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Scenario: I have absolutely no experience with infants or very young childs. In fact, I never had closer contact with them yet. But now …

I’m becoming an uncle/aunt/godparent/close family friend, and I want to give presents to the child (and I may not often be able to see the child). But, oh help, what am I supposed to gift? I guess it would become easier for me when the child grows older, but I have no ideas for those early years.

I’m not looking for specific product recommendations, but for an outline of appropriate product categories for each child’s year.

For example, when can I start to consider picture-books? Cuddly toys right from birth on? What else is possible for a newly born child? When to start with wooden toys like toy trains? (… I hope you get the idea.)

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The range you specified is very, very wide. Actually, almost all "toys" will fit into that range, since later on children get more "grown-up" toys like phones, tablets, bikes or simply cash. I think it would be a good idea to make a question for a certain age, and ask next question by the time your niece grows older. – Dariusz Feb 8 '14 at 15:53

The easiest way is to look at the recommended ages on the boxes. Although different kids are different, those recommended ages work for the majority of children, and take both safety and development into account.

However, after age two or so you also really need to ask the parents. Kids very quickly develop strong likes and dislikes where toys are concerned. My nine year-old daughter gets tons of stuffed animals as gifts, and she has never liked them since she was a baby, so we end up giving them to her little sister. She spends a lot of time in the hospital, and we have to keep a stuffed animal on her bed or else people will keep giving her more.

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