When we were preparing for our 2nd baby, our focus was primarily on our first born – what will he need or want, and what do we need for maintaining our sanity? Our toddler is very active, and we knew his needs would only get bigger as he grew and transitioned into being the big kid in the house. However, aside for some “transition” items that have come in handy (stay tuned for that list), there was nothing we thought of specifically for this purpose (toddler “essentials” for after baby #2). That said, there are some things have become invaluable for the toddler management and juggle of 2 in ways I could not have predicted. Here is a more detailed list of my Top 5 Toddler Essentials (After Baby #2)… these are not meant for ONLY toddlers, or only older siblings. But these have been our unexpected finds that have made our toddler/newborn life just a teensy bit easier. (Follow Linked Items for All Products)
1. BABY SAFEY GATES: (Regalo Safety Gate)
WHAT: The #1 childproofing tool for creating”yes spaces” and safe spaces all around your house.
WHY: While almost every parent will acknowledge baby gates as a wonderful safety asset once your baby has mobility, they become an even greater asset when you have a second baby to look after, because they allow toddler freedom to roam and mommy/daddy freedom from worry.
PERSONAL NOTE: We started out with only one baby gate when our son was crawling, primarily to keep him out of the kitchen. Due to the size of our house at the time, that was all we needed. But even when we moved into a larger home, we decided the kitchen was still the only place that needed guarding. We wanted him to be comfortable and welcome in any room in the house, but the kitchen, especially during dinner & cooking time, was always the biggest “danger” zone. Our son then transitioned to a toddler bed right around 20 months – a little sooner than we were expecting and rather deep into my second pregnancy. It was then that we realized baby gates could be our best friend, especially as we prepared for baby #2. Roger now had the freedom to climb in and out of bed on his own, and shortly after this transition he also gained the ability to open and close doors (yikes!). For this reason alone, we wanted to proactively maintain control over the situation, while still giving him a sense of freedom in his own home. We strategically placed baby gates around all the spaces into which we wanted to prevent unattended entry, and would open or close these gates at bedtime to make for “easy” mornings or any mid-night wakings on all accounts. We never gated his bedroom, and we never gated ours – our plan (which succeeded) was to always guide him directly into our bedroom. You’re probably thinking, “duh – that’s the whole purpose of baby gates!?” – and yes, you’re probably right – I’m surely not discovering a New Use for them. But they have become much more helpful in keeping control over a toddler while attending to a newborn, without feeling like you have to keep eyes on him at all times.
NOTE ABOUT THE REGALO vs. OTHER BABY GATES
We didn’t start out with Regalo gates – and quite frankly, at first we thought they were too hard to open compared to the one we had. But I will say, what’s nicer than double sided opening or an easy-peasy opening mechanism is having a gate that your toddler can’t figure out. For us, the Regalo has proven to be the only one that challenge our toddler’s child-proofing defiance. But baby gates come in all sizes, with extensions, different heights, and different opening mechanisms to suit your home’s needs.
2. TODDLER TABLE & CHAIRS (KidKraft Round Table & Chairs w/ Storage)
WHAT: A pint-sized table and chair set for activities, meals, toy storage and, of course, toddler tea-time. (we like this one because of the built-in toy storage net in the center).
WHY: What kid doesn’t love a table and/or chair perfectly suited for someone their size? And it gives us parents an opportunity to grace them with a sense of “adulting” that they so eagerly crave at this age. This is great for any toddler, but a toddler that has recently become an older sibling yearns for attention and responsibility that solidifies his/her role as a big kid.
PERSONAL NOTE: We got our son this table and chair set as soon as he was big/old enough to sit at a chair, and showed interest in playing on this type of surface. But ever since our daughter was born, his table and chairs have become an integral part of his daily routine in a way we didn’t anticipate. This set has been relocated from Roger’s bedroom into our living room (for better or worse) – it has become his primary breakfast table, and an oft-used snack table, as well. (We still maintain family dinner around our adult sized dining table.) Because this kid table is completely accessible to him, he enjoys leisurely eating at his own table, clearing his own plate when he is ready, and returning to his table for playtime. It gives him a certain level of autonomy that he enjoys and looks forward to every day… any time we offer him to sit at his table, his eyes light up, and he sits down it like a king on his throne. Eventually he’ll have a table-mate, and all my support of this may crumble when the fighting ensues, but for now, I recommend a personal-sized table/chair set for any toddler becoming the “big kid” in the house.
3. TODDLER BACKPACK w/ SAFETY HARNESS: (Skip Hop Zoo Safety Harness)
WHAT: Yep, this is a “kid leash”
WHY: Because, even if you never use it, knowing it’s there will give you a little peace of mind – and any little peace of mind when juggling 2 (or more) goes a very long way.
PERSONAL NOTE: Before I became a parent, I very much judged parents who “leashed” their kids. Then one day, after my first solo trip to the zoo with my newly walking son, I immediately went out and bought him a “leash”. Don’t worry, I judged myself as I made this purchase, but I had a glimpse into my future with an active toddler, and knew I had to do this – and with confidence. Now, to be honest, I have yet to use the leash part. But the best part about this backpack, itself, is that my son LOVES it. It’s smaller than a regular backpack, so it’s appropriate for a smaller body, and, again with the “autonomy” factor, it gives him a sense of purpose each day as he carries in it all his favorite trucks and trains. And I know, because he already loves wearing his backpack, if I ever did need to use the leash attachment (which is always available, just tucked into the side pocket), he likely wouldn’t put up a fight. Now that I’m busy managing 2 kids, and always wishing I had a few more arms, I’ve been eyeing that leash with a lot more intrigue, and I am so content that it’s there for me if and (more likely) when I need it.
WHAT: Yes – a TV show. Educational, mesmerizing, and probably full of subliminal toddler messaging… but it’s the only show that glue’s my son’s butt to the sofa and keeps him still for more than 2 minutes.
WHY: Because with 2 kids, the TV might become your best friend (and sometimes your best babysitter)
PERSONAL NOTE: I’ve never been AGAINST TV, but I’ve always been wary and cautious about how much “screen time” my son got. But this was mostly before my daughter was born. Well, to be honest, it was before I was pregnant with my daughter. But even when I relaxed a bit and enjoyed the “break” I got when he would entertain a TV show for 20 minutes, there was nothing that ever seemed perfectly age appropriate, entertaining, AND educational… until I stumbled on Little Baby Bum (LBB). This show is magical, and my son thinks so too… he asks for it morning, noon, and night (unfortunately creating tantrum triggers when we say no or must turn it off), but knowing that at any point I could put this on and he’ll be happy makes those difficult daily transitions (i.e. morning routines and dinnertime prep) a bit more manageable. It even provides un-interrupted baby nursing opportunities, which is otherwise unheard of when toddler is running around with ants in his pants. Plus – instead of super annoying kid songs, it’s full of common nursery rhymes that may come in handy on long car rides, as well. I also suggest giving your toddler his/her OWN Netflix profile. (It’s the best thing we ever did for the sake of our own video streaming enjoyment).
5. MARTINIS & ESPRESSO (DUH!)
Because a toddler mom requires something a little stronger than wine and coffee.