Earlier this year I posted our Top 10 Newborn Essentials, and now I’m going to hit you up with the top 10 things WE use to make life with a toddler easier.

1. Otterbox Defender iPhone Case– Our iPhones (a Newborn Essential, and everyday-can’t-live-without-it essential) are practically members of this family now. They go everywhere with us, and they’re great at entertaining a bored toddler. They’re also mega expensive and pretty easy to smash, especially when launched across a room after an out-of-nowhere tantrum.

The Otterbox Defender cases we have on both of our phones may turn them into a brick close to the size of Zack Morris’s cell phone, but they offer some serious protection. I have no problem giving my phone over to our 3 year old when it’s covered in one of these.

2. Talking Gina the Giraffe iPhone App  Keeping with the iPhone theme for a minute, this FREE app is a sanity saver around here. There’s just something about Gina that kids love. For Kendall, I think it’s that she repeats what he says in a silly voice. Sometimes they even get into funny arguments.

K: “I have a baby sister.”
G: “I have a baby sister.”
K: “No, I  have a baby sister.”
G: “No, I have a baby sister.”

Kendall will take our (Otterbox defended) phones with Gina on and actually play with her. He’ll take her in his tent and out back while he plays in the yard. She’s practically a member of this family now, too.

3. DVD Player for the car – Oh yeah, totally. Those of you sitting there in judgement who’ve yet to raise a child to toddlerhood, I’m not going to say “just you wait,” but I will ask you to hold your judgement until your kid is 18 months old and you have to drive 15 hours across the country, m’kay?

4. Antibacterial Wipes-  These little packs of single use antibacterial wipes are a diaper bag/purse staple when you’re out with a potty training toddler. They can’t understand why you wouldn’t want to run your hands all over a toilet seat while sitting on it, and toilet seat covers and the hover method are laughable at this age. So I just keep these with me and give the whole toilet a good wipe-down before he sits. They’re also good for cleaning hands after they try to pick up that piece of (previously chewed) gum in the parking lot.

5. Archer Farms Organic Fruit Strips– We go through 1-2 boxes of these every week. These are my go-to bribe when we’re out. I always have a handful of them in the diaper bag. Kendall loves them like they’re candy, but they’re made with organic fruit and no high fructose corn syrup, so that makes me feel a little better about bribing him.

6. Play Kitchen– It doesn’t matter what brand it is, new or old or re-purposed (did you know you can make a play kitchen from an old entertainment center?). A play kitchen is one of those toys that any toddler, boy or girl, will make use of. Ours is next to our actual kitchen, and Kendall likes to pretend he’s helping us cook dinner. He also “washes” Leyna’s pacifiers in his little sink, and “fills up” my coffee when I’m working. Basically, any toy that lets your toddler’s imagination do the talking, is going to be a winner.

7. Blocks- Big blocks, soft blocks, wooden blocks, whatever blocks you have, a toddler will make something out of them. And then they will knock it down. And then they will either laugh hysterically… or cry
(because OMGWHYWOULDTHEBLOCKSFALLDOWN??!!).  Either way, they will build something else with them, and the blocks will provide hours of fun… and you never have to put a freaking battery in any of them. Win.

8. Goodbyn Lunch Box– I added this to the list after I recommended it to about 5 friends in the last few days. Kendall’s been going to a Mother’s Day Out program since he was 1, and started Pre-K today. This has been the best lunchbox we’ve tried. The food truly stays separate. There’s no leaking juices from one compartment to the next. There are only 2 pieces to wash (bottom and lid), not a million tiny plastic boxes. It came with stickers that we decorated it with, and they’ve stayed put after nearly 6 months.

9. Wii (with Wii Sports and Sports Resort)I’ve said it once before, we owe a lot to the Wii this summer. The heat has been brutal. I’m content to just hang inside in the air conditioning the entire month of August, but my 3 year old was busting at the seams with all the energy he needed to burn off. He mastered a few of the basic games (like sword-fighting and baseball) on the Wii this summer. I feel better about him playing video games like this for an hour than vegging in front of a TV show. (Though, be sure there was plenty of that this summer, too.)

10.  Crocs- There, I said it. This one-time hater of the ugliest shoes ever is now such a believer they made her top 10 list- her toddler list. It’s just that they’re durable, easy for the 3 year old to put on himself, easy to clean, and they’re one of the few brands that fit his extra wide Shrek feet.

Of course, as with any list of “must-haves,” what works for my family may not work for yours. What about you? Have a toddler? What’s something you can’t live without?

Kendall is 3 years and almost 4 months (and I think I’ll officially have to call him a preschooler now) and Leyna is nearly 8 months old

Disclosure- I’m a Nintendo Ambassador, and the only product on this list that was sent to me at no cost was the Wii. All opinions are my own. 

33 thoughts on “Our Toddler Top 10 Essentials”

  1. Love the list. We have most of that…though the Wii is hard at 2. I just did a similar post for my tot: http://www.mannlymama.com/2011/08/2-year-old-gifting-guide/

    For us, easily washable toys(aka bath toys) are my sons favorite thing. They go every where with us.

    Also these markers: http://www.crayolastore.com/product_detail.asp?T1=CRA+80-5805&.
    No caps and they don’t dry out. Great for learning to hold them right and super washable. I need to order more actually to have other places.

    Last but not least, crayons in the purse. When in doubt, crayons are always exciting at the table.

  2. That is a good list. I have no idea what to add since i am never home and I have no idea of what to do or how to survive with the 4 C’s. But I guess I will try.

    1. Wife-Mom- Need for everything
    2. MiniVan- Cant pile 4 kids in an Escort
    3. Absorbant Towels- kids spill everything
    4. Clothes Picker Outer- I have no style
    5. Diaper Changer- I dont do diapers!!!!!
    6. Tom Brady- for when the wife is mad at me
    7. Chocolate- for when the wife is mad at me
    8. Disney tv- So i can go punch myself in the face
    9. Powerade- for when kids get sick
    10. List like yours- since my list wont cut it

  3. Let’s see….we love the Thermos stainless steel straw cups, especially since now both kids can use them. On our list, is “Blue Blankee”, flip flops with the heel straps (I have a Croc aversion), an elephant toy (stuffed, wood, book), random hand tools, a fenced yard, 12′ trampoline, and cardboard boxes. We’ve been getting rid of a HUGE amount of toys since both boys make everything else into toys.

  4. My son has extra-wide Shrek feet too. I’ve had the hardest time finding shoes for him! At least I’m experienced in it though…he got those Shrek feet from me. *blush* He loves his Crocs, though, and I love how easily they go on and stay on. They’re our go-to “running down to the park for a bit” shoes.

  5. I too love the fruit snacks – there is a coupon for them at http://coupons.target.com/ (for $1 off 2 boxes) 🙂 Great list. I hope I can convince my dh I need an iphone. We have been talking about getting a dvd player for the car. For us, crayons and other art supplies are pretty popular in this house. Both my 3 yr old and 18 month love to color!

  6. Love this list. I have the Otterbox Defender, we (the kids, NOT me) live in Crocs during the warm months, and I’m downloading Talking Gina as we speak.

    I buy the fruit leathers from Stretch Island Fruit Company (http://www.amazon.com/Stretch-Island-Leather-48-Count-0-5-Ounce/dp/B001CTO0YA). We get them at Costco. Absolutely couldn’t live wthout these. My kids also really like the Fruit Twists from Cliff Bar (http://www.amazon.com/Clif-Kid-Twisted-Fruit-Tropical/dp/B000Q5VNRI. Somehow they’re more fun to eat than regular old fruit leathers. 🙂

    I would also say sunscreen. A MUST because we’re outside ALL the time.

    Great list, Jill!

    1. We love those fruit leathers from Stretch Island Fruit Company too AND they have them on Amazon subscribe and save which turns out to be a really good deal. Haven’t been to Costco lately to see if ours has them and price compare, BUT they are around .30 cents a piece or so when you purchase the 30 pack on Amazon. AND so healthy in comparison to most fruit snacks. The boys love them, but myself and my hubby do too!

      1. I have never bought them on Amazon, but I think I just might. 🙂 Saves me a trip to Costco when we run out. I think they are pretty much the same price. They are around 10$-ish for the 30 pack at Costco. Have you tried the fruit twists? They are a nice change, and are similar, all fruit, no sugar. Yummmmm . . . . 🙂

        1. Oh, I am SO all about ordering things on Amazon. I have a Prime account, so free two day shipping on qualifying items rocks.my.socks.off! 🙂
          I haven’t tried the fruit twists, will need to make note of those to try later. I’m all for easy, healthy alternatives to those horrid fruit snacks that my four year old was previously addicted to.

  7. 1) iPad. The 3 yr old uses it so much, my husband bought a second one (I rolled my eyes at that. A lot.). Great for 5:30 every morning when the little guy is up and we really aren’t. Great for airports. Great for car rides.
    2) Large cardboard blocks
    3) Bucket of play dough and play dough accessories (cookie cutters, etc.)
    4) Trampoline. It’s dark, cold, and snowy here for much of the year, so we have a big one in the back yard and a little one for the house. Totally worth it.
    5) A sewing machine and extra material for making replacement lovies when your husband manages to lose the original in a grocery store four days after you gave birth to #2. Just saying’…

  8. My kids love those fruit strips too!

    I’m really liking the look of that Goodbyn box. We use the Laptop Lunch boxes and while I have loved the idea…I’m not loving all the little boxes and lids. BUT, with the Goodbyn, are you able to put things like yogurt or applesauce in one of the dividers without it seeping over to another? I sure would like the idea of only having two large parts to clean!

    1. That’s what I am looking at right now, I want something that is one piece if possible vs. the bento boxes since they have so many pieces to clean, keep up with, etc. I am looking at the Goodbyn boxes, but am worried about keeping things cool inside. I think that was the main ‘complaint’ per se when I was looking at reviews online.

    2. Yup! It’s never been a problem. Only thing is if you need to keep it cold, you might have to put an ice pack in the compartment next to it.

      1. I think I’m going to order one then! And, they have a 15% off coupon on their site right now.

        As far as keeping things cold, I’ve always just stuck an ice pack on top of the box in whatever lunch bag they carry to school. It still keeps everything cold enough.

  9. 1. Books – our #1 favorite
    2. Markers – the kind that only work on the special paper so no messes. Those along with colored pencils (C likes the fine-tip) and stickers are must-haves for restaurants & travel
    3. Wipes – for EVERYTHING, sticky fingers, runny nose,
    4. Snacks – our top: kids cliff bars, stretch island fruit leathers, raising, graham crackers
    5. Clothes – xtra shorts & panties for accidents, dresses are a must right now and Crocs (yes, we joined the club for all the same reasons, but the mary jane ones are pretty cute)
    6. Play Kitchen – same reasons as Jill, she loves it. The M&D birthday cake is wonderful
    7. Other Imagination toys – currently she’s been taking her purse everywhere complete with a key, cell phone, bracelets & whatever else she can fit in there. Babies & dress up too – all about Pretend Play!
    8. Skype – not only talking to but SEEING family is super-duper important and C loves skyping
    9, TiVo – Dora or Jake are always available when in need
    10. Park (within walking distance) ’nuff said

  10. I am in love with this list. I am ordering that lunch box and crocs tonight. Only thing I would add? Floor pillows or bean bag chairs! JD carries them around the house, rearranges his stuffed animals on them, uses them for story time, and practices his head first dives into them.

  11. Balls. Big, small, super bouncy, hard….all balls.

    Trains (no track required…yet)

    Something long that can reach things that are thrown up onto the back window of the car while driving (not me driving,..while I am a passenger). I prefer an umbrella.

    Trucks. The bigger the better…because then they can hold more balls and trains.

    A small chair that is just his.

  12. Talking Tom on the iPad makes my kids crazy! I feel a little safer letting them hold it with my Griffin military-duty case, but alas, it isn’t as pretty.

    Additions for our family would be stickers, markers, and balls. Good list!

  13. Gina is awesome and guarantees bunches of giggles in my house. Andplus we like to sing to her and maker her sing back, and then my husband beatboxes and we all die laughing. Awesome app.

  14. Great list! I am downloading that giraffe app right now. Landon loves to play with our iphones. I remember you talking about those covers so we’ll have to buy some of those too.

    And I like that lunch box too. But it brought up a question . . . do they make you bring a lunch for the kids or do you just choose to do that. Sometimes I look at what is on the menus for kids and roll my eyes. I mean, come on! My 1-year-old does not need to eat oreos for a snack!

    1. We have to bring one. I think they used to serve snack, like crackers or canned fruit, but they don’t do that anymore. I’m not sure if it was a budget thing or just because he’s moved onto an older class. I like sending his lunch anyway. It’s nice to have a little control over what he eats 🙂

  15. Jack is almost 4 and has been playing with some sort of blocks since he was like 2. We have just upgraded. 🙂
    For us, Thomas in #1 on the list. I’ve also heard awesome things about the new crayon dry erase markers. I believe I got some at BlogHer. I just have to remember when I put them..lol. My co-worker also recs a small whiteboard withe dry erase crayons for use in the car or to starting teaching letter and number recognition. Amazon has the crayola one for about $10 right now. I believe Target also has them.
    We are also HUGE into construction site anything. J does construction for a living and Jack pretty much wants to do anything daddy does. My number 1 is the applesauce in the pouch. I also gave Jack the Ella’s babyfood pouch that had apples, carrots and parsnips. It’s for babies but he LOVED the flavor. Oh. Freeze pops are a must right now. 🙂

  16. Don’t forget the DVR, so the little one can watch the same dinosaur shows 50 times (and someday I’ll get to watch the things I’ve recorded)! And also Crayola Color Wonder sets. These are great for long car trips, friends houses, anywhere you don’t want marker decorations.

  17. I love my Otterbox Defender because it’s me-proof as well as kid-proof. 🙂 It lets me hand my iPhone over to my friend’s toddlers safely, too… or so I thought. She recently got one for her iPhone on my recommendation. After weeks of playing with mine, it seemed to pass the test with her kiddos. Until a couple weeks ago when her son (age 2.5) handed her some pieces of the rubber outer part and said “Mommy, I eat you phone!” Yup. I’m just sayin’. 😉

  18. I love you so much for #5 right now. My husband and I went out and bought a couple of boxes. We are never going back to regular fruit snacks again.

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