This page has all the baby gear I’ve written about in different posts. It starts with the greatest hits from the twins’ first year and continues chronologically. (If you’re looking for gifts for the baby’s mom — during or immediately after pregnancy — please check out “What to get a pregnant friend?” for things I enjoyed or wish I had during those intense nine months.)
Also, none of these posts were paid reviews or endorsements (I don’t do that kind of thing) — it’s just the stuff that worked the best or was enjoyed the most.
Who knew shopping for little ones could be so fun? (Answer: anyone who has them!)
Greatest hits from the first year
The twins’ first birthday is next week, and it got me thinking about the past year not only in terms of memories, but also in terms of stuff.
When I was pregnant I had the enormous good fortune to have a friend with a two-year-old and a fetus that was one month older than my twins. She gave me fabulous advice as to baby gear, and many of these items have been tested by all four of these babies! Of course, these are just recommendations. Get what you feel you need, skip what you don’t. And enjoy!
One other thing I recommend is to join Amazon Mom — especially if you have a c-section, twins or any other reason (uh, like a newborn!) why it’s hard to get out and about. They offer three months of FREE two-day shipping, 20% off diapers and wipes which are auto-delivered to your doorstep (with Subscribe & Save) and other promotions geared toward parents
Brass-tacks basics: what we found we really needed
- A diaper pail
Baby Trend Diaper Champ Deluxe, Blue What makes this great is that you can use ANY bag as a liner. Also comes in pink.
Dr. Brown’s BPA Free Polypropylene Natural Flow Bottle Newborn Feeding Set The inserts somehow keep your baby from swallowing too much air, which leads to fewer burping issues and less spit-up. (Always a plus!)
- A place to sleep
Fisher-Price Newborn Rock ‘n Play Sleeper, Yellow Great for napping, sleeping, bottle time and just hanging — or rocking — out. Also comes in pink and “deluxe.”
- A calming swaddle
Miracle Blanket Baby Swaddling Blanket Cirque Du Fleur OK — so you might not really need this … but your sanity might — especially if you have a “fussy” baby (which is, like, every baby at least some of the time). It might feel a little expensive, but I think it’s worth it for the miracle of swaddling. Also comes in solids, other prints and all kinds of colors.
I learned about swaddling and all sorts of other happy-baby-making-things in The Happiest Baby on the Block, a book I definitely recommend.
The author, Dr. Harvey Karp, claims that the first three months out of the womb are like a fourth trimester for your baby; he gives all kinds of advice about how to help your baby make an easier transition from a cozy warm womb into the big bright world.
Also comes in DVD.
What was very helpful to have (and might border on “need”)
- A soother
This is for when your child is out of a sleeper (the Rock-n-Play, a bassinet, a Moses basket, etc.) and into a crib. Since we have twins we bought two and they like them both!
Baby Einstein Neptune Soother It’s like fish TV. When my child grows out of this I’m planning on using it in my office instead of one of those perpetual wave machines — like the one in In Treatment. Very soothing.
Fisher-Price Rainforest Waterfall Peek-a-Boo Soother Soft light, a swinging monkey, real water bubbles, gentle lullabies. Zzzz …
(You can look at all kinds of soothers here.)
- Sleep Sacks (to use post-swaddle but pre-blanket)
HALO SleepSack 100% Cotton Applique Wearable Blanket, Lime Green, Medium These are especially great if you’re an unfussy mom (like me) who doesn’t want to mess with yet another clothing change at bedtime. Loose the pants, skip the socks, keep the onesie and pop your baby in one of these for a cozy night.
Sleep sacks come in all kinds of colors and sizes and in fleece as well as cotton. You can check out all different kinds of sleep sacks here.
- “Crinkle” toys — Who knew the power of the crinkle? Once you have a baby you will!
Lamaze Play and Grow Jacques the Peacock Take Along Toy Jacques was our all-time favorite. On the back he has black and white patterns that transfix little babies. As they grow they start to explore all the textures and oddities on the front.
Other hits were:
Captain Calamari For some reason the Captain inspires lots of abuse. In our household he takes a daily beating. Maybe that’s how he lost the eye and got the golden hook (which is rabidly sought out for chewing, once teeth make the scene).
Clutch Cube The picture doesn’t do it justice. There’s crinkly things, nubbly rings, silky textures, big-eyed critters and a peek-a-boo mirror.
Activity Knot All kinds of things to grab, feel, chew and explore. Sometimes works with two babies at once, too.
You can browse the awesomeness of Lamaze toys here.
- Also: “crinkle” books.
- Rings and things
Bright Starts Lots of Links When I first got these as a present (from a smart and experienced grandma) I thought, what a dud (the rings — not the grandma). Silly me. Great to grab, chew, bang together — and also useful for attaching other toys to crib bars, high chair trays, strollers, etc. (Just remember that they’re open rings — and keep watch while strolling for any jettisoned objects!)
Fisher-Price Brilliant Basics Rock-a-Stack A classic for a reason. So far all the twins want to do is decimate this stack as soon as possible, but I imagine in the future they’ll want to stack them back up too.
- A walker — maybe
Fisher-Price Walker-To-Wagon Walkers are controversial. Talk with your pediatrician before investing in one. But I’ll say here that our twins love it. One was already taking a few steps at a time when we got this (circa 10 months). The other’s balance was hampered by a rather impressive head — like Javier Bardem’s (shown here — with Penelope Cruz, for scale). But both twins grabbed this and toddled off almost immediately. What I like about this design is that it’s pretty steady for early walkers — and then it can be converted to a more waggony vehicle when they’re older. (The picture here is of the more waggony configuration — click it to see how it converts for a steadier ride.)
Things that totally rock
- Quality entertainment
Fisher-Price Rainforest Melodies and Lights Deluxe Gym One of my friends said this was like crack for babies. In a good way.
Fisher-Price Rainforest Jumperoo Or was this the crack? Both have been twin-tested and mother approved!
Pretty much anything Fisher Price Rainforest looks like it rocks!
So those are our greatest hits from year one.
Best first birthday presents
These were their favorites:
Hide N Squeak Eggs The best! They have shells that come off (the top part, anyway), shapes on the bottom and in the carton to use for sorting, and when you press down on the colored part … they squeak! Then one twin discovered a bonus round: if you hold the top down and blow through the bottom hole, they whistle. (It’s been a very whistley couple of days.)
Earlyears Lil’ Shopper Play Set Most excellent. We liked the little lettuce head the best, but the twins liked the orange, the milk carton and peeling the bashful banana.
Melissa & Doug Fish Bowl Jumbo Knob Big knobs for little hands. Just be aware that this is eminently chewable — our turtle has lost a hind leg to little front teeth.
Rhino Toys Oballs I first saw these in a museum gift shop and thought they were balls that were trying to be artsy or something (and they seemed waaay overpriced). But that was before I had little ones and saw how much they love grabbing, squishing and chewing on them. The open spaces make them much easier to grab — and toss. Much more satisfying than a ball they can’t get their little hand around.
Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes The twins like this so much there have been squabbles over it — which can’t help but be funny given some of the tunes (like the Rossini, I think, which always makes me think of an oldtime-movie stagecoach-chase). The tunes are longer than those of most toys (“The whole movement!” my dad quipped) and melodious to an adult ear. There’s also a volume control. Definitely a plus.
So those are the hot items in our house right now.
If you have any recommendations for toys for the coming year, feel free to leave a comment below!
A few more great toys circa year one:
The twins love to push this around — I think they like the “clicky” noise. They haven’t quite mastered it with the little “bean” inside, but they like putting things (the bean, blocks, a tiny stuffed lettuce head) in and taking them out again.
One of the twins has been obsessed with this toy ever since it hit their Kingdom’s floor. When pulled correctly, the frog rolls along in a funny wobbly way. But it doesn’t need to be pulled correctly in order to be fun!
I keep this toy in reserve for a rainy day, a meltdown or a prolonged episode of crankiness. There are buttons to push, doors to open, birds that pop up and down from their rooftop nest. You can choose the “day/night” option or the “opposites” option to hear different things (like “Let’s eat lunch!” when you open the refrigerator door, or “long” after a long doorbell ring and “short” after a short doorbell ring) (the doorbell has proven to be very popular).
We got this when the twins were over one but not yet 18 months:
It’s a KidKraft Cook Together Kitchen and it keeps my sous chefs very happy!
(If you’re thinking about a play kitchen of your own, this one is a bit of a chore to put together, but the instructions are the best I’ve seen for this sort of thing and — if you’re like us — you probably have some Ikea allen-wrenching under your belt — which makes the whole task a piece of cake.)
… You can stock it with the Learning Resources – Pretend and Play Healthy Dinner Set. One twin seems to like carbs (the slice of bread, the pile of spaghetti), while the other little carnivore favors waving the grilled chicken breast around; they squabble over the glass of milk (which they pretend to sip and then bust out with a big “ahhhh” of satisfaction) (it’s pretty adorable).
Now when the twins finish eating breakfast I close the kitchen doors and let them loose, dodge the little chairs they like to push around — and their walker-cart, often full of plush vegetable toys and sometimes a stowaway monkey — and I make — and eat! — my own breakfast.
This is indeed revolutionary.
[I also fried capers, which you can read about in the post Kitchen revolution, caper conclusion.]
… having the twins happy in their play kitchen and me happy in my real kitchen — making and eating real food (not just a slammed bowl of cereal or a piece of rejected vegetable picked up from the floor), enjoying small cooking projects that I thought I’d never have time for again — yes, that’s worthy of a little skip-and-dance.
These are not cheap, but you get a lot of bag for your buck. The bottom “chin” area acts as a low seat, a lounger or a tummy rest. The top half also acts as a seat with lots of things to point at. The middle yellow part makes a harmless projectile.
One twin likes to sit astride the bottom part and bounce up and down while pointing at things in a crinkle book. The other likes to run around hugging the top half to her chest and squealing. For us, it’s been a worthy investment. (And for those of you who have twins, yes, get two: the competition for the lower half became fierce.)
Favorite toys around 18 months:
This book has been popular for a while, but now the twins are associating animal sounds with the pictures — little “ruff ruff”s for the white dog, little “neigh-hay-hay”s for the blue horse, etc. They also enjoy Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See? Board Book
and I’m looking forward to getting them other What Do You See? books.
An electronic book that’s great for long car rides and other times when distraction is needed is the Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Teddy’s Shapes & Colors Book.
Also pleasant for adult ears is the Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Say Please Tea Set. This has been a HUGE hit with the twins! It only took a few hours for them to learn to “pour” (with little accompanying bubble sounds) and “sip” and share the tea cakes with whoever else is attending their tea party. This is a truly adorable toy!
IKEA circus hats! These soft hats have adjustable headbands so they can fit all kinds of little heads. The twins have the jester, the “clown” (although they don’t yet use the red nose part) and the magician’s hat (which makes them look a little like Tom Petty, but in an incredibly adorable way). I’m excited for when they’re a little older and can make up stories to go with their hats!
More toys to come!
As always, feel free to leave your own toy recommendations in the comments below!