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May 2007
Great Gifts for Babies
New Ideas for a Cherished Tradition

by Michele Bush Kimball, Ph.D.

Onesies, bibs, blankets, pacifiers, diaper bags, rattles. Under the piles of possibilities, there are great gift ideas for newborns.

Parents and vendors alike enjoy the gift-giving tradition that marks an infant’s arrival. Lisa Burns, a new parent in Burke, recently adopted a daughter. She said she and her husband have been excited about everything they have received, but their daughter has been especially thrilled with the toys.

Because she loves sounds and music, the Baby Einstein Discover and Play Activity Center ($79.99 at most major retailers) captured their daughter’s interest right away. "She can bounce, but it won’t hurt her legs. That has been really great," Burns said. "And she really loves that."

As for the more functional gifts, Burns said she has appreciated everything from plastic bibs that clean easily to bath products and an umbrella stroller that is extremely portable. She and her husband also like a diaper bag that is a backpack in a masculine color. "It’s big enough to fit everything," Burns said," and my husband doesn’t mind carrying it."

For brand-new parents and experienced parents, baby gifts are universally appreciated. Sember Greenleaf, of Silver Spring, recently had a baby boy — her fourth child. "So, we pretty much had everything," she said with a laugh. Still, the gifts she received upon her son’s birth were much welcomed. She said certificates for Takeout Taxi, a service that delivers meals from area restaurants, have been extremely helpful.

Greenleaf also said that the gifts she received for her son that were personalized with his name were especially fun to receive. "We had agonized for months about his name, so it was nice to see it in print."

Robin Palmer, also a parent in Silver Spring, said she often gives personalized items as baby gifts. She uses an online company called Granola Threads, which is operated by a mother of five in Texas, to send personalized blankets or bib and burp cloth sets. "They are cute and reasonably priced, and I love supporting a work-at-home mom," Palmer said. "Plus, I think it’s so nice for a baby to have something personalized."

Palmer herself had a baby girl in August. While she reused many of the items she received when her first daughter was born, she said one of the best gifts was a reclining baby feeding seat from The First Years. The seat is structured enough to hold a baby before she can sit up on her own, and it also acts as a high chair. Palmer said she liked its portability and versatility. Her baby sling has also been very useful for her new daughter. "This baby loves to be held all the time."

Where to Shop

Andrea Sandler, the owner of Daisy Baby and Mommies Too baby boutique in Bethesda, said she is noticing an increase in sales on slings as spring arrives. "People like giving slings just because it’s that kind of weather, so [they] get excited about that."

Sandler’s store carries a variety of slings in an array of fabrics from pristine white eyelet to vibrant silk. They range in price up to about $140, depending on the fabric choice. She said customers also enjoy the lines of modern, unique clothing she carries, such as Kingsley or Claude. These lines offer vintage-look rocker T-shirts and hip denim choices.

Sandler said the gifts people choose depend on their personalities. For example, someone who is more conservative is likely to choose a traditional gift from a baby’s layette or a soft, plush blanket, while someone with a sense of humor might choose quirky onesies with comical messages printed on them ($28).

A sales manager at Hiccups, a Rockville baby store, said customers have been coming in looking for distinctive gifts for new babies. Clarissa Allotey said her customers love things that are new and different. "Mostly, when they come in here, they say they are looking for something unique," she said.

What her customers are snapping up are Bankys, which are very soft blankets with animal heads, tails and feet attached. The small ones are $14.99, and the large ones are $31.99. "Those are our number one, best seller," Allotey said.

Rebecca Kafelow, the owner of Frilly Frocks & Polliwogs in Ashburn, said her customers come in looking for practical gifts that aren’t too expensive. She recommends anything in the Taggies line of gifts, which range in price from $12.99 to $25. Taggies are products that have ribbon tags around the perimeter for babies to play with. They come in several forms: books, blankets, balls, even bed sheets.

Another popular gift from Kafelow’s store are Squeaky Shoes, shoes and sandals that squeak when a child walks. They range in price from $25 to $28. Kafelow said she has seen an increase in sales in them as the weather has warmed, especially because they come in both sandal and full-shoe styles.

Ellie Heath, the manager of Dawn Price Baby boutique in Capitol Heights, said the most popular gifts depend on the gift givers’ preferences. "Some people want something that they can use for a long time, and others don’t really know what kind of gear the parents have, so they may buy an outfit," she said.

Some of the more popular, useful gifts in her store are Skip Hop Prontos, which are compact diaper carriers and changing pads that cost about $35, and Pacifier Pods, $8 which hang on a parent’s belt and hold pacifiers when babies are not using them. Other popular, more traditional gifts are blankets and dolls from the Angel Dear line, a company that produces super-soft, delicately colored dolls, rattles and blankets, which range in price from $5 to $25. In fact, Angel Dear products are very popular on the Dawn Price Baby website, Heath said.

Heath said the more popular, whimsical gifts are knitted sock dolls in the shapes of animals, made out of 100 percent cotton. The dolls are striped and dotted in distinctive color combinations from a company called Bla Bla, and they cost from $32 to $42. Also popular are Trumpette socks, $23 to $33, which are designed to look like Mary Janes or sports shoes on a baby’s feet.

A retailer in Reston also said the Trumpette socks from her store are great gifts. Stella Guillen, the owner of Cradle and Crayon in Reston Town Center, said the wide variety of the socks is always popular. She also said Kaloo, a French line of stuffed toys, does very well because they are colorful and velvety. The line ranges from $25 to $40. "They are different," Guillen said. "It’s not a typical brown teddy bear."

Another gift that is out of the ordinary, and one of her most popular, Guillen said, is the Twilight Turtle, $35, a lamp shaped like a turtle that shines constellations in a baby’s room. "That has been an amazing gift through our whole year," Guillen said. "That’s been the best seller."

At Why Not?, a children’s boutique tucked into King Street in Alexandria, the walls are literally lined with gift possibilities. Maggie Bowman, a sales associate, said they sell a lot of clothing as gifts, especially smocked dresses because they "are fairly difficult to get elsewhere." They run from $35 to $45.

Sarah Rolph, a sales associate for toys in the shop, said most of the toys they sell focus on the new baby’s developing senses. For example, a rattle called the Early Bird from the Lamaze brand, $12, has sound, different textures and a teething ring. Wooden toys that babies can manipulate in their small hands are popular, as are toys made for babies to play with while lying on their stomachs, Rolph said. A unique gift idea that helps with baby’s eye tracking are mobiles with pull strings that make them gently flap in the air. These Bohemian crafts from the Czech Republic look like ladybugs, cows, dragons, clowns and butterflies. They range in price from $35 to $42. Some of the best gifts, Rolph said, are the ones that encourage the new baby’s growth and development. "They grow so quickly, but they also have things they are interested in at different ages."

Michelle Bush Kimball is a freelance writer in Springfield and a stay-at-home mom to two young children.

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