13 Products Parents Wish They’d Bought Sooner
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It’s no big secret that parenthood is full of many surprises, and the products that end up being lifesavers is definitely one of them. If we were talking about movies here, we’d call these products the sleeper hits. They’re the gear that you put on your registry at the advice of your friend, but really thought were destined to be returned. Or the toys you added to your Amazon cart in hopes that they’d keep your kiddos busy during at least a few Zoom work calls, but ended up being something they reach for again and again. For me, it was the giant baby swing — which I swore I’d never let into my house, but ended up being the only thing my first-born would hang out in without crying. Or the fort-building kit that I really didn’t think my 4-year-old would be able to work on his own, but has led to many hours of imaginative play.
From newborn sanity-savers to a gadget that inspires STEAM learning to a card game that tweens actually want to play with their parents, we got parents like you to dish on 13 kids’ products that absolutely deserve space in your home.
Must-Have Baby and Toddler Gear
A sick-day savior
File this under something you never (ever!) thought you’d do pre-kid: Literally suck snot out of your child’s nose. Yup, we’re talking about the FridaBaby NoseFrida Snotsucker, which lets parents use a small tube and their own breath power to clear up their baby’s congestion.
“It’s been a lifesaver for us,” says Diana Edwards, a mom of four in San Diego. “My youngest was fussy as a newborn, and I could tell when he was stuffed up and just kept waking up repeatedly, crying because of it.” Once she started using saline drops and the NoseFrida at night, Edwards couldn’t believe what she was able to get out of her baby’s tiny nose and what a difference it made. “Frankly the idea of ‘sucking boogers’ out of the baby’s nose with this new contraption sounded a little gross,” she explains. “But it is indeed a great invention and so much more effective than the bulb I’d used with my older kids.”
The perfect wheels for two
With a newborn and a one-year-old, Chattanooga, Tennessee, mom Kerby Coffer figured a double stroller was a must. But she was absolutely, definitely not going to get one of those big and bulky side-by-side ones. “I got a tandem double first and despised it. It was heavy, it was sooo long I could barely turn it and I felt like my oldest was so far away,” she explains. Soon, she ditched that and picked up a Joovy side-by-side. “I’ll never go back! It’s so much easier to push, I can see both of my boys, and it really isn’t much wider than a standard single stroller, which was my biggest worry about getting one,” Coffer adds.
A baby parking spot
“It just seemed like an unnecessary gift that I could have made out of something I already owned — like a pillow or a laundry basket,” says Courtney Schwartz, a mom in Boulder, Colorado, of her initial thoughts on the Boppy Lounger. “But I really did end up loving it.” The Boppy’s power is that it is perfectly shaped and sized for a newborn: It’s small, angled, and cradles them just like they like it. It is also light and has a handle, making it super portable. Schwartz used her Boppy on the couch while relaxing, on the bathroom floor while showering, and even on top of a blanket while hanging outside.
A take-a-load-off contraption
Picture a fanny-pack-like thing that hooks around your waist and tacts as a small foam seat for your baby to rest on and you’ll have a pretty good picture of the TushBaby. When Ali Ecker, a nurse and mom of two in northern New Jersey, got one from a friend, she thought, “Whyyyyy? I’ll just carry my kid or use a carrier. That thing is like a big hunk on your hip. But it is AMAZING.” Ecker notes you still have to support your child, as they’re not strapped in, but it helps to take some of their weight off you and more evenly distribute the rest. Ecker, whose 5-month-old is big for his age, sometimes uses it with a carrier so she can be hands-free, but not have to support the baby’s full weight.
Best buy for better sleep
Trish Llopis of San Francisco says she’ll never forget the first night they used a Dohm Classic White Noise Machine that a mom friend had suggested putting on her baby registry. “I was laying in bed with my eyes open thinking, there is no way I’ll ever be able to fall asleep with it on. It was so noisy and did not feel relaxing; actually, it made me feel a little stressed-out,” she recalls. But it worked so well that Llopis is not only still using it five years later, she now also refers to it as her son’s “magical sleep force field.” (How’s that for an endorsement?)
A fancy-schmancy swaddle
The Ollie Swaddle can’t be that much better than the ones that are half the price, thought Erin Callahan, a mom in Orlando, Florida. “Then I found myself having bought three different swaddles that all still caused the same problem, they all rode up too high on my newborn,” she explains. “I decided to try the Ollie and it’s something I should have bought first.” Callahan, and others, love this swaddle because it stays snuggly in place for newborns and also the bottom has a loop design so you can make it longer as your baby grows.
A truly magical sleep suit
“I thought all the sleep sacks and suits were just a big marketing scheme to get exhausted parents to spend money,” says Lexie Seger, a mom in Columbus, Ohio. But in the case of the Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleep Suit, Seger says the Amazon reviewers didn’t lie: Her baby went from sleeping in four-hour increments to sleeping 10 to 12 hours straight. It was such a hit, Seger says, “We bought the bigger size once he grew out of that one. It was a sad day when he officially grew out of both.”
The bassinet that’s really smart
“I wondered if the Snoo would be worth the money,” admits Boulder, Colorado, mom-of-two Jodi Cerretani of the $1,500 so-called “smart bassinet.” But, with her 12-week-old now sleeping nine hours straight overnight thanks to the Snoo, Cerretani is confident her investment was a good one. “I never felt that major exhaustion I did with my first,” she adds. “I can enjoy being a mom and keep up with my toddler and newborn!” She also loves the data the accompanying app provides on her daughter’s sleep patterns.
A more-than-Insta-worthy stacker
Scroll through Instagram and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a lovely designed kids’ room that doesn’t feature a Grimm’s Rainbow Stacker. There’s no doubt these are trendy, pretty, and eco-friendly, but are they actually fun? Diane Bercik, a mom and real estate agent in Maui, Hawaii, was skeptical: “I felt like maybe I was just buying it for myself because I like the aesthetic,” she admits. “But my girls both play with it all the time! They make towers, do this cool waterfall trick that makes all the pieces fall into place, pretend it’s food, make race tracks and so much more.” Plus, Bercik has found it helpful for teaching colors and the concepts of bigger and smaller — and of course, she doesn’t mind that it looks pretty in her living room.
A kit that’s actually worth it
Jennie Utschig, a designer and mom of two in Valhalla, New York, is always making something fun with her kids — and she has the craft supplies stash to prove it. So she thought the Kid Made Modern Jewelry Making Kit her 7-year-old Emma got for Christmas was kind of unnecessary. “Why would I buy her a kit when I live in a house filled with beads and string?” Utschig questioned. Turns out, there’s something about the supplies being organized in a kit but still being pretty open-ended that appeals to Emma, and she uses it constantly. “She keeps it in her room and breaks it out when she wants to make gifts for family and friends.”
Simple toy, big pay-off
The Keva Contraptions Plank Set sounds fancy, but it’s really just a big box of wooden planks. “My kids begged for this toy, but I never thought it would hold their attention after the initial rush wore off,” says Nancy Deane, a mom of twins and writer in Palm Springs, California. But after her son built the Burj Khalifa (!), Empire State Building, Golden Gate Bridge, and a beach house in Malibu, no less, Deane changed her tune. “The creations that my son contrives with these are amazing!”
The learning booster turned toy
At this point, most parents know how hard it can be to get kids to feel really engaged in virtual learning. That’s why Lydia Diaz, an Orlando, Florida, mom and owner of CleverGirlsCraft.com, picked up a Wireless Digital Microscope for her 9- and 10-year-old girls. But to her surprise, it’s gone far beyond just helping out with virtual school science activities. “They’ve put everything from dead bugs, eyelashes, seeds, and even a tooth under that microscope,” Diaz says. The pictures and videos automatically save to your device or computer, it’s portable so you can charge it up and take it anywhere, and it has an LED light built in for checking out dark spots, “like our dog’s ear,” laughs Diaz.
A card game that’s more addictive than screens
The name of the game is Spot It!, and here’s how it works: The deck has 55 cards that each have a bunch of images on them, but only one matching symbol exists between any two cards. Flip the cards over, and the first one to spot the match wins the round. Sounds simple? It is. But it’s also fast-paced, competitive, and majorly fun. “We bought this a few years ago and had very low expectations,” says Diaz. “On the outside it looks like a simple matching game that my daughters would lose interest in quickly, but here we are three years later and it’s always requested during our family game night tournaments.”