Sunday, April 4, 2010

going rogue: unique baby gifts (not on the *gasp* registry!)

When I get invited to a baby shower, I always stress about whether to just get something off the registry or to go rogue with my gift. Of course, the answer to this question depends on a number of factors. First of all, how well do you know this mother-to-be? You need to know her (or her family) well enough to go off the grid with a present that you know she'll want, need, or at least like. Some people are very particular about only wanting items on their registries. My advice to you would be to check out their registry and see how much stuff they put on there and what kind of things they seem to be gravitating toward. Also, see how much of it is actually getting purchased. If it's a week before their baby shower and almost nothing is bought from the registry, then maybe you should go with one of the items they picked out. On the other hand, if it's a week before the shower and there are only dredges left, feel free to get them something different!

Personally, I feel strange creating a list that says what you can buy for me (or the baby), and only did it for our wedding and when we had Ruby because of peer pressure (ie. there are a lot of people out there who want a list that tells them what to get because they aren't particularly excited about picking out a present on their own!). I, for one, am more than happy to receive gifts that are not on my "list."

That being said, make sure you take into consideration the size of your item and whether or not the new family will have space for it in their home. Space is a common problem for many urban parents, so this is a real concern for many of us. Obviously you're not going to buy furniture items unless someone registered for them. But the same goes for bulky things like cute soft chairs for babies (like this bunny chair from Pottery Barn Kids that I actually put on my registry and love), play equipment, or large toys.

So, if all that's left on the parents' registry are socks, bottles, diapers, and a boring old bathtub insert, consider these other, fun options that will be sure to please mama and, more importantly (well, that's debatable), the baby-to-be.
1. If you're crafty or otherwise creatively-inclined, make something special for the baby. Not only will it be unique and unlike the rest of their cookie-cutter presents, it will be something that will be much more likely to be saved and cherished for years to come--maybe even become family heirlooms! We are lucky enough to know a lot of amazingly creative and talented people, and Ruby was showered with really special homemade gifts. From a beautiful blanket knit by my Aunt Connie to an adorable hat crocheted by our friend Keri, she has so many special things that I will be setting aside for future babies and/or grandchildren. You don't have to have a special talent or skill (like sewing, knitting, quilting, etc.) to make something special. Last year, I put together a play list of soft songs (adult songs that may not be as annoying to listen to over and over again) and designed a CD label for lullabies to give to some parents-to-be.

In the pictures: 1) the most amazing baby quilt you will ever see, made by our friend Mary, 2) two stuffed monsters (modeled after the Ugly dolls), made by my best friend, Coral, 3) an adorable sweater, knit by my Aunt Rita, and 4) a funny bib, embroidered by Coral's mom.

2. If you don't have the time, energy, or skill to make something yourself, buy a homemade (just not in your home) craft on Etsy. Ruby got a bunch of neat things from Etsy from her cousin Stella at Christmas this year and they are some of her favorite things! I'm warning you, though: getting hooked on Etsy can be addicting!

Some of my favorite shops on Etsy for baby things:
  • Allthenumbers: cute baby girl clothing (some of which are upcycled from adult clothing)
  • Icing on the Cupcake: cute lovey blankets
  • The Fakery Bakery: stop it! These felted play foods are just too much!
  • mymarketstall: knit hats, inspired by nature...Jude was so excited for Ruby's radish hat last fall!
  • Handmade Pretties: Ruby loves her personalized recycled sweater ball from here that her cousin Stella gave her for Christmas!
3. If you're like me and just cannot resist adorable baby clothes, try to buy a unique clothing item that the parent might not come across on their own, or splurge on a pricey clothing item that a new parent would love but not think to spend their hard-earned diaper money on! If they don't have any clothes on their registry, I think any clothing is fair game. If they did register for clothing, try to avoid buying clothing from the same store that they registered at if it's not on thier list (ie. they intentionally passed up registering for that item, so you know they either: a) loved it so much they already bought it themselves, or b) don't want it).

Also, when buying baby clothes for a shower, keep in mind when this baby is going to be born and what sizes will match up to what seasons! Unless you know your friend is taking her baby on a beach vacation mid-winter, do not buy a tank top and sun hat that will fit a New York City baby in mid-February!

For unique clothes, try Etsy or small boutiques and baby stores in your area. Here are a couple of cute hats that Ruby got as gifts from friends:

If you travel, pick up cute clothes on the cheap from markets--some of our favorite clothes for Ruby came from friends' and family members' trips to Mexico, Hawaii, Panama, and Ecuador!

If you live in a big city, check out sample sales. In New York City, I've gotten some steals on expensive brands like Rowdy Sprout, Rachel Riley, Jacardi Paris, Imps & Elfs, etc. at the Clothingline sample sales in the garmet district.

A couple of my favorite baby clothing lines that are too expensive for me to buy at full price for Ruby, but I have either given and/or received as gifts, are:

4. If you want to go with toys or things for the baby's entertainment, be sure that they are non-toxic (BPA-free, at least) and they can return or exchange it if they already have the same one. Just because something is sold as a toy does not mean it is non-toxic (in this country, at least)! Be sure that anything that is plastic-based (especially things meant for bath time, meal time, or for sucking or teething) is BPA-free and, preferably, PVC-free, too. It would be a shame if you bought some cute toys that the baby will never get to play with because the parent is educated about the dangers of such chemicals to their child's health. If gifts I received didn't specifically state the materials it was made from on the packaging, I looked up each item individually to find out if it was something I would give to Ruby. Unfortunately, there were a few gifts that never made it her way.

The Soft Landing is a great website and online store to use to learn about and/or purchase items that you know will be made from materials that are not known to be harmful.

Below, Sophie the Giraffe is always a favorite. I feel like every kid in NYC has one. Ruby LOVES her art cards given to her by a friend when she was still a tiny baby. She has been mesmerized by them since she was 2 months old and now loves to bang them together and chew on the edges!

5. Want a gift that will be fun for you to buy and has the potential to be cherished for years to come? Buy some of your favorite childhood books, or pick out some recent award-winners. Just be sure to include a gift receipt, in case they already have them. Board books are more practical for a new baby, but get the classics in hard cover!

6. Give your favorite life-saving baby product that you had or used for your own child. My new go-to staple item that I can talk about until I'm blue in the face is the NoseFrida. I've had other friends do this, too: our friend Leah, for example, sent a Taggies baby blanket, saying that her two sons have them and they were the only can't-live-without-it items for them. My cousin sent me her baby girls' swaddle blanket.

7. Gift certificates and/or cash money: never a bad idea! Gift certificates to Target always get used on the basics. Others to try: Pottery Barn Kids, The Soft Landing,, iTunes (for lullabies and/or apps for iPhones), etc. And money comes in don't need me to tell you why.

1 comment:

  1. That is so nice information about the unique baby gifts and thank you for sharing this.