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toddler essentials...
10 Jul 2013

Toddler-essentials

Last year, I put together my list of baby essentials for those of you preparing for a baby. Now that Ruby's a toddler, our essentials have certainly changed, so I wanted share an update of our favorite toddler gear right now, as well as our favorites from babyhood that are still going strong...

(And, if you're not the parent of a toddler right now, this guide just might come in handy for gift ideas for toddlers whose birthday parties you get invited to!)

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Clothing

At this stage, clothing gets more fun and doesn't need to be quite as protective as it needed to be during the newborn days. I typically try to limit basics to under $15 per piece, but I'm okay with spending a little more on leggings, shoes, and jackets now because they are so versatile and toddlers don't outgrow their clothes quite as fast as newborns do. I have a ton of my favorite kids' clothing brands, but I'll focus on a couple of our staples for this post... 

Leggings...Ruby lives in leggings. She has so many pairs, but they are really so great for toddlers because they're easy to move in, washable, and they don't have to be the child's exact size to fit (ie. Ruby can wear them a little small or a little big, and it all works). You know I love patterns, so some of our favorites include House of Mia, Little Hip Squeaks, Thief & Bandit, Candy Kirby, and of course, the $5 sale leggings at Gap or Old Navy!

Shoes...Ruby's favorite pairs are moccasins by Freshly Picked, cordones by TOMS and sandals by Saltwater. We've gone through multiple pairs of all of these as she's outgrown them, and they've all lasted so well.

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Sleeping

Many of the items in this category have stayed the same from the baby stage—here are the ones that we still use and love.

Crib...We still love our DwellStudio crib, and we're looking forward to converting it to a toddler bed within the next year.

Blankets...Ruby sleeps with a Halo Sleep Sack as her blanket for warmer nights, and this Serena & Lily sack for colder ones. We love the sack blankets because we don't have to worry about her getting buried under a real blanket. Once we move her to a toddler bed, she'll get a little pillow and a regular blanket.

Security Blanket...We started giving Ruby a "lovey" sometime last year, which she loves sleeping with—she knows it's time for bed when we hand it to her. She especially loves the Angel Dear blankets (so much so that I've had to get duplicates so we can wash them without her noticing). And the lovey was extra helpful to have when we recently took away her pacifier. It gave her the familiarity and comfort she previously relied on from her pacifier.

Sound Machine...We're still going strong with the Graco Sweet Slumber sound machine. It's so simple and so great. We even take it with us when we travel so we can place it next to her travel crib.

Baby Monitor...Bob is a tech nut and does very thorough research on all gadgets before buying. We ended up choosing this Motorola Video Monitor, and we and love it. The screen is big, it has night vision and a microphone, and it even tells you the temperature in the baby's room.

Space Heater...Our house has lots of windows and gets kind of drafty at night, so we love this Dyson heater for regulating the temperature in Ruby's room. It's pricey, but by far the best space heater I've ever used.

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Playing

Toddlerhood is such a rapidly changing time period, when kids go from just starting to show interest in mini cars and kitchens to knowing how to play educational games on an iPad. Every child is different, and many toddlers move on to new toys pretty quickly, but here are some of Ruby's favorites that she's consistently loved for several months. And you can see a theme here: Toddlers love imitating the things their parents do.

Small Toys...Ruby's favorite everyday toys include toy car keys, blocks (these and these are our favorites), a whistle, and a set of beach toys and a bucket for the sandbox at the playground. 

Big Toys...These are the toys that you spend a little bit of money on but kids play with almost every day. Our best purchases have been a mini kitchen, push car, and a grocery cart. We would buy a water table if we had more space (we just make our own version instead!).

Free Toys...Ruby's favorite toys are often the ones we don't buy, but instead are things like the peanuts in a package I got in the mail, a paper cup I was about to throw away, a balloon from the grocery store, or my car keys. At the end of the day, no matter what fancy toys you buy, the most random thing tend to entertain toddlers the most. 

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Feeding

Drinking Cups...Once your baby is off the bottle and/or boob and needs to drink from a cup, there are tons of options to choose from—from straw to sippy cup to transitional cup. I have tried so many, and so many of them leak! By far, my favorite sippy cup is Boon's Stout Sippy Cup. We also like the Lolla Cup and Thermos Straw Bottle for a straw cup. For a transitional cup, the Avent Natural Cup is awesome and pretty genius. And it looks funny, but Ruby loves drinking out of tiny party shot glasses. It's the best way we've found to get her to drink lots of milk!

Utensils... We started Ruby with The First Years utensil set, and then we started using Nuk forks once Ruby could use utensils well on her own. Also, these Tiny Bites food scissors make it super easy to cut up kids' food into smaller pieces.

Bowls...I have a million of these First Years bowls and lids which I use to store her lunches and dinners for taking on the go, packing in advance, or for keeping leftovers.

Bibs... While they don't have the cutest designs in the world, the Bumkins bibs are by far our favorite for the toddler stage. The material is soft enough to move, yet the pocket still catches a ton of food.

High Chair...We got the Stokke Tripp Trapp when Ruby turned five months and we were preparing her to get ready for solids and had her start sitting with us at the table. We love it for its clean and modern design and its ability to grow with the baby. As she grows, it's been super easier to adjust the leg rest. We also loved the attachable tray for the time before she had enough control to eat from bowls and plates on her own.

Booster Seat...The Prince Lionheart Bebe Pod has been our go-to for dining out at restaurants with Ruby. We initially used the chair at home when she was learning how to sit, but these days we mostly keep it in the car now for when we go out to dinner and there is no high chair (or for when she was too small for a high chair). It also comes in handy for outdoor eating, like at our favorite food truck nights. It straps to a chair or bench really easily and has it's own snap-in tray.

Snacks... Snack preferences will grow and change with age. Ruby doesn't need baby or toddler-specific snacks anymore, but she still loves snacks by Plum Organics, Baby Mum Mums, and Little Duck Organics. And these Munchin Snack Catchers are the best for active toddlers who are very likely to spill snacks!

Toys for Keeping Toddlers Occupied at Restaurants...When we take Ruby out to restaurants, she usually needs a snack or toy to entertain herself while we wait for the food. Some of the toys we've found that work best when trying to keep a toddler happy and sitting still at a restaurant include winding jump-up toys and flash cards with pictures. There are always games on the iPad or iPhone, but we try and save that as the last resort.

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Bath Time

This is when bath time gets more fun. Toddlers can bathe in a regular tub and play with toys in a much more active way. Here are a few of our bath time staples...

Hooded Towel...We're still going strong with the same hooded towels Ruby has used since she was born because they make going from the bath to the changing table so easy. We have a few kinds, but our favorites are this 3 Sprouts organic hooded towel and this Puj towel, both of which are still plenty big enough for her now at 21 months.

Bath Toiletries... We love the bath and body products by Honest and Little Twig, as well as Aveeno Baby for keeping Ruby's skin baby soft.

Bath Toys...Ruby loves Sassy squirt toys and her Skip Hop ring toss, which we keep in this Skip Hop toy organizer. And, we also love this handy Skip Hop cover for protecting your curious toddler from the bath spout.

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On the Go

Strollers...By toddler age, you want something light and easy to carry, since your child will go back and forth between walking and strolling. There are a million and one strollers out there, and I've been lucky to get to try a few different ones. For traveling on planes and for keeping in the car, we love the Bumbleride Flite—it's a little nicer than the very basic umbrella stroller as it's able to recline for naps. For walking around our neighborhood, I like strollers with a little more heft like Stokke's Scoot or the Bugaboo Bee. When we were visiting family in Philly this winter, the Bugaboo foot muff was a lifesaver.

Carriers...We still use and love our Stokke MyCarrier for shorter walks that don't involve us needing to carry a lot of other things (that a stroller might). Once Ruby hit 12 months, we switched her to the backpack mode, which she'll still fit in for another year or so. 

In My Diaper Bag...I've gone through so many diaper bags and made so many decisions about how much stuff to put in them. Only recently did I learn to pare things down during toddlerhood, simply because you don't need to carry around quite as much. Now I can bring just a diaper or two (instead of five), a small pack of diaper wipes, as well as a couple of snacks, a bib, a set of utensils, food scissors, a drinking cup (see FEEDING section, above), a couple small toys, a pack of hand and face wipes, and a couple plastic baggies. I just refill the bag every night or two. And these days, a bag with a cross-body strap is essential because I'm constantly running around after Ruby and need my bag to be comfortable and move with me.

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Travel

Travel changes a lot during toddlerhood. In some ways it's better because toddlers can understand what's going on and can be entertained by more things on a flight or a long car ride. But they can also walk, which makes it harder to keep them contained sometimes. I still stick to most of my tips for traveling with a baby, except we can get away with bringing less stuff now.

Stroller...Ruby has been on 12 flights, so we've learned our lesson and bring the lightest stroller possible. It makes the security line go faster and gate-checking way easier. We love the Bumbleride Flite and use it for when the strolling isn't far but needs to be as convenient as possible.

Travel Crib...A travel crib has been crucial for us. The first time we stayed at a hotel with Ruby, the crib they gave us was creaky and made a sound every time she moved. It woke her up, it woke us up, it was just terrible. Instead of chancing it with unknown cribs, we now bring our own. We love the Lotus Crib because it packs up compactly, is easy to carry, and has a handy side zipper if you want to turn it into a play area.

Packing...On our very first flight with Ruby at six months, we brought two large suitcases—one for our stuff and one for her stuff. Lugging around two over-sized suitcases, plus a crib, plus a car seat, plus a carry-on diaper bag made it look like we were moving to Europe for the summer. We've since learned to pare it down, with all of our clothes and personal items in just one large suitcase (which gets checked) and only bring a stroller (checked planeside) and baby bag through the airport and onto the plane.

Stuff for the plane...I use a large Le Sportsac as my airplane diaper bag because it's lightweight and holds all the additional things we need to bring on the plane that aren't already in my regular diaper bag. It's stocked with games, toys, snacks, and earplugs for fellow passengers (just in case). For naps on the plane, we also bring Ruby's lovey to give her something familiar and soothing while she sleeps on the noisy plane.

Whew! Those are the top toddler must-haves in my book. What else do you guys love and suggest for a toddler?

P.S. See the original Baby Essentials post right here, and follow along on Pinterest for more of my favorites for kids right here and for babies right here!

{Photos by Bob Cho}

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