10 Biggest Parenting Trends of 2008

From baby names to birthday parties, here's what we think will be major news this year.

  • Baby Names: Anything Goes

    We're calling it: 2008 is the year to break with tradition when it comes to baby names, says Suelain Moy, author of Names to Grow On. That means if you love Irish names -- but don't have an ounce of Celtic blood in you -- go with Aiden anyway. "Parents are also really starting to play around with language," says Moy, creating "Nevaeh" from "Heaven" spelled backward or the funky "Semaj" from the traditional "James," for example. Miss your maiden name? Consider turning a surname, like Addison, Miller, or Carver, into a totally unique first or middle moniker for your kid.

    Trend Tip: Road-test an offbeat name by using it to make restaurant reservations. This way you can see how people react in real life, suggests Moy. Need ideas? Tap our baby name finder. We've got thousands; grouped by origin, celeb kids, theme, cool nicknames, and more!

  • Fancy Photography/Veer

    Toy Safety: Made in the U.S.A.

    For parents who've always wanted to support their hometown economies, last year's recall after recall of toys made abroad only strengthened their resolve. This year, a greater number of parents will be paying attention to where their kids' toys are made. "Even if I suggest a terrific product and back it up with a personal guarantee," says Tom Albani, owner of Educational Clubhouse toy stores in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. "If it's made overseas, many of my customers won't even consider it now."

    Trend Tip: Of course, just because a toy is made locally doesn't mean that it's recall-proof, and just because it's made abroad doesn't make it an automatic risk. Get in the habit of checking recall alerts regularly to make sure your kid's toy chest is as safe as possible.

  • Better Work-Life Balance: Babies at the Office

    Can't bear to leave baby in daycare when maternity leave ends? Increasing numbers of employers are now embracing the practice of bringing babies to work. "As recently as 2006, companies tended not to publicize their programs because each assumed it was an isolated thing," says Carla Moquin, founder of the Parenting in the Workplace Institute, which maintains an ever-growing list of 70-plus employers that officially permit infants at work. "But now more groups are coming forward with this solution, which they view as a win-win for everyone."

    Companies get to retain valuable, talented employees, and new parents don't miss out on bonding time with baby. "At an informal, family-type business, mom might nurse at her desk, while more conservative organizations may convert an unused office to a quiet room for feeding and settling down crying babies," says Moquin. Programs are usually conditional on the parent being able to complete her usual workload -- and on baby being quiet enough to allow coworkers to be productive, says Moquin. (Translation: This may mean leaving baby in daycare or with another caretaker occasionally to attend meetings or plow through big projects.) And most employers stipulate that once babies start crawling or walking, parents should make other arrangements.

    Trend Tip: Many companies haven't added this to the official HR rulebooks yet, but may make arrangements on a case-by-case basis. If you're curious, it can't hurt to ask!

  • Nurseries: Sophisticated & Sleek

    Traditional nursery colors get all grown up in 2008. After all, who says babies love pale pastel pink any more than deep pumpkin or plum? "Parents who take pride in their home decor want their choices to work from room to room -- they don't want the nursery to be a strange pastel sanctuary," says Christiane Lemieux, creative director of DwellStudio, a NYC-based home furnishings business that just launched a lower-priced line at Target. What's more, infants can see contrasting colors and bold graphics better than softer muted shades, so baby's surroundings can be a better teaching tool for shapes and colors.

    Trend Tip: The hot hues this year: For girls, Lemieux likes bright yellow, deep burgundy, or purplish gray (which she says also looks great accented with baby pink if you want to inject some traditional girliness). Cool picks for boys include aqua or hunter green instead of pastel blue.

  • Jay and Varina Patel

    Family Travel: Shacking Up

    Getting away with the kids: Fun, yes. Relaxing? Not always. More than ever, families are choosing to relieve some of the babysitting pressure by traveling with another brood -- to large resorts, houses they rent together, and everything in between. "Going away with friends may make things easier on everyone," says Emily Kaufman, author of The Ultimate Book of Family Travel. Kids have new playmates to keep them busy, and couples can alternate giving each other nights off for dinner and downtime. An added bonus: It's a great way to reconnect with far-away friends you haven't seen as often (if ever) post-baby.

    Trend Tip: Be sure to pick another family you're compatible with, both in traveling and parenting style. The trip won't be fun for very long if you're super-strict about bedtime while your friend lets the kids stay up late to sneak in a showing of Finding Nemo. "Be clear about expectations from the early planning stages, from splitting costs to spending time together," says Kaufman. "And know where you each stand on things like snacks and meals, bedtime, and childcare."

  • David Roth

    Baby Showers: Celebrations for Every Baby

    Why stop after baby #1! Showers for baby #2, #3, and beyond continue to grow more popular this year, say Alyssa Sadoff and Hilary Valentine, the founders of Momcierge.com, a NYC-based company that helps plan events for and organize the lives of busy families. Your need for cribs and strollers may go down the second time around, but why miss a chance to get together with everyone you love and celebrate? The trick to pulling it off: Make it less about baby gifts and cutesy games and more about girlfriend bonding and pampering mom before the newborn arrives.

    Trend Tip: Try these fun, mom-centered shower presents: chipping in for her dream designer diaper bag, gift certificates for prenatal massages or housekeeping service, comfy PJs or IOUs for dinner deliveries after baby arrives.

  • iStockphoto

    Baby Web Sites: Keeping Everyone in the Loop

    Sharing baby news via hours of Sunday-night phone calls or huge mass e-mails is so 2007. This year more and more families are creating personalized baby Web sites full of photos and videos to keep everyone up to date. And you don't need a computer science degree to know how to build one. "These sites offer a number of design and layout options that are totally user-friendly so you can get creative without spending a lot of time or having tons of technical know-how," says Jennifer L. DeLeo, associate editor at PCMag.com. "It's like scrapbooking has gone digital."

    Trend Tip: Check out some of these cool mom-baby Web sites to get started: TheFamilyPost.com, Smilebox.com, Babysites.com, and Scrapblog.com. They're especially great for far-flung families. Even grandparents who don't see baby that often can still feel like they get to watch him grow up day by day.

  • Birthday Party Themes: Let's Get Physical

    This year more than ever, birthday party guests are getting moving. "We're seeing more parents interested in planning parties that are active now," says Lisa Kothari, author of Dear Peppers and Pollywogs...What Parents Want to Know about Planning Their Kids' Parties (named after her party-planning Web site). As parents continue to seek seamless ways to incorporate physical activity into their kids' lives, passive activities like arts and crafts and circle games have given way to hide-and-seek, scavenger hunts, and tag.

    Trend Tip: More ideas: Got a High School Musical fanatic? Plan a talent show birthday party where kids choreograph and perform their own musical numbers. If your child's obsessed with video games, have a Wii tournament, where players simulate athletic prowess in tennis, baseball, golf, and boxing. Book your local gym and let the kids play basketball, racquetball, and mini Olympic relays. Or try Kothari's fresh spin on the traditional slumber party: Book a hotel room so kids can go swimming in the indoor pool and then hang out in the suite upstairs afterward. Plus, get more great ideas for themes, food, and more in our cool birthday party planning tool.

  • Courtsey of Red Envelope

    Push Presents: Sentimental Over Showy

    Save diamond studs and tennis bracelets for Mother's Day: Push presents (birthing bonuses bestowed on mom for delivering baby) are becoming more sentimental and personalized this year, says Helena Krodel, spokesperson for the Jewelry Information Center, a nonprofit trade association. "Moms still want timeless jewelry, but at the same time, they love pieces that feel a one-of-a-kind, like a treasure picked out just for them and baby," she says. We like using initial pendant necklaces to layer the first letters of mom's name, dad's name and baby's name, or giving a simple silver locket with baby's first sonogram tucked inside.

    Trend Tip: If nothing but true bling will do, mix meaningful with something a little showy in another 2008 trend we love: stacking thin rings with your baby's birthstone, creating a unique colorful look as the family grows.

  • Discipline: Saying No to Spoiled Kids

    In a backlash against overly permissive parenting and the perceived brattiness it may breed, parents are growing less tolerant of bad behavior. Forget having a heart-to-heart about why it's not nice to hit; now, discipline- and time-out-espousing books like 1-2-3 Magic are among the top selling parenting tomes on Amazon.com (it's sold more than 650,000 copies). "The pendulum swung from the total discipline of the past -- 'children should be seen and not heard' -- all the way over to parents wanting to be their kids' best friends," says Claire Lerner, LCSW, director of parenting resources at Zero to Three, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that advocates for healthy development of children. "Today, parents are trying to find the middle ground. They're realizing that setting limits helps kids learn to deal with disappointment and frustration."

    Trend Tip: Wondering what to do when your kid's the victim of a repeat biter? Or why your 15-month-old is suddenly making a new game out of smacking you (hard!) -- and how to handle it? Get mom-to-mom secrets and advice in our new message board.

  • More Hot Parenting Trends We're Spotting

    * Moving in together: Even some families who have the space are choosing to have their kids shack up in the same room instead of in separate bedrooms. Occasional squabbles aside, young kids who share rooms may actually grow closer and become more adept at problem solving, say some experts.

    * Cheap and chic strollers: More and more Hollywood moms are being photographed with affordable Snap-N-Go stroller systems instead of splurgy Bugaboos and European prams.

    * And end to vacation schlepping: The arrival of companies like Babies Travel Lite, JetSetBabies, and Baby's Away, which ship strollers, car seats, diapers, and more to your destination ahead of time, helps new parents avoid the pack-mule routine.

    * Getting a good night's rest: Making sure big kids, tweens, and teens get a good night's sleep will be big news this year, as numerous studies continue to link too-little slumber to everything from behavioral problems to trouble learning to obesity.

    Copyright © 2008 Parents.com.