My first son was 7 months old on his first Christmas. Of course we were excited to give him gifts, but let's be real, he mostly loved the crumpled wrapping paper and lights on the tree.
We give gifts to babies as a way to connect with and love them, and that is exactly what they need-- connection and love.
So here are my personal favorite toys for babies:
Reading to children not only helps with developing language and literacy, but also provides valuable nurturing benefits. Holding a baby and reading to them not only calms YOUR central nervous system, but it helps the baby learn to calm their central nervous system through connecting with you. (It also gives you plenty of chances to smell their sweet heads.) Hearing your voice and the changing cadence of your tone while reading soothes them and bonds them to you. Also, reading and pointing out faces and emotions builds emotional intelligence and empathy as young children begin to recognize the feelings of others.
My sister, who reads more than anyone I know, gave my son our first Karen Katz lift-the-flap book that first Christmas, declaring the books the "Gateway to Early Literacy". Babies love the pictures and colors, she explained from experience, and they are captivated by these books. Their little chubby hands quickly learn to lift the flaps and peak under them. We have a big collection of these books now, and I find older kids like them too.
Board books are sturdy and take the beating (and chewing) babies give them. Our first copy of "Goodnight Moon" fell apart from so much love (drool) that I was happy to upgrade to a larger copy that we continue to love.
That same first Christmas my sister-in-law gave my son this set of stacking cups and shape sorter. Totally basic. But you know what? Over the past 7 years this toy continues to get played with by all three of my kids. I went to purge it many times, but then I thought, it still gets so used! So I keep it.
When playing with babies I would stack up the cups while singing a stupid song I made up that goes, "Stack em up, stack em high" -- and then the baby would smack it down, giggling hysterically. Terribly simple, but those are the moments I will treasure forever. Sitting on the floor together and making eye contact are powerful ways to connect with babies. As they gain more hand-eye coordination they will begin to stack the cups themselves-- this is a great opportunity to gain self-esteem and confidence in their own abilities. And now my older two kids sing this same stupid song to their little sister while playing the same game!
As a play therapist and mom of young children, I deeply value spending time connecting with my kids. But being home with my kids also makes me bit batty. Our children need us, but they also need us to stay sane. So feeling batty is my signal that I need to do something to care for myself and switch gears.
The fastest fix for me has always been getting outside for fresh air, change of scenery, and exercise. Walking is such a powerful mood booster for me! This push car has gotten many miles pushing my 3 babies to the beach, playground, and neighborhood library. Babies love going for a ride and turning the steering wheel, and I love that it doubled as my stroller once the kids became more stroller-resistant. I take that push car all over town (and shoved it in my Civic's trunk before I had a minivan)!
Another great must-have to get outside with a baby is a sturdy swing. Hanging up a swing is a great motivator to get outside. Babies can ride the swing before they can walk or stand. I have great memories of swinging and singing with my parents and now that is a go-to activity for us.
Like I said, babies need connection and love, but they also need sane parents. It is sweet to see babies cuddle a stuffed animal or doll that they love. It's even sweeter to see them sleep. I experienced extreme sleep deprevation with my last child for over a year, and it caused me to be irritable, weepy, and edgy. Not only did she need help sleeping for longer stretches at night and napping during the day, but I desperately needed sleep.
As any loopy and drained parent might do, I spent $90 on this doll that promised to helped her sleep by giving off a heartbeat-like pulsing vibration and playing a "mother at rest" breathing recording. Guess what? IT WORKED!!! She slept! She napped! I slept! I felt so much better.
(I bought so many batteries for that doll until I got smart and got some rechargeable batteries. Looks like Amazon has a much cheaper price for the doll that isn't perfect *see batteries* but helped us SLEEP.)
Looking for gift ideas for a new baby in your life? These are the things that truly stand out to me for being loved and used throughout the years. Thanks for reading and check back to earlier posts to read more about my play therapy inspired gift guides, including my favorite toy for the past three years and toys to help kids burn off aggressive energy!
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