So I was spending a lazy Sunday flipping through the shiny pages of the new Christmas toy catalog—while at my feet, my 2-year-old was having a blast with two old plastic bowls. Ah, the irony. Who needs new toys when there is beat-up table ware to contend with?
Indeed it’s true: you don’t really need to do anything special for baby other than love her and feed her and let her do her thing. But of course if you want to make your baby smile this holiday season with a few extra treats…well, they say you can’t really spoil a baby.
Plastic bowls aside, here’s my guide to what babies really want:
If you’re new to this mommying thing, I’ve got a surprise for you: it’s not the giant, unwrappable gift under the tree that will delight your little one the most. It will be some random, inexpensive little toy that will become that one object your baby can’t live without. I feel so strongly about this that my mini-van is nearly exploding with all sorts of small plastic devices that play tinny versions of, “Old MacDonald Had a Farm,” just in case we hit meltdown mode in a traffic jam.
Some new ones I’ve added to the mini-van collection in recent months: Sassy makes a little “cell phone” that doesn’t quite look like your iPhone, but is chewable and squeaky. This company also makes a mini piano teething toy, so baby can pretend to be Beethoven while soothing those achy gums.
If you’re cautious about what fabrics and substances you expose your baby to, green sprouts makes adorable velour rattles that are hypo-allergenic , chemical-free and are also just completely adorable (I love the little ducky one in particular! Whenever my son sees it, he says, “kack-kack!”)
Burt’s Bees Baby Bee Getting Started Kit. This prettily packaged little gift set contains everything you need to make bath time a fun and soothing experience. I really love the buttermilk scent—so sweet and delicate. Throw in a fun bath toy, and tub-time paradise awaits your little one.
I say this as a mom who has children who claim they are too old to sit on her lap, as well as a little guy who wants to be no other place—the times you spend snuggled up to your little one, reading a favorite book, will be among your very best moments on earth. There is just nothing as tender and fleeting as that time the two of you spend, turning the thick cardboard pages together and reading those familiar words again and again. My youngest can now count to 5 (“one, two, tree…”) and we have a lot of fun with numbers books these days. Of course his favorite book of all time is “Peek-a-ooooo bebe” (otherwise known as Peekaboo Baby; for some reason he pronounces “baby” with what sounds like a French accent.)
Here’s a riddle for you: what’s a gift that you buy for your child when you’re pregnant or have a newborn that won’t be appreciated until maybe age 6 or 7—but then will be treasured forever? It’s a baby book. Every parent of more than one child will tell you everyone but the oldest gets the shaft when it comes to archiving baby’s first smile, tooth, etc.—but try to find a way to record these special times. Otherwise #2 will use her lack of a printed record as evidence than you love #1 “more.”
But whatever you choose to put under the tree or beside the menorah, don’t stress too much. At this point, all you need is love. Fast-forward a few years when you’ve got a four-year-old who wants almost everything in the toy store, and we’ve got another story entirely.
Jorie Mark is Vitacost.com’s Director of Marketing Communications and mom to three kids, ages 3 to 10.