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Gift Ideas for the New Sibling

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

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.

So I am (obviously) decreeing this to be a Bounce Back topic because…well, it’s a good Bounce Back topic.

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.

Photo from Pink Loves Brown


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 [email protected].

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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  • Elizabeth

    January 12, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    My new baby got Sophie the Giraffe over the holidays and the gift giver gave my older son a very nice dinosaur puzzle. Guess what he played with the entire time we were there (and ever since, much to my squeaky chagrin)?

  • Heidi

    January 12, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    Oh, how useful this would’ve been when we brought Pooker home to her two siblings. They were NOT impressed.
    What the eff do you MEAN she can’t walk yet? AAAAND she can’t even talk?! Weak.
    Everyone brought blankets and stuffed toys for teh bebeh but the kids? Meh, here’s some gum that’s been in my purse since the dawn of time.
    I, of course being a first timer, had no clue what to do. Bryan didn’t either because his son arrived Christmas Eve and well…Look, here’s some presents for you to open up, Taiyler! Never mind the squawling mushy pink thing that Mommy’s trying to feed!
    Oh ye GODS, Amy, where were YOU when I was pregnant and huge and bitchy?!

  • Kaycie

    January 12, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    I think anything that a child is able to play independently is a great option. A wonderful game for 4 and below is Hullabaloo (sp) and the kids can play it without a partner. When we had our second we had a “big sister” party complete with balloons and a cake the day we brought the baby home…this made for a pretty successful transition. For the 3rd we are having a “big and bigger” party, because of course they each need their own title!

  • Kate

    January 13, 2010 at 12:22 am

    Hey, it’s my question! Thanks for the detailed answer with lots of ideas and some food for thought.
    I would talk to the parents but since we’re just past Christmas and it’s their son’s b-day in a few weeks I think they’re feeling a little overwhelmed with “stuff” (the b-day invites had a note on the back about not bringing presents which I translated as “we have too much kid stuff already” based on recent conversations with my friend).
    I’m not at all the type of person who will be bothered if he prefers Sophie over whatever I bring him (although it’s sounding like maybe I should just get him one too); I just didn’t want him to feel left out of all the present getting. When I was growing up one of my uncles would always bring a present for me on my my sister’s b-day and vice versa (and they were usually versions of the same thing now that I think about it). He continued it until I was at least 10 or so which really wasn’t necessary but at that point I was old enough to realize what a good idea it was for younger kids.

  • Caitlyn

    January 14, 2010 at 12:18 am

    and I wouldn’t worry too much if you never really sort out whose toys are whose. My husband jokes that I grew up communist – all toys, books, etc were common property, for as long as I can remember. The only exceptions were that you had the option of requesting that others not read a book you’d gotten as a gift until after you had finished it, and if something was super-special you could declare it off-limits (which usually involved very large labeling.)
    Actually, it made going to college kind of a pain – we had no idea which books and CDs I should take with me.

  • Cindy

    January 14, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    I have an older daughter and am pregnant with my second. The baby is actually due on my daughter’s 9th birthday. (I know, right)
    If anyone has any thoughts on great gifts for her, I’d love some ideas. I also am not sure when to give them to her – baby shower, at hospital, home from hospital, now?
    I scrapbook and have already thought about getting her a scrapbook of her own. We already got her a camera for Christmas so she can take her own pictures.
    The only other thing I can come up with is jewelry, but she’s still young and loses most of her jewelry as it is.
    Thanks in advance.

  • Cheryl

    January 19, 2010 at 10:34 am

    We had much the same situation as the other posters, although my stepdaughter was 9 1/2 when we brought her new baby brother home. Since she was older than most siblings, we were able to soften the transition a bit by involving her in all parts of the pregnancy from the very beginning.
    The day we found out I was pregnant, I went to the store and bought her a gift and a card “from the baby,” announcing the pregnancy. The gift was a little pair of baby shoes that “the baby” asked her to hang onto until he arrived. And she did! She brought them out shortly after we brought him home.
    She came with us to my first OB appt. She saw the first ultrasound. We looked at the baby’s development on websites together. We enrolled her in the siblings class offered by the hospital. She kept up with how far along I was better than I did!
    In short (ha-ha), keeping her involved from the very beginning helped her embrace her new brother more. Having visitors bring her gifts when they visited the baby helped, too, but I think giving her a chance to experience it all along with us was what really made all the difference.

  • Della

    January 25, 2010 at 11:18 am

    Can’t resist chiming in, as usual… I had my daughter in September, and we saw this situation during Christmas as well. My (nearly 2 year old) son LATCHED ON to the infant toys that everyone got for his sister, even though he was given so many toys that we had to spread them out over 3 days. He still loves playing with toys that are technically “below his developmental level.”
    So if the parents are practical enough, if you’re getting a toy gift for the little baby, you can just write “to baby and bigkid” on the label and let the big kid open it and “own” it until the baby is old enough to join in using it.

  • mary

    August 27, 2015 at 12:13 pm

    I really love the countdown boxes idea but I’m looking to do it for a little boy who is 3. I don’t want to spend a fortune and the gifts can’t be too large as I have to post them. I was wondering if anyone has any tips of what to fill the boxes with that fit these criteria? thanks