Friday, February 26, 2010

Quick Favs - First Choice Monitor

Baby monitors.  Here is another one of those things where used some bare bones ones and some fancy-schmacy ones, but the best one we've found is somewhere in the middle.  Off the top of my head between our house, both sets of grandparents' houses and various hotels, we've used at least 7 different baby monitors that range in price from $19.99 to $250+.  The Safety 1st High Definition Digital Monitor (which costs $69) is my favorite by far.

What I love about this monitor is the simplicity.  It is a clean and simple in every way.  It runs on one clear channel and we have never had an interference issue with it (other monitors, Blackberries, clock radios, cordless phones, wireless networks - nothing!).  The nursery console is small (about 2.5" square) and has a great microphone.  The battery life is also fantastic.  We can often unplug the parent unit during the morning nap and run around until mid-afternoon without having it lose its charge.  The belt clip doubles as the stand to keep it upright on your night table.   The beauty of the design is that it is so small and so simple that it virtually blends into the background when you're not using it.

Yes, it doesn't have fancy features like temperature, music, light shows, video or intercom, but do you really need them?  What you need in a baby monitor is a clear sound of what's going on in the tot(s)'s room without snap-crackle-pop of interference or being tethered to the power cable (because of poor battery life).  This one is a winner.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Quick Favs - Biodegradable Disposable Placemats

Classy Kid Keep Me Coloring Creative Germ Defense Placemat - Pack of 20Making sure the kids have good manners is something that has always been important to us as parents.  Part of that process is learning how to eat politely in a restaurant.  The corner diner has been a great place to practice our table manners in a low pressure setting.  For that age when dropping things (read: dishes) is the favorite pastime Classy Kid Germ Defense Placemats have been a great plate substitute.

They come in a ziploc pack of 10 or 20 complete with crayons.  They have adhesive around all four edges that is strong enough to keep all but a wily toddler from ripping it off the table, but easy enough for an adult to remove without taking the finish off the wood.   The different themes give kids something to talk about and something to color (the included triangular crayons are small but sturdy).

They're a little pricy at about $0.50 each, but you'll enjoy dinner out a lot more knowing that your toddler isn't eating off a germ infested table or throwing the china on the floor.  It also feels nice and green to know that the placemat will happily biodegrade with your toddlers leftovers.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Quick Favs - Toddler Friendly Seating - PB Teen Flip Lounger

Most toddlers love to horse around (yay!).  Climb up on things (eek!).  Jump off things (shudder!).  We quickly learned when Tot #1 turned 18m that the super comfy Dutalier glider and footrest were going to be forced into early retirement.  You could just see her doing the math of foot rest to glider to radiator cover to window ledge.

That left us with a big furniture gap - we needed something comfortable for an adult to sit on for snuggles or story time, but with a minimal drop and minimal movement to reduce the risks if a toddler climbs up on it.

We stumbled on the Pottery Barn Teen Flip Lounger completely by accident - Pottery Barn Teen wasn't really on my short list of places to look for nursery/playroom furniture.  One day we just happened to walk by the store, saw it through the window and were like "that's perfect!".

It is great.  It has a nice thick cushioning and a wipe-clean ultra suede finish.  It is available in navy (a bit darker than the picture above), pink, pale green and brown.  The angle of the back is adjustable from full upright (pictured) to full flat with a few positions in between.  We have ours leaned up against a wall to reduce the toddler temptation to turn it into a rocking tackle drill and it is substantial enough that she can't move on her own (but it's easy for me to pull out when I need to vacuum or fetch toys behind it).

For parents with active toddlers struggling with adult-friendly seating for a kids' room this is a great solution.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Quick Favs - Skip*Hop Duo Deluxe Diaper Bag

Skip Hop Duo Deluxe Diaper Bag, Blossom
A few years ago when I was pregnant with Tot #1 I spent a lot of time looking at diaper bags.  As a new mom you start to look at your diaper bag not only as a piece of baby gear, but quite possibly as a replacement for your everyday handbag (at least for the first year or two).  That being said, I've never been a big fan of the luxury diaper bags - Coach, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, etc.  You know it is going to get gross and possibly so gross you'll have to throw it away.  You also need something that is designed by people who understand how you're really going to use.  An experienced mom of two took me aside and said "Listen, there is only one diaper bag you need.  The Skip Hop Duo."  She was so right.

Flash forward three years and I'm now on my second Skip Hop Duo.  I upgraded to the Skip*Hop Duo Deluxe last year for Mother's Day because I fell in love with the new Blossom pattern (left).  My old Skip*Hop Duo was still in such great shape that I donated it to Room to Grow

Here's what I love about the Skip*Hop Duo Deluxe:

  • Magnetic closures on the main pocket and both front pockets so things are easy to access, but still secure.
  • Contrasting colored lining makes it easy to find things inside - no more black hole.
  • Just the right number of pockets: two mutli-diaper size ones on the inside, two big open ones on the outside (with pen holders!), two zippered pockets on top (perfect for wallet, keys, etc.), a mesh pockets for water/bottle/blackberry/Purell and a closable mini side pocket for change/lipstick/etc.
  • The shoulder strap is easily adjustable and well padded.
  • Super smart strap system.  You can attach the Duo Deluxe to your stroller without removing the shoulder strap.  This is awesome.

  • It comes in at least 19 different colors and patterns so the chances are, there is something that fits your style.
  • The best part is, if you spill a cup of apple juice or worse - it can survive the occasional trip through the washing machine with a couple old towels.  This can save your diaper bag and maybe your sanity too.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

My Favorite Books - Hug Time

Hug TimeI was perusing the bookcase tonight while getting ready to read Tot #1 a bedtime story and remembered one of my favorite books - Hug Time by Patrick McDonnell.

It is a simple poem about a kitten with a "hug to do list" that takes him (quickly) around the world.  It has cute watercolor pictures.  One line per page makes it an easy read and keeps the attention of even a squirmy toddler.

Quick Favs - Car Seat + Airport + Go-Go Kids Travelmate = Easy

Go-Go Kidz Travelmate
GoGo Kidz TravelmateAs a family who travels a lot, we love smart gear that makes traveling easier.  Lugging a carseat through the airport for the sake of safety on the airplane is one of those things that we have always done even though it is a royal pain.  If you've ever had the joy of carrying a convertible car seat through an airport you know what I'm talking about.  The Go-Go Kidz Travelmate has made it much, much easier.

The Go-Go Kidz Travelmate is basically a set of rollerblade style wheels and a retractable suitcase-like handle that attaches to the back of your convertible car seat.  It weighs less than 5 lbs and allows you to drag/push the car seat like a suitcase.  You can load in a small tot (fully strapped in of course) or just plop your carry-on onto it and wheel away.  

When you get to the plane/taxi/rental car you just unscrew the adaptor and install the car seat into the seat.  On the plane, the Go-Go Kidz Travelmate fits in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you.  For safety's sake, make sure you fully remove the Travelmate and adaptor before installing your car seat.

Its worth mentioning that it doesn't work with every car seat, but here is a list of compatible car seats courtesy of Magic Beans website:

Quick Favs - Diaper Genie II Elite Diaper Pail

Diaper Genie II Elite Pail SystemHow often do you hear someone say "I LOVE my diaper pail!"  I really do.  If you read the review I posted yesterday, you probably picked up on the fact that the Diaper Genie II Elite ranks as #1 in my book.   I was already a fan of the Diaper Genie II before this came out a year and a half ago, but what an improvement.

What I like: the Diaper Genie II Elite is tall (so you don't have to stoop over) with a lid and self seal both controlled by a foot pedal (so you don't have to squish a nasty diaper down) and its inexpensive ($39.99 or less).  I also like that the multi-ply bags have an anti-bacterial/odor-blocking capability and that you have the option to tie off a small bag if the tot drops something particularly...fragrant.

We now own two of these and have given at least two as baby gifts.  If you're in the market for a new diaper pail (or if you just don't like the one you have) this is money well spent.  It will change the way you feel about your diaper pail.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Review: Munchkin Arm & Hammer Diaper Pail

This is a repost of my review on Amazon of the new Munchkin Arm & Hammer Diaper Pail.  I felt pretty strongly about it so I thought it was worth sharing.

Munchkin Arm & Hammer Diaper Pail, White

We have 2 kids and over the last three years have owned or used at least 6 diaper pails including the Munchkin Arm & Hammer Diaper Pail.  They are (ranked in order of preference):

Diaper Genie II Elite
Diaper Dekor Plus
Baby Trend Diaper Champ Deluxe
Diaper Genie II
Munchkin Arm & Hammer Diaper Pail 

Playtex Diaper Genie Twist- Away Pail System

- The Munchkin Arm & Hammer Diaper Pail is OK, but I wouldn't recommend it.

- The baking soda is an interesting concept for odor control
- It is great that the baking soda cartridge is refillable vs. having to purchase another one.

- The lower compartment is maddeningly easy for babies/toddlers to open (and apparently fascinating) which allows them access to the plastic film bag underneath. This seems like a serious safety issue. ** (see note below)
- Despite the baking soda, there is no real difference in odor control.  Plus since the bags are a set size so you can't do a "short bag" if you drop in something really stinky.
- Pail is very short (just above knee level on someone 5' 3") and when you have to push the diaper through you have to bend even farther.
- Top hatch is difficult to open with the one hand that is also holding a diaper (since the other hand should be holding the baby on the changing table)
- The "squish" factor involved with pushing a wet (or poopy) diaper through the chute is pretty gross and you can't get a diaper in without touching the bag.
- Base is wider than most so it takes up more floor space in apartments and/or small nurseries.
- You go through the baking soda very quickly.

Aside from my concern with the safety of the accessibility of the lower compartment to small children (maybe I just have a dud pail), I would say this pail is OK.   It does the job, but it would not be my first choice.  If the baking soda really works I wish Arm & Hammer (or Munchkin) would just sell the refillable dispenser to stick in the top of my regular diaper pails.

**  Munchkin was very quick to respond to my concern regarding the door and said that they have improved the design to make a truly child-proof lock.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Quick Favs - First Storybook

The Complete Book of Farmyard Tales (Usbourne Farmyard Tales)
Its hard to find a good first story book.  A book with multiple stories in it, none of which are too long or too verbose or generally annoying.  And if it could not involve Disney, Dora, princesses or Thomas we'd be much obliged.  We stumbled on The Complete Book of Farmyard Tales by Usbourne last summer while we were stocking up on books for Grandma's house and it has become a favorite (we had to buy a copy for our house too).

Written by Heather Amery and illustrated by Stephen Cartwright, this compilation includes 20 simple stories about different everyday adventures that happen to a farm family.  They are all 8-10 pages long so they are the perfect length for bedtime or potty time.  

The book also includes a CD with oral versions of all the stories so you can bring it along in the car (or use it to read along with).

Review: Carriers other than the Bjorn

Check out this helpful review that Jamie The Baby Guy just did for StrollerTraffic comparing non-Bjorn baby carriers.  A good read if you're in the market for a carrier.

Quick Favs - CARES Child Aviation Restraint System

As a family who travels a lot, we love smart gear that makes traveling easier.  We love the CARES harness (an abbreviation for Child Aviation Restraint System).  It is an FAA-certified 5-point harness that works with the seatbelt on the plane to make traveling tots safer.  It can be used throughout the flight instead of a carseat for children 22-44lbs (even take-off and landing).

We started using this when Tot #1 was about 2 and it has been great.  It weighs less than a pound, folds up into a tiny bag and easily stashes into a carry-on or purse.  We just check her car seat with the rest of our luggage and it makes getting through the airport a lot faster.
CARES Child Aviation Restraint System

To install the CARES harness You simply slide the red band over the top of the seat (you need to open the tray table on the seat behind you) and tighten the buckle when you have it at your child's chin level.  The two black straps have loops at the bottom that allow the airplane seatbelt to pass through.  The chest buckle clips just like a car seat and "voila!" you have one secure tot (and zero car seats dragged onto the plane).

Although the lower weight limit for this is 22lbs, it may be a challenge for a child younger than 2 who may want to sleep on the plane.   If your child is under 2, it's probably worth using your car seat instead.  Check out our recent review of the Go-Go Kidz Travelmate - its a great option for making airline travel with a carseat easier.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Quick Favs - First Puzzle

Melissa & Doug First Shapes JumboTot #1 has always been very into puzzles so we've seen our fair share.  The Melissa & Doug First Shapes Jumbo Knob Puzzle is our very favorite first puzzle.  The pieces are very thick (over 1/2") and the jumbo knobs make the pieces easy for little hands to grab and maneuver.  The shapes are simple and linear so there are no tricky cut outs to matchup.  The shape names and colors are printed on the pieces as well as on the puzzle itself (which makes them virtually self-guiding).  As puzzles go, this is about as frustration free as you can get.  This makes a nice first birthday present that they can grow into quickly.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Quick Favs - Car Seat Cover

Emmalu Designs Waterproof Removable Toddler Car Seat Cover - Blue and White Dot
With two kids who occasionally get carsick, we've come to value the concept of a removable car seat cover.  After trying several, the Emmalu Designs Waterproof Removable Toddler Car Seat Cover is our hands down favorite.  It works well on both our Britax Diplomat (which has lots of strange shaped padding and curvaceous angles) and our Radian65 (which is very simple and rectangular).  It gets high marks for covering all of the main trouble spots well with minimal exposed velcro, gaping or bunching.  It also offers a variety of easily adjustable should strap heights.  For the parent of a carsick tot the icing on the cake is that is removes very quickly and its washer/dryer safe!  Yipee!!

Adventures in Potty Training: Part 3 - Panties! Panties! Panties!

I'm going to apologize in advance for the girlie bias here, but Tot #1 is a girl, so this is a panties specific post.  We are wrapping up the final stages of potty training (just nights left!) and though it was worth jotting down a primer on panties since she seems to have acquired quite a collection.  With that said, we have discovered that all panties are not created equal. 

Here is how they fit from smallest/snuggest to largest/loosest (all are 2T unless otherwise noted):
  1. Potty Patty Pants
  2. Gerber Training Pants
  3. Hanes/Fruit of the Loom
  4. Gap
  5. Gymboree
  6. Potty Patty Waterproof pants
  7. Petit Bateau
We've tried a lot of cotton training pants (i.e. not diapers) and big girl pants (i.e. panties) so here is the run-down of how they compare:

Pros: very soft, easy to pull up, inexpensive, available in white (so you can bleach them), unisex
Cons: not very absorbant (you might as well have them wear panties)
Price - $7 for 3 at Target

These are your classic training pants.  They are probably what our parents used.  They are very soft, white or patterns, unisex and inexpensive.  The 2T (also called the Small) ran true to size.  They aren't very absorbent, but they are very nice and a good value.

Pros - very soft, very absorbent padding
Cons - runs a little small
Price - $12.95 for 3

These Potty Patty Pants are available on Potty Training Concepts.  The are very soft and cushy.  The fit is a bit like a women's "boy short" style underwear and is easy for a toddler to pull on and off.  They also could hold a small almost-an-accident or a dribble-while-we-run-to-the-potty.  Our only complaints is that the tag placement is a little weird (outside, not squarely on the back) and they tend to run a little small.  We bought a size Small (24 - 29lbs) and found the fit to be similar to a small 18m size.   All in all they are the best of he absorbent "training pants" we found.

Pros - easy to pull on, not crinkly
Cons - balloon-like fit, not exactly water-proof
Price - $24.95 for 3

These are also from Potty Training Concepts, but are totally different.  They are a soft, pull-on "water proof" pants.  The best description that comes to mind is "bloomers" and they run very large (a size S fit much more like a 2T).  There is also a lot of excess material that gives it a balloon like fit.  They are not as crinkly as other waterpoof pants we looked at, but then again they are also are not really waterproof.   They were among our least favorite training pants.

3-Pack Hanes Girls Showtoons - Tinkerbell 4218 (6, Tinkerbell)Hanes
Pros - inexpensive, easy to pull on, stays up well, lots of characters to choose from
Cons - not very thick
Price - $4.95 or less for 3

Hanes panties are available almost everywhere in almost every character you could want (Disney princesses, Tinkerbell, Barbie, Minnie Mouse, Hello KittyNemo, etc.).  They are also available for even less without the characters (6 for $5.99 or less).  The material is thin, but they feature a nice relatively thick elastic waistband that helps them stay up and makes it easy to toddlers to dress themselves.  Although the smallest size is a 2T/3T, they easily fit a small 2 year old.  Target, Walmart and most mid-range department stores should carry them.

Pros - inexpensive, easy to pull on, stays up well, lots of characters to choose from
Cons - not very thick
Price - $6.99 or less for 3

Fruit of the Loom are also available almost everywhere and have some of the other characters you're probably looking for (Dora, My Little PonyCare Bears, etc.).  They are also available in larger multipacks without characters. The fit and material is very similar to Hanes.  These also feature the thicker elastic waistband so they stay up all day and are easy for toddlers to navigate.  The smallest size is also a 2T/3T, but they also easily fit a small 2 year old.  They should be sold in the same places as Hanes. 

Baby Gap
Pros - thick cotton, easy to pull on, lots of colors to choose from
Cons - stretch out easily
Price - $13 for 3

The Baby Gap panties are available in lots of fun patterns/colors that change seasonally (which means you can also occasionally find them on sale).  The material is a nice thick cotton (thicker than all of the other panties, excluding the training pants).  The wide bands on the legs and waist make them easy to get on and off.  Over the course of the day they do tend to stretch out around the legs.  Generally quite nice.

Pros - easy to pull on, always a bow in the front, lots of colors to choose from, often goes on sale/promo
Cons - runs a little big, stretch out easily
Price - $2 - $4.75 per pair

The Gymboree panties are also available in tons of patterns/colors and you can almost always find them on sale  The cotton is relatively thin, but soft.  They run a little large and have a bit of a bikini-style fit.  Using your Gymboree coupons or Gymbucks towards them makes these a steal.

Petit Bateau 
Pros - soft, white
Cons - runs a very large
Price - $12 per pair

The Petit Bateau panties are nice and soft, but they have an unusual high-cut leg (women would call panties this style "French Cut").  The fit is very, very large.  A 2t is much closer to a 3T.  This is not a great panty for a toddler.

If you need trainers, the basic Gerber pants are the most economical choice, but the Potty Training Concepts padded Potty Patty pants are a great option if your tot still hasn't mastered the scamper to the potty.  For regular undies, Hanes are a great option for the petite tot or the girl who really needs princesses to make potty training tolerable.   Ditto for Fruit of the Loom if she must have Dora.  Gymboree is actually one of the cheapest on a $/pair basis because you can often double up Gymboree coupons (or Gymbucks) and sale prices, but they tend to run a little big.