Along with getting married and becoming a parent, becoming a grandparent for the first time is one of life’s universal milestones. If you know someone who’s about to welcome their first grandchild, you may have had the (correct!) instinct to look for a gift to mark the occasion. But what exactly do you get for folks who, yes, have been parents, but have not yet been grandparents?
To help figure it out, we talked to ten grandparents about the things they think would make the best gifts for anyone joining their ranks. Their ideas range from practical (state-of-the-art car seats and locks for cabinets) to sentimental (books and “smart” teddy bears; yes, they exist) to just plain wise (hotel gift cards so grandma and grandpa have a place to escape when newborn and parents need alone time at home). On top of covering a diverse range of interests, our grandparents’ 30 gift ideas below come at every price point, making it even easier to find the right thing for the new grandparents in your life.
Six of our ten grandparents recommended giving some sort of sentimental gift that can be personalized either by the giver or the grandparents receiving it. The most mentioned of all these types of gifts was a digital photo frame, with Lisa Carpenter, who runs the grandparenting blog Grandma’s Briefs, explaining its appeal this way: “A digital frame not only allows grandparents to proudly display photos of their precious babe, but makes it easy for new parents to update those photos via email or text.” (She and the other folks who suggest a digital frame note it’s an especially great gift in a pandemic because of the risk posed by in-person visits.) When it comes to choosing a digital frame, two folks we talked to specifically recommend this one from Nixplay. According to DeeDee Moore, who manages the grandparenting website More Than Grand, the Seed stands out for its ease of use: “Parents can add new photos and video clips from their phone or computer, and they instantly appear in the frame. It means my family is always just a glance away.”
Carpenter reminds us that a classic frame with a picture of the new baby could be an equally thoughtful gift. She likes this silver-plated one because it “features space for a cherished photo of the new grandchild as well as a sweet sentiment for first-time grandmas.” (We found a similar frame for grandfathers, too.)
Grandmother Susan Johns tells us she’s been a fan of Hallmark’s recordable storybooks ever since she made one for her first grandchild. It’s another great idea for our era of social distancing, she explains: “You press a button when you first get the book to record yourself reading it, and then it saves the recording. Our grandkids still find and listen to them sometimes.”
This cuddlier twist on the gift above comes recommended by grandmother Violet Favero, an author who writes grandparenting books as Silly Yaya. It’s a machine-washable teddy bear that a new grandparent can record their voice into (and then change the recording as often as they’d like). “For those long-distance grandparents who may not be able to see the baby often, this adorable teddy bear gives the baby the ability to hear your voice and bond with you from afar,” says Favero.
According to Donne Davis, the founder of the GaGa Sisterhood (a national social network for “enthusiastic grandmas”), a journal that new grandparents can use to “write down memories and stories about themselves” and their new grandchild is another thoughtful idea. While Davis says any notebook would do, we think this well-reviewed grandparent journal, which has prompts to get thoughts flowing, is a more personal option.
As it’s probably been awhile since they’ve had little kids running around the house, new grandparents will surely be looking to stock up on baby-proofing tools and playtime essentials, according to five of the grandparents we spoke to. One such item is this portable play yard that Carpenter recommends. “Most grandparents are delighted to cover babysitting gigs now and then, and a safe spot for the baby to sleep at their house is a must for such services,” she explains. “This portable play yard includes a changing station for easy diaper duty and can be easily stored between visits.”
Davis says that this “triangle-shaped stand the child can lean on” as they learn to walk will “entertain any little one.” It’s designed for babies from 2 months to 2 years old, so it will “last for a couple of years — until the next child comes along,” she adds.
Johns told us that whenever a friend becomes a new grandparent, she makes them a care basket that includes board books and stuffed animals. “When the baby comes to visit, they then have stuff to read and play with,” she explains. She says that most board books and stuffed animals will do, but if you want suggestions, Black and White leads our list of expert-recommended board books for babies and Steiff’s Floppy Cappy Frog is among the (relatively affordable) stuffed animals that the heritage German toy brand conveniently sells on Amazon. (Our senior editor Anthony Rotunno, who himself buys Steiff on Amazon for newborns, notes that the “stuffed playthings can sometimes go for three or four digits, especially if vintage.”)
For a more tactile toy that new grandparents will appreciate having on hand for their grandkids, Davis suggests these soft foam blocks. She says they’re really fun for babies to play with because they are “something little hands can hold.”
When it comes to gifts new grandparents can use to baby-proof their homes, grandparents Susan McAslin and George Corsillo (who are also the parents of Strategist writer Liza Corsillo) say these inexpensive cabinet locks can go a long way toward achieving some peace of mind. While grabby hands are less of a concern in a baby’s first few months, once they’re walking, “grandparents probably have forgotten just how wily those little ones can be,” says McAslin. “Giving them these cabinet locks will make sure the child is safe.”
New grandparents can of course provide assurance to terrified new parents, but McAslin says it’s important they refresh themselves with the latest insight on how to keep babies safe, as some things may have changed from their day. That’s why she recommends this updated safety guide that covers old and new wisdom. “Hot dogs for toddlers? No! Strawberries for baby? Yes? No!,” she says of its advice.
Favero says that “many grandparents worry about a baby choking, which is the leading cause of death in children.” While it’s something they might not use right away, she still recommends gifting this product, which removes fluid and objects that may cause breathing problems in kids aged 1-to-3 years old. “It offers reassurance just by having it in your home or diaper bag,” she says.
For grandparents who live with their new grandchild (or just spend a lot of time with them), McAslin suggests gifting a car seat — “and installing it for them, to ensure it is done correctly.” That way, she says, “it lifts the burden off of them.” McAslin recommends this car seat from the same company that makes her favorite cabinet locks; it’s also a favorite car seat of child-safety experts.
“Everyone over 60 should be doing yoga,” McAslin says. “If they aren’t, explain that you want them to enjoy playing with the baby and that this beginner’s class is a gift for their knees and the soul.” The 30-day class, she says, “will increase a grandparent’s mobility, so they’ll find it easier to get down on the floor with the baby.”
As we mentioned before, some grandparents — namely Davis and McAslin — say that gift cards allowing new grandparents to make their own lodging arrangements at hotels or rental properties can be very thoughtful and practical. “If you’re a new parent, you likely live in a small house that’s filled with baby stuff,” McAslin explains. “You don’t relish the idea of 24 hours a day with more adults who also need attention.” So helping new grandparents find somewhere else to stay will “make their visit part family and part vacation,” she says.
Books — both to read to your grandchildren and on becoming a grandparent — can also make great gifts for new grandparents, according to three of the ones we spoke to. “Books celebrating this stage in life are a thoughtful way to welcome them to their new role,” says Moore. Her favorite is this one, which she calls “a handbook for a successful partnership with parents. Not only does it provide an inspiring look at the wonders of being a grandparent,” she explains, “it also provides solid, actionable advice on how to avoid the pitfalls that await even the most well-intentioned grandparents.”
Davis’s favorite book to give new grandparents is this one by CBS News correspondent Lesley Stahl. “She talks about the overwhelming feeling that so many new grandparents feel — that deep love that is so new and different.” Becoming a grandparent, Davis explains, is a “whole new feeling than when you become a parent,” which is why she promises that any new grandparent will be moved by “reading something that resonates with that feeling.”
Another book that Davis recommends giving to new grandparents is this one by author and Pulitzer Prize winner Anna Quindlen, which recounts her first few years of becoming a grandparent and the dos and don’ts she learned along the way.
As far as books that new grandparents can read to their children, Davis says that if your recipients don’t have copies of these classics from their days as parents, you can never go wrong gifting fresh editions. “Goodnight Moon has pictures and is repetition-based so that child can become accustomed to recognizing and guessing,” she says of one of the time-tested titles. “And Pat the Bunny is really cute because it’s a tactile book: Each page has a touch element — like ‘Daddy’s Rough Beard,’ which is a piece of sandpaper.”
“When I have friends that are going to have their first grandbaby,” Johns says, “I usually try to give them a copy of this really cute picture book.” Read from one way, she explains, it tells the story of what grandmas do best, and from the other, what grandpas do best. This two-for-one design means both grandparents can then read their respective half of the book to their grandchild. (Should your new grandparents not live together, Johns adds: “I have a friend who just got divorced, and I learned you can also buy individual versions for that situation.”)
McAslin says gifting this 36-volume compendium of Growing Child will “let new grandparents know what stages the baby is going through” for the first three years of their life. (The set has an issue for every month between birth and 3 years of age.) She describes it as a “joyful thing” to receive, adding the collection helps keep grandparents “on track.”
Books aren’t the only gifts that our grandparents say can help new grandparents settle into their roles. For a gift that can teach both grandparents and (eventually) grandkids about their family history, McAslin suggests this virtual class from the National Genealogy Society, which teaches students how to “write their family history.” She adds that enrolling in an online class like this — or going back to school, if you will — will keep new grandparents “young, interested in, and interesting to their grandkids.”
Several grandparents also told us about some household items (beyond baby-proofing tools or kids’ stuff) that they say would improve the daily lives of new grandparents. Grandfather Rich Brennan says that, in his opinion, the best gifts for new grandparents “focus on the connection that grandparents have with their grandchildren” and that in this moment, “with the COVID-19 pandemic, most grandparents are being denied the opportunity to have bonding time. What we need are ways to stay connected.” Brennan says one of the best ways to do that is with an iPad, which can be used for FaceTime video calls and, if set up with software like Jackbox, to play virtual games (when the grandkids get a bit older).
According to McAslin, any new grandparent would appreciate the convenience offered by this robot vacuum from Eufy. “It makes cleaning easy and gives the hint that babies are crawling and need dust-free floors,” she says. “Everyone wins.” She’s not its only fan — this exact model took the title of best overall robot vacuum on our list of the best-reviewed ones on Amazon.
“I don’t know if it’s my age, but I often forget where I left my phone in the house,” says Grandma Marina, one half of the popular Instagram account Drawings for My Grandchildren. That’s why she recommends giving this phone case that her daughter gave her, which allows her to “always have my hands free, but keeps my phone close to my body — close at hand.” She adds that “the case also has a small pocket where I can put my credit cards, cash, and my subway pass, so now I don’t have to carry a separate wallet. So practical.”
Grandpa Chan, Marina’s husband, says that in choosing any gift for a new grandparent, you should consider the fact that the recipient — though they may not like to admit it — is getting older. “Everything weakens with age, including teeth,” he says, something he learned after a recent trip to the dentist, “who told me that the severe pain I was experiencing could be improved by using this electric toothbrush and this water flosser to clean between my teeth.” In the first week of using them, he says, “my toothache passed,” which is why he now recommends them as gifts to new (but also any) grandparents. (If you’re wondering how to give these delicately, you could mention that Philips Sonicare and Waterpik are two of Strategist’s — and experts’ — favorite brands for oral care.)
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