With the arrival of a baby, you can expect to receive mountain loads of teeny, tiny onesies and seemingly nifty gadgets that too often end up collecting dust. When I was expecting our son almost two years ago now, my heart melted over the many cute little things kindly given to us from friends and family, but as time moved on, I realized how unnecessary many of these baby goodies proved to be. Some of them were hardly used, others remained unused. Babies don’t need as much as we think they do — and sometimes, surprisingly, the best gifts are actually the ones that don’t make you gush and say, ‘awww!’
Save your cash with this list of what not to buy, along with a few ideas for great gifts, too:
Something about rosy-cheeked babies make us go goo-goo ga-ga over giving gifts that pack that extra pop of cuteness, yet many of those adorable footed sleepers and fancy baby gear selections prove to be cash wasters.
I know of what I speak, for when our boy was born two years ago, he outgrew most of his zero-to-three-month sleepers before we could get the tags clipped. The reality is only a handful of baby garments are actually needed, and whatever their current size happens to be, children stay that way for about a millisecond.
We also received plenty of shoes, the flexible ones designed to easily slide onto a baby’s feet, except babies don’t need shoes until they are walking (OK, maybe crawling, but even that is a bit of a stretch in favour of infant footwear).
Our son’s vast collection of snazzy, pint-sized shoes inspired generous amounts of ‘oohing and ahh-ing,’ for they were tiny and sweet looking, but sadly, he never wore a single pair. Stick with cozy slippers for the first little while.
Then there was the wipe warmer. We kept this unnecessary luxury — which gets those bum wipes all toasty — plugged in for a wee while. Looking back I think it’s accurate to say that out of all of the harsh, out-of-womb realities facing our youngsters, having warmed fanny wipes probably isn’t high on the list.
We were given a Pee-Pee Teepee, a cleverly named product that is kind of like a tea cosy for baby boys. The idea is that it will prevent your baby boy from peeing all over you during a diaper change, but while this novelty gift may be funny, truthfully it remained dry inside the mini sack it arrived in.
Again, clever marketing packed a powerful punch with the Baby Bullet food processor. Here’s the reality of this baby-sized goody — if you’re steaming and roasting away to make baby food from scratch, why not use a regular-sized processor so you can whip up and freeze large batches at once?
I started off pureeing foods in the Baby Bullet — it’s a darling thing, after all — but I quickly switched to our full-grown Cuisinart blender, which frankly is the Ferrari of food processors. It enabled me to make a variety of mealtime concoctions in less time — and time, along with sleep, is something most parents need more of.
So, after reading about my top cash-sapping baby goods, you may be wondering what is left.
Well, here's the thing, some onesies are helpful, as are a few blankets and huggable stuffed animals, but what is really needed — and often overlooked — are the more pragmatic items.
For my baby shower, I registered for a number of must-have necessities, though few people actually purchased them.
Here are some other gift ideas that your new-to-be-parent friends will actually use:
I get it, watching a mom-to-be open up a box of diapers and wipes or selection of baby bottles doesn’t exactly carry the electric "wow" factor gift-givers crave, yet these are the essentials parents actually use. I received a big box of diapers and wipes as a baby shower gift and man did they ever come in handy. For parents wading through the baby jungle, a stockpile of diapers and wipes means one less essential for them to worry about.
From our in-laws, our son received his first Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP), which will retain its value long after he grows out of every stage of children’s clothing possible. For those who want to give something thoughtful and smart, I highly recommend it.
New to the RESP scene is a no-fee, worry-free and 100% guaranteed RESP from giraffe & friends. It is easy to understand and simple to buy online (without the hassle of banks or sales people!). To gift an RESP, you will need the primary caregiver’s SIN and address (you have up to two years to provide the child’s SIN).
Timeless children’s books are always appreciated. We continue to build our son’s library and still revisit many of his first story books, including Goodnight Moon, I Love You Through and Through and On the Night You Were Born. Some of my favourite moments involve snuggling up with my son to read a big stack of books. Simply put, if you’re looking for a wonderful present, the gift of words will not disappoint.
Teething toys are useful almost from birth and throughout the various stages of teething when a child’s gums are aching and they need relief. There are many classic teething toys on the market, as well as organic and locally-made ones, so shop around. If you’re on a tight, gift-giving budget, teething toys are the way to go.
A healthcare kit that covers basic essentials, such as a thermometer, medicine dispenser, nail clippers, file, nose cleaner, toothbrush and hair brush is a fantastic gift idea. It will get tremendous mileage and keeps these must-have items together in one organized spot. If you’re struggling trying to find something for the baby who has everything, this could be the ticket!
Remember that while cute kid finds can be absolutely wonderful, parents tend to get lots of them. When in need of an idea, think outside the gift-giving box. Before pulling out your wallet, take pause and ask yourself whether a three-button blazer and shoes with laces and thick rubber soles are really what a baby needs. If the answer is no, regardless of how charming it is, gently put it down and walk far, far away.
Time flies by in the blink of an eye. One day you’re worrying about sending your little one to preschool, the next you’re sending them off to college. That’s why it’s important to invest in an RESP now.
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A least it’s not Barney.
Not Barney as in Barney Rubble and Fred Flintstone—that would actually be kind of cool—but the big, purple dinosaur Barney of the "I love you, you love me" variety. That Barney would be a different story. Then things would get serious.
My son is a little over two years old, and suddenly a light bulb has shot on and revealed to him an entirely new glowing universe.
In this imaginative universe lives the entire Toy Story gang—Buzz Lightyear, Woody, and Bullseye, among them—as well as Cookie Monster and yesterday he pointed to his car-print pajamas and clearly stated, "Lightning McQueen."
“Who?” I asked.
“Lightning McQueen!” he said, quite proud of himself.
“Where are you learning this stuff?” I inquired, and he reminded me of our visit to his friend’s house a few weeks back and the Lightning McQueen car that was in his buddy’s toy stash, leaving me to wonder about the many things the kid is soaking up that apparently shoot right over my head, like Lightning McQueen, the zippy red star of the Disney/Pixar animated movie, Cars.
And so it begins.
Suddenly, my son is hooked on a bunch of insanely popular TV and movie characters, and he is name dropping!
My husband introduced him to Toy Story, but the rest he is picking up on his own from friends, books, clothing, and toys he sees.
Though I shudder to admit it, Elmo has made the cut, too. The red, scraggly muppet has finally worked his charm—loved by children and completely loathed by adults—on our impressionable toddler.
I had believed he’d skip right past the ever-present Elmo craze! That once he heard the furry red monster's ridiculously high-pitched voice and grating giggle, he’d see beyond his cute, scruffy coat and funny googly eyes and come to the same conclusion as I did—Elmo is annoying.
At first he was on board with my thinking.
When my son was about a year old, my dad gave him a talking Elmo. Every time Elmo was near, my son would cry while I silently cheered, smugly turned off the toy, and rushed to comfort my petrified baby.
Then, somewhere between then and now (which takes us up about a year), Elmo has become a bit of a rock star.
There is no way around it—he digs him. And once he’s hooked on something, there’s no going back.
The unfortunate part about this really is the enthusiastic chimes of "Again! Again! Again!" coming from him.
Parents of toddlers know all about the Again! Again! Again! phase.
With a toddler in the house, you will read the same books over and over, sing the same songs over and over, play the same games over and over, and watch the same movies and TV shows over and over. So, pick wisely.
Thankfully, my son is mostly obsessed with Toy Story so far. The movies are funny enough that I don’t yet want to stab my eye sockets out with an electric drill.
“To infinity and beyond!” he calls out as he pretends to fly around the house.
“I am a space ranger!” he declares.
Still, that Elmo character is gaining serious traction.
Much like the spread of the flu, and unavoidability of snotty-nosed kids, and the rampant passing about of creepy crawly head lice, Elmo is everywhere, and unless we become Mennonites in the next week or so, he is probably sticking around for a while.
But, sometimes as a parent you just have to suck it up and take one for the team.
Okay, fine, sigh, like Elmo if you want. It could always be worse.
And there it is, the silver lining—at least it’s not Barney.
Want to read more by Tanya Enberg? Try these: Toddlers Can Be Crazy, Contradictory, Irrational Beasts; Is It Ever Okay To Discipline Someone Else's Child? and Is TV the Enemy?
What I really want to do is talk to my mom. You’d think by now I would be used to it, the not calling or talking, the not eating meals together.
But I am never quite there. Never quite over it.
Distraction has settled into my days recently. It was there last night, too, in the middle of it. It isn’t omnipresent, though it is persistent and appears whenever life is weighing heavily on my mind.
And I realize what is troubling me as I sit down unable to write what I am meant to write—I need to talk to my mom.
When life gets busy and I am accumulating moments—both good ones and bad—I want to go over everything with her, dissect it all, get her advice. Motherly advice.
It is a troubling state, for my mom passed away in 1997, which means there is quite a lot I’d like to tell her.
Time passes, it softens the edges, but it doesn’t heal.
When I dream of her, we hug and laugh and say things I can’t remember later on. We often wander in a field thick with wildflowers and she simply fades away. I call her back, over and over, search for her, but she is gone.
But I need her. Right now, I need her. I always have, that much is true, but life feels like it’s happening too fast and that suddenly it needs to slow down.
For now though, I will write through it and embrace my distracted state of mind, for eventually a clearing will emerge leading me out of the thick field of wildflowers, as always it does.
The wrong words spoken are better than the right ones unsaid. Don't let today pass without saying them.
While your instinct may be to shield your children from pain, it's important to talk to them. Here are nine ways to help your child cope when tragedy unfolds.