Ask Maggie: Nine Toddler Things I Can’t Live Without

Hi team. I’m having trouble keeping up with email, but I’ve been getting a lot questions from you guys that I feel bad ignoring. I figured I’d start answering some of them on Fridays, so this is the first one.

If you don’t care about toddler gear, here’s a video of a guy doing an entirely a cappella version of Thriller, using only his voice in place of all the instruments. It is rad. (Thanks, Kottke):

Awesome, right? I know! Now, on to the toddler question.

Hi Maggie,

I built my baby registry around your product recommendations on Mighty Girl. I have never regretted purchasing a single thing you recommended, and consider my registry, and the fact that none of my baby products went unused, to be one of my major parenting achievements. Is this weird?

…Please, please post your recommendations for toddler buys, esp. strollers.

Much appreciated,

Hi Ainsley,

Here you go.

1. The BOB Stroller

We have two strollers. A little umbrella one that I kind of hate, and the Bob, which is so good that I’d like to hold it close and whisper naughty things to it in the night.

It’s a little heavy when it’s folded, but the wheels are so big that I just drive it up and down our stairs while Hank walks, so I rarely have occasion to carry it any distance. You can also order an infant car seat adapter bar and make it your primary stroller from the beginning, but it’s kind of big for restaurants. Our Bob is excellent because it:

Moves like hot butter in a frying pan. (I could drive it with one finger.)

Is easy to fold and unfold.

Fits though airport security scanners.

Is crazy durable.

Can be driven easily on dirt and grass.

Is big enough that your kid won’t outgrow it instantly.

Serves as an outdoor bed.

Let me reiterate that last point. The Bob is so comfortable, that we can recline the seat fully and Hank will sleep in it. This means we can put him down for a nap or bedtime while we’re out on a walk and go for lunch dinner at an outdoor cafe (the stroller is kind of big for indoor dining). It doesn’t always work, but it works enough of the time that the stroller has paid for itself in saved babysitter fees. It also comes in a double stroller version if you have two kiddos.

2. Playtex Coolster Tumblers

One thing I wish I’d done from the beginning was buy a bunch of the same sippy cups, so the parts could be interchangeable. I love these BPA-free toddler cups, because they’re like travel coffee mugs, but with a restricted flow valve inside. They’re great for teaching kids how to use a cup. I just ordered a bunch of them in the same color, so I can just use whatever lid I come across. Also, you can order new lids and valves without replacing the whole cup.

3. Water Shoes instead of Sneakers

If you get a cute pair of water shoes, they often look a lot cooler than designer kids sneakers, and they’re way, way cheaper. Easier to pull on, they don’t get all gross when they get wet, and they last a little longer because they’re stretchy. Bonus, they’re comfortable without socks if laundry day comes a little late that week.

4. Phil and Ted’s Me Too Chair and the Handysitt Child Chair

We’ve never owned a high chair. The Phil and Ted’s was small enough to throw in the stroller basket and take out with us to dinner where we could easily attach it to a table ledge. When he outgrew that, we bought a Handysitt, which sits on a dining room chair most of the time. We throw in the car for dinner at a friend’s house, and it also stows easily if you’re having company and it’s not mealtime. Bonus, no tantrums about not getting to sit in a grownup chair.

5. iPhone

Bless you, iPhone video. So ludicrously useful for preempting tantrums, we call it the neglect-a-tron. Download a few of the kid’s favorite videos, and the most exhausted toddler can be dissuaded from throwing himself on the floor at the DMV. These stands are pretty great too.

6. Apple Slicer

It’s gonna come up.

7. Circle Wooden Train Set

If you have a little boy, this set is likely to be a hit.

8. Hanna Andersson Floppy Sun Hat

I don’t own one of these yet, so this is risky, but I’ve been searching high and low for a decent sunhat with a chin strap, and I just placed an order for one of these on the recommendation of mom-of-three Margaret Stewart. She says, “My kids wore these for years. I handed the same hats down through three kids and they were still in good enough shape to give away to another family after 8+ years of use!” Good enough for me.

Margaret also recommends this for the beach. It’s the cutest mullet hat I’ve seen, and yet it remains a mullet hat. I can’t do it.

9. Flashlight with Click Button

If you’d like to finish a novel start to finish? Hand the kid a flashlight for the first time. Enjoy.

That’s it. What can’t you live without? Tell us. Do!

And if you want to ask me a question about whatever, send it to maggie at mighty girl dot com.

50 thoughts on “Ask Maggie: Nine Toddler Things I Can’t Live Without

  1. I don’t know which to be more excited about: having my question posted on MightyGirl, or the fact that I am now just one degree away from the beat-box Thriller guy. Today is a good day.
    P.S. Thanks very much for the product recommendations. Let the online ordering frenzy begin!


  2. Agreed! BOB is the best! We heart him and his stroller with some serious fierce-ness! I love the Stokke Tripp Trapp high chair, the Miracle Blanket (not for toddlers, but for babies, but still…) diaper caddies (so handy), and my sister’s dogs (they could entertain our little guy for hours)…


  3. Playdough in the little 1 oz containers. These are available in the toy aisle in a tube and are also out at Halloween and Easter. I keep these in my son’s backpack or my purse. Has saved us many times when we are out to eat. We don’t let our toddler have it at home (too messy), so it’s a special treat for him to play with when we are at restaurants.


  4. We love the BOB, too, and recommend it all the time. And the iPhone. I can also vouch for the Hanna Andersson sunhats. We love them.


  5. I have a Phil & Ted’s Sport instead of the Bob, and I pretty much love it. I am watching a 4 month old for a few weeks (in addition to my 17 month old) and the doubles attachment sure comes in handy. It’s so streamlined.

    Oh, and Snack Traps. Those are the bomb.


  6. Hanna Andersson stuff is fantastic. Adorable and lasts forever. Their jammies (especially the soft organic cotton ones) are our staples.


  7. God bless the apple slicer. I think it gets used every day at our house. And invest in a good one. You’ll be sorry if you get the cheapo Target dollar spot one.


  8. I should own stock in Bob… I upsell the revolution to everyone one I meet! The size does have it’s disadvantages and so we have a cheapo umbrella stroller for shopping in tight quarters. My daughter was colicy and the only way she would nap for the first 3 months of her lap was walking and bouncing in the Bob. The stroller has better shocks than my car and you want to know durable… walking constantly for 3 naps a day for 3 months (and plenty of use since then) and it is still going strong!

    Oh and snack traps are great… until they figure out how to take the lids off πŸ˜›


  9. OH!! and it is so nice to hear that someone else uses the touch as a tantrum avoidance device. My daughter calls it “bird” and expects youtube videos on command – typically by the noise the animal she wants to see makes.


  10. i love these lists πŸ™‚ i referenced your baby one quite a bit when i put our registry together.

    we have the baby jogger city classic stroller and absolutely love it. came down to that or the bob for us and the one-handed fold up mechanism on the baby jogger is what sold me in the end. it is big, like the bob, but so far i’ve been able to maneuver it everywhere i’ve taken it – though i do have a little umbrella stroller that i use for things like the mall.


  11. We have the Phil & Ted’s Sport stroller ( with the doubles attachment for my preschooler and one-year-old and LOVE it. I don’t think I’ve ever taken it somewhere without getting comments on it. It is so handy for two kids, but the storage area underneath is not really the best. But since it’s inline and not side-by-side, it’s super small and easy to maneuver.

    Also love the hotslings ( when it’s not easy to use a stroller and I need both hands. I know that’s more baby-oriented, but I anticipate using it with my one-year-old well into todllerhood.


  12. That Phil & Ted Me Too chair is an astounding, astounding thing. I’ve watched two sets of friends-with-children use it, and it makes everything about 95% simpler. Want to have your kid sit at your friend’s kitchen table? Clamp that sucker on. Want to have your kid sit at the restaurant table? Clamp that sucker on. Packs light. Goes everywhere. Hooray for Phil & Ted.


  13. I’d love a recommendation for a good convertible car seat. How is it that they can range from $50 to $300? My friends have the Britax Marathon, but I really don’t want to spend such a huge amount of money unless I can verify that the Marathon is the only one that will keep my kid safe, and that all the other ones suck so much they’re not even worth considering. Help! Thanks. πŸ™‚


  14. The thing is, the other carseats all keep your kid safe too, but they suck so much to use (the twisting! the uneven straps! the wobbling!) that they will make you swear under your breath every single time you put the kid in or take the kid out. That has been my experience. Britax: Aaahhhh. Other: *&%$#!!!


  15. The Hanna Andersson bonnet is still in my family and the first wearer just graduated from high school. It so durable, goes to the beach, in the water and out and is ready to go.


  16. I am interested in hooded toddler towels. is there anywhere OTHER than Pottery Barn Kids that sells them?! My husband will just kill me if I spent $50 on a towel for the baby.


  17. Great recommendations. My little guy just turned one. I can’t wait to get my hands on that train! And, I have seen those flashlights, but never thought to hand it to him and let him have at it. What a great idea!


  18. I couldn’t live without my Combi Zeus car seat.

    It swivels!!! No more fighting around the baby to get those &$&*@#& straps fastened. You swivel it towards you, strap him in, and swivel it forward or rear facing. LOVE IT!


  19. I always set my iPhone to airplane mode so I don’t find my son randomly calling people or texting. After a few embarrassing incidents, it’s the best way to go.


  20. Hooded toddler towels can be found at IKEA – the little rabbit ponchos are a nice size, absorbent, and cost ten bucks.

    I love my Beco baby carrier. I love quickly securing my squirmy 19 month-old onto my back when we have to go somewhere (or leave somewhere due to tantrums). I love front-carrying his 28-pound self in small spaces whenever he’s sleeping, or if we’re moving through lines or crowds. Love love love the bloody thing.


  21. I think LLBean has hooded towels that are really cute.

    My top 2 toddler things are the Ergo (my daughter is 3 and still only 27 pounds, so I can wear her comfortably for long stretches of time still) and the Learning Tower ( The tower gets used several times a day and I don’t know how we’d manage getting anything done in the kitchen without it.

    Whenever I give my daughter the iPod to play with, she manages to delete apps or freeze the thing. I don’t know how she does it.


  22. My daughter will be two next month, here our must haves:

    1. A library card–We have a selection of board books at home, but I admit that I can get insanely cranky reading about that little old lady whispering hush for the 10th time in a row. So, after our monthly visit to story time at the library, I pick up a fresh stack of board books for us to read through. They’re out of the house in six weeks, and any new favorites can be bought.

    2. Maclaren Techno stroller–lightweight, great looking, super durable and my 6 ft tall husband is as comfortable pushing it as I am at 5’3″. It folds very compactly, and aside from sand, I’ve never struggled to push it over any surface.

    3. Phil & Ted’s MeToo Chair–Maggie is absolutely right about this one. I LOVE it and so does my daughter. We have used it since she was 7 months old.

    4. Small melamine bowls and plates (placed low so your toddler can get them him/herself)–We have these from Ikea: . These also great for dishing out small portions and keeping them separate on the plate. They are perfect for her small hands to carry around, and are durable to withstand drops on tile.

    5. They Might Giants Friday Video Podcast–Download the whole series. If you don’t find yourself singing along to every song in a few weeks. My daughter absolutely loves this and the 6 minute run times, makes it super easy to control her screen time. (The Sesame Street Podcast is a close second.)

    6. A child’s toothbrush with a long handle–Sounds whacky, but I mistakenly bought a small compact toothbrush for my daughter to use on her teeth. The problem is, it was really hard for me to finish the job without suffering a bite or two from her resistant jaws. The longer handle hasn’t impeded her ability to “do it it herself,” but it has made it much easier for me to get in there and actually de-funk her lovely toddler teeth.


  23. A pizza slicer. I use it several times a day to cut up everything from sandwiches to waffles. Much faster than a knife. Oh, and a chargeable hand vacuum for sucking up all the sandwich and waffle pieces that ended up on the floor.


  24. A battery-operated toothbrush. Although I don’t like to use one myself, it moves quickly and gets everywhere. Plus it’s a cool gadget to a three year old. But don’t buy the Crest Spinbrush. We have it and the batteries need to be changed weekly. It’s a 20 minute affair because of the tiny screws that enclose the battery case. And my husband wonders why we hardly have sex anymore. Ha, our sex time went to the Spinbrush.


  25. We picked up that same sippy cup this past week while on vacation and I hate that we haven’t found it sooner. Absolutely NO leaking (a huge pet peeve of mine!) and it fits in the cupholders of our SUV, so it was much easier to travel with. Excellent rec!


  26. You are the boss. I’ve been hearing that a lot in rap songs lately, and I think it means that you’re awesome. That’s all, love your blog, and will buy those sippy cups you suggested. I’m so tired of a soggy two year old.


  27. I don’t not have kids yet, ergo no suggestions. However, I have to say that I have that pig flashlight, and it rocks regardless of your age.


  28. We opted for the Bumbleride Indie Stroller, instead of the BOB. And I LOVE it. It’s very similar, but I think it folds up a bit smaller and is light weight to carry. Our daughter sleeps in it like a champ.

    My husband, daughter and I passed you, Bryan and Hank on Valencia Street the other night. My daughter was napping in the stroller πŸ™‚ Your family is adorable!


  29. We have the City Mini Elite stroller, and wish we had never gotten our Quinny, as we rarely use it. It folds one-handed, is relatively light, and also functions as an on-the-go-nap-location.

    For people looking for carseat bargains, we got a “Collegiate Collection” Britax because the mid-level Britax was $75 cheaper. If that means our son is hookin’ ’em, horns, so be it.


  30. thanks so much for all of these reco’s! baby due in two weeks and there are some items on here that either i’m stoked to already have or will find soon.


  31. I wish we had just bought the Phil and Ted’s stroller with the optional doubles attachment. Instead we ended up buying THREE strollers!
    For our two kids. 18 months apart.
    Also? Maybe my iPod has a free match game for kids. Which calms my toddler and makes me feel like he’s learning. Maybe.


  32. We have the SAME apple slicer and lurve it. We go through a LOT of apples, and I am proud to say that I have convinced my kids over the past year to eat the skin. I seriously feel like I should get an award for that.


  33. You guys have almost convinced me to get the Britax. Now I’m off to scour the Net to find the best price on it. I’m assuming the cover’s removable, right? I’m thinking if I get one with a funky-looking cover for cheaper (as paige said she did), then I could potentially make my own cover for it. Crazy, or a good idea?


  34. another vote for the Ergo here – I use it every day to haul my 4 month old into daycare while wrestling my 3 year old at the same time. Totally worth the investment.

    We also own a Britax – easy to install, does go up to a higher weight so my bigger than average kid fits in it longer, and it does have safety features other brands do not have.

    Yes, the cover is removable- and washable. Not sure I’d want to make my own but I don’t sew so perhaps others will prove me wrong.

    Flashlight = HOURS of free time.

    We tried a lot of twin strollers when my DS was born and I really like our Maclaren Twin Techno. Expensive? yes, and boy did I hear about it from my husband right up until he had to push both kids in it – a combined weight of almost 50lbs. He shut up shortly thereafter.


  35. Albee baby (online) for the best deals on Britax car seats (get the Marathon, not the Roundabout as we did–we loved it, but found ourselves needing another car seat a couple of years later). We also got a great deal on a Maclaren Quest there–one of my top baby/toddler recommendations.

    Maggie, I just ordered the water shoes…don’t know why I never thought to use them as sneakers before!


  36. Oooooooo, if you love the apple slicer, then you should dust off the old egg slicer! I use mine for strawberries and my life has never been the same since! I can slice a whole container of strawberries into perfect toddler size in under 5 minutes, with a hungry two year old hanging on my leg the whole time.
    Also, tiny little boxes of raisins. Sure, lots of sugar and stick to the teeth, but a lifesaver when waiting for a meal at a restaurant. See how long it takes those little fingers to get the ones at the bottom of the box and I dare you not to fall in love. Fine motor skills too, amiright?
    Oh, and LeapFrog Letter Factory DVD. In two weeks, my toddler learned his ABC’s while I was able to sit and breastfeed our newborn. One becomes a child genius, the other gets fed… it’s magical.


  37. Hi Maggie, I had to come see why there was a sudden resurgence of clicks from your baby items list over to, and now I see this awesome toddler post.

    My husband just bought 24 of that exact piggy flashlight on eBay for like 19 cents, and I highly recommend that every parent do the same. Along those lines, pom poms from a craft store are a great distraction. Line them up, sort by color, put into cups, do “magic” tricks. Must-have for an airplane flight.


  38. I just wanted to weigh in on the sunhat tip. We found these amazing sunbonnets called Urban Baby Bonnets on etsy. I love my daughter’s! It’s cotton, reversible,has a chin strap and comes in the coolest fabrics. Lisel’s is rainbow on one side, green dottys on the other. Plus, the bonnet design is rad for when we have her in the Ergo (floppy hats get in the way).

    And we just bought her a Britax Marathon. We do a ton of road travel, and wanted to give her a comfy ride. I have to say, it’s super cush and badass, and she really loves it.


  39. A jumbo pack of microfiber towels from the auto section at Costco. Those things soak up ANYTHING. We keep a pile where the kids (2 and 3) can reach them, and they clean up their own damn spills now with their “special” yellow towels.

    Actually, add the word “special” to your list, too. We buy a lot of cooperation by calling any old thing “special.”


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