I don’t do a lot of talking about my little Booga Bear on here anymore, but even though she’s mostly offline, I still get questions all the time about the toys and gear she loves. It’s one of the number one subjects of emails I get! Folks ask me all the time for recommendations on what we use and love in our house.
I wrote a post back when Juniper was just a wee little nugget about our favorite newborn gear, and I had intended on doing these kind of posts more often, but whoops! She’s almost 15 months old, and I’m just now getting around to sharing with you a second post. Best laid plans, and all that.
I will say that as I get further into this parenting journey, I’m realizing more and more how little you actually need. Honestly, some diapers, some clothes, a good carrier, a safe place for the kid to sleep, and lots of love, and you’re good. But, thankfully, we have enough resources to be able to purchase some items that make life with a toddler easier and more fun. Here are our favorites:
Juni picked up how to drink water from an open cup early on, but we wanted something that we could easily take with us on-the-go that wouldn’t leak. Enter this glass Green Sprouts cup. You’re probably thinking, glass? with a toddler? and I was, too, but it totally works! The glass container is housed inside of a plastic shell that makes it shock proof. This cup has been tossed, dropped, and thrown without so much as a chip out of the glass. We love that her water is in a glass container.
We also like that it is a straw cup (which is supposed to be better for speech development than traditional sippy cups). It’s a win in our house. The only thing we don’t love about it: if you don’t get all the pieces exactly snapped in right, the thing leaks. We only give her water in it, so it isn’t a big deal if it dribbles a bit here and there, but I could see how it would be annoying with something stickier like juice or a smoothie.
We love the idea of Juni being able to be an independent eater, so we started her with snack cups pretty much as soon as she was toddling around, but we found some issues with a lot of the snack cups out there—the biggest being that snacks went stale super fast! We usually put some sort of cracker in the snack cup for her, and because there was no airtight seal on them, they would be stale within hours.
Then we found this Boon cup. It’s got a silicone lid that pushes down so Juni can fish out her crackers, but once her hand is out, it snaps back up and seals the food in the cup—no more stale crackers. We would prefer her snacks not be in plastic, but we’ve yet to find a good plastic-free alternative.
This is the only thing on this list that we have used since the day Juniper was born—our Boba Carrier (and don’t worry, we put up her hood to support her head right after this picture was taken). We still babywear (toddlerwear, now) Juniper every single day, and the Boba is still rocking it after 15 months of heavy use. We’ve owned a total of eight different baby carriers, and they have all had their merits at different times, but we always come back to the Boba. If Juni keeps on loving toddlerwearing, we might have to upgrade to a toddler-specific carrier eventually, but for now, the Boba keeps on kicking.
I still use my Olives and Applesauce carrier, but its time is limited. It’s just not nearly as comfortable with a 90th percentile weight toddler. It was wonderful for the first year—I preferred it over the Boba for nursing when she was little—but it just isn’t quite as wonderful as the nugget gets bigger. I hope to sell it to someone who will love it as much as we did. Shoot me an email if you’re interested, it’s in great shape and I’ll give you a deal. I also have a barely used ring sling to sell.
We’re a KEEN family. I’d say 90% of the shoes in our house are KEEN! But even with our love of the brand, I never thought we’d spend that much money on shoes for Juni. $40 just seemed like too much to spend on sandals that the kid would grow out of in a few months. We tried a few different pairs of cheaper shoes, and none of them worked very well for us, so we bit the bullet and bought a pair of these Newport H2 Sandals, and I’m SO glad we did. They have been our go-to shoe all summer!
They have stood up to everything she’s put them through (which is a lot—she’s super adventurous). We will keep buying Newport H2s every summer as long as Juni will have it. Tip: if you don’t care so much about color/style, flip around to the different colors (especially on Amazon). We got Juni’s pair for $25 because it was a sale color.
Oh, sun hats. We had a tough time with you this summer! We had a really hard time finding hats that had a wide enough brim, but that wouldn’t flop in her face. Or ones that stayed on well. We finally found this Outdoor Research Sun Hat at an outfitter store in my husband’s hometown in Ontario, and it is perfect! Brim that is wide enough to protect her face and shoulders without flopping in her face. A few tightening straps to make sure it really cinches on.
We actually ended up getting the 3-6 years size for her, because we can cinch it down to fit her now (and, honestly, she has a giant head) and hopefully it’ll still fit her for a few more years.
The one issue with the Outdoor Research hat is that it doesn’t work well when Juni is in a carrier or stroller—the stiff brim makes it super uncomfortable for her. Enter the Urban Baby Bonnet. We got it as a gift, and we are so thankful, because we use it almost daily! It’s soft and cozy enough that she falls asleep wearing it in the carrier and stroller all the time. They also have some seriously adorable prints.
They also have a fleece-lined winter one that we’ll probably be nabbing for her before the temps drop.
Speaking of sun, finding a good quality, chemical-free sun screen for Juni was important to us—and thanks to a recommendation from my sister, we landed on this sunscreen from Purple Prairie Botanicals. The stick makes it really easy to cover a wiggling toddler, and it works so well. The lotion is also awesome (Craig actually prefers the lotion—he likes the lathering-up method of attack). Admittedly, Juniper has a dark complexion, so she doesn’t burn easily, but she never even had a touch of redness this summer (and we were outside a ton).
In general, we love, love, love Purple Prairie’s stuff. We use their Prairie Baby Soap, Prairie Baby Lotion, and Bug Spray on Juni. I use their Body Butter, Deodorant, and Hand Sanitizer. I love that they sell sample sizes of most of their products. Great for trying out, or throwing in your bag (I swear we have at least a half-dozen of the sample sizes of the SunStick kicking around our house).
Yup, we’re still loving our cloth diapers! We’ve been using BumGenius’s all-in-one Freetime diapers since Juni was about six weeks old, and they are still going strong. I honestly think they still look as good as new, even though they get washed every few days. I’m really glad we decided to go with the snaps on our diapers—I had heard that the velcro versions start to wear out in the second year of use, and our snaps are still rocking it (although, admittedly, snapping a diaper with a wiggly toddler is an exercise in patience).
I know cloth diapering seems like a really huge deal when you’re pregnant and doing all the research, but to us, cloth diapering just really hasn’t been that big of a thing. It’s just part of our lives. Totally normal. We’ve never used disposables, so we have nothing to compare it to. We even cloth diapered during our entire two-week trip to Canada in July. Ain’t no thang.
We didn’t really do a lot of baby proofing. We installed a cathole on our basement door so we could keep it closed and our kitty could still get to her litter box. We put a gate on the upstairs steps. We moved some stuff onto higher shelves. Other than that, we’ve been pretty lax about the whole thing.
Until Juni discovered the pure joy that is emptying everything out of our kitchen cabinets and drawers. We had already moved everything dangerous out of reach, but still, one can only handle repacking every single cabinet and drawer in a kitchen so many times before you lose your mind. We were spending an hour a day just putting our kitchen back together! So enter these cabinet locks. They aren’t super cheap, and they take some effort to install, but they work super well, and are really easy to open (we just keep the magnet keys stuck to our fridge). And don’t worry, we keep a couple Juni-safe cabinets unlocked with plastic cups and bowls that she has a blast pulling out and putting back in. We aren’t total buzzkills.
I’ve gotten old enough that I now realize how it’s more valuable to spend a little extra money on nicer quality clothes for my wardrobe that’ll last longer. That’s for my clothes. Not for Juni’s. There is no value in spending lots of money on toddler clothes. Seriously, we’re lucky if a pair of leggings makes it through one wearing without getting a grass stain on it.
We really love Old Navy’s toddler leggings in our house! They are thick enough to feel like better quality, but not so expensive that I break down in tears if she smashes a strawberry with her knee. I also love Old Navy for having solid, simple leggings, tanks, and tees available for toddlers. I like pink sparkles over gold lamé as much as the next girl, but I’d like to have a little variety in my daughter’s wardrobe, thank you very much. Juni wears a pair of these leggings almost everyday!
We didn’t own a stroller for almost an entire year with Juni. It just wasn’t something that fit well with our lifestyle (we don’t have any sidewalks to stroll on here). But when she started to get a little more independent and we could go out-and-about, we decided to invest in a lightweight stroller. We’ve loved, loved, loved our 3D Lite! Just like the name suggests, it’s super light and convenient—but it’s not flimsy like some of the umbrella strollers on the market. It folds small enough that we just keep in the back of our car all the time. At around $80, it’s also really affordable. I will say that we don’t use it super often (less than once a week), so I can’t really speak to durability, but so far, so good.
Now this is something we actually “stroll” around in! Juni loves her red Radio Flyer (and we do, too). It has big ole tires that can even handle our bumpy, rough, and very hilly property. You can buy custom cushions for the bottom, but we just fit ours with a $10 patio furniture bench cushion, and it works perfectly. Juni’s a big fan of going on the bumpy gravel driveway.
We have a lot of bath toys (we’re big fans of bathtime in this house), but this fishing game is our absolute favorite. Unlike many of the other bathtime fishing games that require such perfect hand-eye coordination that it’s hard for even adults to do, this game uses magnets that even our 15 month old figured out pretty quickly. I like that it is still helping her develop her hand-eye coordination, but it’s giving her a “win” so she doesn’t get frustrated or bored. She gets so giddy when she catches a fish!
I could go on about toys for hours, but I’ll try to limit to just our absolute favorites, and of course baby’s first LEGO set makes the list! We have so much fun with these. Juni has been a rockstar at dismantling LEGOs for months now, and she’s just now getting the hang of pushing the bricks together to make towers. Mommy and Daddy have lots of fun with the LEGOs, too.
I’ll keep this one broad—Juni hasn’t met a musical instrument she doesn’t love. That girl loves to make music and dance, dance, dance! We have egg shakers, a tambourine, a mini djembe, and a jingle bell stick, and she loves them all. She also has two mini keyboards—one at our house and one at the grandparents’—and she adores both of them. This kitty piano is the one that lives at her grandparents’ house, and I would say that it is her favorite toy, period. She loves this thing. Each time we walk into my parents’ house, she makes a beeline for the kitty piano!
Okay, I think that about covers the stuff we loooveee! As Juni’s needs and tastes change over the next few months, I’m sure we’ll have a whole new list. I’ll try to come and update you with our newest favorite gear before another year goes by (try). Other parents, share what makes your life with a toddler easier in the comments!