Stuff I Can’t Live Without

You don’t get this far as a parent without having a few go-to tools, toys, and tricks in your bag.

In my daughter’s 3+ years of life, I’ve got a few products of my own that I’ve come to rely on heavily.

(Some of them she’s outgrown. Others we still get use out of every single day!)

If you’re a new or first-time parent looking for a few good recommendations, here is all of my favorite baby and toddler stuff that I can’t live without.

(These aren’t just generic recommendations… These are the actual products and models that I use, or at least as close to it as I can find.)


Ah, sleep. That thing you won’t be getting enough of for the forseeable future.

It might be in scarce supply, but here are a few things I’ve found that have made my life a lot easier in the wee hours of the night.

Travel Crib / Toddler Bed

Our first attempt at a travel sleeping solution for our daughter was a massive, bulky pack ‘n play.

It quickly became our favorite place to change her and toss our junk.

I don’t think we folded it up and took it somewhere even once before we eventually got rid of it.

From there, we graduated to a pretty nice and easy to use travel crib that got a lot of use for many years.

(Although I was really the only one in the family who could figure out how to get it back in its bag.)

Now we’re using this incredibly easy to use, inflatable bed from hiccapop. It rolls up pretty tight into a travel sack, comes with its own pump, and sets up in about 2 minutes tops.

It’s got rails on the side to keep toddlers from rolling out and can hold a lot of weight, so I expect it to last a few years at least.

Our daughter calls it her “bathtub bed,” because it looks like a big bathtub!

Highly recommended for vacations and sleepovers at Grandma’s.

Check out the hiccapop Inflatable Travel Toddler Bed on Amazon

Baby Monitor

A good baby monitor is one of the first things you’ll buy when setting up a nursery, and if you get a good one, it’ll last you until the day you no longer need it.

This one from Infant Optics has been a perfect fit and has held up well for going on 4 years.

It’s starting to finally lose it’s ability to hold a charge, and occasionally has interference issues when you’re near your cell phone or a remote control, but in general it’s pretty top notch.

(It’s also pretty damn near unhackable.)

What I like about this monitor:

  • The camera rotates and is easily controlled by the handset
  • Two-way talk
  • Temperature gauge
  • Lights up to indicate loud noise (if you have the volume turned down, it’s really helpful)

Definitely been a great purchase.

Check out the Infant Optics DRX-8 Video Baby Monitor on Amazon

Baby Swing

Yeah, you could say we had a few restless nights after first bringing our daughter home.

There were definitely some nights where nothing seemed to work.

All my best swaddling moves, rocking moves, shushing, and singing were all for naught.

Then we decided to get a motorized swing, and oh boy…

Game changer!

It’s not a permanent sleeping solution, but for those really tough nights, sometimes babies just respond really well to the intense swinging motion and music.

It got us out of a pinch more times than I can remember.

I’ve got lots of good suggestions for baby swings (especially if you’re in a small apartment and need to save space), but this was the one we used with great success.

Check out the Fisher-Price My Little Snugarbear Baby Swing on Amazon


Pool Floatie

For a long time I didn’t really think there was anything all that special about this ladybug floatie from Body Glove.

We’ve used it as our daughter’s primary poolwear for a few seasons now and it seems to just keep fitting her perfectly.

But what has surprised me is all the comments we get of people wanting to know where we got it!

The truth? Amazon. Nothing fancy!

It is a really great life jacket though. It’s really easy to use and adjust, and while she’s wearing it I’m pretty comfortable letting my daughter do her own thing in the pool as long as I can see her.

Haven’t had a problem yet, and we’ve used this for about 3 seasons.

Check out the Body Glove Paddle Pals Life Jacket on Amazon

Playtime / Toys & Games

It’s hard to buy toys for babies and toddlers.

Not only are you never sure what they’re going to like, they seem to blow through toys really quickly and get bored of them fast.

I’ve found this especially true the more technology a game has. Light up sound boards and things like that just never seem to last us very long.

Here’s what has worked:


These puzzles from Melissa & Doug are really amazing for toddlers.

They’re just the right mix of challenging but do-able. My daughter will sit for 30 minutes or more with a few of these, by herself, just working through them.

(Although she’s starting to get a little too good!)

She’s really more keen on interacting with the real world and helping you with what you’re doing, so finding something she can sit down and play with independently has been a lifesaver.

Check out the Melissa & Doug 4-in-1 jigsaw puzzle set on Amazon

Random / Other Stuff!

Hair Spray / Detangler for Girls

If you have a daughter, especially one with thick, coarse, or curly hair, you need a good detangler in your life.

This stuff from Honest is great.

It smells amazing (like vanilla and orange), and smoothes out knots pretty well in the morning when our girl has crazy bedhead.

You can go through it fast, but it’s not very expensive and makes a great add-on to your cart when you’re picking up a few other things from Amazon.

We keep about three bottles or so of this stuff in various places around the house. You never know when you’ll need it!

Check out the Honest Conditioning Detangler on Amazon

I’ll keep adding to this list as I find more great lifesaving products!

Stay tuned