So your friend / sibling / neighbor has just had a baby or is about to have a baby. Huzza!
Now you’re trying to figure out what to get them for the holidays … and, well, it can get a little overwhelming. There are so many things for babies and new parents, all of which are marketed in a way that makes everything seem absolutely crucial. Most of the time, of course, it isn’t.
For this gift guide, I’ve tried to focus on things that are really useful, not just to freak out new parents, and that are sturdy enough to hold for several years / kids.
Step one? Ask parents what they need – everyone’s situation is different and they know best. However, if you run out of ideas, here are some things you are likely to really appreciate.
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When all of a sudden you have this precious thing in your life that takes up 99.9% of your brain bandwidth, it can be difficult to remember where else is. Especially when you are out and about, when – especially in the first few months – you are probably lugging around three times as much as you were when you were a child. Your wallet … did you drop it or just leave it at home? Did the diaper bag fall out of the floor of the stroller or is it back in the car? Wait a minute, where did I park the car?
Apple’s AirTags are only a few months old and didn’t exist when we first had our child, but oh how much I wished they were. These little puck-shaped discs can be stowed anywhere, so you can track the location of an item (read: bags / strollers etc, not the baby) anywhere an iPhone is nearby – any iPhone, not just yours. The battery lasts surprisingly long and is easily user-replaceable, and you can emit an AirTag beep when you need help pinpointing exactly where something is in the house.
One catch: these things are only for iOS users.
Price: 1 for $ 30 or 4 for $ 100
It’s a $ 1,600 robo crib that detects when the baby is crying and tries to automatically rock them back to sleep.
Does that sound a bit strange? I agree! But it also rules, and I believe it’s a big part of why my kid, now 3, is still a really, really good sleeper. It also helps you keep track of your baby’s waking / sleeping patterns and uses special “snoo bags” to ensure that the baby stays on its back (as it is) while sleeping. Recommended by the NIH.)
Snoo will only work until a baby is around six months old – but it’s very, very easy to pass it on to another child. We split the purchase with friends because their child would outgrow it as ours needed; It has been given four more times since then, with minimal maintenance beyond a thorough cleaning.
I didn’t quite understand why we should spend $ 130 on a changing mat. A zillion diaper changes later … I see. The peanut is designed to prevent the baby from rolling off the table during the diaper change (although you still have to stay close, of course), is much more comfortable for babies than a hard wooden table and, above all, is super dirt-repellent. When my child finally managed to dye it permanently (turnips, it’s always turnips) the company immediately had a replacement shipped.
Price: $ 130 from buybuyBaby
Skip the hop pronto
The downside of the peanut? It’s not portable. Babies poop a lot and they don’t care if there is a convenient changing table nearby.
The Pronto portable diaper changing station by Skip Hop can be folded into a tiny package, is super easy to keep clean and has a storage pocket that is large enough for one or two spare diapers and a narrow cloth box. This thing saved the day more times than I can count, and it’s the first thing I check when someone sends us their baby register.
Price: $ 28 from Amazon
A really good phone case
Phones light up and make funny noises. Babies like things that light up and make funny noises. Babies also like to throw things.
Put these things together and you have the recipe for a broken phone screen. If your new parenting friend is the type who likes to ditch the case in favor of a slim device, try maaaaaybe to convince them to put on a case for at least a year or two. Otterbox’s commuter case has probably saved our phones a dozen times and is relatively slim for the protection it offers.
Price: $ 40 from Otterbox
Ubbi diaper pail
Ubbi’s steel diaper pail holds the stench in place pretty damn well, while a simple security system keeps nosy little ones out. It uses standard trash cans instead of expensive, custom-made “cartridges” or whatever. While our child goes to the potty, this thing is still hanging around as an overqualified trash can in his room. It was also hurled across the room by a thousand or so toy trucks and somehow still looks brand new.
Price: $ 70 from Amazon
As I noticed in ours Gift guide under $ 100, smart lightbulbs are slowly taking over my home. Nothing convinced me to go for smart lightbulbs better than having a kid.
Wake up every two hours and the light switch is on the other side of the room? Smart lightbulbs! Do you want red light instead of blue / white for waking you up at 2am so you don’t maybe screw up all of your circadian rhythms? Smart lightbulbs! Are you working on teaching a toddler to stay in bed and have a “traffic light” that changes from red to green when it is okay to get up? Smart lightbulbs!
There are a lot of great smart light bulb options out there, but I’m a huge fan of the Philips Hue line. It’s not the cheapest option, but the user interface is great, it works with your various Alexa / Google / Homekit ecosystems and I had literally no problems with it after years of use.
Price: $ 30- $ 50 each on Amazon, depending on the amount
Smart speakers go well with smart lightbulbs, but are also good for many reasons.
When my son was little and spent more time in my arms, I used my voice to start songs without fiddling with my phone. We use it to control the smart lightbulbs mentioned above and for white noise (“Hey Google, play rain sounds”) when he’s sleeping poorly. He recently figured out how to ask Google to make farting noises which would keep him laughing and falling over.
Amazon / Google / Apple all have their own competitors, each with their pros and cons, so the best really is the one built for the ecosystem your friend uses the most – Echo for Amazon, Nest Mini, or Nest Hub for google or homepod for apple.
Price: Varies but generally $ 25-100. Nest Mini, pictured above, is $ 25 from Google
Foldable radio-controlled flying car
Someone bought us one like this for their first birthday and I honestly can’t believe how much it’s used. When he was still in the stroller, we used it to drag everything to the beach. Now that he’s far too big for a stroller, he likes to hop in for long rides through the neighborhood or for trips to the zoo.
It folds up enough to fit in the trunk and two zip pullers turn it into a bench for snacks anywhere. Radio Flyer’s warranty is pretty good too; When I broke one of the bikes through no fault of my own, they had a new one for me within a few days.
Price: Varies based on options, but we’re using the $ 200 push / pull model pictured above
Chicco Caddy Hook On Chair
Most restaurants have one or two high chairs. Sometimes more than one or two babies show up. Or they just have a high chair and it has no buckles and wobbles when you look at it funny.
We bought one of these while visiting friends in a pinch and then traveled with us for a long time. Unfold, clamp, turn locks and bam – you have a high chair wherever you have a suitably stable table (be sure to read the instructions there). Ready? Disconnect, fold up, throw in the trunk. Do you have a messy eater? The cover can be easily peeled off and is easy to wash. My child has now outgrown it, but it is still used regularly when our friends bring their little ones with them.
Price: $ 50 on Amazon