Looking for a special gift for a new baby? Why not give a baby book gift basket?
This is an idea I came up with when my children were a bit older and I'd learned which books babies love and how important it is that parents read to their babies. My sisters and friends were still having babies and I was struggling to come up with ideas for cool baby gifts that were practical but fun too.
I was always on the lookout too for creative baby shower gifts - gifts that were unique and special and useful for more than just the first few weeks of the baby's life. Cute baby outfits are great but parents are given loads of these and they only fit the baby for about five minutes anyway because babies grow so quickly in the first few months.
So I thought back to my pre-children days and remembered how I had no idea how important it was to read to babies and how hard it was to find good books. And I came up with the idea of making a baby book gift basket.
I've made and given away quite a few of these homemade baby gifts now and they always get a great reception.
If you live in Australia, The Book Basket Company has some lovely baskets you can order online.
If you'd prefer to make one yourself, they're really easy to make and can be as inexpensive or as extravagant as you like.
But best of all is the fact that you'll be giving the baby and his parents a very special gift: the gift of reading.
You'll find step-by-step instructions and tips for making your own baby book gift basket below.
There are four parts to making my baby book gift basket:
The basket will be used to store the books so choose one that looks good and is big enough to hold the books you want to give but small enough to be easily moved around. This is important because keeping a small selection of favourite books close at hand is the key to regular reading. Later, when the baby's crawling, the basket can be kept on the floor so he can look at the books whenever he likes.
I like rectangular baskets lined with fabric like the one in the photo above but you can choose one with a handle if you like.
The Mem Fox book is important because it explains why it's vital for parents to read to their children. There are other books that spread a similar message but Reading Magic is a good choice because it's not too long and it's easy and fun for parents to read.
The books are, of course, the most important part of the baby book gift basket.
There are lots of suitable books so by all means include any that were favourites with your own children or which you know and love yourself.
These books have been chosen because they're the tried-and-true, absolutely no-risk favourites which are loved by all babies and young children.
They've also been chosen because they're fun for parents to read, which is just as well because they're going to be reading them over and over again for several years!
Here are the books I include when I make up a baby book gift basket. You can see the covers on the right:
All these books are available at great prices with free postage from the Book Depository, my favourite place to buy books.
I tend to buy the board book versions when I can because they're more durable than the ones that have paper pages.
I think babies should be encouraged to handle books right from the start and providing lots of wonderful board books means you can let them do this without worrying about the pages tearing.
The six books on this list have been carefully chosen to encourage cognitive development and an awareness of the sounds of language.
The first four books are written in rhyme and incorporate repetition and rhythmic language. This makes them a pleasure to read and helps stimulate phonological awareness, a skill which starts developing at birth. Babies also love this kind of language and respond - often by calming down - when they hear it.
The other two books are not written in rhyming verse but are still lovely to read.
Of course The Tale of Peter Rabbit needs no introduction. I loved this little book as a child and was thrilled when, many years later, my three children also loved it. In fact my daughter carried her copy everywhere with her for several months when she was about three and insisted we read it to her over and over again!
I always include The Tale of Peter Rabbit in
my baby book baskets because, apart from the fact that it's a great
book, I think it's good for kids today to be introduced to the
Guess How Much I Love You is a lovely story about a father rabbit saying goodnight to his son. It's a wonderful book to read to a baby or small child at bedtime and, if you start when the child is very tiny, the story will become a treasured part of his or her bedtime routine.
This creates special memories for the child but it also becomes a clear signal, even to a baby, that 'it's sleep-time now.' This can calm the baby and help him settle down at nap-time or at night.
What a bonus!
The toy I choose for my baby book gift baskets is usually related to one of the books in the basket.
I'm not sure if you can buy the green sheep toy in the shops but it is available from the Book Depository, along with all the other books featured on this page.
And, of course, whenever I make a Christmas Book Basket, I always include a squishy Santa toy.
For other baskets, I love these soft animal toys which I often use.
Whatever books and toy you choose, your baby book gift basket will be a unique and very special gift.
It's a gift that goes on giving for as long as the stories are read and remembered by the baby and his parents.
In fact, it's a gift for life ... the gift of reading!