Ask Maxwell: Great Ideas for New Parent Gifts

published Jan 24, 2022
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Credit: Maxwell Ryan
Two new linen tablecloths from Etsy arriving last month to gift to our friends with twins! This is a lovely little company on Etsy, Wonder Linen. There are MANY linen outfits on Etsy, many are great, but this is an excellent one I've found lately.

What are your thoughts on the best things to bring new parents? I struggle with helpful gifts they’ll actually want!


Dear Amanda,

I have a very strong opinion on this one, so forgive me if it’s not within the majority’s view. Outside of close family, who often help out a new parents with purchasing the basic things you need to transform your home into a nursery, etc., I feel that the last thing they need is more toys, doo-dads, cute clothes, and clutter for their home. Babies need very little, except a ton of time and attention, and new parents need a lot care FOR THEM as — particularly if it’s the first time — it can be one of the most harrowing, tiring, and stressful times of life. Yes, you can look back on it and laugh later on, or have amnesia and forget how hard it was, but the bottom line — and I’ve seen this again and again — is that new parents need things that will help them take care of them, not their babies. That’s what they need.

I just visited my close friends with new twins over the holidays and they were on a treadmill of sleeping and waking, feeding, and sleeping, and were doing a great job, but self care was the hardest thing to fit in — and exactly what they needed, since we tend to put babies first and not give it to ourselves, especially when we’re sleep deprived.

SO, my advice is to give new parents:

1. Good food and drink (perishable and delightful) that they wouldn’t buy for themselves. Send them a turkey or a fine steak in the mail (I recommend Kelly Bronze for a fancy turkey and Snake River Farms for fine meats), and very few new parents will refuse a glass of champagne as they sit back and reflect on what they’re going through!

2. An upgrade for their dining room or kitchen table in the form of lovely candles or a linen tablecloth to transform their dining experience as they gather, in between shifts, to be adults again for a second and share a meal. I recommend Bluecorn Beeswax Candles always because they are totally natural, smell good and clean the air, as well as tablecloths from Wonder Linen on ETSY for their wide array of colors, good price, and soft hand.

3. Finally, if you ARE wanting to get something that verges on clutter, but is pretty magical, I have always loved to give either your favorite children’s book — inscribed and dated to their new child with your signature — such as Babar and His Children (which I wrote about here), OR A Star Machine Bedroom Nightlight. This is a funny thing and there are many different versions, but the latest best one I’ve found is a BlissLights Sky Lite because it’s a jump up from the original one I bought for Ursula, which is the Laser Twilight Star Projector, and which also costs more for some reason. The backstory here is that I saw one of these things in the lobby of our office building one Christmas and was taken with its laser sharp pin point stars on the ceiling and walls that moved gently through the “sky.” I bought one for Ursula’s room when she was little and she has keep it going to this day. AND lately, with the cool appetite of a 15-year-old, she’s asked for a better version (like her friend Scarlett has), as it is now teenage cool to light up your room in this way. Consider this the gift that keeps giving. 🙂

Good luck and let me know how it goes!

Best, M

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Maxwell Ryan is a father and was an elementary school teacher in NYC before founding Apartment Therapy. He’d love to answer your question: This piece was created for Cubby, our weekly newsletter for families at home. Want more? Sign up here for a weekly splash of fun and good ideas for families with kids.

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