There was the vision I had for my son’s first Christmas and then there was the reality. In my head, my 1-year-old son would wake up on Christmas morning filled with excitement for this milestone day. We would make Christmas cookies, read a holiday classic while nestled by the fire and I would watch with motherly delight as my boy opened his very first Christmas gift.
Meanwhile, in a place that looks way less like a Norman Rockwell painting and much more like our living room, my son looked confused as to why I was jumping around like a woodland sprite. He rejected the special Christmas pancakes I made him for breakfast, and essentially mumbled a baby-sized “bah humbug” when it came to presents. I was slightly bummed out at first, but then it hit me: My baby had no idea what day it was … because my baby was one, and he didn’t know how to read a calendar. Nor was he expected to.
What developmental milestones should a baby hit during the first year?
“An infant with a developmental age of 1 month makes throaty noises instead of coos, and may only hold up its chin when prone. An infant with a developmental age of 3 months may start to chuckle, roll onto its side and examine its own fingers,” says Jeremy Jones, DO, board-certified pediatrician and associate professor of primary care at Marian University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Indianapolis, Indiana.
“At 6 months of age, a baby should respond to his or her mother, babble, sit without support and bring an object to his or her mouth. The typical 9-month-old infant can pull to a stand and may begin to cruise,” adds Jones.
Additional developmental milestones around the 9-month mark, according to Jones, may include; grasping a cube with a fine pincer grip, passing objects between hands, banging two objects together, saying “mama”, imitating sounds, orienting to their own name, enjoying gesture games and recognizing familiar faces. (Notice how marking a calendar for December 25th wasn’t noted in this list of accomplishments?)
While a baby’s ability to track days, months and weeks is lacking, a baby’s ability to play is strong, says Jones. “Babies and infants actually develop through the use of play,” said Jones.
Research indicates that during infancy, babies need play time each day in order for their environment to be “explored and discovered” and so that their cognitive, social, and motor developmental skills may be “confirmed, reconfirmed, and celebrated."
What are the best gifts for a baby's first Christmas?
While it may be tempting for Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa and anyone and everyone who is gaga for your baby to go overboard on the latest greatest whatever for a baby’s first Christmas, there’s really no need from a developmental perspective, says Jones.
“Not that it is backed by any scientific research, but there is no need to have any toy in your home that requires batteries or an on-off switch so it can work properly,” suggests Jones.
Instead, the best gifts for a baby’s first Christmas are the ones that encourage family togetherness, language, loving and learning, says Jones.
“Board books and other materials that encourage talking and reading are essential for a baby and infant’s overall development, “ says Jones. He also suggests blocks, ring stackers, clappers and other toys that encourage the development of an infant’s gross and fine motor skills are fantastic developmental winners.
“Any gifts for your baby or infant should be practical, simple and not break the bank," says Jones. “The greatest gift your child can receive is your unreserved gift of self."
Here is a list of sweet, practical and family-focused gifts for your baby’s first Christmas.
Baby's first Christmas ornaments
This popular personalized pick makes it easy to take an imprint of your baby’s hand or foot and turn it into a forever keepsake. This makes a great gift for any new mom.
Add some flair to the Christmas tree with this cute bestselling personalized ornament from Etsy. You can add their photo, name and birth year.
Celebrate their first Christmas appropriately with the toy that has presumably been their favorite throughout their first year. With bows and painted accents, this ornament (that actually makes noise), will mark the occasion and help you reminisce for years to come.
Personalize this elegant and simplistic ornament with their birth details, including where and at what time they were born. For a more festive option, it also comes as a star.
From a distance, the ornament will appear like a beautiful snowflake hanging from your tee. Close up, the ornament is really your baby’s sweet name captured and hidden within the laser-cut design of this wooden holiday ornament. Precious as it is distinctive, this ornament will be sure to have a special place on your tree year after year.
Made with solid natural maple wood, and personalized with your baby’s sweet name and age, this ornament will be sure to have a special place on your Christmas tree year after year.
Baby's first Christmas clothing
I couldn’t get enough of the “My First” anything outfits. I think I bought my son a special outfit to celebrate his first Arbor Day. This precious little one piece pajama will keep your baby warm, cozy and camera-ready for all of those holiday photos.
While your baby might not appreciate the glory of matching family jammies just yet, they will appreciate all of the amazing snuggles in these amazing Spider-Man holiday PJs. These jammies are hypoallergenic, as well as eczema- and sensory-friendly. Pajama sizes start at 0 to 3 months.
For the baby who just started eating solids, this bib will catch everything from gingerbread cookies to little bits of ham at Christmas dinner. It can also be used as a photo prop for adorable family photos.
This soft crocheted hat is perfect for newborns. The wearable gift also comes with a cute “My First Christmas” tag.
There’s no denying how adorable this jumpsuit is! Dress up your little one as a snowman this season with this velvet romper.
Baby's first Christmas gifts
A great stocking stuffer and addition to your baby’s bath, Hello Bello’s Extra Gentle Shampoo & Body Wash. It’s also dermatologist tested, hypoallergenic and available in six sweet scents or fragrance-free.
After hours of wrapping holiday gifts, Mom and Dad are going to be grateful these pacifiers glow in the dark. This paci set includes two pacifiers, and a sterilizing case for easy cleaning.
Bath toys always make a splash when it comes to the little ones. Great on land or sea, your baby will love squirting puffs of air or drops of water with these cute barnyard squeezies.
This Amazon's Choice buy includes 10 colorful, stackable and sortable blocks. The blocks come with a handy dandy storage bucket and are an ideal gift for children six months and up.
An Etsy's pick and a favorite of countless moms, this sweet personalized puzzle will allow your baby to explore shapes, colors, animals and how to spell their own name.
Not only will these blocks assist them in the teething phase, but they can be used beyond that to help them learn numbers and counting. With over 10,000 five-star ratings, these blocks are a fan favorite due to being “soft but durable,” and the fact that “they have numbers and letters shapes and different textures to allow for so much stimulation and learning in the years to come.”
Your young one will easily cozy up to this sweet doggo. It also doubles as a super soft security blanket.
Sophie the Giraffe has served as a go-to teething toy for generations, passed down since 1961. Gift this to the babe in your life who has started experiencing some major growing pains. “I’ve never known a child that has received Sophie that hasn’t loved her,” says one grandmother.
This magic music cube teaches little ones different sounds and sound combinations while they pat and play away. The brand says the cube is designed with soft, rounded corners, so it is easy for babies to grab and hold.
With plenty of multisensory features and animal sounds, this bestselling compact “farmhouse” is great for the baby who’s always on the go. Along with being a joyful playtime favorite, the interactive activity cube from Melissa & Doug also helps build essential physical, cognitive and social skills.
Billy Joel had to get his start somewhere, and so does your little piano prodigy! Baby can compose his own music, play the music of other musical geniuses or just enjoy the sweet tunes that are played by magic. Piano includes three pieces of sheet music, six songs and is ideal for babies ages 6 months and up.
Curious minds will love getting to build and interact with this stackable tower set. The plastic spheres can be balanced, nested and spun while they play, helping them to tap into their senses. According to the brand, the pieces are made with ABS plastic and are BPA-free.
For the infant who is starting to wobble as they try to take their first steps, gift them with this toy wooden walker. With a xylophone, counting stacking cups, a drum, number blocks and more, this toy will keep them occupied for hours on end. “My 1-year-old grandson hasn’t figured out he can walk but he runs this thing up and down the hallways and loves it,” said one reviewer.
I love this little set as it’s an amazing multitasker. Kick your baby’s sensory level into the stratosphere, while they learn about the stars with this education set from KiwiCo. While the concept of the Milky Way may go over their sweet heads, the visual tracking, sensory play and motor skill refinement of this little kit will land softly and age appropriately. This kit includes a sun shaped lovey, a Saturn’s ring teether, a galaxy rattle, a rocket ship wobbler and the “Hello, Star!” Board book.
Your baby’s bedroom will go from holiday madness to a peaceful Christmas slumber in no time with this award-winning sleep device. This cute new bedtime pal works as a night light, sound machine, humidifier and diffuser — all in one! It also looks pretty darn snazzy on their nightstand.
Another holiday rite of passage: the bike under the Christmas tree. This versatile trike grows with your wee one and features four ways to ride! Start off at infant trike, advance to steering trike, progress to learn-to-ride trike and then graduate to classic trike.
This gift box has everything your little one needs for a magical Christmas Eve night. It features a cute one-piece pajama and swaddle, a reindeer rattle and Baby’s own copy of “Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer."
Perhaps it’s because I have been watching a lot of "Finding Nemo" lately, or maybe it’s because of all the fun toys and activities on this jumper. Either way I am sold. It's great for ages 6 months to 12 months and, thanks to easy folding capabilities, is easily transportable to Grandma and Grandpa’s house!
I love taking my baby to the park, but some days I wish the park would just come to us. Well good news, it can! This great starter playground is easy to assemble, and loads of fun for babies ages 12 months to 4 years old.
Baby's first books
Before they are able to recognize colors, babies respond well to black-and-white photos, helping to develop their eyes further. The high-contrast images include bananas and sailboats, among other objects that your baby sees in their daily life, such as chairs, animals and bottles. Over 9,000 five-star verified reviewers have raved about this board book, which opens accordion-style, perfect for tummy time entertainment.
It wouldn’t be Christmas without a reading of “The Night Before Christmas." Much like the story itself, this beautifully illustrated board book will stand the test of time against slobbery sweet faces, and is sure to become a bedtime read for years to come.
Introduce the budding bookworm to this timeless classic by Eric Carle. Their growing hands and eyes will also love the padded pages and colorful illustrations.
My boy received this sweet book from his grandma one Christmas and he’s obsessed with it. He loves the precious story, the playful drawings and hearing his grandma read him a story anytime he likes.
Don’t forget to check out Shop TODAY’s other gift guides to find the perfect present for every kid on your list including babies, 1-year-olds, 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, 4-year-olds, 5-year-olds, 6-year-olds, 7-year-olds, 8-year-olds, 9-year-olds and 10-year-olds.