5 Must-Have Items To Conquer the Toddler Years

Ah, toddlerhood. The moments between your child’s first and third birthday. These years mean different things to different parents. For some, it translates to independence and a growing personality. For others, it’s a hint of sadness and nostalgia in realizing that the infant stage is over and the fear that comes with the fact that the entire house is now a very non-kid friendly playground for a sometimes non-friendly kid.

For a first-time boy mom, I’m finding toddlerhood to be exciting and anything but simple. My 16-month-old son goes through more moods before his morning nap than I do in an entire week. One day, he’s stoked to have diced peaches for a snack. The next, fruit is the enemy and anything sweet immediately falls to the ground. While my kiddo’s daily routine is anything but a routine, there are some items that I can always rely on to keep my son entertained (and safe) while I hunt for an ounce of my sanity back.

1. A Sturdy Jogging Stroller

“Coach G” (as we call him) loves the Expedition!

I’ve always loved running as a form of fitness and stress relief. Sadly, pregnancy complications kept me from being able to enjoy my morning jogs, but as soon as my son was born, I was back at it. Once my son was old enough to hold his head up, off we went for 2-3 miles each morning. I find it’s a great way for me to feel in control and the fresh air almost always helps set the stage for a peaceful nap.

Even for moms who don’t jog or run, a jogging stroller is a great solution for walking trails, gravel roads, and curbs. I’d like to think of joggers as the Jeep of strollers. They’re hearty, reliable, and perfect for any off-roading adventure your family decides to take. The large wheels help to absorb shock and the additional cup holders and storage compartments offer convenience when packing jackets, bottles, and snacks for you and your little ones. I highly recommend the Baby Trend Expedition Jogger due to its multiple safety features (including foot locks, a safety belt and a 5-point harness) and its ability to fold up to fit inside even the tiniest of compact cars (like my Toyota).

2. Door Knob Covers and Lever Handle Locks

Everyone always tells you to baby-proof your home before the baby comes, but truth be told, by the time she’s walking, your child will find her way into nooks and crannies of your home you didn’t even know existed.

Our home has one of every door handle imaginable. If we wanted to be real achievers, we’d switch them all out to be the same, but we’re lazy and our imperfect home fits our imperfect life quite nicely. Finding child-proof guards and handle locks is another imperfect situation and has taken a few trial and error attempts to succeed. Because our son has mastered opening all of the lever door handles, we’ve already resorted to reversing the handle to lock from the outside and removing the handle altogether. As soon as we reached the point where we no longer had a way to open (or lock) our own doors, we realized it was time to invest in a few good door protectors.

For round door knobs, there’s nothing better than Grip Twist Door Knob Covers from Safety 1st. Not only are they incredibly inexpensive, they’re easy to assemble and remove (and I’ll admit, are even tricky for me to open at times).

For levers and handles, I’ve found the French Door Lever Handle Locks from Safety 1st keep kids out of unsupervised rooms and away from dangerous items. I’m not a spokesperson for Safety 1st, but I wish I were, because simply put, their products work and offer parents peace of mind at a price they can afford.

3. A Portable Music System

Fun fact: my son is obsessed with Bruno Mars. I don’t know why, but since he was about six weeks old, the only way to get him to stop crying in his car seat was to play “Uptown Funk” on repeat (sometimes for 45 minutes at a time … sigh). Even though he’s older now, his love for the pop musician lives on. He claps his hands fiercely at the sound of “24k Magic” and bounces around the house as best he can when a snappy tune comes on. We invested in a UE BOOM Wireless Bluetooth Speaker earlier this year to bring outside for entertaining and to make household chores more fun, and it’s one of the most rewarding purchases we’ve made. Wherever we go, we bring the BOOM and wherever the BOOM goes, our kiddo will follow. At just 16 months old, his personality seems to shine brightest when music is playing and we’re learning so much about him from how he reacts to melodies.

4. An Assortment of Inexpensive Kitchen Utensils

Look, I know this one sounds weird. But I swear, my son’s favorite toys in our entire home are the $1 rubber spatulas and plastic whisks. Paired together with a cheap pie pan, and that kid is in heaven. The louder of a noise the item can make, the better. A lot of parents think they’ve got to get the brightly colored gadgets with the bells and whistles galore. Those toys are great, but at a young age, your child really just wants to play with things they can throw around, bend, bang together, and suck on.

A lot of major retailers, like Target and Amazon, sell spatulas, soup ladles, and serving spoons in colorful multi-packs, like this 4-pack Multicolor Silicone Spatulas. Your kid will love the neon colors and you’ll enjoy five minutes to yourself while your toddler gnaws on his favorite culinary tool. (Also, I recently discovered plastic whisks do wonders creating bubbles in the tub! My son was entertained for a solid 15 minutes – which in parenting time – is about 2 hours)

5. A Sense of Humor

I know this isn’t technically an “item”, but it’s probably the most essential thing you’ll need to survive the tantrums, the sheer exhaustion, and keep your world from unraveling at the seams. Nighttime in our household is hit or miss and after months of frustration and pitying myself, I’ve learned to roll with the punches and make getting ready for bedtime a game. The same thing goes for changing plans on a moment’s notice. We recently celebrated Father’s Day, and we had planned for a relaxing afternoon out and about in the city. Our son woke up a little monster and our plans quickly changed to doing whatever we could at home to keep him in as good of a mood as we could. Is it hard to practice forced flexibility? Absolutely. And for someone who loves control, it’s certainly something I struggle with. But our kids are only little for so long. No matter what age your kids are, it’s important to laugh at the failed moments and appreciate the little wins along the way.

What has helped saved your sanity on the wild ride of parenting? Drop a comment below!