Category / Shopping

Crew’s Wish List: Toddler Gift Ideas for the Holidays


I know — it blows me away a little to type “toddler” as opposed to “baby”…but our mini man is without a doubt, on the move, pulling up, getting into everything…and we have a long winter of being indoors ahead of us! 🙂

With his first birthday only a couple weeks after Christmas, we’ve been giving some thought to gift ideas for Crew, without going overboard. A baby (and household!) only needs SO many toys, and while some still made the list, we’re excited about the idea of gift ideas that offer experiences versus things for the long winter months ahead, as he continues to develop and learn about the world around him.

I’ve started an Amazon wish list for additional ideas if anyone is holiday shopping for someone in the one-year-old category, but a few highlights (plus some non-Amazon ideas) are below as well!

  1. Swim classes at Aqua Tots. Offered on a month-to-month basis, this chain of heated pool facilities specializes in more than what some of the Y and other “water babies” classes have to offer, including hands-on instruction for parents as you continue to help your child develop his/her water skills. Friends of ours who’ve been through the program loved how much they really got out of it, and that it was more than just “splashing around”. Crew LOVES the water, and aside from the fact that this would be a great get-out-of-the-house winter activity, we want to capitalize on the fact that he doesn’t yet mind getting his face in the water!
  2. Ball pit balls. We have a perfectly good pack ‘n’ play sitting around that is just begging to be turned into a ball pit, with the addition of a pack of these 100 balls. Crew is obsessed with any small ball that fits in his hand right now, and loves to bang them together, throw them, roll them…and with his love of “swimming” in the tub…swimming in a makeshift ball pit would make for a great winter indoor activity!
  3. Little Tikes toddler trampoline. This seemed advanced to me, until I learned on a local Facebook moms group that many of their kiddos, even prior to really walking, grasped the concept of hanging on to this and bouncing. Perhaps it’s the next phase of Crew’s infamous “Jolly Jumper” days?! 🙂 I’m seeing it as a fabulous way to tire out an active nearly-walker!
  4. Classes at The Little Gym. Speaking of tiring out, many friends of ours have recommended our local branch of The Little Gym, a facility with classes based on age/ability levels, with play structured around physical activity. You get the theme here by now — get out of the house, burn off some energy, stay out of the negative outdoor temps.
  5. Britax Boulevard Car Seats. Yes, that’s plural. And nope, he’s probably not going to have much fun in these, but they are a necessity to keep him safe, so they make the list. Crew is quickly approaching the height limit for his infant seat (the Britax B-Safe which we LOVED!) and this next seat will get him to age 3 and hopefully further, depending on how he grows. Times two on the list, since we alternate drop off/pick up and need one in both cars. It’s a splurge, but I can’t think of a more important place to spend my budget.
  6. Books. Crew loves to be read to, and is constantly crawling into our bookcases to pull books out on his own and look at them. I can always justify money on books, and while we’re focusing mostly on board books yet (Crew appreciates a good TASTING read), The Day the Crayons Quit (and its sequel!) are making the list, as well as a copy of one of my favorites from my nannying days, Goodnight Gorilla, among other titles. It’s so dangerous to start shopping for kids’ books…and hard to stop!
  7. Kindermusik classes. (or Music Together, depending on what’s in your area.) Crew gets a little music exposure through a library Book Babies program we go to, and he absolutely loves it. Any time we turn on music he loves to bop along, and he is all about clapping and watching intently if I sing (possibly off key). I know some people buy more into it than others as far as how much babies get out of it on a long-term basis, but at the very least I figure it’s fun, he loves it, and it helps me learn more about fun ways to keep him busy and engaged at home.
  8. Sleep sacks. It’s not a toy, or an experience (unless you call good sleep for Mom and Dad an experience!) but for a babe that rolls around constantly throughout the night, it’s impossible (and not very safe) to keep a loose blanket securely around him. But without anything, pajamas alone aren’t warm enough and he seems to wake more during the night. We’ve been using these sleep sacks religiously but (sob!) he’s ready for the next size up – depending on brand, either a Large/Extra Large, or 12-18 months. I had always wondered how these worked for babies who were standing and walking – would they be unsafe? Turns out Crew manages just fine in his as far as walking around the perimeter of his crib in one — and we simply zip it off in the mornings when he’s ready to get out and move around.
This post contains affiliate links.

our favorite baby gear


There are about a million too many products on the baby gear market, so narrowing down choices is SUPER hard. It goes a long way for me if I’ve heard first-hand that something is particularly awesome, holds up, washes well, etc. On a nearly daily basis I come into contact with something that I think “ahh, I’m so glad we decided to buy/register for this”. (There are also those items you thought you’d need and are still in the packaging…sigh.) But in an attempt to focus on the former, I give you our “must list”, nine months into this baby gig!

  1. All the swaddle blankets. I thought people were crazy when I was told to register for 8-12 of these. Seriously? Seriously. Crew was a winter baby, so he was constantly bundled in one of these lightweight layers over his outfit, as well as at night. I worried for the investment that the short swaddle stage would be over and we’d have to pack them away, but as it became safe to put him down with a blanket, I felt better knowing these were “breathable”, and he’s become attached to them. He loves to snuggle with one of these at bedtime, nine months later. They also weigh nothing and can wad up pretty small, so they’re fantastic for travel — we’ve thrown them on an airport terminal floor for layover playtime, covered a sleeping baby from glaring sun while we moved him in or out of the car, used them as impromptu changing pads in a pinch, and for countless other nose-wipes, spit-up dabs, and other events you just can’t always plan for and reach for the nearest piece of fabric. 🙂 Aden swaddles are very popular but my favorites were more unusual designs from some newer brands like Lulujo, Coveted Things, and Addison Belle (whose stock hits Amazon exclusively the end of this month). All three are SUPER soft (and get even softer with each wash!).AddisonBelleFOX05
  2. Munchkin Loft baby gates. I was a little taken aback at the price tag, but for something we use daily and provides safety for our child, (and okay…they LOOK good in our house, which was important!) I love that these babies just kind of blend in, don’t scream “baby on board!”. They open/close smoothly, and don’t have the frame across the floor for people to trip on (so annoying!). They also have a quick release feature, so you can take the whole gate off the supports at a moment’s notice — fantastic if you have people over and don’t want them to have to keep maneuvering around all your baby-proofing.
  3. Boon highchair. Another item that we use daily and the ease-of-use factors just make everything a little bit easier when it comes to mealtime. I love that the tray cover pops off to rinse or run through the dishwasher, the whole chair glides around the room if we need it to, the height adjusts should we want him to sit at the counter while we prep, or at the table while we eat, and the style again (ours is grey with green insert) just BLENDS with the house a bit more – no obnoxious baby colors or designs to bum me out.11056629_10103242907609099_132718121208992064_n
  4. The Jolly Jumper. All the credit goes to Page on this one — after my request that a jumper not be “ugly and babyish” (do you see the theme here??), he found this gem that is not only unobtrusive to look at, but folds away flat to stash as needed. And of course the most important part…Crew lost. his. mind. bouncing away!jollyjumper
  5. The Boppy Lounger. If I could, I would go back in time and put this one on my baby registry. We ended up borrowing ours from a friend when Crew hit about three months, and used it daily until he was comfortably sitting on his own. This “dog pillow” as Page refers to it (ha!) is the perfect landing spot for a babe who wants to sit just a bit more upright and see what’s going on – and it’s lightweight and easy to move from one spot to another, as opposed to something larger like a swing or cradle.
  6. Sophie. I didn’t get why a teething toy needed to cost more than twenty dollars…until I saw this thing in action. It was one of the first toys Crew could really get a hold of and maneuver. It’s still one of his favorite things to gnaw on as he works on each new tooth!
  7. Dohm sound machine. A key ingredient to Crew’s sleep was white noise, but as we quickly learned, most devices that provide this turn off after 30 minutes or so. Which would be fine…except that the sudden lack of sound would wake him up. We’ve plugged this machine in on the floor under his crib and it runs all night. The switch is easy to hit with your toe, so if your hands are full with a drowsy baby, no need to bend over and fumble around for the on/off button.
  8. Ktan wrap. Yes. Yes. Yes. At so many points this thing came to my rescue. I admittedly didn’t even get it out until Crew was nearly a month old, after hearing from other mom friends that you need to acclimate babies to wraps early, otherwise they don’t like them. (Not sure if that’s true, but I followed the advice!) When Crew hit his hold-me-all-the-time phase from about week 4 to week 6, this was the ONLY way to keep him calm as we moved to our new house, and just went through daily life in general. As he was able to hold his head on his own, we tried a couple other positions but ultimately didn’t start using it heavily again until he could face out (his favorite) at which point it was awesome for running errands in which we didn’t need to haul a stroller around, or when I wasn’t up for lugging his carseat with us.

  9. NoseFrida Snot Sucker Yes, I was horrified, too, until I saw it in action and the relief Crew felt during his first cold. Have a drink if you need to beforehand, but this sucker (literally) is the bomb when your babe is under the weather.
  10. Natursutten pacifier. I wish they were a bit cooler looking, but this was the pacifier that won out in the long haul for the Crew-man. He began with a wubbanub animal and the newborn stage soothie pacifier that came with it. But as that got too small, he wasn’t interested in the same pacifier next size up, but still wanted something to suck when he fell asleep. This little wonder showed up in a Blum box one month so I offered it to our mini man and the rest is history.

Always curious to hear what others just couldn’t live without! I’m sure I missed some things here!

This post contains affiliate links.

new mama essentials.

with my newest love | 15 hours old
with my newest love | 15 hours old

I went through my fair share of “top ten” lists when thinking about stuff to stock at home, pre-delivery. Some of it I used, some of I didn’t, and some of it I discovered along the way.

I share my list of essential items here for mamas-to-be (and those shopping for them!). Some items have to do with the actual recovery, some are about general survival those first days and weeks. (As a note, mamas recovering from c-sections may have some different items that are most helpful, I can only speak for Baby arriving the ol’ fashioned way.) They aren’t the most exciting or adorable things to buy (for yourself or to gift), but you’ll never love anything more than the below items (and the comfort and relief they bring you in those first days!).

Soothies. I think one of the top surprises of this whole having-a-baby gig was the two other arrivals that require sudden and constant attention…Oh. YOU know. They hurt (a LOT), they leak, and they have to be tended to as often as your new bundle of joy. I remember more about the misery related to boobs than to the delivery recovery — they were pretty comparable! So to kick off my list, add these to your cart. And put them in your fridge between uses. And buy an extra set so you never have to be without the cold relief between those first ten days or so of nursing for more than a few seconds. Ahhh.

Lanolin. The hospital sent me home with an impossibly tiny tube of this stuff, so I promptly ordered more when I got home. Turns out, the tiny tube lasted long enough, but one way or another, make sure you have some on hand. The soothies take the cake as far as comfort, but this stuff helps, too, and you’ll want all hands on deck for relief.

Hot/Cold therapy pack. YES. Just…YES. To think I paused for a sec before buying these because it was yet ANOTHER 15 bucks in my Amazon cart. Good god, just buy them and forget about it. I used them both hot and cold (and will likely use them again if needed when I wean off nursing in a few months). Buy them without pause. Regret nothing.

Witch hazel pads and Dermoplast. I wasn’t kidding about the “not adorable” list of things to buy. But if the hospital doesn’t send you home with extra of either, your spouse’s first mission in life is to get to the pharmacy for these, stat. But stock up on pads ahead of time – because the man should get to keep a little dignity, even if yours is completely gone by now.

New pajamas. There’s something about wearing something new that makes you feel better, and what better time than when everyone wants a picture of you and the new baby and you are a total hot mess. At the same time, don’t spend a fortune…there’s a chance these end up stained, and will be too big anyway in a couple weeks’ time. While the first 24 hours, I wanted nothing to do with changing out of my hospital gown (too. much. work!), by day 2 I was ready to feel a little more human, and new pajamas helped me feel as fresh as is possible after just pushing another human out of you.

Etsy bath sachets. Just a hot bath with a little baking soda was all my doctor said I needed, and you’ll be thrilled and relieved to just get that. But, if you want something a little prettier to gift (to someone else, or yourself), these are awesome, and safe for use during recovery.

Ginormous water mug. Someone could make a killing designing these to be half as cute as the chic sports bottles we buy for the gym, but alas, these are pretty boring. The hospital gave me one that was 20 oz. and I think I had ordered this 32 oz. one before we even went home. I couldn’t believe how much water I could chug those first several days – you are constantly dying of thirst. Less refills means less getting up or having to ask someone for more all the time. And more on-hand to begin with encourages you to drink more overall. Granted, I donated mine after a few weeks because I had this whole patient/recovery association with it – ha! – but in those first couple weeks, it was one of my most-used items.


EOS lip balm — not delivery related, but they are not kidding when they say the hospital is dry… Page and I both found our lips were raw within a few hours of checking in until the first couple days back home. I piled this on during the stay and in the following days at home.

Stuff for the new dad…dads, too, went through the crazy delivery, even if as a bystander, and are also functioning on less sleep as well, and trying to take care of everyone and play director to the nurses, doctors, and well-wishers. It may not be delivery, but it’s a lot. The caretaker needs to be taken care of, eventually! I made a point of having a lot of Page’s favorite, fast, snacks stocked in our pantry for those first days home (pistachios, cheeze-its, vitamin water, etc) and lots and lots (and lots) of his favorite coffee. He also scored some new lounge clothes from both our moms to wear during the hospital stay and those first days at home. He also ordered some Ugg slippers in time to wear in the hospital – a great call on the cold tile floors during our January stay.

Meals and Snacks. Food in general. I didn’t have freezer (or garage, or even Iowa winter patio!) space to stock much in the way of pre-prepared meals, but I did make a batch of spaghetti sauce with ground turkey to quickly throw over some noodles, and some enchilada filling to roll up in tortillas some night. I was super grateful to have both when we ended up reheating them. We also had many ready-to-eat meals delivered by family and friends. It hadn’t occurred to me to “schedule” these out, but many of our friends asked for a preferred night to bring them by. This allowed us to not have to store much, just have dinner ready to go, hot, each evening. We are blessed with family and friends who are great in the kitchen – breakfast burritos and quiche to maid rites and hearty soups – we were set for all meals of the day. Another idea? A gift certificate to a great Thai place that delivers. Just sayin. 🙂 Some friends of ours, knowing we had no room to stockpile food, gave us this instead of cooking, and it was one of the best meals we ate.

Some other favorites were the snackier things – you don’t always need a full meal, just something to munch at a 2am feeding. Energy bites, granola bars, and fresh fruit were all wonderful to receive. Whether it’s takeout or homemade, or just a bag of groceries, to have food arrive at your door and not have to think about what to get, is beyond heavenly.

Extra pillowcases. Pretty ones. About a week in for me, the night sweats – drenches – began. It’s miserable to get up in the night and your pillow is cold and wet. I bought a set of pillowcases that made me happy and added them to my daily laundry rotation of baby stuff and pajamas I inevitably sweat through, as well. Between the extras and the ones that matched our bedding, I always had a clean dry one on my nightstand to quickly swap out mid-night as needed.


All of the under-eye products. All of them. I’m so glad I have pictures of Crew’s first days with me in them, but I also remembering the horror as I saw myself…dark circles and bags after laboring through the night and then having little sleep to catch up for days on end afterward. When you can’t get sleep, get the next best things. In the form of this (wear it under a little concealer), and this (dot it on OVER your concealer), and these. All worth it – I’m still using these weapons three months later because — spoiler alert — your nights are short and interrupted for quite a while.

A cleaning service. This makes a fabulous gift! I scheduled a deep clean of our home around the time Crew was about eight weeks. The idea of cleaning a whole house when I’d slept maybe a total of five hours a night (split up) for the past two months was just not on my list of things that were possible. I can always find room in the budget for this one, but especially post-babe. (But don’t schedule the first couple weeks home – you don’t want to bother with the whole “clean up so someone can clean” song and dance. Wait until you can get out for a couple hours of errands comfortably, then come home to clean-house-bliss.)

Anyone have others to add to this list? Leave them in the comments! I didn’t even touch on nursing tanks by the dozens and a Netflix subscription (both vital!). Hopefully this list helps a few others prep for those exhausting but awesome first days home doing little more than snuggling your new tiny family member!

addicted to baby jammies.


Eric Carle at Gymboree

This post is up there on the “rannnndom!” list, but it’s oh-so-true in these final weeks before Baby Smith arrives…I have an addiction to adorable jammies! I figure at least it’s a necessary and practical thing to own…but unlike diapers or bottles, these are WAY more fun to shop for! Here are some of my favorite resources for baby bedtime threads!

LOVE the Eric Carle line that has been at Gymboree this fall. Gymboree was my first job in high school, and while I wasn’t in baby mode myself yet (thankfully!), I can still remember all the training and customer reviews we were educated on, around the extra-high quality of this company’s sleepwear. They wash and wear exceptionally well…throw in some children’s book references, and I’m sold.



Hanna Anderson 

The Norwegian in me is partial to this Swedish-inspired company that offers sleep and playwear in a range of gorgeous colors and adorable patterns. Their holiday jammies are particularly cute with Nordic inspired patterns…but it was the yellow goats above that needed to come live at my house!


Kickee Pants

Baby Smith already has a few sizes and colors of these Kickee Pants (formerly Kicky Pants) jammies, ready to go. They are RIDICULOUSLY soft! I can’t say I’m overly crazy about many of the patterns and graphic designs they put out — I tend to just stick with the solid colors, and I definitely try and grab them on sale when I can, but they are one of my go-to gift items for a new babe!


Just One You by Carters at Target

I can’t not include a bargain choice from good old Target. I don’t find myself shopping for baby clothing a whole lot there as much as I do other stuff, but I picked these up more than once on my last run. I ended up leaving them behind…but then saw a favorite blogger post an Instagram of her son in the same ones…sold. I’ll be grabbing these on my next trip!


Old Navy and Gap

I LOVE anything Baby Gap, and jammies are no exception. This particular set came from Old Navy — you don’t find much black for babies, and again, I’m a sucker for anything Nordic-inspired!


Tucker + Tate

I couldn’t find links to some of the other specific sets that have been set aside for Baby S, but a few more of my favorite brands, if you’re on a jammie-shopping binge like me: Tucker + Tate, Tea Collection, Splendid, Petunia Pickle Bottom, Nordstrom Baby, and Mini Boden.

Here’s hoping that these adorable jammies will help him sleep longer stretches at night… 😉 Sweet dreams!