I haven't figured this out yet . . .
I have several friends expecting in the next nine months and in the recent gift-giving season, I’ve thought a lot about baby gifts. As new parents, we’re so excited just to get something we don’t have to buy that we don’t care what it is, even if it’s useless. It can be difficult to navigate the endless choices of baby products to determine what’s useful and what’s useless. There are two gift categories that stand out to me, however; clothes and toys.
Both of these gift categories has the potential to be awesome, or awful. Yes, even baby clothes can be ugly, and toys can be lame. So if there are any soon-to-be fathers, or mothers, out there reading this, here are some things I think are worth considering for you and your baby while navigating the morass of baby gifts out in the world.
I’m going to include baby accessories with clothing because it’s still stuff your baby will wear. Sometimes accessories serve practical purposes, like a fuzzy puppy dog hat to keep your baby’s head warm. Other accessories are just plain silly.
Having a little girl? How about a ridiculously oversized bow to put on top of her head to let everyone know to call your girl a “she” and not a “he.” While this is kind of a nice concept, they’re too ugly to justify.
I know I’m going way against the status quo on this one because people love these things. But if you put one of these giant flower bows on your baby girl, I have news for you; they’re ugly. No, they do not make your little angel look cute and feminine, they make her look ridiculous. Not to mention that I have yet to see a baby who will keep one of these bows on her head for more than five minutes.
I mean really, if a dress or a pink onesie isn’t enough to tell people that your baby is a girl, then a giant flower bow on top of her head isn’t going to help. Besides, isn’t it more fun to make people feel awful that they incorrectly guessed the sex of your baby?
Now, if you are the unfortunate recipient of one of these hideous bows, there are three things you can do.
1. Hide it away and never look at it again while risking whatever relationship you have with the person who gave it to you.
2. Put it on your baby, take a picture, and post it on Facebook or wherever else you may share photos so that the giver has seen that you were willing to put it on your baby.
3. This is if you’re close enough to the giver to see them on a regular basis, is to put it on your baby when they come over or when you visit them. Not every time, just once every few visits.
Personally I vote all parents choose the first option. It also helps if you can be preemptive about it and make sure you let everyone you know what an atrocious accessory these bows really are.
Accessories aren’t the only thing that can go wrong with baby clothes. Clothes are way more objective and based on mommy’s sense of style. Where it gets tricky is when you have to navigate the endless choices of clothing combinations that will result from all of the clothes you receive as gifts and as hand-me-downs.
Now men, pay attention. If you put your kid in a non-mommy approved outfit, you will hear about it. You will hear what a bad choice it was and things like, “How could you put him/her in that?” or, “You really thought that matched/goes together?” To these questions you may reply, “So what?” or, “It’s just clothes, it doesn’t matter.”
Oh it matters. I’ve been lectured countless times on how my choosing an ugly outfit is a direct reflection of my wife’s style. And your wife may be the exact same. They don’t want people out in public thinking that mommy doesn’t know how to pick cute clothes for her baby. Because then, when you take them to music class, or wherever you take your kids so mommy can have some alone time, the other mothers will think to themselves, “Oh, that baby’s outfit is not cute.”
So beware of ugly baby clothes, and when in doubt, just pick out something that was purchased as an outfit rather than separate pieces. Or you can do what I do and pick outfits that have been worn before.
Now, buying baby clothes can be frustrating business. It’s frustrating to see some really awesome baby clothes that cost as much or more than adult clothes. Has anyone seen clothes from Janie and Jack? I was in Hawaii a couple of months ago and saw their store where I was absolutely taken with a three piece suit for my two year old. Then I saw that it was three hundred dollars. Honestly, kids grow out of everything so fast it’s not worth spending a lot of money on clothes.
It’s also ridiculously easy to get baby clothes for free. All you have to do is know someone with a kid older, and of the same sex as yours. I have yet to meet a parent who was unwilling to give away something to another parent with a new baby. Same goes for toys, but it’s harder to get those for some reason.
Toys bring me to my next point. They are perhaps the most unnecessary yet unavoidable expense. That’s why it’s awesome to get them as gifts. But beware of the marketing trap that is placed upon us parents when we venture out to buy toys for our children.
Toy companies have gotten smarter about how they market their toys toward parents. Everything is about education these days. I’ve literally seen toys on the shelf in stores that explain the developmental benefits they have on children. This kind of marketing is great because it can educate parents about what helps their kids develop, but it also can leave us feeling like our kid won’t be as advanced as the next kid if we don’t buy a particular product. And that’s how they want us to feel!
So if you’re expecting or in the market for new toys and you have the opportunity to visit a friend with a baby, pay attention to what their kid is playing with. You can learn two important things by doing this.
First, that babies can be just as easily entertained by crumpling a piece of paper or banging on pots and pans as they are by a fifty dollar singing Elmo. There may be several developmental and entertainment values to a singing Elmo doll, but that operates on the assumption that your child’s attention will be held. I’ve tried to introduce so many cool toys to my kids that they end up looking at for five seconds and then never look at again. By the way, crumpling a piece of paper helps kids work on their fine motor skills so they can do things like brush their teeth, feed themselves, and eventually, to write. So don’t knock it.
Secondly, is in paying attention to what the child does play with. I’m not suggesting that kids don’t play with toys. My kids play with a lot of cool toys, but they don’t play with all of them. Classic toys are classic for a reason so something like a ball is a good investment for a boy or a girl.
Trust me, if you give someone’s kid a ball, the parents won’t be thrilled. They’ll probably think it’s lame. But when their baby starts playing with that ball more than any other toy they have, those same parents will be jealous they didn’t think to get something as ingenious and simple as a ball. And that’s why you should hope to get one.
My one year old daughter goes to a children’s gym class every week and virtually every child in that class is more entertained by a ball than any other activity or toy in there. If you see other kids playing with a particular toy you’ve been looking at in the store, it’s probably a safe bet that your kid will like it too.
Paying attention to what other kids play with is a good way to measure what your kids will play with. Taking your kid to the store and letting them wander through the toy aisles is a great way to figure out what they will like. If they linger on a specific toy or keep going back to one after several trips, and especially if you see other kids hovering around the same toy, you know what to buy that won’t end up in the toy donation pile.