I’m one of those die-hard no-Christmas-allowed-before-Thanksgiving people. Thanksgiving is my FAVORITE holiday, and it often gets overshadowed by its gift-giving holiday siblings. I often don’t even start my holiday shopping until right before, but I realize many people plan a bit more than I do. So, since someone in my Boston new mom group asked what to tell people who want to give her baby presents, it got me thinking earlier than usual.

First, a photo:

Messy Play Room by Angie under the Creative Commons License
Messy Play Room by Angie under the Creative Commons License

Does that give you nightmares? Yeah, me too. Sure, good toys are GREAT! But if children have too many toys, they don’t get appreciated like they should. So, when people are asking what to get your baby for the holidays, let me give you my biggest suggestion: Ask for experiences, not for stuff.

And with that, here is my Ultimate Gift Guide for Babies and Toddlers
Museum Memberships

This is a wonderful experience to get in the habit of doing, even from a very young age! Having family members support your child’s experience of arts, culture, and science is a gift that keeps giving, and that does not get sadly abandoned in the corner of your playroom.

My recommendation: For Boston, I have several including the Boston Children’s Museum, the Boston Museum of Science, and even the Museum of Fine Arts. It’s never too early to take your little one to an art museum and talk about fine art.

A gift certificate for Baby Massage Instruction

This is a gift that will keep on giving for your baby. Once you learn baby massage techniques, it’s something you can do every day! Tell family members that getting you a massage class would be like giving your baby a daily spa package. Who wouldn’t want that??

My recommendation: Katie Goldsbury Massage. Katie has a diverse background and a holistic approach to health, and you can get infant massage instruction for up to 4 people at no additional cost. She even travels to your home! Or, if someone in your family is looking for a gift for everyone, she also offers a Welcome Baby Special that includes two 60-minute massages and 45 minutes of infant massage instruction.

Animal Experiences

Having indoor and outdoor options to appreciate animals is a great activity for your bag of tricks. Teach your children kindness, gentleness, and science all in one!

My recommendation: A Zoo New England membership gets you free admission to the Stone Zoo in Stoneham and the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston. The New England Aquarium is a great nature option for a rainy day.

Family Photoshoot

Working with a creative, expert photographer is really special at these times when your children are young. Sure, we all have tens of thousands of pictures of our children, but how many are family pictures? These are the photos that will be most special to your child when they’re grown up: not just baby pictures, but photos that document your interactions as a family. If you have the funds for it, perhaps even consider a “Day In the Life” photoshoot. These are costlier since a photographer is with you for a more extended period of time and you want someone whose creativity you trust, but it’s an amazing thing to have beautiful photos of daily life in addition to posed portraits.

My recommendation: Sarah Murray is my go-to photographer. All you need to do is glimpse her portfolio to see what an incredible eye she has, and she has a wealth of experience with babies and toddlers especially. She can catch those special moments, even if your child is feeling uncooperative!

Get out in Nature

There is no better way to teach your child to love and respect the planet than to get them out to explore and enjoy it! Having some kind of membership will help remind you to get out and play. Hiking, building sandcastles, and watching sunsets can never happen too early.

My recommendation: An annual National Parks Pass will get you a long way, from beautiful hikes, to beaches, to historical sites.


Okay, okay, technically this one IS a “thing,” but I will counter by saying reading is an experience. Reading aloud is a tradition that can go well beyond the early years. I still have fond memories of the family read-aloud books we had when I was growing up: we read aloud as a family up through my early teens!

My recommendation: My book recommendations could go on forever, so here I’ll encourage your friends and loved ones to remember and gift a favorite book from their own childhood. There is nothing more meaningful than a well-loved story from a friend. I’ll also remind you that not only board books and simple children’s books, but also larger anthologies and books of poetry can be great gifts–gifts that last!

There you have it! People will always get you toys, but these are wonderful things to suggest to family members and friends when they ask what to get for you. What are your favorite experiences to gift to babies and toddlers?

The Ultimate Gift Guide for Babies and Toddlers: Experiences, Not Stuff

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