When you're a new mom, it's easy to get suckered into thinking you need way more stuff for your kid than is actually necessary. (Not that there's anything wrong with getting a wipe warmer or a Diaper Genie, but your baby will be fine without them.) By the time your little one is a toddler, though, you're experienced enough to ask yourself if you really need a certain toddler-specific item before you buy — and while the answer is sometimes no, there actually are some toddler items worth buying, no matter how silly they seem.
It's not that your kid needs millions of pricey toys or expensive gear or fancy clothes to be happy and healthy, but there are some products out there that can make your life with a toddler a lot more convenient. The same goes for baby items and breastfeeding accessories, of course... some things that seem super important beforehand turn out to be more or less useless, while others that seem pointless are actually incredibly helpful. Unfortunately, most moms end up learning that the hard way... unless there's a more experienced parent who's willing to give you the lowdown on toddler stuff IRL (what you need, what you don't; what works, what doesn't).
In case you're the first one of your friends to join the mom club and you don't have anyone to ask for advice, check out this list of toddler must-haves that you might have overlooked.
1. Splat Mat
Gathre Highchair Mini Mat
It's super exciting when your toddler starts learning to feed herself, but it's also unbelievably messy. If you don't happen to have an iron-stomached dog in your family to wolf down whatever bite-sized treats your toddler tosses from her highchair, a mat like this one from Gathre will save you a ton of time and elbow grease when it comes to post-mealtime cleanup. Comes in 15 colors and four prints (prints are $60); dimensions are 40 x 40".
2. Disposable Dinnerware
The First Years "Take and Toss" Feeding Variety Pack
Toddlers do a lot of snacking on-the-go, so little containers with lids are a lifesaver — especially because these are technically disposable, so it's no huge deal if you happen to lose a couple on the playground. Even better? This 28-piece set is also reusable, so if your toddler *doesn't* leave these behind somewhere, you can use them over and over again. Just 11 bucks, this set comes with 28 pieces (bowls, snack containers, spoons, and sippy cups).
3. Travel Potty Seat
PRIMO Folding Potty with Handles
Potty-training is tricky enough when you're at home, but when you're out and about? That's when things can get really rough (particularly because most public bathroom toilet seats are way too big for toddlers to sit on without falling in).This travel folding potty seat is compact enough to take pretty much anywhere, and it's also a good way to protect kids from germs. (Speaking of germs, try storing this in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag inside your regular tote bag or oversized purse so nothing else gets contaminated.)
4. Play Kitchen
Catalina All-in-One Kitchen
Pottery Barn Kids
A play kitchen might seem like a splurge, but trust me (a mother of three) when I tell you that this is one toy little kids never, ever get tired of playing with. (Possibly because they love imitating what we do in the real kitchen?) The purchase of a play automatically comes with inspiration for hours and hours of pretend play, and they'll use it well into the elementary school years. This one from Pottery Barn Kids comes in white and gray (or black for $149).
5. Faucet Extender
Faucet Extender Bathroom Sink Handle Extender
Learning to use the potty means learning to wash hands (and wash them properly). Even with a footstool, however, it can be hard for toddler hands to reach all the way to the faucet. That's why these sink handle extenders are totally genius — they help your kid reach the water without standing on tippy toes, and they take less than a minute to install. (Plus, they're cute!)
6. Travel Tray
Skip Hop Style Driven Travel Activity Tray
Just like babies get fussy on long car rides, toddlers get bored (and they know how to say "are we there yet?" over and over and over). This portable tray wipes down easily and it sits comfortably on your kid's lap; plus, the chevron print and "fashionable faux leather" even coordinate with the interiors of most cars.
7. Sippy Cleaning
Munchkin Bottle and Cup Cleaning Brush 4 Piece Set with Key Ring
You don't know the meaning of the word gross until you try to clean out the nooks and crannies of a sippy cup that's been sitting around for a while. This set from Munchkin has four brushes to get into all the yucky little corners and spouts and straws, and there's even a pick on the storage ring for removing those tricky little sealing rings!
8. Night Light
Gummy Bear Night Light
Crate & Barrel
Now that your toddler is sleeping in a big girl or boy bed, you can bet she'll be getting up in the middle of the night from time to time to go to the bathroom or tell you about a bad dream. A friendly-looking night light like this one will go a long way in making those moments a lot less scary. Just squeeze the tummy and turn on a high-powered LED light (available in pink, too).
9. SmileFrida Toddler Toothbrush
FridaBaby SmileFrida Toddler Toothbrush
Learning how to brush your teeth is an important part of being a little kid, so it's important to let toddlers get a feel for doing it "all by themselves"... except they're likely to miss a spot (or many). The Smilefrida has a triple-brush head design to get all the sides of their teeth at once, and the bristles won't break if they bite down hard.
10. Noise Limiting Headphones
Kidz Gear Wired Headphones
You might think a toddler doesn't need headphones, until you've got a couple of kids arguing about the noises coming from their iPads. Designed for children 2 years of age and older, these limit audio to approximately 80 percent of the maximum volume, and they're available in six colors.