8 Gifts for Toddlers and Babies That Aren't Toys or Stuffed Animals
How many toys, stuffed animals, and onesies can 2-year-olds really have?
Last December, my boyfriend’s sister had a new baby. This was in addition to the baby she already had, who hadn’t yet turned two. Also in December was the first time I celebrated Christmas with these two small people.
Now, I pride myself on giving thoughtful, specific gifts, but toddlers and babies pose a completely new challenge to the classic gift-giving situations of shopping for women who have everything or trying to find a great gift for your father-in-law. What does a baby girl want for her first birthday? What are toddlers’ likes and dislikes? I know they probably wouldn’t like choking, so I should avoid any toys with small, hard parts that can detach in a tiny mouth. OK, easy. I know Scotty, my boyfriend’s 2-year-old nephew, likes pink, whereas his niece Sam, who isn’t even one, most likely doesn’t have a favorite color yet—or, for that matter, any real preferences on anything at all.
The go-to gift for toddlers and babies tends to be some sort of toy or stuffed animal, but I had heard my boyfriend comment on how many toys the kids already had and how the apartment was running out of room to store them all. Also, functional gifts for moms don’t quite qualify as presents for the child to me. So… you now see the pickle I found myself in when I met two babies who would need gifts for birthdays, holidays, and maybe even a miscellaneous nice gesture here and there.
Through dedicated research toward my new baby-gifting cause, I stumbled across several ideas outside the traditional toy-or-stuffed-animal box, which I would like to share now with fellow adults who have new baby friends in their lives.
From dreamy crib mobiles to colorful belly stickers, Walmart’s baby section opened my eyes to the world of adorable baby and toddler gifts. Here are the best I’ve found.
Every Instagrammer under the sun has seen those monthly baby shots featuring the numbered blocks, but why aren’t there more baby bellies adorned with stickers showing up on social media? Make the age-marking tradition even cuter with this pack of animal stickers delineating how many months your smallest friend has been around.
To buy: $10; walmart.com.
If the baby you know already has a consistent photo tradition to mark the monthly age achievement, opt for these equally cute holiday-themed belly stickers. It could also be a cute surprise for your parent friends to hide one of the stickers under their tyke’s clothes so unsuspecting family members, like grandparents, get a little surprise message to make them smile.
To buy: $8; walmart.com.
Rhymes are fun and sing-songy for every kid in the land, so why not read some Dr. Seuss straight from your hand? Watch wee eyes light up with each bright turn of the page, and you’ll be reminded of the same glee you felt at that age. From The Cat in the Hat to Green Eggs and Ham, this five-book set includes all the classics for your little lamb.
To buy: $31 (was $37); walmart.com.
Piggy banks are a fixture in children’s rooms. No matter how technologically advanced our monetary systems get, nothing beats the satisfaction of finally counting your coin collection after years of dropping pennies, nickels, and the occasional silver dollar into your personal stash. The rubber stopper at the bottom means the little one can easily open up and count his or her savings at any time, making for many opportunities to practice math and learn about decision making and the idea of saving up for something special. This glossy pig comes in light blue, light pink, silver, or multi-colored polka dot.
To buy: from $18; walmart.com.
Billed as the “ultimate baby whisperer” even for the fussiest of tykes, this soothing owl features 10 classic lullabies and sounds like birds singing and a heart beating. The night light feature projects stars onto the wall or ceiling, and you can use the sound and lighting separately or at the same time. While baby enjoys the soft lilt of Oh My Darling or colorful constellations above, moms and dads will love that they can bring the calming device anywhere and hand-wash it clean.
To buy: $30; walmart.com.
Help the babies in your life get a head start on learning the all-important A-B-Cs with cheerful and bright cards that feature two sets: one with upper and one with lower case letters. On the back of each card, there’s a picture of something they’re likely to recognize from daily life, like an apple or cat, helping them associate the letters with easy words to remember. When they’re older, you can even lay the colorful cards out and ask them to spell the whole word.
To buy: $3; walmart.com.
I was a big Babar fan when I was little, so the image of floating elephants dancing over my head is still pretty comforting. This musical mobile features Brahms Lullaby, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and Rock-A-Bye Baby, which can play for 20 minutes before the auto-timer shuts them off. There’s volume control so you can make the sound as subtle or loud as you want, and all you need is three AAA batteries to have it up and running.
To buy: $40; walmart.com.
This foam play mat doubles as a puzzle, with the 25 tiles and wavy edges fitting together however your little one wants. The soft material will protect tiny elbows, knees, and heads from hard surfaces, and reviewers have used the versatile mat for everything from newborn tummy time to games and reading with toddlers. When you’re done using it, you can easily wipe the foam surface clean and disconnect the pieces for compact storage.
To buy: $10; walmart.com.