We’re just about in the thick of the holiday shopping season, meaning many of us are running ragged looking for the perfect gifts for everyone on our list. If you’re anything like me, that’s a stressful proposition that may have you eventually giving up and just opting for the best-smelling candle you can find or the ever-reliable Wawa gift card. But if your list includes any parents of little ones, there may be a few gift ideas you didn’t think of (and that they don’t want to vocalize) but that would perfectly hit the spot. Here are a few suggestions from a weary parent of a 15-month-old:
Paper towels: We must go through three jumbo rolls per week (and these are the bottom-shelf, dry-as-sandpaper, cheap kind!). Jackson has a knack (as I’m sure most toddlers do) for getting as much food on his face, hands, arms and occasionally his feet as he does into his mouth, meaning we have a post-meal ritual that involves wiping him head to toe (as well as all the surfaces he inevitably quickly touches). Then, factor in the eventual spills from filling four bottles of milk per day and the occasional vomit, and you’ve got a serious need for paper towels.
A night out: Parents of youngsters rarely get out, so give the gift of time and offer babysitting services. Whether it’s a date night, drinks with friends or catching up over dinner with family, these are all experiences parents who spend most of their time with tiny, babbling beings crave but will rarely make time for.
Amazon Prime: While the immediate gratification of Amazon ordering is having a dubious effect on society (not to mention its equally dubious corporate policies), it’s undeniable how helpful it is to get all of your baby items delivered to your door the next day with just a few clicks. Diapers, wipes, baby Ibuprofen — the list of baby items that run out quicker than you’d think is endless, and trying to schedule an impromptu trip to a store to restock can be a logistical nightmare, making the convenience of a subscription to Amazon Prime highly attractive to harried parents.
A clean house: Keeping up with a toddler on the move comes at the expense of cleanliness. Picking up Jackson’s toys and the other whirlwind of items that are strewn across the house as he goes exploring is a feat unto itself — so typical household chores like dusting, cleaning the bathtub or vacuuming are left for when there’s time (which there isn’t. Ever.). To really gift your parent friends what they want, show up on their doorstep with some cleaning supplies — they’ll love you forever!
Organizers: If other houses with little ones are anything like ours, the stuff that accompanies a baby is overflowing and disorganized. Solutions like fabric stacking boxes, over-the-door storage or closet organizers would be a great way to alleviate some stress for parents feeling overwhelmed by the toys, clothes, diapers and other items seemingly covering every surface.
Meals: Now that Jackson’s eating solid food, we spend a good deal of time focused on his meals: shopping, cooking, feeding and lots of cleaning up — leaving our own dinnertime to be a scattershot process of either lumping together his leftovers onto a plate, digging through the freezer for something edible or giving up and ordering out. If you’re looking to go practical this holiday season, a basket of food necessities to help busy parents on the go keep their own nutrition on the radar is a great idea.
Tupperware: Also on the food front...Once we dispensed with the mushed-up meals, our refrigerator became a crowded maze of Tupperware containers, full of all of Jackson’s varying foods. We often try to cook ahead — big batches of chicken nuggets, pasta and meatballs, etc. — to cut down on weeknight meal-making and to pack his daycare lunches in advance. Before his arrival, I used to relish purging our Tupperware shelves of those Chinese food containers now and again — and now I wish I could have them all back!
Solo time: While a night out to reconnect with a partner, friends or family is likely on the wish list of many parents, reconnecting with oneself should be as well. Kids or not, I think it’s imperative that we all carve out time for activities that enrich us: hitting the gym, catching a movie by yourself, kicking back with a book at the local bookstore. But, I think, most parents are so used to focusing on the needs of their kids that they’d likely view self-care as self-indulgent — so don’t give them a choice! As your holiday gift, pop by the house of a parent on a weekend (especially if the weather is cold and they’re stuck indoors with rambunctious kiddos!), kick them out and mandate they spend some time doing something that’s simply enjoyable.
Photo gifts: As much as Ashlee and I love some time away from Jackson now and then, every time we get it, we find ourselves missing him just as much as we’re having fun. So if you want to go sentimental, hop onto one of the many online retailers (I have a serious Shutterfly addiction) and help the parents in your life keep their youngster with them all the time with personalized photo keychains, artwork for the office, mugs, canvases (the list is LITERALLY endless — you can slap a photo on just about anything these days).
Wine & Spirits gift card: When all else fails, go for the booze. They’ll thank you.