I went to the birthday party of one of my dearest friends’ daughter this past weekend – her first birthday.  It is a monumental occasion, those first birthdays.  It is a reflection of the past twelve months, of the accomplishments and milestones that have been crossed, of remembering that amazing moment when parent and child first lay eyes on each other.  And, in Addy’s case, it was extra-sweet: she had been born nine weeks early, spent six weeks and NICU and overcame some pretty big obstacles along the way.  Here she was, a year later, diving into a applesauce-sweetened spice cake and smearing pale pink icing from ear to ear (and not necessarily just her own ears!).  Those first birthdays are definitely a major milestone.

It was time to turn on a bit of the think-tank to come up with a present for Addy; after all, there were over forty other people in attendance (don’t freak out – they were all mostly relatives) and all bearing gifts.  Your typical tub toy or outfit wouldn’t hold a candle to this crowd.  So, I sat down and created a list of some ideas for gift-giving to be a little bit “different”.  Because, at a year old, birthdays are more a celebration for the family than a simple party for the child.

1.  Pick a theme: how about a bathtime gift that includes a soft towel (in Addy’s case, pink), a cute kiddo wash cloth and some tear-free bath soap and lotion?  Or, what about an outside play gift with a hat, some sunglasses and sunscreen or bug spray?  A snack basket is also a good idea – fill it with toddler treats and finger foods.  Mom will definitely appreciate it!

2.  Think of the future: U. S. Savings Bonds are EXCELLENT little-kid gifts.  A $50 bond costs $25 and is a great way to invest in a child’s future.  Or, if the parent has a designated account for the future, inquire about how to go about making a contribution.  It is a gift that will last forever (or at least until the child is old enough to use it!).

3.  Membership has its privileges: one of the best gifts I’ve seen given was a year-long membership to the local zoo.  What about a museum or a play area?  Memberships have a wide range of prices, so call around and ask.  It can be something the family has an avid interest in, or perhaps give a membership to something the family hasn’t had the opportunity to explore!

4.  Time and talent: Do you have a special gift, such as painting or sewing?  Perhaps a portrait or a one-of-a-kind quilt is up your alley.  Or, how about offering some “outing time” for the birthday kiddo while Mom and/or Dad get a few moments to breathe?  Having a new face to play with can be a benefit to the parents AND the child.

5.  Pictures last a lifetime: If you’ve been able to capture a few photos of the honoree over the year, making a collage or even an album is a wonderful gift.  Another idea is to collect photos of family and friends and compile them into a touchable, usable album for the birthday child.  Children love looking at pictures of people, and when it is people they know, that’s even sweeter.  And, with the technology of today, make a slideshow and burn it to CD!  It makes a great gift and momento!

What are some innovative and different ideas you’ve done or seen for those amazing first birthdays?  Leave a comment and share!