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Holiday Gift Guide #4: For Your Parent Friends and the Kids in Your Life

Besides free baby sitting

Because I was one of the first people in my local friend circle to have kids and we remain some of the only parents in our circle, I tend to be particularly attuned to bridging the parent/non-parent divide. I get that if you don’t have kids, you don’t quite know what to get your new mom or dad friends, and you have even less idea what to get their kids. But I also get that you want to get them something fabulous. Our non-parent friends sometimes ask for more guidance, but they tend to get us the best gifts. Why? Because this isn’t the eighth second birthday party they’ve attended this month, and they’re not already bored to tears by baby-showers.

So, in the interest of enabling your understandable desire to win at giving presents to your new parent friends (is that just… me?), here is stuff that parents will love, while not making them feel like you don’t think they’re cool anymore. Plus, some gifts kids will actually play with, or keep for years to come.

P.S. What your new parent friends really want? A night of free babysitting, and tickets to the movies. They’re not going to ask you directly, but you can make a dream come true.

For New Moms (And Dads)

Would you like to know what new parents spend forty percent of their time doing? Answer: taking pictures and video of their child on their phone. You might think a person didn’t need forty photos of their new baby in the hospital (I counted) but you would be wrong. So what’s a good friend to do? Enable them, obviously. This Shutterbug Gift Set by Photojojo, from Sesame Gifts is a winner. Wide angle and macro lens? Check. Pocket spot light for consistent lighting? Check. Super crazy fun phono-o-chrome filter? Check-check. Someone get this for me, okay? ($55)

Mother of Dragons shirt. Because whether or not she likes Game of Thrones, every new mom needs a reminder that now she’s even more of a badass then she was before. Proceeds support Foster LA. ($28)

As a new mom, I really wanted to wear something in honor of my kid, without being all cheesy-obvious about it. New moms also need sturdy jewelry, since there is a lot of yanking and sticking in mouths. These Zodiac necklaces by Zelma Rose are perfect. I have a big one (for the kid) and a little one (for me). I thought I’d wear the big one more, but the little one’s are a near perfect size, so take note. ($48 or $68)

Also, in the sturdy jewelry category, I’m in love with Zelma Rose’s Indigo Mountain Studio necklace. ($68)

You know what else new parents need? Caffeine, and lots of it. Coffee Joulies keep their coffee the perfect temperature. Because you make the coffee, and then the baby pukes, and then everyone needs to be changed, and now it’s cold. You can solve that for them. ($59.95)

You know what brand new, just out of the hospital, possibly constantly nursing new moms need? Comfort. Something to stave off the boredom. SNACKS. I went looking for a comforting spa basket, but found this excellent Recipe to Get Well basket instead. While she’s not exactly sick, she definitely needs emergency chocolate, honey straws, crossword puzzles, and the feeling of being loved. ($67)

So your BFF(FFFF) is having a baby (or just had a baby) and you want to give her the number one gift of her whole baby shower, one that she will remember forever. You’re ready to splurge, but you don’t know what to get her. Answer: a fancy diaper bag. (How fancy is really up to you.) During the new baby onslaught, it sometimes seems like none of the gifts are really about the (uncomfortably pregnant/super tired and breastfeeding) mom; they’re all about the baby. Which is nice and all, but sometimes a girl just wants a minute to herself. I was given this totally absurdly expensive designer diaper bag at my shower, and it remains one of my favorite things. It also is a perfect fit for a laptop, so it will be in use forever. The price has apparently gone up since I got it, but we are talking ridiculous splurge, right? ($649)

For the slightly less absurd super nice diaper bag, here is one masquerading as a camera bag (add a wet bag and changing pad from a cheap diaper bag, and it’s perfect). ($299)

For The Little Tiny Kids You Love

Long time APW reader Sara launched a new business this year, Plum Stich. She makes amazing handmade baby quilts (and does custom too), and sells them at a price I frankly don’t understand, given how much love and work clearly go into them. We bought one for our niece when she was born this year, and it was a stunner. So for that brand new baby in your life, maybe get them this Sunshine Quilt. It references a lullaby that always makes me cry, and you’ll create an instant keepsake. ($120)

It turns out there is only so long you can trick your kid into listening only to old school hip hop. When the day comes that your toddler is demanding music just for them, the trick is to find music that’s smart enough that your brain doesn’t melt out of your ears. Because my child is a Sesame Street fanatic, we happened to discover two great Sesame Street concept albums from the 70s and early 80s: the Grammy nominated Sesame Street: Bert And Ernie Sing-Along (on CD as part of this set) and the follow up Sesame Street Sing-Along. Both tell a story that continues all the way through the record, and both include a good mix of classics with smart musical theatre style original songs. (“While for you I would do almost anything/along is one way that I do not want to sing.”) For the kind of hipster parents (and toddlers) in your life, I recommend digging them up on vinyl, for a extra special gift (here and here). ($8.99–$17.99)

Not Exactly Design-y Toys That Kids Actually Love (And You Can Afford)

There is a constant tug of war between the toys that you really wish kids would like (wooden, good design, probably made in Sweden) and the toys they actually like (plastic, light up, make terrible noises). Or, to quote David when I was trying to pick yet another beautiful but impractical toy, “I’m pretty sure he likes toys from the Land of Plastic not the Land of Nod.” To help bridge the gap, I’ve come up with a few toys that are good compromises: still simple and good looking, but bright/loud enough for real kids to really love them. A note to non-parents: when buying toys, check the age range. They’re usually reasonably accurate, and you’d be surprised how many people give one year olds toys for “Three and up.” Will they be awesome gifts? Yup, one day.

Brilliant Basics Stack & Roll Cups—finally, a toy a smaller baby can actually play with. Rolling balls is fun, taking apart the pieces is fun, stacking them up is fun, they’re fun in the bath. Plus, the colors are bright and simple. From about six months on, this was the best toy in our arsenal. (For babies. $9.65)

The Embryonics Mozart Magic Music Cube is expensive-ish for a baby toy, but worth it. When you hit the orchestra button, the full orchestra plays Mozart. Hit a button for an individual instrument to add or remove the sound. Not only is the music good, seeing how it’s put together is obsessively fun… for me at least. (For older babies. $29.95)

Band in a Box—FINALLY, something you hope kids will love as much as they actually do. Genuinely fun for the whole family. (For toddlers. $17.99)

Magna-Tiles are great magnetic shapes that you can use to build cool structures. (For toddlers. $120)

P.S. A few more gifts for new parents, and all our gift guides so far.

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