time and be used by various ages of little ones so you won’t have to constantly buy a whole new set of toys every time your baby has a birthday.

  • What stage will Baby be moving into in the upcoming months?

    • Not all gifts for babies need to be utilized immediately. It can be a great idea to consider what the baby might need or be ready for in the coming months and can be tucked away until that time.

  • Is the toy easy to clean and safe?

    • Babies and young toddlers explore and learn about objects by putting them in their mouths. If the item you are purchasing is a choking hazard, has sharp pieces or is difficult to clean, reconsider this as an option.

As attractive as fancy light-up toys are for the buyer, they don’t offer much in the way of creativity for the child. Flashy “do everything” toys may seem popular at the first introduction but they rarely hold a child’s attention for long. Sooner or later babies discover that these toys that do it all leave little for the child to do other than press a few buttons and be entertained.

Children are designed to explore, experiment, create, discover, and imagine. This is how they learn about their world and how things work. Their toys should support these interests and motives. When considering what toys to buy or set out for your child, think about all the different possibilities the playthings have for your child to use their imagination. The less the toy does on its own the better. We can’t expect young children to play for any length of time if we don’t give them the proper tools to do so. This begins with babies as young as 3 months old.

As Magda Gerber once said, “Simple toys make active babies” and that’s exactly what we want. Some of the suggestions below may seem odd or boring to an adult, especially when there are so many flashy toys on store shelves but the goal is to give something the child will actually use and benefit from so embrace the odd, the only person’s opinion that matters is the baby’s.

Gift Ideas for Babies

Up until about 3 months of age, babies don’t need objects to play with as they are totally focused on getting acquainted with their caregivers, their environment and their bodies. When purchasing toys for newborns, think about what they will be ready for a few months from now.

Play Items:

  • Safe place to play and move their bodies freely

    • Sheepskin rug or small bassinet-size basket for newborns

    • Enclosed playpen for older babies

  • Objects to shake, easy to grasp items, objects to chew on, roll or tap

    • Light-weight, see-all-the-parts rattle

    • Set of measuring spoons

    • O-Ball, wiffle ball, rubber ball- various textures and sizes

    • Rubber or cloth blocks

    • Simple small cloth doll

    • Small condiment-size cup or bowl

    • Rubber animals

    • Simple teether that baby can grasp and let go of at will

    • Simple and safe napkin rings or plastic hair curlers (Thrift stores frequently have these items and babies love them. If buying second hand, always wash the item before giving it to baby.)

    • Small stuffed animals with no small parts

    • Easy to clean Books

      • Ex: board, cloth, plastic or Indestructables are great choices for babies (it’s ok that they WILL put them in their mouths. This is the first step in learning about books & reading).

Practical Items:

  • Clothes

    • Side-snapping onesies are great for young babies and make the getting dressed experience more comfortable and gentle for Baby.

    • Fleece booties

    • Bonnet or hat

  • Diapering Supplies

    • Diapers, wipes, disposable diaper baggies for on the go changes, diaper cream.

  • Bathing or Hygiene Supplies

    • Baby wash, lotion, bath towel, washcloths, bath toys for upcoming months, electric nail trimmer, toothbrush

  • Feeding Supplies (for when baby starts to eat solids)

    • Small clear plastic cup, small stainless-steel spoons, plates, bowls, bibs

  • Bedding

    • Extra crib sheets or waterproof mattress pads.

Gift Ideas for Toddlers

Toddlers love: recreating their daily life in their play, imitating their caregivers, experimenting, figuring out how things work, collecting, creating, and discovering.

Play items with the above characteristics in mind include:

  • Dolls and simple accessories to act out caregiving routines

  • Play dishes and utensils

  • Toy broom, mop, shovel or rake

  • Doctor kit

  • Cash register

  • Simple blocks made of various materials- wood, foam, plastic

  • Items that connect and can be taken apart- Duplos, MegaBloks, simple train set, waffle blocks

  • Baskets and cloth bags or pouches to fill and carry toys in (this is a common toddler interest/phase)

  • Items to push, pull or ride on- small wagon, small cart or stroller to push, simple riding toy

  • Cars and trucks

  • Balls of various sizes and textures

  • Toy animals or small dolls

  • Stuffed animals or finger puppets

  • Small doll house or barn

  • Sand Pail and shovels

  • Climbing toys

  • Bubbles

  • Books- board books are still appropriate with paperbacks being introduced to older toddlers as well

  • Playdoh

  • Crayons and plain paper

  • Non-toxic paint

  • Stickers

  • Chalk

  • Sandbox

Practical Items:

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste

  • Shampoo/body wash

  • Lotion

  • Clothes, socks, tights, shoes, hats, mittens

  • Cute band aids

  • Favorite snack

  • Hairbrush

  • New bath toys

  • Small pillow and bedding

  • Hair clips

  • Swimsuit

  • Water bottle

  • Snack cup

  • Small plate, bib, spoon for diaper bag

  • Child-size umbrella, rain boots, rain coat

While a small potty chair might seem like the perfect gift for a budding toddler, presenting it in such a big way might put too much pressure on the toddler to transition from diapers to using the toilet. For tips on toilet learning click here.

Friendly reminder: Just because someone is selling it doesn’t mean your child needs it. Ex: a playdough table may look enticing but the reality is your child can play with playdough on any hard surface in your home and a specific table just for playdough will probably add clutter to the home and be dismissed quickly. Instead, consider a small sturdy child-size table and chair that can be used for any sort of play and even meal-time.

Always remember, for very young children, gift giving is more for the adults than the baby, so wrapping up something you already have is absolutely acceptable. Infants don’t know it’s not new and toddlers just like the joy of opening something, even if it is a toy you’ve had in storage for a time so it feels new again when they receive it.

Feel free to send us an email at for links to, or examples of, specific product recommendations.

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