Gift Ideas for the New Sibling
Photo from Pink Loves Brown
I don’t know if this is more a Bounce Back or an Advice Smackdown question so do with it what you will
Our good friends are currently pregnant with their second child and of course we will be dropping by with gifts after the little bundle of joy arrives. I know what I’m bringing the baby (Sophie the giraffe) and the parents (a couple of homemade frozen meals). Where I’m stumped is on what to bring their older son. I know I could bring him some random toy but I was wondering if you (and my fellow readers) had any suggestions of good “I just became an older sibling” gifts. Oh, the child in question will be about 26 months old when his brother is born.
What’s a good gift for a brand-new sibling?
Honestly, probably any toy that would make a good gift period. While I reveled in the cutesy matching “I’m the Big Brother/Little Brother” shirt-and-onesie sets, Noah was about as impressed as he’d be with socks on Christmas morning. And after opening his intended gifts from friends and family, he still invariably claimed the baby toys as his own as well. (We’re STILL working on the whole idea of which toys “belong” to who, and probably will until Ezra is old enough to personally lay claim to his things. For now, most gifts still end up in a community sort of pile, no matter what the manufacturer’s recommended age.)
Point is, don’t be surprised if an older sibling tosses your carefully chosen gift aside and goes NUTS over Sophie the Giraffe instead. Don’t put any pressure on him (and this goes doubly for you parents out there) — there will be plenty of time to work on property rights and the polite response to presents later; the first days after a new sibling arrives just isn’t it. A newborn is all but guaranteed to ignore any and all gifts, and even a two-year-old will pick up on the fact that suddenly everybody is expecting “more” of him.
Here are some of the things we learned through the many various takes on new-sibling gifts we both received AND tried ourselves:
1. For toddler/young preschooler-aged siblings, consider identical gifts, or close to it. A big and small version of the same stuffed toy, the same book (maybe one board and one hardcover), anything that will satisfy a younger child’s enormous sense of “fairness.”
2. For the “I’m a big kid” obsessed, get something markedly different. Noah was not — at the time, anyway — a big fan of being called a “big kid.” He was very aware and protective of his status as our “baby.” For a kid like him, the identical gifts were a good idea. For other kids, not so much. For a child determined to separate her/himself from the new sibling, maybe her own handbag or briefcase or other grown-up-like dress-up clothes. (Hell, your clothes. Take an old purse and fill it with Dollar Store gizmos. Instant Awesome.) Toy (or real-but-no-longer-active) cell phones or anything that encourages grown-up imitative play are usually pretty satisfying for the I’m A Big Kid Now set.
3. Just ask the parents. Really. We’re used to it. We appreciate it. We keep Amazon Wish Lists for just this purpose, because we know. Kids have specific tastes, and nobody wants money and space going toward yet another overpriced doohickey that no one will play with. And kids tends to have a HELLUVA lot of toys, so duplication is easy. (Chances are your friends already have the “I’m A Big Brother” books and practice baby doll covered.) When baby registering for Ezra, I added a few small toys (most under $10) for Noah onto our registry after many requests. It was great — when packages arrived for the baby, there was usually a small something for the big brother. A toy train, a DVD, a book about pirates. You guys know I’m not a big fan of the terrible gimmes that usually accompany registries, but this seemed like a good solution for everybody.
4. For gifts that will arrive pre-birth (either by mail or at a shower) consider a “Countdown Box.” I wrote about these way back in the Zero to Forty days. Noah didn’t really grasp the concept of “time” as the end of my pregnancy approached, and his set of Countdown Boxes were really the only things that really seemed to resonate with him. Yes, when all the boxes are open, Mama will go to the hospital and have Baby Brother. (It was a bit more certain for us, with the scheduled c-section, but you can just use a due date and then switch to a calendar to mark off days if mom goes overdue.) (And you can order just the empty, numbered boxes and fill them yourself.)
5. For gifts at the hospital, get something that can be OPENED and PLAYED WITH. For Noah’s gift from us, we got him multiple Thomas the Tank Engine-themed Duplo sets, one for each day I’d be in the hospital. They stayed behind when he went home, and the next day he could open another and expand the track. It kept him occupied and actually HAPPY to arrive there each day. The problem was, of course, at the end of my hospital stay we had about 14 bajillion Duplo blocks and pieces to pack up and haul off to the car. So while I still think it’s a Really Good Thing to give kids some instant gratification during this somewhat stressful time, be careful about giving gifts at the hospital with a lot of small pieces, or are expensive and irreplaceable in case it gets lost or left behind. Oh, and make sure the toy has the proper batteries.
6. For any gift that accompanies a visit — pre-birth, hospital, post-birth at home — PLAY WITH THE CHILD. Our trainset idea may have had some logistical drawbacks, but oh, how Noah loved it. Daddy opened the boxes and set it up with him! Grandpa got down on the floor and played with him! Friends came to visit and dutifully oohed and ahhed over his creation! At home, friends came with a small indoor bowling set they’d picked up at Target and indulged him in several games before turning their attention on the baby. Buying a book? Offer to read it. Toy cars? Let’s have a race. Sip invisible tea with the big sister with Styrofoam cups, play hide-and-seek with the big brother in the hospital lobby. Don’t force it (or get hurt if the child wants nothing to do with any of it), but at least make an effort to show that you still think they’re pretty cool to hang out with, even if they aren’t the littlest one in the room.