9 unexpected Mother's Day gifts that are exceptionally useful

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seedsheet mother's dayAmazonA low-maintenance DIY garden kit could be a great gift for moms who have a green thumb but don't have a ton of time.

  • Due to the lack of free time, sleep, and requirements of baby proofing, moms with young kids often can't enjoy gifts traditionally associated with Mother's Day like candles and flowers.
  • As a husband to a mom, I've learned that gifts that can help a mom navigate busy days with ease and comfort can bring more pleasure than gifts that call for a break in the routine.
  • And since young kids tend to be ever present, items that are safe to have around the house make great gifts too because they don't add to what a parent already worries about.

It's ironic that for the first few years of motherhood, moms can't really enjoy many of the gifts so commonly associated with Mother's Day.

The lack of me-time, constant fatigue that comes with 24/7 parenting, and destructive and demanding nature of little kids render many potential gifts poor choices. The open flame of a candle isn't a wise idea around a preschooler, that vase of thorny roses is almost sure to be upset by a toddler, and no mom wants to wake up with even the mildest hangover when there's a baby to care for, so that bottle of G.H. Mumm Champagne might be more of a tease than a nightcap this year.

So what to give a mom caring for young kids this Mother's Day? In short, anything that will make her life easier. Anything that provides added comfort, efficiency, or removes a challenge presented by childcare will be a welcome gift. And if you can gift an evening of babysitting and an appointment for a massage, she'll definitely appreciate that too.

This list was actually inspired by gifts I've given my wife in the past six years (we have a five- and one- year-old) that were actual hits. While I've used these ideas for a couple of Mother's Days as well as birthdays, holidays, and so on, every one of them was a hit precisely because it made her life as a parent that much easier and more enjoyable - and because all of them are kid-safe, too.

Also, it goes without saying that chocolate is a requisite for all occasions - or no occasion at all.

Read on to find the best Mother's Day gifts for moms with young kids:

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Comfortable shoes

Comfortable shoes
Get a pair of Columbia Caldorado III Trail Running Shoes from Columbia.com for $120 Get a pair of Hush Puppies Cyra Catelyn Chukka Boots from Nordstrom.com for $69.96 Get a pair of PUMA Muse Metallic Sneakers from PUMA.com for $80

Some of the best gifts I've given my wife in the past few years have been comfortable, versatile shoes. She's on the move for most of her waking hours — especially now that our second kid is up on her own two feet and walking faster every day.

For the active mom who jogs or goes for long walks pushing a stroller or with a kid in a carrier, go with trail runners. Columbia's Caldorado III Trail Running Shoe ($120) is comfortable on concrete sidewalks, and gives plenty of grip and support on grass, gravel, or of course, on actual trails.

The Hush Puppies Cyra Catelyn Chukka Boot ($69.96) is a great option if she wants a more stylish shoe. They're comfortable from the very first wear with no break-in period and the suede has a coating that helps shed water and resist dirt, so she won't have to worry about getting them dirty too fast.

And for the mom who wants a casual sneaker that's a blend of both sporty and stylish, PUMA's Muse Metallic Sneakers ($80) works with jeans, yoga pants, or shorts alike. They're just funky enough to catch the eye and comfortable enough for hours of wear.

A super compact stroller

A super compact stroller
Get an Ergo Metro Compact City Stroller from Amazon for $299.99

Chances are the mom for whom you're shopping for already has a stroller (or three), but she probably doesn't have one that's this small. The Ergo Metro Compact City Stroller ($299.99) weighs just 14 pounds and folds down into a package measuring 20.5 inches by 17.3 inches by 9.1 inches. That's smaller than most carry-on suitcases (so, yes, it fits in most airline overhead bins) and lightweight enough for easy one-handed carrying.

The stroller runs smoothly and is easy to maneuver over sidewalks and around the mall, and it has a decent sized storage bin under the seat, which is surprising given how overall small the stroller is. The seat reclines and has generous padding, and the large canopy provides a lot of sun protection.

An easy-to-wear dress

An easy-to-wear dress
Get a Richer Poorer Tee Dress from Richer-Poorer.com for $56 Get a Richer Poorer Tank Dress from Richer-Poorer.com for $52

When a mom has a crying baby in one arm, a preschooler's breakfast in the other, and about 10 minutes left to get herself dressed and out the door with the kids in tow, having a go-to dress is a beautiful thing.

Richer Poorer makes what could be called elevated basic apparel — the garments are simple but stylish and well-made, and best of all, but reasonably-priced.

Two dresses in particular — the Tee Dress (a T-shirt dress) and the Tank Dress (yes, you figured it out) — cost $56 and $52 respectively, come in multiple colors, and will never be out of style. Add a light jacket in spring or fall, or go with sandals in the summer, and the guesswork is all done.

A DIY garden set

A DIY garden set
Get a Seedsheet Grow Your Own Herbs Kit from Amazon for $14.99 Get a Seedsheet Grow Your Own Salads Kit from Amazon for $14.87 My wife and I love gardening and we used to spend hours tending to our vegetables and flowers before we had kids. Now that we have considerably less free time, raising a bountiful harvest of fruits and veggies is as much a challenge as a pleasure.

That's why we're both so enamored with the brand Seedsheet, which sells all-in-one gardening systems that can be set up easily. Planting the seeds take about five minutes and then you just keep the soil moist until it's time to harvest (read: eat) or transplant maturing plants.

Seedsheet kits come in multiple varieties like herb and salad blends, and with just about everything you need to start your garden, even including soil and a planter.

Leggings

Leggings
Get a pair of Cariloha Athletic Cropped Leggings from Amazon.com for $79

Whether you call them leggings, yoga pants, or something else, you know what I'm talking about — the super comfortable, widely versatile, lower body apparel option that's in every woman's wardrobe. Every mom I know has a pair so they can get out the door fast to exercise, run errands, get the kids from school, meet a friend for coffee, or head to the airport and get out of town.

Cariloha makes clothes with a blend of cotton and sustainable bamboo fibers, resulting in leggings (and tanks, shirts, and more) that are super comfortable and suitable for wear in all sorts of situations. And of course, they have handy pockets at the hips that are perfect for a phone or wallet.

A cookbook for healthy meals

A cookbook for healthy meals
Get Recipes for Your Perfectly Imperfect Life by Kimberly Snyder from Amazon Get a copy of Healthier Together by Liz Moody from Amazon

Recipes that are easy to make, nutritious, and tasty can help take the strain off meal prep while bringing some exciting new dishes into the culinary rotation. The key is to find cookbooks with recipes that are genuinely easy to prepare and don't use a lot of outlandish ingredients, as a trip to the grocery store negates the whole quick-and-easy thing.

Recipes for Your Perfectly Imperfect Life by Kimberly Snyder contains plenty of easy (and vegetarian) recipes, and also has comprehensive information about various foods, explaining the specific benefits of ingredients like millet (a grain that is rich in amino acids) or hemp milk (which has tons of proteins and omega 3s). It's a great cookbook for someone who wants to create healthy meals and learn more about the foods themselves.

Healthier Together: Recipes for Two--Nourish Your Body, Nourish Your Relationships by Liz Moody is a great cookbook for preparing a romantic meal after the kids fall asleep. Its recipes will help you make the most of those rare moments partners get to share.

A food processor

A food processor
Get a KitchenAid 7-Cup Food Processor with Exact Slice System from Amazon for $99

Having a great meal to prepare is one thing — having the tools that will help make its preparation easy and efficient is quite another. The KitchenAid 7-Cup Food Processor ($99) can slice, mince, shred, and more. It will save immeasurable time compared to the old knife and cutting board approach to meal prep, and the generous seven-cup capacity means fast meal preparation for a sizeable family.

The device was designed with safety in mind, so you don't have to worry about little hands getting near whirring blades easily.

Safe "candles"

Safe "candles"
Get a LuDela Remote Control Real-Flame Candle Starter Set from Amazon for $99 Get a Moodoo Smart Home Fragrance Diffuser from Amazon for $139.99

What's better than lighting a candle that fills a home with pleasant aromas? The peace of mind that your kid isn't going to knock over the candle and potentially burn said home down.

The LuDela Remote Control Real-Flame Candle Starter Set ($99) uses a clean-burning fuel and works with melting scent rings that you can change whenever you want. The candle is controlled via remote control (or Amazon Alexa) and can be programmed to work on a schedule.

If you don't like the idea of having any flame at all, but still want a pleasant scent, go with the Moodoo Smart Home Fragrance Diffuser ($139). It uses pre-loaded scent capsules that can be mixed and matched to create custom blends, and distributes the aroma evenly throughout large spaces.

Chocolate

Chocolate
Shop the chocolate collection at Godiva.com

Maybe it's cliché, but most moms (and people) I know love chocolate. And enjoying chocolate doesn't take any time out of the day, either. Give a busy, hardworking mom assorted sweets from Godiva — anything and everything in its lineup is delicious. Chocolate gift sets start from $14.95 and go all the way up to $200.

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