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Holidays are approaching and I’m already receiving links of wish lists. I know the topic of what to gift Offbeat Mothers has surfaced, but what about the On-beat Mothers and their offspring? I am fully aware that it is their child, not mine, and that they have the final say on what they consider appropriate. I would like to find some gender-neutral, non-color-coded gifts that won’t be mistaken as criticizing their parenting choices. What would YOU suggest? — Emily
Buying gifts for anyone can be challenging, but buying gifts for your friends who are parents (onbeat or offbeat!) can be borderline nightmarish, especially if you have no idea where to start! There’s so much to consider — would your friends rather you make something? Buy local? Buy Etsy? Buy Target? Do their kids want clothing, games, or just cash? Do you even have any idea what the kids really want? How do you keep this all neutral and fair without bringing your own nontraditional tastes into the mix?
While I’m sure the timing of this post is cutting it close for some of you, I’m a late holiday shopper (read: I usually buy things two days before I’m supposed to give them to people), so maybe it’ll help!
Newborn – 12 months
Babies of this age can be a little daunting to shop for if you’re not directly related. Some parents (like me!) are notoriously picky about the clothes they put on their kids backs, while others love getting clothes as gifts. If you decide to go the clothing route, I’m a HUGE fan of Baby Soy [editor’s note from Ariel: me too! My favorite onesie Tavi had was their’s!], and their soybean fiber baby clothes are eco-friendly but not at all granola feeling. Some of my favorites: All-Natural Kimono Bodysuit and the Eggplant Onepiece.
Accessories (bibs, blankets, etc.) are pretty easy — my favorite socks that Jasper has ever worn were the Trumpette Sneaker Socks, which were a gift. If you want to check out Etsy, Janie Bug Bibs makes super-crazy-cute bibs.
12 months – 3 years
There are only two names I want to mention: Melissa & Doug. This company gets their own heading because I love them. As far as I know, they’re an all-around good biz. More importantly, in this case, nearly all of their products are gender-and-politically neutral — you can give this stuff to just about any kid you know. I recently attended a birthday party for a two-year-old who received a stamp set similar to this Animal Stamp Set. He might not be old enough for the colored pencils, but he’s totally ready for the stamping part. We got Jasper the Deluxe Beginner Band Set for Christmas last year, and he still regularly plays all of the instruments, especially the harmonica.
See also: Wooden Shape Sorting Clock, Playtime Veggies, Deluxe Standing Easel
3 years – 6 years
Converse/Chucks (did you know the kids are calling them “Cons” now? I feel totally old.) are a pretty safe option — they’re both on and offbeat, and sticking with something neutral, like this black pair, could work. If you want to go the toy route, my husband immediately answered “light sabers” (I was thinking a magic wand) when I asked him, so here’s a few: the Obi Wan Kenobi Light Saber is only $10, while the Darth Vader option is $90 (!). Star Wars is notoriously geeky, but also totally mainstream. Since it could be interpreted as more of a “guy” thing, other options for this group could be Flower Fairies, and while we’re on the topic, the Fairy Triad Dome Terrarium looks awesome and pretty gender-neutral.
See also: ANY kind of costume apparel. Almost every kid I’ve known at this age LOVES to play dress-up.
7 years – 10 years
You’ll need to know the personality a bit more, but this is a great age — think something like binoculars (those are only $12 — I wouldn’t go too far up in price, since they could also be crushed/destroyed/otherwise maimed by crazy 7-to-10-year olds), glow in the dark paint, or maybe even a disco ball lamp! The possibilities for kids this age are very nearly endless.
Offbeat parents: please add to this list! Let us know what has and hasn’t worked in the past with your more onbeat counter-parts. Also, I didn’t go above age 10 because I can’t even imagine touching the pre-teen and teen years … gift cards?