5 Essential Items For Parenting Toddlers

5 Essential Items for Raising Toddlers

The other day, it occurred to me that there are a ton of articles and lists out there about items one will need for parenting babies, but not many when it comes to toddlers. Perhaps it’s assumed that by the time kids are walking/talking, the parent is a veteran, and already knows what does and doesn’t work for them.

And yet…I don’t know about all of you, but parenting toddlers is a LOT harder in many ways than parenting a newborn. Did you all see this new book that came out? Parents of toddlers need humor in their lives for a reason– IT’S SUPER HARD. Sure, that 4 month old baby wakes up all the time, spits up, and can’t tell you what they need with words, but guess what. Toddlers STILL wake up all the time, spit up (usually on purpose, which makes it worse), and they STILL can’t express themselves with anything other than screaming (because, why use signs or words when howling is an option? Seriously, why are toddlers so LOUD?).

As I was rocking my 2.5 year old to sleep today (for the 3rd time), I started remembering all the little things that I’ve gathered over the years that have helped me parent my toddler and preschooler. I’ve also included a few things at the end that helped me when I was parenting our 10 and 5 year old foster children last year.

This list does not include “the best carseat” or anything– it’s a survival list, full of things that might just help you make it through the crazy years of parenting a toddler (or multiples, God help you).

microfiber cloths


1. Microfiber cloths–I have normal washcloths for wiping their grubby after-meal faces and hands, but these little puppies are an absolute life-saver for liquid-related emergencies. They hold 2-3x their weight in water! Just one will hold an entire toddler cup’s worth (ask me how I know).

You can find them in any automotive section, but I liked the pretty colors that they have on Amazon.Buying these was a bit of an accident– I didn’t know that they were actually used for car washing and the like, but if you could see how many times my kids have spilled their very-full cups of water on the ground (yes, intentionally, just to see what would happen), you might actually be able to envision a car wash in my dining room.

bjorn potty

2. Bjorn Training Potty— When I went to potty-train Gregory, it was surprising to me how many potties don’t have a “splash guard” for boys. The boys hardly know what’s going on down there, much less the fact that they can spray everything in the room (one more use for the towels mentioned above). This one is super cheap, no frills, but it DOES have a little “shield”, which made life a lot easier at the beginning.

Granted, there are miracle children who naturally want to make your life easier by immediately going potty in an adult toilet (mine FINALLY does, after 3 months of potty training), but sometimes you never know how your kid is going to react to potty training until you’re there and in the moment. And every kid is different, even if they’re siblings 🙂

sound machine

3. White Noise Machine– It always shocks me when people don’t own one (or two) of these. We got one when Gregory was 3 months old, and we have used that thing for millions of hours by now. When you have two kids and a smallish space, a white noise machine turned up LOUD is essential for keeping the smaller kid asleep while the older one plays. This is especially true if your preschooler is really into imaginary guns, transformers, and train noises.

I hear parents complaining about the doorbell, older sibling, or dog waking up a kid napping, and I think, BUY THYSELF A NOISE MAKER. Problem solved. Your kid will never get awoken from a nap again. We could not live without this little machine, honestly, and with it I can create a sleeping environment for my kids almost anywhere, which enables us to still get sleep when we’re traveling.

silicone placemat

4. Heavy duty placemats-– No, don’t get the cute kind. Get these from Bean Sprouts. They are the bullet proof vest of messes. I almost never have to wipe down the table after a meal– these placemats catch it all. They go in the dishwasher. They are sturdy enough for me to wash them in the sink without folding. The lip around the edge catches any liquid (or vomit, sigh) that may happen, and it doesn’t get all over the floor. These ones from Bean Sprouts are made from recycled non-toxic silicone, and, to be honest, sometimes I don’t even need a plate because this works even better.


5. Preschool Prep DVDs– Okay, okay, no mom actually wants her kids watch TV. But let’s be honest here. We all do it. Every mom I know has turned on the tv for a half hour here or there in order to preserve her sanity.

Sometimes it’s when you’re making dinner, and the kids are having a meltdown.

Sometimes, it’s when the kids are punching and biting each other and having a meltdown.

Sometimes, it’s when they’ve awoken 2-3x in the middle of the night, and still choose to wake up at 5am and have a meltdown (sense a theme here?).

It’s good to have something to reach for, when the going gets rough.

On the bonus side, these DVDs are the best educational thing I’ve found (Leapfrog DVDs are also educational but so annoying!). I have a friend whose 18 month old can recite her numbers, shapes and colors! My 4 year old has been sounding out and reading words since he had just turned 3. The music is classical and soothing, which makes for great background noise if you’re trying to calm everyone down.

Like I said, the best case scenario is that your kid never watches a drop of TV ever. But the reality is that they will, occasionally. This is TV that you can actually sorta feel good about 🙂

So, there you have it– my 5 essential items for parenting toddlers 🙂 Agree? Disagree? Anything to add?


And now the list of Honorable Mentions:


1. Leapfrog Alphabet toy— I like this toy because of how entranced my kids are with it, and because of how it helps them sound out words. A friend of mine’s child was reading by the time she was 2 using JUST this toy, if that gives you an idea.

It’s an honorable mention because the singsongy-ness is almost enough to drive you crazy. So, fair warning 🙂


2. Okay To Wake Owl— This thing is cute, but my kids don’t exactly obey it all that well. But for some people whose kids like to wake up at the crack of dawn, it’s a lifesaver (check out the reviews! wowza!).


3. Visual Packing Chart— This isn’t exactly a product to buy, just a helpful tip we found while parenting our foster children. They were super forgetful, not only because of all the stress they were under, but also because…that’s just how kids are! Psychologists have proven that kids cannot visualize certain things, especially when cleaning up or packing ahead. We created a visual packing list for our 10 year old’s morning backpack needs, and a visual chore chart for getting home. Both of these were very helpful in keeping everyone’s frustration in check!

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  • Lena Voth

    We didn’t have a white noise machine until Brenik was born, LOVE IT! And those placemats, totally need to look into those!

    • http://www.ourconezone.com Kelly Cone

      Yes, Lena! They are worth every penny!

  • Seana Turner

    We have something like 3 noise machines in our house. We absolutely love them. They are great for college too.

    • http://www.ourconezone.com Kelly Cone

      Really? For college? I hadn’t thought about that!! 🙂