top toddler picks

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I have three toddler items that I use constantly. They are ingenious little items that have saved my sanity over and over again. And what is more — basically everyone who sees these products in action comments on how much caCHING the inventor must be rolling in

…or wonders aloud why they hadn’t thought of it first.

water bottles for kids

So, in Florida, which is where we lived for the last 9 years, you need constant hydration. I never went anywhere without my water bottle. And once I had one baby, and then two, I found my purse was constantly weighed down by three separate water bottles. There’s nothing I could do about the weight of it all…water is just heavy. But I needed to find water bottles that a) wouldn’t mold, b) were easy to clean, c) were easy for kids to drink out of, and d) didn’t leak or spill.

My own solution came in the form of a glass Ello water bottle. It is terribly heavy to carry, but I appreciate that it’s a bit more sophisticated, since it’s made of glass. It’s also easy to clean.

For my little girls, I started off with the very popular Contigo Kids Autospout water bottles — it seemed everyone else had one of these. But after a few weeks, I started to notice mold within the spout/straw mechanism on the lid. I tried soaking, scrubbing…to no avail. I started to pry some of the pieces apart to see if I could get a brush inside to clean it. The whole thing came to pieces, it couldn’t be put back together, and so into the trash it went.

I considered going the stainless steel route next, because, you know, plastic is bad. I saw a number of kids with CamelBak Kids and Klean Kanteen, but I don’t enjoy drinking out of stainless steel myself, so didn’t want to inflict that on my kids. Not to mention….I now have residual horror of lids/straws/spouts that can’t be easily cleaned. I need to be able to SEE it.

Finally, thanks to my sister in law, I gave the Munchkin Miracle 360 Cup a try.

Okay, well really I tried a different brand first—the Philips Avent My Natural Drinking Cup—and it does not work so don’t bother. It was a total waste. After that mistake, I went back out and bought a Munchkin Miracle 360 Cup…and another one…and another one…and I can’t stop. These cups are my favorite.

They are EASY TO CLEAN! You can see every single piece, and you can clean every single piece into brilliant spotless joy. There is even a tiny ring around the lid’s threads that helps keep it sealed — and that can easily be removed and cleaned.

Oh, and about the seal? It’s really good. These cups don’t leak, and the miraculous suction mechanism on the lid prevents spills. I’ve tried the cup in two sizes—a smaller size with handles for beginners, and a taller version without handles—and every time I hand my child water/milk/juice in the car, on the go, at the park, I never once worry about it. Kids don’t need help opening or closing the lid, and because the action mimics drinking out of a real cup, the transition to regular old cup-drinking is smooth sailing.

P.S. It looks like there’s a stainless steel version too. I haven’t tried it yet, but if drinking out of plastic bothers you, then this might be a good choice.

snack cups for kids

If you spend any amount of time in the car, or at the park, or on walks, or on the go…basically, eating out of the house at all, then you probably have noticed you need proper containers to hold the snacks. Zip lock bags work, and tupperware does too, but when I discovered these snack cups, I was so happy.

And just for the record, there is no brand loyalty here. I didn’t notice these were Munchkin brand as well until just now!

The Munchkin Snack Catcher has a brilliant, functional design. They are perfect for holding little snacks for beginner eaters and toddlers. Cheerios, pretzels, raisins, teething puffs, trail mix, veggie straws, and more. Mischievous toddlers eventually figure out that if there is a small-sized snack inside (think Cheerios) and they turn it upside down and shake it hard, the contents will spill out. But for the most part, these snack containers CONTAIN the snack, while still allowing little hands to reach in and grab a few all by themselves. Likewise, you can throw these filled containers in your purse and the snacks won’t come spilling out.

Reusable Applesauce Pouches

On a similar note, I have come to love reusable applesauce pouches. Once you’ve tried baby food in a pouch, you basically can’t go back. They are so convenient, so easy, so clean. But I hated all the packaging waste, and I began to get fed up with the steep price hike you had to pay for the convenience. (Just compare the price of a giant jug of applesauce to what you are paying for those prepackaged pouches.)

Reusable pouches have a ziplock seal at the base. All you have to do is open a large jug of applesauce (or puree your own fruits & veggies), flip the pouch upside down, pour the puree in, and then press the base to seal. When my babies were little, I’d make batches of baby food or smoothies, fill up all of the pouches, and stick some in the fridge and the rest in the freezer. Now, I buy applesauce at Costco and continue to use these pouches, two years later, for snacks on the go. Heck! We just use them around the house. Applesauce is a lot easier to eat from a pouch than with a bowl and spoon.

I’ve tried both the Squooshi and the ChooMee brands, and both work well.

folding step stools for toddlers

To round off this little list of some toddler product wins, Sophie shares a recommendation for an everyday item that helps empower her little ones to be more independent around the house.

Here’s what she has to say:

“initially I resisted getting these, because they are not very aesthetically pleasing. BUT, my kids use them all the time along with any kids that visit the house. They are perfect as bathroom stools, for reaching light switches, and for many other uses. (We have two—one for downstairs, one for upstairs.) They are kind of empowering for little ones!

While they aren't that attractive, nothing beats the practicality and function of their folding up and getting tucked away. Plus, sometimes you can find more prettily patterned ones (my HomeGoods often has big wins like that).”