Everything looks cute in small sizes. That's why you need to consider function, convenience and safety when shopping for children's apparel gifts. You'll need to know sizes (weight and height are helpful, too) before you can look at the right category. And don't forget to think about the parents' lifestyle when buying for junior: a no-frills couple might be put off by designer kiddie duds.
Children will wear a size corresponding to their actual weight and height, not age (i.e. an eight-month-old baby might wear 12M clothes). Many manufacturers have charts on clothing hangtags that detail sizes by weight and height. Infant sizes are newborn to 24M; toddlers, 2T to 4T; little boys 4-7; girls 4-6X; boys 6-20; girls 7-16. Plus sizes (girls) and husky (boys) are sometimes available.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission frequently recalls apparel for kids that it finds unsafe, such as small parts on footwear, drawstrings that can get caught on playground equipment, etc. It also requires that any sleepwear (for children nine months and older) either be flame-resistant or snug-fitting. Sleepwear hangtags will state if the item meets federal safety requirements.
Look for infant clothing with features like snaps at the crotch for easy diaper changing. Two-piece outfits in every size range give a complete gift (no need for the parent to find matching pieces). Elastic waists accommodate growing kids; some jeans manufacturers (like the Gap) feature expand-a-waist gadgets for adjustable fit. Choose machine washable items for the easiest care.
Children's clothing has become as trendy and label-conscious as grownup lines. A well-turned-out child has become a status symbol (think Madonna with daughter Lourdes). Designer brands Armani, Burberry and Dolce & Gabbana all have tot versions.