By Ashley Andrews (Estimated reading time: 3 minutes)
A first birthday is an exciting celebration for a child. It marks the beginning of their journey as a toddler, a time when they’ll begin to learn more about themselves and the world around them. For many parents, relatives, and friends, a first birthday is an excellent opportunity to support a child’s early development through thoughtful gifts.
Although plenty of conventional ideas such as toys and books are on the market, alternative options can help toddlers get a head start on nurturing their attitudes and skills, and set them up for the future.
4 Alternative Gift Ideas
1. A magazine subscription
Before the advent of the internet, magazines, and books assisted parents with learning and education. Magazine subscriptions that progressively grow with the child can help facilitate new learning opportunities and promote early literacy skills. It is an accessible way to reach relevant information for their age and find ideas to boost creativity and develop social skills. Consider gifting a subscription from publications such as Highlights, Cricket, and Ranger Rick, all developed for babies aged 0-2 years. Each issue is filled with stories, images, and simple activities suitable for a child’s age and skill level. Plus, the publications are designed to grow with your child, each with a series for subsequent age groups.
2. Memberships to local activities
In place of gifting a toy or book, consider gifting a membership to local activities specially curated for their age. Memberships are an ideal way to combine fun with learning in one gift, giving them the joy of visiting learning spaces such as the zoo, a science center, a museum, or an aquarium, among many others. Some provide unlimited visits, which can help teach friendship through playdates or cement a weekly habit with the toddler. Toddlers need a variety of activities as part of their nurture child development. This is a component of the social learning theory that claims early childhood experiences shape a person in adulthood. Memberships to local activities allow them to explore different play structures that can keep them engaged as they grow older. This is one of many ways to encourage their development based on nurturing and purposeful experiences. The best part is that you don’t need to worry about getting them something they’ll outgrow in a month—these places often have activities or attractions that cater to different age groups.
3. Contributions to an education savings plan
Planning now and placing contributions towards an education savings plan can help your child in the future. No matter what state your family and friends live in, there are many options for giving methods to 529 plans, whether by check or electronically through gifting platforms. By opening a fund or adding to an existing account, gift givers can give the gift of education and help to alleviate some of the final pressures that come with paying for and attending a college, university, or technical school. This type of present is a gift that keeps on giving for many years to come, even if it feels like lightyears into the future.
4. A donation under their name
Ask your birthday party guests, family, and friends to consider a financial donation in your toddler’s name to an organization that was instrumental in their first year of life. Although the benefits of donating may not be immediately apparent to a young child, this can be a wonderful teaching moment in the future. Local nonprofits such as Program for Early Parent Support (PEPS), Families of Color Seattle (FOCS), Open Arms Perinatal Services, and Perinatal Support Washington are excellent family-focused organizations to consider. You can have a record of this donation printed for them to see when they grow older, at an age when they can be involved in selecting a charity. This will show them that as early as their first birthday, they have created a lasting impact in the community and have become a part of a cause bigger than themselves.
A first birthday is a significant milestone for the child and a wonderful opportunity to reflect on what’s important to you as a family, set expectations that reflect your family’s values and begin new traditions.