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What You Need for Toddlers


Remember when you were pregnant and around every turn folks were handing out advice about what you needed for a newborn? But baby has long since grown out of that first layette and won't have any part of that amazing swing/chair/rock-me-to-sleep wonder you once depended on. In fact, every day you might feel like you're retiring an old item and looking of something new.

So as you hit the toddler years, what do you need to have on hand to help baby sleep, eat, and develop verbal, social, motor, and cognitive skills? Here are some recommendations.

Safety Gear
Before you brought baby home from the hospital, you made sure you had a secure crib and baby-safe toys. Now that your child is mobile, though, you need to up the security. Before your child is crawling, you should have standard childproofing gear on hand, including safety gates, cabinet locks, window guards, and outlet plugs. Also keep in mind that your toddler becomes more active and steadier on her feet, you may need to rearrange the configurations and might discover places you missed on the first go-round.

Play Space
While you want to be sure your entire home is safe so your toddler can roam, it is also a a good idea to set up an enclosed space that is big enough to let your little one play independently while you get some chores done or maybe even take five. Toddler play yards or fenced-in areas like the PlayZone can let you set up a kid-field lay area even if you have a relatively small space. Some of these products have expansion kits that let you enlarge the self-contained area.

Food Processor
Whether or not you've already been using a food processor or blender to make baby food, you'll find a million new uses for this kitchen appliance. For younger toddlers, you can quickly mash up the chicken, fish, or other dishes the rest of your family is eating. Use it to chop vegetables into tiny ready-to-eat pieces that older toddlers can feed themselves. And don't worry if your toddler resists the good-for-you food. It can take multiple exposures to fruits and vegetables before kids eat them willingly.

Ride on Toy
Besides the fact that things with wheels amaze and delight toddlers and two-year-olds, ride-on toys help young children build muscle strength, coordination, and gross motor skills. You don't need anything too fancy, just as long as it rolls. I also prefer ride-ons that can convert into push toys like the Fisher Price Go Baby Go! Stride to Ride. This way, younger toddlers can start out pushing the toy and move on to riding on it as their gross motor skills develop.

Walking Shoes
Many experts will tell you that barefoot is best when your tyke is learning to walk. I personally agree, but sometimes society and weather conditions require footwear. And getting a good pair of first shoes will help baby with balance and avoid pinching or pain. I am a Stride Rite mom; I think a good, sturdy shoe with ankle support is good for toddlers and I love Stride Rite's classic look. Of course, there are many other brands that are good as well. The important thing is to get a shoe that fits well. Stride Rite offers an online size chart that I have found to be very accurate, allowing me to shop online for the shoes and get a better deal.

A Nice Set of Blocks
As you probably already know, most toddlers can entertain themselves with an empty box for hours, so are toys really essential. Well, not in the sense food is, but as a great tool for hours of fun and sublte skill development, I say yes. Whether you choose traditional wooden stacking blocks or more modern interlocking Legos,these simple tools can help young children develop motor skills; spark creativity; introduce an early understanding of cause and effect; and present opportunities for you to talk about shapes, size, and colors in a conversational way that is more likely to engage a young child than flash cards or skill-and-drill approaches.

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