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Giving Tree

The Best “I Have No Idea What To Get This Person” Baby Gifts

By Amalah

Hi Amy!

I love all of your columns, even though they are rarely applicable to me, as I have no kids. I’m going to be waaaaay over-prepared when I do have kids though! I have unnecessary opinions about diapers and baby food and like…nap schedules…taking up space in my head! I’m so happy to have a question to ask you.

Advice Smackdown ArchivesI have a question that is part-etiquette, part-babies/kids. My graduate school advisor has just adopted a baby! Hooray! I am so happy for her and her husband. The little boy is around 2 years old, I think. My first question is, would it be weird or inappropriate for me to send her a gift for her new son? She is no longer my direct boss, since I’ve graduated, but we still collaborate on projects. We are…friendly but professional, I would say. What is the conventional wisdom on presents for kind-of-ex-superior-professional-colleagues’ life events?

Secondly, what on earth should I get her? I have NO idea what she already has or needs, and I also don’t know anything about two-year-olds. I have not known or bought presents for very many babies at all. I have learned from your columns that cloth diapers are awesome-should I get her some of those? Ha ha haaaa, kidding. A…book? Stuffed animal? Tiny t-shirt depicting a landmark from my current city? That is about the extent of my ideas. Maybe a pretty generic present would be more professional? Or maybe something that is for her, and not the baby? I am probably over-thinking this a lot. Help!


Over-thinking ahoy! You’re my kind of girl.

So your questions are actually quite simple and straightforward, no? Question one: Is it weird to buy a baby gift for someone you mostly have a professional-yet-friendly-yet-not-overly-involved-with-anymore relationship?

Answer one: No! Goodness. You’re on good terms with this person, she obviously meant something to you during her time as your advisor, you are genuinely excited for her and her new son and I think it’s sweet and appropriate. (Provided you’re not like, camping out in her front lawn with the family bunny in the gift box, you know?) And from experience, I know many adoptive parents get the short end of the celebration stick, particularly if their baby is an older toddler or the adoption process didn’t really allow for the traditional “before the baby gets here” shower. So I think the instinct to give her a baby gift is a great one. If you didn’t WANT to give a gift, I’d say you’re certainly under no obligation to give one to this person, but…you want to! So seriously, don’t even give this part a second thought.

Question two: What in sam hill do you buy for someone when you don’t know what she has and doesn’t have and aren’t familiar with the child’s age and are just looking for that nice “welcome, baby!” gesture?

Answer two: Well, it’s entirely possible that she does have a baby registry, and it may be possible for you to simply locate it yourself by searching for her name at some of the more likely places, depending on where you live. Target, the big box-type baby superstores, even Amazon might be a possibility. (You can usually search for registries online, if you feel creepy trolling the computers at multiple stores.)

Or – and this is probably the easiest, least over-thinking-y solution here – is to buy a children’s book. Even if you don’t have children yourself, you were indeed a child at one point. A child who read books. And while all the plastic-whoosiwhatzit toys and OMG TOTALLY ESSENTIAL BABY GEAR ITEMS change constantly, children’s books are something that are actually pretty timeless. Chances are your favorite book as a child is still available, and still delighting the current generation.

So think back to your favorite books – don’t even worry about the age-appropriateness. I mean, no Judy Blume for the two-year-old, or anything, but don’t worry if the book seems more for a six or-seven-year-old instead of a toddler. They’ll have plenty of disposable, chewable ABC board books for now, but chances are they’ll also have space on a bookshelf for a beautiful hardcover copy of The Velveteen Rabbit or The Giving Tree or The Happy Lion or The Monster at the End of this Book or whatever. It’s a (relatively) inexpensive gift that will get years and years of use, most likely. Include a note about the book being one of your favorites and you hope little so-and-so will enjoy it someday too. (And a gift receipt, in case it is a duplicate.)

The “my favorite book from childhood” thing was actually one of the most popular gifts my BLOG READERS liked to send, back when I was pregnant. (Talk about people you might not necessarily know very well or expect a gift from in the first place!) And it was so, so nice, and I am really impressed with the library we managed to put together for the boys. We’ve read most of the classic storybooks by now and I always remember how sweet of a gesture it was. And I can honestly testify that there’s a REASON some of these books never go out of print, because it turns out a good kids’ book is a Good Kids’ Book, no matter what decade we’re living in.

If there is a question you would like answered by Amalah on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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