Gifts For One-Year-Olds & Other People Who Would Rather Just Eat Wrapping Paper
Photo by D Sharon Pruitt
I love your column, and I’ve been reading for a long time. Now I’m hoping you can help me out…My best friend’s baby girl is turning 1! I was wondering if you could give me some ideas for a really great 1st birthday present, from a mom’s point of view. I’d like to give something that mom and dad would appreciate as being really useful, or helpful, but also something memorable.
I normally would just ask my friend what they needed/wanted, but I want this to be a fun surprise for her, too. (Since she will likely be opening the actual presents.)
I don’t want to spend more than $50, but I would really appreciate any suggestions you, or your very knowledgeable readers, can offer.
Thanks a bunch!
I’m sure you realize you’re calling in a high order here, since there’s a big catch-22 to buying gifts for kids and babies: the favorite and most memorable toys for the child will probably annoy the crap out of the parents, while anything really useful for parents is going to bore and underwhelm the birthday girl. So you kind of have to pick who the present is *really* for and just aim to please them.
On the one hand, a one-year-old is not going to have any idea what’s going on. She’ll likely be off her schedule, overwhelmed, overstimulated, confused and (if you’re lucky, like I was) cutting all four of her one-year molars on the very day of her party.
On the other hand, it IS still her party, and her birthday, and after all the baby showers and baby gifts, it’s nice to start shifting the focus to her — as a separate little person from her parents.
So. I’m trying to remember any of the toys we received for Noah’s first birthday and I remember a couple that he played with a lot — he was really REALLY into this singing piggy bank toy, though my best friend’s son also had it and ignored it completely. He also got plenty of loud, blinking battery-powered plastic crap that he LOVED and I HATED and once the batteries died the first time we lied and told him the toy was broken. Stuffed animals get ignored around here; things Noah is “into” (like specific licensed characters [ELMO COUGH COUGH] or brief obsessions with dump trucks or elephants) have the shelf life of a bag of chips.
If I were buying a toy for a one-year-old today, I’d go with the Ball Popper, since it seems to be one of those toys that fascinates kids for YEARS on end, despite the plastic / battery-powered / music / balls-rolling-under-the-couch parental annoyance factors. No, it’s not a gorgeous unpainted toy made of environmentally-friendly reclaimed wood and it’s not teaching Spanish or promoting meta-cognition — it’s just a really fun toy. Kids go nuts over it, for some reason, and I was just talking to the mother of a five-year-old girl who STILL can’t put the Ball Popper in the yard sale pile — she still loves it that much. It’s a toy that is actually for the child; not some grown-ups’ idea of what the child should enjoy.
Then again, for every kid who loves it, there’s possibly one who will freak out and cry when it turns on. Kids are tough like that.
If I were buying a gift for the PARENTS of a one-year-old, I’d go with books, probably. We’ve been given a ton of books over the years — and we’re only just starting to read a lot of them to Noah now. I always appreciate when people buy us nice sturdy books, since they’re expensive and the choices are overwhelming, so it’s GREAT when people buy us the books they loved as a child. If you don’t personally have children and have no idea “what kids today are into,” it’s hard to go wrong buying a stack of the books you adored as a kid. I love it when books arrive with a personal testimony, you know? Noah loves all the classics — Corduroy, Make Way for Ducklings, The Snowy Day, Where the Wild Things Are, Caps for Sale Big Book, etc. He’s had some of these books since before he was born, and we’ve gotten years of enjoyment out of them, and I imagine he’ll be loving these stories for awhile longer. (I remember all of my old storybooks getting another lease on life when I learned to read them myself.) A one-year-old will still be best off with board books for now, but a nice hardcover book is a perfectly nice investment in future bedtime readings.
Readers, your turn. Name the best or most memorable gift your child has received. What gifts had you frantically searching for the receipt?