Beyond Toys: 5 Meaningful First Birthday Gift Ideas


The first birthday is an exciting milestone. Maybe you’re trying to come up with a special gift idea for a party you’re invited to, or maybe family is asking you for gift ideas, and you don’t want another well intentioned but loud flashing toy that requires multiple batteries. Here are five meaningful first birthday gift ideas beyond toys.

No gift

Some invitations politely request “no gifts” and as uncomfortable as that might make you feel, the best gift in this instance is what the host has requested. Or, inquire if there is a cause dear to the host parents’ hearts that you can contribute to in honor of their little one.

Requesting no gifts is knowing your little family is all you need. It is an invitation for guests to come simply in celebration of the occasion. Alternatively, suggesting a donation gift allows your guests to feel involved while paying it forward.

Smash Cake

One memorable first birthday tradition is the smash cake. Offer or ask for an on-theme smash cake, or on the lower end of price points, give or ask for smash cake photo accessories (e.g. Pinterest-eque highchair decor or outfit). Make a Pinterest board and share ideas. This could be a fun collaborative project with a sister/sister-in-law or close girlfriend!


Consider a gift that helps capture memories of the day. Offer to help take photos/video at the party, or offer to help set up a DIY party photo booth or book a separate mini family session!

If you are considering asking a loved one to be in charge of photography, have reasonable quality expectations, or be familiar with who would be a good fit for the task. If you are interested in being gifted a mini family session, make a suggested list of specific people or styles you like (e.g. family portraits vs. lifestyle).

first birthday gift ideas

Gift for the parents

The first birthday might be the last occasion where it is acceptable to give a gift to the parents instead of the child! Give something celebratory like a gift card for that hot new restaurant, or gift something practical like a gift card for diaper or coffee runs. (A gift card for a meal service is both celebratory and practical!)

It could be a little awkward to ask for a gift for yourself, but one idea is to ask for help babysitting for a date night. If the gift giver generously offers to help make reservations or buy entertainment tickets, that’s icing on the cake.

Here are some ideas for gifts for the parents:

Amazon Gift Card

Blue Bottle Coffee Subscription 

Golden Gate Mothers Group Membership

Honest Gift Card

Munchery Gift Card

Open Table Gift Card

Pocket Chefs Gift Card (Get $25 off your first booking until June 1, 2018)

Target Gift Card

UrbanSitter Gift Card


Maybe the most popular meaningful gift of all is gifting experiences. Memberships to local museums or play spaces give the ongoing gift of quality time for parents and child. The following organizations offer easy ways to gift memberships (including gift cards that can be used towards membership).

Bay Area Discovery Museum

California Academy of Sciences

Children’s Creativity Museum


Natural Resources

Peek-a-Boo Factory

Recess Urban Recreation

San Francisco Zoo

Or, families can chose their own adventure: Pearachute and Galore offer gift cards for booking family activities.

Now you have five meaningful first birthday gift ideas with no batteries or gift wrap required! For those with older little ones, what was the most meaningful first birthday  gift you received?



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