Sure, there are plenty of green, child-centered gifts you can get babies, kids and their parents…like an organic onesie with “Mother Sucker” on the front, the fabulous Ergo Baby Carrier, or those adorable socks printed to look like Mary Jane shoes. But, IMHO, the best gifts are the ones that make the parent’s life better (without harming the planet or the family’s health). Here are a few faves that I’ve given or gotten over the years…
Gift #1: Cast Iron Pans & Glass Food Storage containers
Myra Goodman already covered many reasons to go old-school on your cookware, including that nonstick pans are dangerous, but she didn’t mention how cast iron pans impart digestible iron into your food as you cook it—a big plus for new parents. I got my brother a Lodge “Signature” series cast iron skillet after his baby was born and he loves it (which was a relief, as previous attempts with eco-friendly gifts hadn’t gone over so well).
And plastics? Don’t get me started. Just take it from WebMD. My favorite food storage and re-heating solution: Pyrex glass bowls with the BPA-free plastic lids – they’re sold everywhere, in every size, and everyone loves them.
Gift #2: Home Cooked Meal(s)
Put that cast iron skillets and food containers to good use by whipping up your parent friends a home-cooked meal. Bring along some flowers and a 6-pack of dark beer, and you will win their hearts forever. (Maybe Dr. Greene can weigh in about whether dark beer really promotes breast milk production…or if it’s a psychosomatic effect). Extra credit for those who make extra portions so leftovers can be thrown in the freezer—better yet, bring the meal in Pyrex glass containers and say “keep them”—a double gift!
And whatever you do, don’t forget a rich dessert (fat is good for the baby’s developing brain as well as the mom’s mental health)!
Gift #3, Hi-tech: Rechargeable Batteries
Every parent needs these, even those who swear “I’m not going to have a lot of battery-operated toys.” Famous last words, as family and friends will deliver the goods that rarely sync with those eco-friendly plans.
Sure, the upfront cost is a bit higher, but one rechargeable battery can replace 300 disposable ones. And disposal of batteries is a nightmare. All those toxic metals inside the cell leach out in a landfill, so when you have dead batteries of any stripe, recycle them (IKEAs, Best Buys, and other electronic stores collect them, as do municipalities’ hazardous waste programs). Get recyclables for yourself while you’re at it; sites like Green Batteries have many options.
Gift #4, Low-tech: Exercise Ball & Yoga Mat
The exercise ball is a popular multi-tasker: a labor aid, baby bouncer, and toddler toy, as well as platform for post-partum backbends and stomach crunches. You don’t know relief until you’ve stretched out your breastfeeding hunchback on a supportive cushion of air. It also serves as extra seating at your next party or as a computer chair. I scored a huge one off Freecycle and never looked back.
And you can’t have too many yoga mats…of course yoga is a great practice for parents (for so many reasons), but even if your asana practice isn’t super-disciplined, your yoga mat will serve as play mat (and PLAY-DOH mat) since kids are constantly hanging out on the floor. And while it’s out, the parents can sneak in a few down-dogs, even after the kids insist on climbing all over them…
Gift #5: A Journal
Great for a parent to record precious moments for their child, or for the parent themselves to record their thoughts regarding the joyful times as well as those when you want to kill your partner, your child/ren or both. I’m partial to the marbled drug store composition books, but you can go as fancy as you want with this one. I still think of my college roommate Sarah, who gave me my kids’ first journal, every time I open up my subsequent volumes to jot down a few memories.
What are YOUR favorite gifts for new parents?