Ongoing gifts for the kid with everything

By Mir
August 30, 2010

The lovely Crista writes:

My husband’s brother and his wife had their first baby this year. Hubby and I are thinking ahead to Christmas and we know it’s going to be a toy orgy. The parents can afford to get the kid whatever they want, and she is the first grandchild. Hubby and I want to do something different. For my sister’s kids, we adopt an Angel Tree kid or something similar. They love that idea and as they have gotten older have helped us pick out who to donate to. My brother is broke and they very much appreciate the clothes and books we give to their kids.

My in-laws are different. I don’t think they would appreciate the charity thing. And like I said, they don’t need us to buy clothes and books for their baby. We want to start a tradition. Hubby doesn’t like the idea of savings bonds, and that is the only thing I can come up with. I have thought of things like dance classes or paying for her sports, but that is a few years off, and what if she ends up not doing any of that. We want something we can start now and continue into infinity :). Any ideas?

I think savings bonds are the obvious answer, Crista, but if your husband objects, there are a couple of different routes you can go, instead.

Other money. Does your husband dislike the savings bond itself or the impersonalness (let’s pretend that’s a word) of money in any form? If the former, you might consider opening a 529 savings account in your niece’s name; few people are loaded enough that an additional college savings account would be unwelcome.

Support to a meaningful organization. Perhaps their family wouldn’t be touched by an Angel Tree thing (though what kind of blackhearted people aren’t honored by that??), but a yearly donation to the local library or family membership to the art museum or something else somewhat intangible would be welcome. I don’t know, obviously, but it’s something to consider.

Keepsake collections. This is my least favorite option, because I’m not a “stuff” kind of person, but lots of people start a collection for an important child in their lives, whether it be a keepsake Christmas ornament every year or commemorative coins or whatever.

Monthly subscription. One of my relatives always got my brother and me a yearly subscription to a kid-appropriate magazine, and it was always my favorite gift. (Yay! Mail!) She’s a little young now, of course, but something to consider for the future. There’s also kids’ book-of-the-month clubs and even various toy-of-the-month clubs.

Special study. While I love the idea of paying for a specific activity, that’s hard to figure out while the kid’s still a baby, of course. Plus you run into the potential issue of the parents wanting to enroll her in something that’s more expensive than you want or something you perhaps would rather not support. That aside, you could always start a special account now with the explanation that you’re setting aside this much each year and you’re ready to start funding piano/karate/basketweaving/whatever as soon as she’s old enough.

Readers, help a gal out. What are some other ongoing gift ideas for the special child in your life?


  1. Donate children’s books to the library. We do that on my sons’ birthdays, and they love to find their books with the “donate by” bookplate inside.

  2. What about something temporary that they look forward to replacing each year? My grandmother always made us a fresh pair of mittens every year at Christmas and we looked forward to picking our own colors. So maybe a scarf/mitten/hat set, hand made? Or a summer dress for a girl? Supplies for making their own small garden?

  3. Yearly tickets to a local sports team, either for kid and family or gift-giver and family? It sounds silly for a baby, but my kids went to Cubs/White Sox/Bulls/Blackhawks games very young and they get old enough to think it’s super cool VERY quickly.

    I would also second yearly memberships to local museums/zoos/etc. Often local childrens museum memberships are pretty decently priced.

    Paying for (or toward) a yearly photoshoot with a pro photographer.

    Sponsoring care for an animal at a zoo (they generally send pics to the kid and a letter about the animal, etc.

  4. My nieces (who also have everything) are older, but they all like jewelry. I like the idea of a charm bracelet or necklace that can be added to over time. Charms, beads, even pearls or jewels. Personally, I like that they can also have a meaning or a story on why you picked that particular piece each time. Create an heirloom with a bit of history attached. 🙂

  5. Books for the baby/child might not be a bad idea, either. Parents/grandparents usually head straight for the toy aisle and overlook books as gifts. (Crazy, I know!)

    My sister renews my girls zoo membership each year and they LOVE it. Children’s Museums or other local attractions usually offer gift memberships, too.

  6. If they have a great childrens’ museum/zoo type thing in their area, an annual family membership is a lovely gift – not only something fun for them to do together from their perspective, it’s supporting a good cause from your perspective.

    My kids (20 months and 3.5 years) love High Five magazine, which is the toddler version of Highlights. It won’t “continue into infinity,” only till she’s 5, but then you could switch over to Highlights.

  7. I like the idea of doing something with her every year (if you’re local). When she’s older, it could be going to the circus or a show, but for now just playing with her for an afternoon. It would give the parents a break and promote some bonding with you new relative.

  8. Would they be open to “experience” gifts? It would be great as oppossed to another toy because these would be memories the family can always keep. I know this year the baby is a little young but maybe you can give a photo shoot for the whole family or just the baby. And believe me you can’t have too many pictures of your child and it gets expensive having to give pictures to grandparents, great-grandparents and aunts and uncles, etc. As the years go by you can give tickets to movies, amusement parks, musuems, etc. And there are other pursuits the family can experience together: cooking classes, horseback riding, surfing lessons, go-karts, indoor sky diving, scuba lessons, etc. The family would also look forward to your gift for some QT together after the holidays and the memories they’re making. Just a something to consider.

  9. For nieces/nephews we do a book (or books) and a savings bond for birthdays and Christmas. Boring? Yes, but they have plenty of toys and we want to encourage reading and hopefully provide a small nest egg for college, which will matter a lot more in 10-20 years than some hunk of plastic that will have long gone to the landfill.

    I hate my kids getting bombarded with toys, so we often request “experience” type gifts. Membership to local Children’s Museum, Zoo, tickets to a kid-appropriate show or movie.

    ODS got a lovely subscription to “Your Big Backyard” magazine last year for Christmas – great for his age (3) and he LOVES getting mail. It’s a big deal when it comes – first he “reads” it himself, then comes to us with questions/requests to read various pages.

    I think with a 1-year-old you can wait a bit to figure out what you want your tradition to be, there are lots of great ideas out there once they get a little older.

  10. Gymboree classes, mommy and me music classes, family memberships to zoos, children’s museums, Mom’s day out…

    “toy orgy” LOL!!

  11. My mom buys my kids a book, and then does our yearly Children’s Museum membership fees and annual Zoo membership fees. She has also paid for classes (dance, gymnastics, science) they take at our local YMCA.

  12. I started a library for my great-niece. Every Christmas and birthday I purchase a special book; sometimes one I especially enjoyed as a child. On the inside cover I write the date and why I thought she would like this book. I started with books her parents could read to her and have progressed to books she can read herself now that she’s 7 years old. I asked her parents to keep these books so someday she’s be able to share them with her own children.

  13. Yes, yes, yes! Mary Puntney, my aunt and uncle always bought special books for me when they were on vacation and ALWAYS inscribed them. It’s so nice to be able to re-visit those memories when I read the inscriptions to my boys now.

    And Marguerite P, I received a charm bracelet as a 1st communion gift in 3rd grade and have continued receive charms as special gifts over the years. I really like the keepsake quality of that.

  14. I think books are a good idea—I agree with other commenters who said books sometimes get overlooked even for kids who get a lot of other things. I also like the idea of magazines and annual memberships. And there are those “name a star” / “adopt a dolphin” kinds of things where the child gets something that feels fun in addition to doing good. I feel unhappy with the idea of deciding a child has too much, and therefore making the decision to give their gifts away to someone else, as with the charity options.

  15. I also had the zoo idea because it is something that can grow with you and with a membership you can go for an appropriate amount of time based on the child’s age or just for special event days,etc. You don’t feel obligated to stay the whole day.

    Building a library (esp. classics) is also cool but you won’t know if the child will be a reader. The replaceable (mittens/scarf) was also a good idea. A new, annual fashion item for a girl is especially nice since female styles change so often.

    A friend of mine used to take their niece every year for a birthday weekend (or day) and do some activity. They did it until she was 20. She really looked forward to it and sometimes helped plan the activity. That is definitely ‘grow with you’ & builds a close relationship.

    It is hard to find something you can start now that will continue to be age appropriate.

  16. A gift a1 year old will appreciate more than anything: a big bow on a box of open kleenex. Really. There is little that would bring more joy to my boys hearts! And more board books (no fear of duplicates they will always need more for the car, for grandmas, for the one that got too chewed up)

  17. I second the opinion of the gift of spending time. This next year for my nieces I will be doing a slumber party for their bday gift. It will give their parents a break and it should make for some good memories…and they are only going to be 4 so I think I could continue doing this until they are 10…or until I decide to throw money at them instead.

  18. What about some tickets, etc. to places they can go with their baby? I was always at a loss for “baby friendly” activities. If you go online, you can enter the baby’s information and have a free 1st circus ticket sent from Ringling Bros. You could put that in along with passes for The Little Gym (baby gym), botanical gardens, etc. – wherever they and baby might enjoy but not be scorned for having a screaming baby! 🙂 If you are close by, volunteer to sit for a night and promise baby lots of cuddles and coos, etc. Mom and Dad’s Xmas gift can be movie tickets and/or a restaurant certificate. That’s a 2 for 1!!!

  19. I bought a charm bracelet for my daughter when she was born, and I buy her a couple of charms every year for her birthday — something that is relevant to the year or her personality at that time. Another thought:, where you can buy share of stock.

  20. What about a membership to something? A family membership to the Children’s Museum or the Zoo or the Aquarium or [insert whatever fun things exist in their city].

    Or an experience-gift is fun (though probably for an older-than-one-year-old) — tickets to a musical or the circus.

    And do remember that traditions can be started after the first year. If you want to do something that doesn’t make sense for a one-year-old, save the idea for next year and the year after and THEN call it a tradition. 🙂

  21. Is their a Children’s Museum of some kind in their area? Most Children’s museums have areas for infants and toddlers, and you could purchase their annual family pass for them.

  22. The Wildlife Federation has a Wild Animal Baby Magazine that is in a board book fashion (posterboard like pages). My son got it from his great grandparents (with my help) for Christmas when he was 2, but a younger child would like them, and they hold up pretty well. It could then grow into the Big Backyard/Ranger Rick magazine also by the NWF.

  23. Books are good. I like the idea of buying a book for the baby (yes, even babies can enjoy books!) and then donating a similar or identical book to a library, school, hospital, or homeless shelter. Parents might turn up their noses at first, but it’s a way to open a child’s eyes to service learning as well.

  24. How about paying for a baby and mommy music class? Or sign language classes. Parents find these classes fun but they are not cheap in my community. And babies actually get a lot out of them!

  25. I’m hoping to have all four nieces visit me for camp ets (their name for me) next summer. We will take on New York City.

  26. Not too young for a magazine!
    I read the National Wildlife version of Ranger Rick that was intended for babies to mine from the start. I can’t remember the title, but it was basically a board book that came every month. They teethed on them a bit, but a new one would show up. I loved the short stories and poems that were really great for ages 0-2. We’ve continued this gift for nine years and they’ve kept up with the kids as they’ve grown up.

    Oh, Steph said this same thing… (post 22) Wild Animal Baby!

  27. I agree with a zoo/children’s museum/or whatever membership — it was a great gift for my kids when they were little. Now they are older and every year their Uncle does an experience gift tailored to their interests — this year son got 5 golf lessons and a round of golf with Uncle, daughter got a horse back riding lesson with uncle shooting photos; last year son went to an MLB game, daughter got lunch at the American Girl Cafe. These are by far the most meaningful gifts they get and the will never forget them — or him.

  28. Custom photobooks for each year that has passed by. has become my favorite site over Kodak, Snapfish, etc.

  29. Wow! Lots of awesome ideas! Thanks everyone :D. I’m really loving the “experience” gift and the magazine subscriptions. I would be all over the zoo or children’s museum memberships if we had either one of those here :(.

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