The first year of a baby’s life sees many milestones: their entrance into the world, the first ride home from the hospital, naming days or christenings and, of course, their very first birthday.
Yet finding a gift to please parents and little ones alike can be tricky.
Many new parents can find themselves wading through endless piles of babygrows and tripping over too many toys; so how can you find a gift that shows how much you care?
The key is to find an item that is unique enough that they won’t have already received it and hopefully practical enough that they’ll come reaching for it time and time again.
We’ve taken on the task of scouring big brands and small businesses alike to come up with the perfect gift for a baby’s first year.
From budget-friendly books to beautiful pieces of furniture. We tested a whole range of items to come up with this list of our truly best buys.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
Whirli toy subscription: From £10, Whirli
Ever wanted to try a toy for a while and just swap it for another one when the novelty wore off? Well, you can with Whirli’s subscription service. With gift cards available from £10 (the cheapest subscription model is £9.99 per month), this takes all the hassle out of trying to find a toy a child hasn’t already received. Parents will love how easy it is to simply log on and choose a plan that suits them (the pricier the plan, the more tokens available for toys). There’s a huge range of second-hand toys to select and, after trialling it for several months, we can confirm all items were excellent quality, appeared as new and arrived completely clean (Whirli sterilise them too). Once done, customers can pop the toys back in the post (return postage is free) and select their next bundle. We loved the sheer variety of toys available in the library: there’s everything from jumparoos to books to building bricks; meaning there’s always going to be something the little one will love. What’s more, it’s a great way of cutting down on plastic consumption and saving space.
Stokke Tripp Trapp chair: From £178, Stokke
This is a beautifully made – and ergonomically designed – piece of wooden furniture that will grow with a child. Available in a variety of wood types and colours (with full name personalisation for that truly unique touch), it’s the perfect alternative to the usual high chair. We were impressed with the craftsmanship, and that although it’s extremely sturdy, it doesn’t take up much space and easily becomes part of the furniture. We think its an ideal choice for godparents or close family, and parents will love that it brings them right up to the kitchen table with the rest of the family. If this is for a newborn, you can get the newborn set (a nest-style cushion with a harness that can be attached to the chair). For older babies, a set can also be purchased to convert it into a comfortable high chair. It’s fairly pricey but it is a gift that will truly last a generation.
Fabric photo album: From £25, My 1st Photos
Every proud parent loves sharing a photo (or 10) of their newborn, so why not compile a fabric photo book of their favourite snaps? The soft cloth is perfect for tiny hands and, as the book is washable and uses non-toxic ink, you don’t need to worry if they end up in their mouths either. Books can have between five and 18 pictures – photos from phones and Instagram do work, but we think professional images work best – and you can caption them too. We found this gift to be particularly useful for babies around six months and onwards; when parents are trying to encourage their little one’s first words and help them recognise faces.
Munchkin and Bear large Melbourne MOD padded play mat: £129.95, Munchkin and Bear
Parenthood sees everyone’s living room transformed into a chaotic playroom and while there’s no instant tidying solution, you can make at least one thing stylish with this. Those with rolling and crawling babies will find this a godsend, but it’s suitable for all ages. The super plush, extra thick mat is far more padded than any other we’ve come across before and it’s plenty big enough to fit baby, siblings and all the family. As well as having lots of practicality points (it’s wipe clean and made of non-toxic PU), the real selling point is just how truly stylish these playmats are. At a glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking they are actually statement rugs for brightening up a living space. There’s a variety of designs and while we think the Melbourne design is ideal for brightening up any family’s neutral space; there’s also a variety of different colours to slot in with decor. This playmat is more expensive than most, but we really do believe it is worth every penny.
Prezzybox personalised the A to Z of wonderful things book: £21.99, Prezzybox
Storytime is so important for little ones and that’s why we love this A to Z book. We all know children love to see their names in print, but the fun doesn’t stop there; with personalisation allowing you to add your own special message to the child, along with adding details like their siblings’ names, date of birth and their hometown to bring their life onto the page. The beautiful illustrations make this book feel extra special and make it a lovely christening gift.
The Dou-Doods baby comforter: £25, The Dou-Doods
Lots of babies love to snuggle up to a comforter and chances are most parents have one stuffed into every bag. We love these from Dou-Doods as they’re cool and super soft. Each of the 14 comforters comes with a little personality and we loved the label with their name and date of birth; sure to treasured by any young recipient. If gifting this one to a newborn, the wide, flat surface is ideal for them to safely snuggle with (it’s made from super soft cotton jersey so we found it to be ideal for sensitive skin), while slightly older babies will love the black and white design and gripping on to the ears, fingers and toes. If you’re gifting to a family, you can also purchase a matching mask for older siblings so they don’t feel left out by all the fun.
Prezzybox personalised initials baby raincoat: £29.99, Prezzybox
Now we’re properly into autumn, this adorable raincoat is the perfect stylish addition to any baby’s wardrobe. Available in three bold colours (the vibrant yellow was a hit with our mother and child tester) and four different sizes that go from six months to four years, it’s a practical but beautiful coat that does a great job of providing essential protection from the elements. You can also have it personalised with three initials.
Little Box of Books subscription (0-3-year-olds): From £18.99, Little Box of Books
Families come in all shapes and sizes but despite living in a thriving diverse society, that’s not always reflected in the books children read. Cue Little Box of Books; a service that delivers inclusive children’s books into homes all around the country (both gift box options and different length subscriptions are available). The stories remain compelling but what’s different is you’ll find families being shown in all different ways, characters with disabilities and from different backgrounds. We received the three-book subscription (£24.99 a month), which featured a mix of books (such as the board book Amelia, which tells the story of the pilot Amelia Earhart, and the mesmerising Little Mermaid picture book, retold with a range of diverse characters). Alongside this, for each box purchased, Little Box of Books donates a brand new book to Doorstep Library; a charity that works with disadvantaged families in London to promote reading. We love the concept and it would be the perfect gift for parents keen to teach children about the world around them.
Hippychick plush Wheely Bug ride-on toy: £69.95, Hippychick
Looking for a gift for a child who always wants to be on the move? This is it, and we love it. Aimed at aged one and up, the bright animal designs will attract all ages and the plush covers – the hedgehog being our favourite – are soft to snuggle up to but also easy to be washed and changed. Unlike other toys, this can be ridden in all different directions; making it easy to navigate. Younger babies can be pushed along while holding on to the animal, and older babies can navigate themselves, making it an ideal transitional toy for learning skills such as coordination that are vital for bike riding. An adorable product that’s designed to last.
Books & Pieces ‘Baby, Let’s Eat!’: £4, Books & Pieces
Part of the Indestructibles range, this book promises something very special indeed: it’s rip-proof (believe us, we tried our absolute best to disprove this on behalf of our readers but got nowhere), chew-proof, non-toxic and super easy to wash. This is the ideal budget-friendly gift for a teething baby who loves nothing more than putting everything in their mouth. Featuring super-bright colours, simple drawings and labelling of staple foods, it’s a particularly fun read for those between six months to one year as they start their weaning journey and learn all about the food around them.
Kokoso baby bundle: £44, Kokoso
This luxurious bundle of organic baby skincare is really a gift for both mum and baby, and comprises of two types of thick and creamy hair and body wash (softly scented and fragrance-free); a giant tub of wonder product coconut oil, konjac baby sponge and natural wooden hairbrush and spoon. As soon as we opened these products, we were taken in by their natural coconutty smell and their velvety texture; both gliding on wonderfully to our baby’s skin. The wooden hairbrush and coconut oil did a fantastic job of tackling cradle cap, which any parent knows can be a real bugbear for the first six months or so of a baby’s life. Older children will love to hold the super absorbent, squidgy sponge as they learn to wash themselves. There’s plenty of baby skincare on the market but these really are exceptional quality; any parent would love to receive this (and we can bet, if they’re anything like us, mum will happily borrow them herself too).
The verdict: Gifts for newborn to one-year-olds
We love Whirli’s subscription service: it means there’s zero chance of getting a present that ends up in the “to bin” pile and is a fantastic way for parents to cut down on their plastic purchases. For a bigger invested, Munchkin and Bear’s plush playmats are stylish and sturdy and really will revolutionise playrooms. Finally, for those on a budget, we loved Baby, Let’s Eat! by Books & Pieces; a great read that thanks to it’s ‘indestructible’ label will last longer than most on their bookshelf.