I can remember looking around our living room shortly after my son J was born and wondering why the smallest person in the house required the most “stuff.” I was surrounded, and I suddenly felt like we needed a bigger house. All of this stuff taking over the house can be a little intimidating. If you’re like me, you may find yourself wondering why in the world you need it all, why it’s so hard to clean and why you’re always missing at least one block from the set.
What you really “need”
As any commercial or your persistent child will tell you, you need it all! Your child’s life just won’t be complete without the brand new, ultra fabulous, deluxe model of everything. Don’t ever tell my husband that I said this, but you don’t need it all. Several things I insisted that we needed for our son turned out to be completely unnecessary and more of a pain than anything else.
Take those adorable little shopping cart and high chair covers, for example. They were a touchy subject at our house for a while. I argued that it would be much more sanitary and keep J from getting his legs pinched in the shopping cart like our generation experienced (and survived, by the way). The first time I tried to put that cover into a shopping cart with one hand at a busy grocery store entrance while holding a heavy and squirmy baby, I knew I was dead wrong. We did not need that thing, and I am still eating my words.
What’s just not worth it
Other objects that I’ve discovered to be unnecessary in J’s first two years include:
Wipe warmers. The wipes at the bottom of the warmer always dried out and were ruined, and that’s money out the window!
Free-standing high chairs. So cute, but so messy and always in the way. A better alternative for us is a chair that safely straps onto one of our dining room chairs. It works perfectly. It’s all plastic, so it’s easy to clean and it takes up no extra room.
Shoes in the pre-walking months. What is it about miniature shoes? I just want them! Full disclosure—my soon to debut daughter already has a closet full of these useless shoes. If you have more restraint than I do, just know that children don’t need shoes on their feet until they start using them.
Crib bedding sets. These usually come with a comforter, crib bumpers, a crib skirt and a fitted sheet. All you really need is the fitted sheet and possibly the crib skirt if you plan to use the area under the crib for storage. J’s comforter was never used and the bumpers are actually a suffocation hazard. You’re better off buying fitted crib sheets and breathable crib bumpers.
Bulky travel systems. We did get some use out of ours, but the stroller was so bulky that I abandoned it for an umbrella stroller that didn’t take up the entire trunk of my car. Whatever stroller you decide on, test it out first. It should be lightweight and easy to set up and put away with one hand.
Flashy trainer toilets. J’s potty consists of two pieces of plastic. I can wipe it clean without breaking a sweat. Does he like it? It’s blue, and that’s all he cares about.
Toddler beds. While we haven’t made this transition yet, we are planning to simply put his mattress on the floor until he learns not to roll out of bed. If your crib is already equipped to convert to a toddler bed, then go for it!
Speaking of convertible cribs, when you do make purchases, look for multipurpose items to avoid making a new purchase every six months. The bassinet that we used for J and again for our daughter, R, is an attachment to our playpen. So, instead of using a bulky bassinet for a month or so, then tossing it in a closet until baby number two, we got all kinds of use out of the playpen in the meantime. We also discovered baby bottles that had interchangeable sippy cup lids, so when J was ready to switch to cups we just had to buy new lids instead of a new set of cups as well.
A word on cleaning
Now that I know how messy kids are (thanks for that lesson, J), I refuse to buy anything that isn’t machine washable, dishwasher safe or easily wiped clean. Any piece of baby equipment with a fabric component should be removable so you can regularly toss it into the washing machine. The best baby and toddler toys are the ones that are plastic and free of small holes and crevices. If I can’t drop it in a sink of soapy water, hose it down or wipe it with some non-toxic cleaner, I just don’t want it.
Older kids—if you haven’t already noticed—are all about toys with tons of pieces, like blocks, puzzles, toy cars or play sets with a gazillion pieces. You can’t avoid these toys completely, but you can stay one step ahead with some organization bins or toys that come with their own storage boxes or bags. A little organization goes a long way; if you don’t believe me, just wait until you step on your first wooden block on the way to the kitchen for a glass of water in the middle of the night.
Whatever you decide, keep safety and convenience in mind. Ask around before you make big purchases and check recalls on the Consumer Product Safety Commission.