Marianne comes from Scotland and recently had her first baby.
I love to give books as a present, and when buying something for a baby a book is always a great option. Whether you need to buy a present for a baby shower, a gift after the baby is born or a Christmas gift for a baby, here are some great suggestions to help you navigate the options.
It can be hard to know which book to choose. The suggestions are broken up into the following categories:
- Suggestions based on what the parents are interested in, because when you are buying a present for a small baby it's really them you want to impress
- Suggestions about how to make your own book present for a baby you know well
- Classic books for babies where you can't go wrong whoever you are buying for
What Are the Parents Into?
Let face it, when we are buying books for a baby—especially a newborn baby—it's really the parent we want to please. Here are some suggestions for different sorts of parents.
If the baby's parents are proud scientists check out the Baby University Board Book series. With titles like Quantum Physics for Babies these books can teach baby about scientific concepts at an early age, and make a thoughtful gift. I happen to know a few scientists with babies and this is what I got them.
if dad or mum is an architect, engineer, or zoologist you can get books for babies on these topics. I even found that there is a book on accounting for babies - I haven't read this myself yet, but if I ever need a present for the newborn baby of a chartered accountant this seems perfect.
Left Wing/Liberal Parents
My sister bought my baby the book A is for Activist for Christmas. The illustrations are lovely and interesting to look at and the alphabet rhymes. I am not sure how to explain the concept of 'abolitionist' to my baby as I need to Google it myself. It has interesting illustrations and most of the pages have a cat. My toddler enjoys playing spot the cat and selects it from the shelf often.
Fans of a Particular Animal
If parents are fans of an animal you can get a book to tie in with that.
- For dog fans: The Spot the Dog Series
- For cat fans: The Mog books by Judith Kerr
- For elephant fans: Elmer the Elephant by David McKee or Babar the Elephant by Jean de Brunhoff
- For almost any other animal: The Usbourne That's Not My . . . series is likely to cover it. For example, they cover bats, otters, lambs, meercats and lions (as well as vehicles and fantasy characters).
Alternatively if the parents you are buying a gift for have the right sort of sense of humour, you could get them, Go the F to Sleep. This book is more for the parents than the baby! The illustrations are nice, and the words can be censored it before reading to my baby. Just be cautious as some parents will find this tasteless and not at all funny—but some of the mum groups I am in think this is the most amusing book ever.
A very silly choice is There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly. This is an incredibly ridiculous poem about an old lady who swallows various animals and as a result eventually dies. My husband frowns when I read this book, but my toddler loves it. It's also educational as you learn about different animals and their sizes.
Make Your Own Book Present
If you have the time and want to give a really thoughtful gift for a family you know well, make your own book for the baby.
Family Photo Book
A photo book with photographs of baby's family is a lovely present. This can be especially nice if you live far away. For example if you are making a book for your grandson or granddaughter who you don't see much, make a book about your life to share with them. It doesn't need to be very exciting. Take photos of your house, what you do day to day, for example if it is gardening photograph that, or if you go to work a photo of you at work. Photos of some places that you will go when your grandchild visits are also a good idea.
Baby's Favourite Things
Alternatively you could make a book with photos of baby's favourite things. This works better for an older baby or toddler as with a younger child it is hard to know what their interests are. However you can do it for any age. For example take photos of baby's toys, baby's favourite food, places baby goes to, his bedroom, farmyard animals, cars, the sea, baby's house, the local playpark. Whatever you want!
How to Make the Book
There are different practical options to make the personalised book. You can do a low tech handmade version using card and printing out photos and sticking them in.
If you are feeling ultra creative buy a blank board book and make a book using it. My sister did this for my baby's first birthday. She drew some pictures of my baby, his teddy, some animals and cut out images from magazines and put together a little story.
If you want a more professional look, search for companies that print out photos for you. There are many who will print photobooks. Some even offer them in board book format. You just need to upload your photos, write captions and wait for the finished product to arrive with you.
Customised Books (If You're Short on Time)
If you are short on time, but still want a customised option, there are many companies out there that will print you a personalised children's book. Looking on Etsy is good bet. Usually you need to provide the baby's name, and maybe some details like where they were born, or pet name, or birth weight. I've even seen ones where you send in a photograph of baby. This is still a special gift.
Classic Baby Books: A Safe Choice
You can't go wrong with these classic baby books. If you don't know the parents so well these are always a good safe choice.
If you do know the parent's and know they appreciate classic books, these are also a good choice. Some examples of timeless classics and authors for babies are as follows.
Guess How Much I Love You
This lovely story about two hares was first published in 1994. Alongside buying this as a book you can get themed gift sets with fluffy toys. My baby received a copy of this with a puppet inside the book.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
First published in 1969 this book has sold over 50 million copies. It's not hard to see why. (Spoiler alert—sorry.) It's the beautifully illustrated story of how a hungry caterpillar eats lots of food and morphs into a butterfly. The story is simple, but very educational as baby will learn about nature, numbers, days of the week and the risks of eating too much. Alongside the book, there is a wide range of Hungry Caterpillar themed toys and other items in the shops from pull along ones, to rattles to slippers.
Janet and Allan Ahlberg
This husband and wife duo made beautiful books. Some classics for babies are Peepo, The Baby Catalogue and Each Peach Pear Plum. These books are dated, but beautiful and full of things to look at. For example in Peepo, dad is pictured carrying the coal for the fires inside. When your child is older you can use this to explain history and how things used to be.
Spot the Dog Series by Eric Hill
Classic lift the flap books from the 1980s. These were part of my childhood. Likely to be a good present for any parents who were born in the 1980s or 1990s and will remember Spot the dog. Spot has simple fun where he looks for his friends behind the flaps.
A Baby and Toddler Treasury Book
A baby and toddler treasury book is a collection of stories and nursery rhymes together in one book. If you need to buy a gift for someone's baby you don't know well, this is an excellent fail safe present that will be appreciated and will not offend. If you do know someone this is also a good present. Personally I really appreciated receiving this sort of book as a present, especially ones with nursery rhymes as I needed to brush up my nursery rhyme knowledge having a baby.
Tactile Children's Books
This is a more modern choice, but I think it is my favourite. Wiggles is a tactile book for babies is beautiful and one of my favourite gifts for friends with babies. You run your finger along the page to follow the various shapes. It's part of a series of books called TouchThinkLearn, all of them look lovely. I spent a lot of time admiring all the ones in stock in my local bookshop and thinking that if I was rich I would buy them all.
For more suggestions of books for babies see my article on how and what to read to babies. The books I mention there are also great gift suggestions.
Liz Westwood from UK on November 19, 2020:
You make some great suggestions in this article. Spot the Dog and Mog are old favourites. We also enjoyed 'Peace at Last' by Jill Murphy.
Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on November 13, 2020:
The idea of making your own book for babies sounds a really good idea.