Sunday, 26 August 2012

Happy Mum, Happy Baby

Today I had a lovely chat with a friend about the latest ingenious inventions in baby gear and, out of that, I want to pull together some gift ideas for new mummies as I seem to be beset by them at the moment. When you have a baby, you are spoiled rotten with presents. It's a lovely time and people are very generous. Ever since I became a mum, I have discovered that the best presents are often those that have some benefit the mum as well as the baby. This is because, as you soon discover, there are things that you NEED to make your life infinitely easier but you don't actually KNOW you need them until you have charge of your child. Likewise, during pregnancy, there are about a billion things you become convinced you do need and actually have little use for at all. Using those hoodie towels with my daughter, for example, was like trying to wrap a blancmange in an envelope - frustrating and chilly. So get a load of these amazing ideas now currently on the market. Some are practical, some are pretty, some are both. All are a flippin' Godsent! So next time you have to buy a new baby present, give something different and clever and leave the flowers and layette sets to the amateurs:

1. Totseat from £18.00

The brilliance of this lovely sling as a gift is that new parents very rarely think about where their baby will sit when out and about and they want to be out of the carseat. I gave one of these to a good friend last month and she was delighted with it. They roll down into a pouch you can keep in the baby bag and fit almost any chair. The comforting softness of a sling keeps the little ones happy and supported long before they can go into a highchair.

2. BuggyTug £3.99 & TugTrio £9.99

Here's something rather wonderful that wasn't around when I was looking for new baby gadgets for my daughter but I really could have done with. The Buggytug is a wrist strap that securely attaches your wrist to your pram. It brings fantastic peace of mind for you when you temporarily really do need that second hand. Similarly, the Tugtrio is an ingenious extension of the same idea. A lovely gift that comprises the Buggytug plus a Toddletug which is a strap for an older child to hold onto that is also attached to the pram and finally and (so crucially) the Teddytug designed to counter that sense of mild bereavement you get when a much loved toy gets jettisoned out and lost when out and about. I know it well. Sniff! 

Nobody tells you in NCT classes how much babies and toddlers like to empty things. It has to be something to do with the repetition or the urge to discover. Whatever it is, it is a real pain to discover tissue boxes and wipe packs have been decimated while you're back was turned for half a minute. Someone's been paying attention though because they went and invented Wondercubes. Lovely, colourful box-shaped toys containing a string of multi-coloured swatches for the little darlings to empty to their heart's content over and over again. Check out the website because there are different styles and extra accessories you can buy to mix things up a bit. Wonder-ful!

4. Crayon Rings by Timothy Liles from £3.50 for six

For those who like the added dimension of a bit of genuine art. These lovely diamond rings are made of child-safe wax crayon and come in six different colours and are derived from a concept by artist Timothy Liles. Little fingers can slide through them easily for hours and hours of rampant scribbling fun.  They only seem to be available from America at present but you can order them through Ebay. You may think they're gimmicky but talk to me again after an afternoon of picking crayons up every ten seconds! It's a great idea.

3. Car Tidy from The Mod Mobile on Etsy £12.34

Fact: Babies create crap. At the end of each day, your car will be strewn with a fresh layer of used wipes, tissues, snack packets and food remnants. And once you've got said child and all their paraphernalia out of the car and into the house, it's understandably tempting to avoid venturing out again with a plastic bag to clean up. I love these funky waste collectors from The Mod Mobile's Etsy shop. The strap fits around gear sticks, suit hooks and headrests. I reckon I need at least six for my car but one would be a great starter for ten and makes a very original and thoughtful pressie for the new parent who "has everything".

6. Ma Petite Princesse by Maileg at Sister's Guild £5.50
When I announced I was pregnant, a group of older ladies from work very thoughtfully gave me a set of pretty satin baby hangers which I still treasure. Then, when my daughter was born, another friend gave me a lovely set of Maileg wooden hangers very similar to this lovely one, above, from online boutique Sister's Guild. Now I finally realise their true value because baby girls only live in babygros, t-shirts and leggings for a very short time before you want to buy them about a million pretty dresses...dresses which need hanging up! Now, I have started a small collection for her to keep for her own children one day. I bought her this one last year. It's a near obsession.  

At first, I turned my nose up at these hooks because I thought they were too expensive. Two years later and thirty quid down on cheap plastic alternatives and I realise I was wrong. There has been a lot of criticism about buggy hooks because of the risk of the weight of the shopping tipping the pram but, what I say is, you've got to be a real idiot to let that happen and sadly stupidity is not a crime in this country. Honestly, there is only so much you can carry on your shoulder or in the under-basket of a buggy and it is a good place to keep your handbag accessible and in sight. We should give mother's the benefit of the doubt and assume that they won't attempt to hang a £90 Tesco shop from them. Actually, I often hang my keys on mine so I don't have to lose my mind searching for them in car parks. 

You can never have enough baby blankets. I knitted three small ones for my baby before she was born and received two further handmade ones as gifts after she was born. They are invaluable and it's good to have a few as they quickly get coated in all manner of crud and need endless washing. Advantages? They are comforting, they keep babies cosy warm, they can lie on them on grass and cover the pram on a sunny day at nap time and about a million other things. Never underestimate the usefulness of a beautiful knitted blanket. I love the range at Lily+Sid because they have that lovely vintage handmade look and are unisex so they make a great present for a girl or a boy. Prepare to be popular!

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