Families should splurge on the wrappings and skimp on the gifts for a baby's first Christmas or Hanukkah, says Annette Axtmann, an expert on infants.
"Babies are more interested in ribbons and bows and pretty paper than what is actually in most packages," says Axtmann, director of the Center for Infants and Parents at Teachers College, Columbia University.Babies should be included in unwrapping presents for themselves and other family members. "Let them tear the paper and drag the ribbons on the floor," Axtmann says.
Parents should also be aware that a few weeks' difference in the age of an infant can make a big difference in how they join in the holiday spirit.
"While the 5-month-old will enjoy simply watching the lights on a tree or a twirling ornament, many 8-month-olds can use a large gift box as support when trying to stand," the professor says. "The 10-month-old might want to push that same box around the floor, and the 13-month-old would probably enjoy carrying presents to others in the room."
Axtmann cautions parents that family celebrations may be hectic for a baby, especially if they involve traveling to a new place and seeing new faces.
To ease the baby's tension, she says, parents should bring along a familiar blanket or stuffed animal and a jar of bubble mixture.
"Blowing bubbles," Axtmann says, "is an excellent way to preserve a relaxed, happy feeling for both baby and parent."