Baby gifts for those who have everything

By Mir
July 14, 2006

I have my very first anonymous question. I suddenly feel sort of… secret agent-y. Don’t mess with me, dude. I know where the bodies are buried.

My anonymous advice-seeker writes:

Mir, you are so pretty and smart. We have friends who just adopted a one year old from Russia. They have lots of dough. We do not. What could we possibly get them as a gift? They gave us a nice gift for the birth of both our children (around $40 each). Thank you. You are so beautiful and talented, I long to be you. How’s that?

First off, might I suggest a bit more feeling, next time, without breaking character to check on how you’re being received? Other than that, it was quite nice.

The arrival of a child is an event made for celebration. It’s natural to want to give a gift, and probably equally natural to be concerned if you feel like you don’t have much to offer, but this is one of those times when “it’s the thought that counts” is absolutely, 100% true.

Let me tell you something that I hate even more than paying full price: People who lack manners. Any time you give a gift, the receivers should be gracious about it. To do otherwise is classless. While I understand wanting to get “something nice” or “just the right thing,” I also feel the need to point out that anyone who causes you to feel like your best effort is somehow inappropriate is someone who should never again receive a gift from you. Period.

Now. Having said that? I think any gift picked out for this new blessing is perfectly appropriate. An outfit, a cool toy, some books; any “standard” sort of “yay you had a baby and I wanted to get you something for him” kind of thing. Something marvelous has happened and you want to share the joy. You can’t put a pricetag on that, you know?

On the other hand, there are two special considerations in this particular situation. First, that the baby is not a newborn. And second, adoption can open a whole extra avenue of interesting gift ideas.

Many people will assume that an older child doesn’t need “lovies” the way you might buy such things for a newborn, but an older baby or toddler who has been taken from everything he’s ever known and put into a foreign environment needs all he comfort he can get. Do consider super-soft stuffed animals, a blanket with fringe around the edge, or a combo animal/blanket lovie such as this one.

In this same vein: Do you knit? Crochet? A hand-made blanket is an exceptional baby gift. Even if you have no crafty inclinations whatsoever, I bet you can make a no-sew knotted fleece blanket (lower left corner). They’re cheap and easy but kids love them and there are a gazillion fun patterned fleeces out there to choose from.

Do you want to do something that honors this child’s heritage and birth country? I thought of one fairly pricey option right off the bat, but when looking for a specific theme at a not-too-expensive price, I often turn to books. Hmmm… 443 results for my search on Amazon. I betcha you can find something interesting in there.

For other adoption-themed stuff, I cannot say enough about The Adoption Shop. There are other stores that specialize in adoption as well, of course. I happen to know and have dealt with them, is all.

Anything personalized can be a unique gift, and it doesn’t have to be pricey. Both LL Bean and Lands’ End have awesome options for kids that can be personalized, from blankets to backpacks. (Yes, you’re going to notice that I mention these two stores a lot. I live in New England. It’s part of the assimilation that I hype Bean, and I just happen to like Lands’ End as well.)

Lillian Vernon has an entire kids’ section where just about everything can be personalized, too.

Any beautiful little keepsake is a nice way to give something meaningful without breaking the bank, as well. What about a special Christmas ornament? (I just happened to notice this one; there’s also a boy version available….) A music box? A unique piggy bank? There’s an entire section of personalizable baby gifts (okay, I don’t even know if personalizable is a word) at Personal Creations.

If they (and you) are the religious sort, a beautifully illustrated children’s bible is always a nice gift. Though it tends not to go over so well if they’re Wiccans or Scientologists or whatever. Know your recipient.

I also love high-end baby bath stuff (okay, who am I kidding? I just like high-end bath stuff, period). Sure, they might buy it, themselves, but maybe not. A nice mid-price brand (meaning, more expensive than what cheapies like you and I would normally spend, but not hideously expensive) is Burt’s Bees. This is a perfect age for a really cute “bath kit;” a few products, a fun animal scrubby mitt, some bath toys. Throw it all in a cute basket or bag and you’re done. Or—oh!!—I absolutely love this. Love it.

Lastly, when in doubt? Every new parent needs photo albums and picture frames. You just can’t go wrong with those. And they have the advantage of being sold just about everywhere; you can cruise the endcaps at Target and the clearance at Macy’s and everywhere inbetween.

Okay, I lied; one more last thing: Bringing a new family member home is a difficult adjustment, regardless of the circumstances. Consider a gift certificate for a restaurant they like or simply showing up with a freezer-friendly meal one night. Trust me, they’ll appreciate not having to cook.

Congratulations to your friends, and best of luck to you in selecting a gift!


  1. I loved all your ideas and you are so right about babies needing lovies even if they aren’t newborns. Along that same vein – I can’t say enough about having some sort of soft sling/ carrier for bonding. For babies who have been in and institution you may have to introduce the idea of being held slowly and let them acclimate to it…

    My personal fav is the Maya Wrap but there are a ton out there. They can be a little spendy, but for folks who are at all handy the maya wrap site generously offers directions on how to make a couple of different types of carriers

  2. Another idea, alot of people get baby outfits (or outfits sized for baby/child now) but I really appreciated getting a few things my child could grow into. It sure made things easier when the gifts had stopped coming but, oh yeah, I still had to DRESS the child!

    This way, too, you can often find higher end clothes (or lah-di-dah labels on clearence) if you buy off season.

  3. These are all FABULOUS ideas!!! I need to check out some of those adoption sites. One memorable gift I remember receiving when my son was born was a HUGE bottle of Johnson’s Baby Shampoo and a dozen soft white washcloths (from my mom from Costco, I believe.) Pretty simple and long lasting too!

    I always try to give the gift of books to kids of nearly any age. No matter how much $$ you may have, in my opinion, there is a lot of value in a library of classic children’s books. The child will start to have a collection of his/her own before too long. Hopefully parents will spend time cuddling and reading to their babies, and then when the kids get older they can read them to themselves. (My son now has some of the very same books from when I was a child…classics like “Corduroy.”) Be sure to write the date & to/from inside as well as a nice message to the child.

  4. I agree with the book recommendation. You can get darling, board books for not much $$ at Marshall’s or TJ Maxx. One of my favorite gifts is a smilesavers card from Sears or JC Penney’s photo studio. It is $30 and gives them a free sitting fee for 24 months and special prices on photos.

  5. I’m a knitter, so the last few baby gifts I gave were hand-knitted stuffed bears from a super easy pattern I have.

    They’re one-of-a-kind gifts that are made with love, but also inexpensive to make (they don’t require a lot of yarn), and quick to whip up.

  6. Great ideas! I’ve made some no-sew fleece blankets as gifts… mainly bc I’ve received one for each child when they were born and they’re our FAVORITE blankets. I stumbled across this website, as a beautiful, personal gift for a religious family… As a brand-new (again) mom, Anything is appreciated, specially a meal!

  7. What about getting something that the baby could appreciate a bit later? Like a 2006 US coin set? Some 2006 stamps from the US and Russia? Other nice gifts would be a couple of nice picture books – one of my favorites to give are the “State” alphabet and number books put out by Sleeping Bear Press

  8. A restaurant coupon is nice, but unless they have a nanny, an evening out alone together won’t be much fun unless an adult they know and trust is offering babysitting. That means *you*, anonymous.

  9. I like to give books, too. I give a nice classic fairy tale or nursery rhyme book for later plus cloth and board books for babies and toddlers. ( I adore Sandra Boynton’s board books.) I can’t help it…it’s the teacher in me…let’s get those kids reading books early on!

  10. My kids are from Viet Nam and China. One came home as an infant, the other as a 5-year-old. In both cases,the gifts I most appreciated were heritage items for the kids to appreciate later, clothes that the kids could grow into, and the gift of TIME. Restaurant gift certificates are good – home-delivered, home-cooked meals are better. Recovering from jet lag and adjusting to each other take time (especially the latter). Anything that eases other burdens and allows the new parents to cocoon with the new child is helpful.

    In the shopping arena, here’s another site: Check out the “My Family” personalized products. My girls love their “My two countries” T-shirts.

  11. When our second daughter was born, we received new address labels from that featured a cartoon likeness of each family member and our names underneath. They were so cute and a great gift for the new family.

    If you go the book route, consider getting the same book in Russian and English translations. This is possible for many classics.

  12. A US savings bond. For $25, the child will have $50 a few years down the road 🙂

  13. Nicole: Yes, yes. I love you, too! Sorry for the oversight!

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