Who doesn’t love Sandra Boynton? (If you raised your hand, it’s all right: I’m sure you have many other wonderful features we will grow to love. With time. After we forget that you don’t enjoy hilarious pictures of dancing hippos.)

Most new parents will get some Boynton books at their baby shower and Astrid has intermittently liked the ones she received. The ones she loves though are from Boynton’s Little Pookie series. Don’t ask me why she’s latched onto the little piggie over all the rest in her collection, but there it is. Maybe it’s because Pookie and his family are a steady cast in all of them and the story lines are recognizable. Dunno. Whatever it is, they’re a big hit and will probably be a winner with parents and little ones on your gift list too.

There are five board books in the series so far and a boxed set of four of them (which is missing our favorite, Happy Birthday Little Pookie) so you can pick up a single for a drive-by gifting or as a fun add-on, or get the set + the birthday book for a first or second birthday party present.

Little Pookie. An introduction to the wonderful Pookie.

What’s Wrong, Little Pookie? Silly conclusion to a piggy’s bad day.

Happy Birthday, Little Pookie. A pretty funny run through the big day.

Night-Night, Little Pookie. Bedtime prompts and hide and seek.

Let’s Dance, Little Pookie. Dance party with Mom!

Little Pookie Books, by Sandra Boynton, $5.99 each for the board books or $16 for four-book set at Amazon

Aden + Anais blankets

May 15, 2012

Aden + Anais is all the baby rage: their lightweight muslin blankets have been everywhere for a couple of years and make ideal baby shower gifts. The patterns are chic, and the size, 47″x47″, is refreshing after all the under-sized, can-only-use-it-for-six-months offerings elsewhere.

The blankets are designed for swaddling, but I found them a little unwieldy for that. There were, however, perfect for lots of other things like draping over Astrid’s car seat to block light and weather, wrapping her up when it was a little chilly and providing a clean and ample play space on foreign floors.

Aden + Anais make pretty patterned sleep sacks too – in single-ply for summer or quadruple-ply for winter – which are great for a visit gift or holiday present for a baby up to a year old. Astrid loved her lightweight and roomy single-ply in the San Francisco summer last year.

(Also in their line-up are crib linens and bibs, but I’ve tended to steer clear of those as gifts. The former because who knows what crib the parents chose, and the latter because we didn’t really use bibs much and, even if we had, cotton ones = lots of laundry for tiny, messy eaters.)

To keep you on your math toes, the blankets come in 2- or 4-packs (regular cotton), 3-packs (bamboo) or singles (organic cotton).

Unless your giftee’s parents are organic-only, I like the 4-pack designs the best (although bamboo is crazy soft). Both animal sets (jungle with elephants, birds, giraffes and monkeys or “mod” with bees, caterpillars, crabs, and little froggies) are cute and gender-neutral, so you’re covered for parents who aren’t finding out if it’s a boy or girl. Second choice: the 4-pack of “star light” light pink patterns or “prince charming” light blue patterns.

Handy as well: they come in a very wrap-able box.

Muslin swaddle blankets, $49.95 for four or $32 for two at Aden+Anais or $35-$49.95 at Amazon or Diapers.com

Organic muslin swaddle blankets, $26 for one at Aden+Anais or Diapers.com

Bamboo swaddle blankets, $40 for three at Aden+Anais or $36-$40 at Amazon

Muslin sleeping bags (aka sleep sacks), $32 for single-ply or $45 for 4-ply at Aden+Anais, or $20-$45 at Amazon or $25-$45 at Diapers.com

H&M Baby

May 9, 2012

I do not understand how H&M can make such adorable baby clothes. I mean, I’m Swedish like them, and, you know, all we Swedes have excellent taste, etc., but H&M is are not generally where I would shop for a gift I would be proud to deliver. Their baby department is a fantastic trove of gifts however.

Astrid in her H&M flowered top

Here’s what: their prices (low) and their adorable-ness (high), make one of their pieces the perfect, “Isn’t this cute? And, btw, don’t I have great taste?” add-on to a shower gift (which you got off the registry, right???) Or a not-too-expensive new baby present.

And when I say, “cute,” I don’t mean big appliques of puppies cute. I mean classy cute. And soft. Like puppies.

Oh – and their baby boy clothes are great, which is not generally a given. Cardigans and understated patterns and actual little pants, not just the usual jeans and cargos deal.

In short, great presents.

The stock rotates too quickly for me to recommend any particular item without disappointing you that it’s already out of stock, but trust me: they always have something worth getting for a little one you know (or are about to know).

(H&M also has a toddlers and kids section, but the collections aren’t nearly as unique and adorable as the baby clothes.)

H&M Store Locator, infant and baby clothes from $4.95

The Baby Shower

May 4, 2012

Let me be 100% clear: for a baby shower, you should buy off the registry. Period.

I can’t stress enough how you should NOT take matters into your own hands and buy the expectant mama what you think she needs vs. what she has painstakingly decided she needs. I know you have brilliant ideas, impeccable taste and maybe even your own recent experience to draw on, but you should still get her something off her registry. It’s a sign of respect to the trouble she went to in creating her own very personal idea of what she wants for her baby.

If you’ve had a bridal or baby shower yourself, you know what I’m talking about: do not be her Aunt Myrtle, showing up with the serving dish built especially for eggplant that she believes every kitchen needs and that you will take directly to the Salvation Army.

Also, it is 100% irrelevant if you think your friend is wrong about that diaper disposal unit she chose for her nursery. Offer your two cents about a better one gently over email if you must, but if that one you hate is still showing up on her registry in a week or two either get it for her or find something else. If you’re right, she’ll know soon enough + there’ll be no damage to your friendship in the process ’cause you got her something she didn’t want!

There. I’m done. I’m just trying to set you and Mama up for success.

Of course, once you’ve hit your mark and gotten her something she wants, there’s no restriction on adding in that book your baby loved, that onesie you couldn’t resist or any other amazingly cuddly items you couldn’t not buy. “You totally, 100% must have this even though you don’t realize it yet!” items are also always welcome as additions. Or as, “Yay! Your baby arrived!” presents. That’s what I do. It calms down my, “I’m helping!” gene.

New parents are worried, so they will focus endlessly on which car seat to buy and which crib to get, and how to make sure that both of those baby receptacles are 100% the most safe ever. That’s good. You are not the new parent, so you can worry about little handy things, like how that super-safe baby is going to be kept entertained in that car seat.

This will occur to Mom in a few weeks when little Kenneth is wailing in the back of the car because he’s super bored on another drive to an enriching activity. You are way ahead of her: Kenneth needs a Haba stroller/car seat chain.

No, it’s not a chain like that. It’s an adorable collection of colorful wooden toys with friendly faces that spin around a string that’s attachable to a car seat carrying bar or a stroller hood. Kenneth will love it. Mom will love it, and you for bestowing it on Kenneth.

Note: there are much bigger and more electronic offerings on the market, but, as usual, I couldn’t get next to all the noises and lights for an infant + since babies will be carried around in that car seat for a while, the bigger toy bars will get in the way. The Haba chain will not AND you can swap it between car seat and stroller easily. Let Mom or Dad invest in a giant arc of irritating noise when and if they feel Kenneth absolutely needs it and they can stand it.

Haba Blossoms Pram Decoration, $25 at Amazon (flowers and what not for girls)

Haba Pixies Stroller Toy, $27 at Amazon

Heimess also makes stroller chains with wooden decorations. I haven’t seen these in person, but they look similar to Haba’s, $20-42 at Amazon

Angel Dear Jacket

April 20, 2012


Soft is the name of the baby game. They’re soft. Their toys are soft. And their clothes should definitely be soft. Enter the Angel Dear chenille hoodie jacket. I love this thing. If you can’t think of someone in your life whose baby needs one, look harder: you have to pass along this fluffiness to someone small and deserving!

A friend of ours got one as a gift and, after touching it’s ultra-softness, I ordered one for Astrid. When she outgrew that one, we got the next size up.

It’s not a rocket science jacket: it’s not waterproof or even windproof. It’s just pure, fluffy fleece that keeps most of that fluff even after repeated washings. We’re not talking flat, functional REI fleece (which we also have and like) but a little cloud to wrap up baby in the car seat, on errand runs or a chilly afternoon at the playground. I take ours with us on pretty much every outing here in San Francisco.

The hoodies come in a range of soft colors as well as stripes and sizes from 0-6 months up to 4T: an appropriate gift for pretty much any child and any occasion. And at $25, you won’t break the bank but people will think you did.

Note: the zippers aren’t the best out there and can be a tiny bit tricky to thread, but they work just fine with an extra jiggle.

Angel Dear Chenille Hoodies, $38 at Angel Dear or from $25 at Diapers.com

Haba Toys

April 12, 2012

Full disclosure: I’m not a fan of tons of colors and noises for infants. The way I see it, if you’re new to everything, everything is interesting. Also, babies are sensitive and easily overwhelmed. So, let’s save the, “Go big or go home!” for later, along with the annoying electronic music and noises attached to so many garish baby toys. I’m betting The Real Housewives of New Jersey all had big, loud baby toys, don’t you think?

It figures then that I fell in love with Haba’s wooden toys. They’re well-made, whimsical, and none of them have scary faces or irritating noises. Also, for you gift givers, they’re not sold in chain stores, so you have an excellent chance of being that person who got little Bertram something truly special.

Haba isn’t the cheapest collection out there – they’re about $5-15 more than their Fisher Price-type counterparts – but I think they’re worth the extra cost in style and durability. If you live in San Francisco, Ark Toys and Ambassador Toys both carry a selection, as will other small European-centric nationwide. Definitely support your local businesses if you can, but a broader selection (and slightly lower prices usually) are available online. Moolka carries tons, as does Padilly, and, of course, Amazon, although their collection is a little harder to sift and sort.

Haba Baby Toys at Moolka, $4 – $200 (!) Also available: older kids toys: just use their filters in the left nav.

Padilly is more difficult to navigate and has fewer sorting options but they carry some Haba that I haven’t found elsewhere.

My Toy Box offers a 10% discount on Haba and has a decent collection, but their site design is unpleasant, so maybe shop elsewhere and then compare prices here.