Baby’s First Birthday :: What Gift to Get?

first birthday - Boston MomsI remember each of my children’s first birthdays. I remember the stress in making it just right. From the decorations to the food, from the cake to the favors, from the pictures that needed to be taken to all my responsibilities during the party. Then, the pile of birthday gifts was just overwhelming. How could a 1-year-old baby possibly want or need so many presents? Everyone was excited to celebrate each baby, purchasing the newest toys, the cutest outfits, and even some practical supplies for mom and dad.

As we opened the toys, it was clear the babies were more interested in playing with the boxes and the wrapping paper than most of the gifts. (Except for the noisy gifts — for those, I was more interested in finding the volume control.) So, when my nephew turned 1 a few months ago, I really wanted to get a first birthday gift that he could get the most out of — and one that didn’t quite make my sister as crazy as the gifts she gave my children years ago made me.

So, what’s the perfect first birthday gift?


Season passes or memberships are wonderful first birthday gifts. Not only is it a great experience for the child, it’s a great way for mom and dad to keep the baby entertained for a day without much preparation. Zoo New England, the New England Aquarium, or Children’s Museum memberships are wonderful and typically include a discount for food or merchandise. For families who are not local to Boston, check out their local zoo, aquarium, or museum. For more adventurous new families, tickets to theme parks, like Sesame Place, Story Land, or Santa’s Village, give the family a summer to remember.

Outdoor fun

If you want to get baby something tangible, consider trading in the light-up singing ABC piano with something that will last longer. Outdoor toys tend to be made for years of play. Slides, small swings, sensory tables, or ride-on toys will grow with the child. My favorite is the Playtime Patio. If the family does not have a backyard, ride-on toys with handles can be used instead of a stroller when going for a walk. Even a child with strong opinions about sitting in a stroller would love to ride in style with a ride-on toy like a Step 2 Push Car!


The best gift I received for one of my babies was from my aunt Marie — I remember it vividly. She gave me three boxes of diapers when I had my second son. The three boxes were size 3, 4, and 5 — my son’s current size plus the next two sizes. I put them away for times I needed them most, and it was the most thoughtful gift for my family. Never mind the fact that it meant three fewer boxes I had to buy, this gift gave me security that I would always have the right size and never panic in the middle of the night that I didn’t have diapers. My aunt passed a few years ago, and I always give diapers to new families in her memory.

Think of the parents

OK, yes, we are celebrating the baby. But, whose hard work went into raising and caring for this baby over the past year? First birthdays are also a celebration of the parents — the first year is HARD. So gift THEM a first birthday gift! A bottle of wine, a case of beer, a gift certificate for a spa day or to go out to eat (complete with you as a babysitter!) goes a long way. After all, happy parents equal a happy baby. If you really want that baby to be happy, take care of those parents!

Michelle is a lifelong New Englander, living in Stoneham and working in Charlestown.  She is a preschool and toddler teacher at a small private preschool.  She holds a Master's Degree in Early Childhood Education, which has come in useful at both work and home.  She has a supportive stay-at-home-dad for a husband, and is a mom of five children.  She has three boys in Middle and High School as well as two girls in Elementary School.  She teaches Infant and Toddler classes for Early Ed teachers, runs workshops for parents through Boston Naps, and runs her own business, The Parenting Survival Expert, offering parenting tips and support.  In her spare time, she can be found reading a murder mystery novel, sipping far too much coffee and dreaming of a home in the mountains.