Baby K recently turned one (excuse me for a moment while I sob in a corner). His birthday is just before Christmas, which means December = presents GALORE. In an impassioned attempt to keep clutter at bay (and prevent my babe from being totally spoiled), I included a note in the party invitations that presents are unnecessary, but if so inclined, please bring a book.
Leave it to our friends and family to gift him the sweetest books – how lucky is this kid? We’ve always read a few books at bedtime, but we finally chucked Goodnight Moon (snore) and love reading all of the new stories.
Without further ado – here’s a full guide to zero-waste first birthday gifts for the babies in your life.*
1. Board books
Yeah, I know baby registries are packed with Fisher-Price toys, and some are even educational. And it’s tempting to scoop up something shiny that makes lots of noises. But I think I speak for many parents out there who are sick and tired of reading the same books over and over again. A few new stories are totally refreshing. They don’t need to be new – second-hand books are awesome, too. Bonus points for: lift-the-flap books (our current favorite: Do Crocs Kiss?) and touch-and-feel books (e.g. Dog).
2. Zoo membership
Virtually every kid I know, my own included, loves animals. A zoo membership is the perfect gift for a one-year-old. At that age, kids are starting to walk and talk and scrutinize the world around them. (For locals – the Houston Zoo has a sweet children’s area for small kids!)
3. Music or swimming classes
Do I want my kid to be a musical prodigy or to be swimming laps at the YMCA on his own? You bet. Do I want to pay for ongoing classes to achieve those aims? ….
Gifting classes suited for toddlers is a great way to avoid waste and please any parent.
4. Children’s museum passes
At 1, kids are just starting to grow into tiny explorers, climbing into nooks and crannies (and between the washer and dryer… sigh), gazing out windows, petting cats and dogs, and getting into anything and everything. The children’s museum is an opportune place to foster that energy and curiosity.
Bonus: an afternoon at the children’s museum 100% guarantees a quality nap afterwards.
5. Handmade puppets
Between 18 and 24 months, kids begin “pretend play.” Even earlier than that, they love soft, huggable animals and puppets. Repurpose an old t-shirt or fabric scraps into a cute puppet.
6. A tricycle
Once my kid started walking, our usual family walks became severely curtailed by his insistence on walking on his own. (Adios, fancy stroller.) A push-along trike solves that problem by allowing a parent to keep things moving along. These are uber-popular and easy to find on Craigslist or at kid resale shops.
7. Homemade treats
By one, most babies are happily eating solid food. (My little traveler was making mama proud devouring tuna sashimi and kimchi quesadillas.) Bake some healthy mini-muffins and wrap them up in a pretty furoshiki.
Image via Etsy
8. DIY cardboard tunnel
My dad made our kid a cardboard tunnel (we called it the “bear cave”) for Baby K’s birthday party and it was a yuuuge hit with all the kids. These are easy to make in a jiffy – here’s an easy-to-follow tutorial. Hang ties or colorful socks for extra fun.
9. College funds
It’s no secret that college tuition has ballooned recently – I won’t allow myself to imagine what it will cost in 2033 when our kid is 18. Contributing to a baby’s college fund is a traditional gift that’s also inherently zero-waste.
10. Quality time
Babies thrive on new experiences and environments, and parents love free babysitting. Offer to take the baby to a museum or the park, or volunteer to spend a few hours playing at home while the parents run errands or squeeze in some time alone.
*I’m including links to Amazon, but buy local and second-hand whenever possible!