Many people have encountered the situation where a friend or relative is having a baby and they want to buy a gift for the new addition, but they don’t know what to get.
Two years ago we welcomed our son into the world and received quite a variety of gifts, services and food which has made us realize that what may seem like a great gift for a new baby or parent might be a life saver or it might be quite useless. As we await the arrival of our second child, I’ve been reflecting on what kind of items are good gifts for new parents and what might be bad gifts and have decided to share my thoughts here.
Buy a gift for the new parents instead
Mr. Cheap was visiting last week and brought my wife a book as a gift – Guns, Germs & Steel which we are both interested in reading. Unless you have some specific directions as to what the new child requires then chances are they don’t need what you will buy them. Instead I would suggest buying something for Mom and Dad.
- Alcohol – ok, this is more for Dad if Mom is breastfeeding, but it’s always a great gift.
- Money – nothing is better than this.
- Food – trying to prepare food in the first week or two of a new baby (especially if it is the first) is really tough. The best gifts that we received were cooked food that was delivered to our doorstep. All we had to do was heat and eat.
- Services – this could include things like grocery shopping (the parents have to prepare a detailed list), mowing the lawn, cooking a meal, cleaning etc. Be careful with this one – if you have to ask a million questions while cleaning the kitchen then you aren’t doing any favours.
- Babysitting – if the newborn has any older brothers and sisters then volunteer to spend time with them. You don’t have to take them away to an amusement park – just playing with them and reading stories in their living room will be a huge help to the parents who will be occupied enough with the newborn and might not have the patience to read Curious George for the 20th time that day.
- Cleaning service – either hire them directly or give a gift certificate. This might not be appropriate for the couple of weeks.
- Diapers – giving new parents diapers is like giving them cash. I would avoid the newborn size and go with size one or two.
- Educational savings – this won’t happen right away but consider helping out with an RESP (Canadian) or 529 plan (American).
- CPR/first aid course – these cost money and would be a great gift. This would be best given before the baby is born.
Buy a gift for a sibling.
I never thought of this before, but Mr. Cheap bought a book called “I’m going to be a big brother” for my son which was an awesome gift. If you want to buy something for any siblings of the newborn then buy something small or talk to the parents for suggestions.
Baby Clothes – I would stay from baby clothes unless they are specifically requested or unless of course they have the labels of the parent’s favourite sports teams. The problem with clothes is that the cuter the outfit, the less it will probably get worn. Shoes are a complete and utter waste of money for a baby who can’t walk. If you think the parents are in a situation where they need clothes or other baby items, then talk to them first and maybe buy a gift certificate. Don’t expect the parent to know exactly what they need.
Toys – complete waste of money. For the first two or three months, babies are more stimulated by looking at different patterns than any toy you might buy. Plus this is is one of the default gifts that everyone gets so they will undoubtedly have too many already.
Other baby items – cribs, monitors etc. Talk to the parents before buying anything.
Newborns don’t really need or want anything you can buy for them, so consider buying a gift or performing a service for a different family member who might appreciate it. Doing some errands, bringing some prepared food or babysitting for the family will be appreciated far more than any standard gift for the baby. Most important thing is to talk to the new parents before buying anything.
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The RESP Book: The Simple Guide to Registered Education Savings Plans
Everything you need to know about RESPs.