photo courtesy of MorgueFile
1. A rugged, reliable swing. Not one of those rinky-dink battery operated swings, either. A plug-in, fast-moving, vibrating, noise-making swing. It’s not ideal, but Natalie has probably spent nearly a third of her life in her swing. She slept exclusively in it during naps throughout the first 6 months of her life, and on countless overnights as well. It is still our go-to soother and sleep-inducer when nothing else does the trick. When she was first born I was convinced that she hated the thing, because she would fuss and squirm and not want to be in it for more than a few minutes. “Give it time,” my mother said. Holy moly, was she ever right. That swing is a savior, and I can’t say enough how vital an item it has been in preserving our sanity. They’re pricey, but oh-so-worth-it. We’ve used it so much that Natalie’s worn out the top two fastest speeds on hers, and is starting to strain at the straps when we buckle her in. We’ve packed it up for travel and moved it from room to room. In short, if you or someone you know is having a baby, make sure a swing is tops on the list of gear purchases.
2 – That Soothe & Glow Seahorse. Yup, I’ll say it again–we love, love, love that Zorse. Really, it’s just been so important to have a consistent soothing toy for Natalie that we’ve used from the beginning. Probably any gurgly musical soft toy would do the trick, but I highly recommend that any new parents invest in something familiar and snuggly for their newborns nighttime routine. Natalie is madly in love with her seahorse, and we probably love it even more than she does.
3 – A jumper or Bouncer, like the Baby Einstein one that we were gifted with early on in my pregnancy. Like the swing, it wasn’t Natalie’s favorite thing at first. To be honest, we probably tried it out too soon, when she was still too little to really enjoy it. But after some time she warmed up to it, and it is now one of her favorite things. She alternates bouncing in it and just swinging her legs back and forth as fast as she can, like she’s running at a full sprint. It’s hilarious to watch, and keeps her happy and safely in one place, which helps keep us sane. Most of what we’ve read recommends that babies don’t spend tons of time in the bouncer every day, so we do our best to limit her time in it. Usually it is what gets us through suppertime, and is especially great after Natalie’s had a particularly active day–she can still “play” in it, but it’s a little less intense for her than racing around after her toys and climbing into everything in the house.
4 – A rocker or glider. I’m not sure that Natalie has really registered the glider as an essential in her mind, but it has been such an important item to me and Mike (and my mom, I’m sure). Rocking Natalie before naps and bed is a sweet, cuddly time, and being in motion (see: swing) is a surefire way to make our budgie drowsy. I remember setting the glider up with Mikey when we were decorating Natalie’s nursery, and imagining how much time we would be spending with our baby in that seat. I would stop for a little rock on my own every day throughout the last weeks of my pregnancy and dream of holding that little girl in my arms. It’s the place where Natalie breastfed the most, where she heard her first bedtime stories, where Mike sings (some lullabies, some Pearl Jam) to her every night before putting her in her crib, and where she snuggles in close to me after her bath. I love that glider, and I have never met a mommy who didn’t consider a rocking chair of some kind a must-have.
5 – Lots of creativity & randoms. All the toys in the world are no match for adult things that need exploring. Things like boxes, empty paper towel rolls, magazines, wooden spoons, remote controls, pots and pans, cd cases, piles of laundry, Christmas bells… they are probably Natalie’s true favorite toys. All the stuff you register for is important, and every baby has different favorite stuff that works like a charm to keep her occupied and happy, but we have learned over and over that keeping Natalie’s interest is best done by letting her figure out how things in the world work. We have a drawer in the kitchen that is filled with measuring cups and tupperware containers and dish towels that she can pull out and bang on and chew. Her diaper bag is another favorite, because there are so many things to pull out and shake and leave strewn about the room. Toothbrushes and newspapers are also favorites, and it’s amazing how fascinated Natalie can be by our grocery list as we wheel through the aisles. In short, it’s the random stuff that, with a little creativity, can become incredibly valuable baby-entertainment gear.