My non-parent friends often ask me for good infant gift ideas that aren’t clothes — basically, something they won’t grow out of right away. (The cliche is so true: babies do grow quickly!) They don’t want to buy clothes — maybe they don’t know the gender, or quite the right size. Or they want to get something that speaks to their own style and creativity, but is still practical and safe.
The thing I always advise is the soft cloth book — you know, those squishy books made of cloth, with little doohickeys, patches and appliques attached. They often feature lots of colors, textures, patches of different material and have little rattles or mirrors attached to them. Sometimes they have materials that crinkle and crackle when squished, adding an auditory element — sometimes a few will have rattles attached or embedded.
But soft cloth books don’t need a lot of bells and whistles to be compelling. (I’m of the school that simpler ‘open-ended’ toys are actually richer experiences for growing infants and babies, since they develop and explore many unique and different ‘relationships’ with simple objects that don’t direct them with linear cues. But that’s another post for another day!)
Babies can spend a surprisingly long time absorbed in simple fabrics, staring at the colors and patterns and exploring the touch and feel. Tiny infants love exploring the different feels and colors at their own wondrous, quiet pace. This quiet exploration is great for their brains — and a godsend for exhausted parents!
There are so many options and styles: soft and gentle, bright and cheerful, quirky and bold. But no matter what the aesthetic, they’re all great because they’re very simple yet rich. And, as a literary type, I appreciate how they also ‘teach’ what a book is — on a basic level, what it means to turn a page and discover something new and wonderful waiting on the other side. Who wouldn’t love that?
As an infant, my own Budge loved soft cloth books — he spent many hours happily exploring his little collection for many, many months. And he’s growing up LOVING books, which of course makes me incredibly proud and happy as a parent. I think it’s partly because he was so familiar with books as objects from such a young age.
Anyway, I’ve picked some of my favorite options below. Some are listed for babies over 6 months old, especially if they are more ornate with dangling doo-dads — check for any age restrictions any time you buy a time. But in general, I find soft cloth books work well from birth onward, depending on how tricked out they are. I love the ones that Skip Hop makes: I loved the cuteness and the soft yet happy colors. I also love soft cloth books with clips, which lets you attach them to your stroller or car seat.
If I had more time and more DIY ability, I’d love to make my own soft books. (You can peruse Etsy for handmade options, but don’t have the ability or time to make them. I can’t vouch for their testing for safety, though!) But the following are great options from Amazon. (I know, I know, it’s Amazon…but Prime shipping is basically a mama’s best friend at this point!)
+ Skip Hop Alphabet Zoo Soft Activity Book – Such a cute little elephant design!
+ Skip Hop Treetop Friends Soft Activity Book – This is most like a folder, I suppose…but ach, it’s so adorable!
+ Winnie The Pooh Soft Book – How more classic than you get than Pooh?
+ World Of Eric Carle The Very Hungry Caterpillar Soft Book – Chances are, at some point, the little one will probably get a copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar…but this is the version that they can stuff into their mouth with impunity!
+ World Of Eric Carle Tiny Seed Soft Book – Another super-pretty Eric Carle one.
+ Giraffe And Friends: A Soft And Fuzzy Book For Baby – This is pretty simple, but attractively bright and soft. It also rattles when you shake it, which should gently stimulate baby’s interest and senses without overwhelming him or her.
+ Jellycat Sleepy Monkey Soft Cloth Book – Adorably blurs the line between plush toy and book! For those buying for a newborn, this is great from birth onward.
+ HABA Elephant Egon Fabric Book Baby Toy – This is just too cute. This is for 6 months up, probably because of the little toy attached. But man, what is it about elephants and baby toys? I cannot resist…