I loved putting together my somewhat organic & minimalist list of favorite baby registry things, and as Jackson grew into a little toddler, I thought I should put together the toddler version. As with the baby registry, I love the idea of everything organic and minimalist, but the realities of budgets or gifts (or now my toddler’s love of a particular item) mean that there’s a fair bit of plastic and polyester on this list as well as natural wood and organic cotton. I broke up the list into categories:
- warm toddler
- clean toddler
- sleeping toddler
- playing toddler
- reading toddler
- praying toddler
- fed toddler and
- moving toddler
Also, since it took me nearly until Christmas to put this post together, I thought I’d put together my top gift choice from each of the 8 categories as a gift guide.
Toddler Gift Guide
- Head Mittens (Super warm, side zipper mittens made for downhill skiing)
- Fleet of Stacking Boats (5 boats that stack up small)
- Hanna Andersson PJs (Really the best jammies out there)
- Haba Blocks (Gorgeous natural wood blocks)
- Arthur’s Really Helpful Word Book (Many detailed and labeled pictures with Arthur and the gang)
- Little People Nativity Set (A Nativity set that isn’t breakable!)
- Pura Kiki Stainless Steel Water Bottle (No plastic parts, easy to use, and can convert into bottle or snack container)
- Potette Travel Potty & Insert (An extremely small and versatile potty and toilet insert)
1. warm toddler
It’s the end of November in Wisconsin, so in other words it has been winter for a while. A lot of my walking gear set up is the same from when he was smaller (see this post), but now that he’s walking and bigger he needs a few more pieces. Getting out in winter is all about the right gear, and getting out with little kids most winter days keeps me sane.
I’m still dedicated to keeping Jackson in flexible zero drop shoes (you can read Katy Bowman explain why) so that means I’m making a lot of Jackson’s shoes myself (out of 2mm felt using this pattern). For Jackson’s rain boots I got these lovely Canadian boots call Mymayu’s, but below 35 or 40 degrees F he gets out of the stroller with cold feet even paired with awesome warm socks. I’d love to get him some really wonderful Soft Star Fur Winter Boots, but at $90, I’ve opted to make some myself for Jackson’s birthday. In the meantime I’ve been wrapping him up in Evan’s down vest (I sewed the bottom up temporarily so it’s more of a sleeping bag).
I’ve loved the coat we picked up at Sam’s Club because it keeps his hat and mittens on (Osh Kosh Boys’ Reversible Coat), and I’m crazy about his head mittens. They zip up the side and are made for downhill skiing. I tied a 2.5 ft piece of thin black elastic to each mitten, an update on the mittens on a string trick my parents used. I found that either Jackson’s hands are small or the mittens run big. I like to double layer his pants: either thin cotton pants under snow pants or fleece pants under big thick jeans, although I think fleece lined jeans might be a more flattering look on a toddler. The tricky bit about snow pants is that you have to take off Jackson’s jacket because he’s potty training.
2. clean toddler
O Crap Potty Training // little potty // travel potty & reusable insert // toilet insert //squatty potty //force of nature spray //pre-fold diapers //wet bag //Dr. Bronner’s Baby Mild Soap// stacking boats // Baby Banana Toothbrush // Tom’s of Maine Fluoride Free Kids Toothpaste
We took the plunge early with Jackson and started potty training at 20 months. For a boy who had very few words, this was a little early, but we wanted to have things down pat before the arctic chill, and so far that’s been worth the very slow process that was 20 month potty training. (I think that 23 months would have been ideal, and Jamie Glowaki recommends about the time they can sing the ABCs.) We didn’t want to use rewards and punishments, and there is pretty much one book out there to guide you through that: Jamie Glowaki’s O Crap Potty Training. It’s funny and encouraging, and if avoiding rewards and punishments aligns with your parenting philosophy it’s a great purchase.
Other potty training gear we’ve found to be absolutely essential are a little potty, a travel potty with reusable insert, and a toilet insert with step stool (we use the squatty potty). If you wanted to be really minimalist about it, you could get away with just the travel potty with reusable insert. To clean up accidents/little potties I have LOVED the force of nature spray. It’s electrolyzed water, which turns a little packet of vinegar and salt that you dump into water into Hypochlorous acid and Sodium hydroxide which is a disinfectant like bleach plus a detergent. It’s pricey to buy the starter kit, but you could really clean your whole house with that and a bit of soap. I love it, and it’s perfect for disinfecting toilets with something that you’ll feel good about naked sensitive little bottoms sitting on. We also keep a basket full of pre-fold diapers out to soak up accidents, because they’re very absorbent. Other tricks of the trade involve always carrying two extra pairs of pants in a wet bag along with the travel potty in the diaper bag instead of diapers.
Jackson has my sensitive skin, so we keep his soap baths to about once a week (with Dr. Bronner’s Baby Mild Soap) and everyday water baths (and the weekly soap bath) are followed up with a generous application of unscented shea butter lotion (I made up a recipe that’s 1 part beeswax and 3 parts shea butter, 3 parts coco butter, 3 parts olive oil, & 3 parts coconut oil … melt everything in a microwaveable bowl, mix, and let cool. Made On Unscented line would be similar minus the olive oil). Sometimes we’ve put Epsom salts in Jackson’s bath (See Mama Natural’s article), but I haven’t seen any noticeable difference in his sleep quality or duration.
I am most definitely a minimalist when it comes to bath toys, especially because we have one bathroom in our little house. Jackson just has his fleet of stacking boats: 5 boats that nest, and if you invert them they have little holes to make it rain. This was one of the best birthday presents Jackson got last year (from his awesome Great-Grandma Anne). The boats can double as a container to rinse soap out of hair (probably Jackson’s least favorite part of his week.)
In the tooth-brushing department, I didn’t know what to get, and they were all so inexpensive I got three. This is not particularly minimalist or organic; they’re all plastic (well silicone). But we actually use all three, and I think the result is that Jackson lets us brush his teeth three times longer than he would if we just used one. But that said, if you were going to get one toothbrush (a reasonable option) I’d vote for the banana model, the Baby Banana Infant Training Silicone Toothbrush and Teether. This one is the only one we let Jackson practice using on his own because it would be impossible for him to swallow it. The finger toothbrush: Safety 1st Fingertip Toothbrush (looks a bit like a thimble; a parent wears it on his or her index finger) definitely lets you have the most control over where you are brushing, but it’s for sure not safe to let toddler do him or herself. The Baby Buddy Baby’s 1st Toothbrush Teether is the best at getting at the whole tooth, and I think it’s fairly safe to let your toddler chew on, but they probably wouldn’t do any actual brushing with it. So far we’ve just been brushing with water, but I think the jump to training toothpaste should happen in the next couple of months with either Tom’s of Maine‘s Fluoride Free Kids Toothpaste (safe to swallow) or the cruncher lemon earthpaste.
3. sleeping toddler
The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers // Lazy Cat Twin Mattress // white cotton organic sheets // wedge pillows // Aden + Anais blanket // Hanna Andersson PJs // blackout curtains // baby monitor //white noise machine // monkey toddler flashlight // Goodnight Moon // Going to Bed Book
We’ve been slowly transitioning Jackson from a side-car crib (we took one side of the crib off and secured it to my side of the bed in the style of our beloved arms reach co-sleeper) to a floor bed in his own room. He’s been napping in his room for about four months, and we just (like four days ago!) had him spend his first night in his room (he slept great, but I woke up a bunch to check that he was still doing ok.) The best toddler sleeping resource I found was The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers: Gentle Ways to Stop Bedtime Battles and Improve Your Child’s Sleep by Elizabeth Pantley recommended by the wonderful Kathleen Quiring in her post How We (Gently) Night-Weaned Our Two-Year-Old. (We’re also four days into night weaning along with big boy bed sleeping. Kathleen managed night weaning while co-sleeping, because they’re rock stars.)
The world of organic mattresses is frankly an expensive headache to navigate, and in the end we settled on a Lazy Cat Twin Mattress with a set of white cotton organic sheets. It’s made with CertiPUR-US foam, and it was about $100 which struck the balance for us of knowing that the foam had been tested for certain chemicals and VOCs, but was still reasonable. (The price seems to fluctuate on Amazon and go in and out of stock, so it’s definitely worth being patient and getting it at the right time. There are also many other brands that have been certified with CertiPUR.) We put it on top of two wooden pallets to increase the air circulation under the bed, but keep it still low to the ground. We put a SafeRest waterproof mattress cover on it because we liked the king size one on our bed, but a more organic (but expensive) would be an organic wool pad between the mattress and the fitted sheet.
Montessori is really big on floor beds and the independence that they instill, and here are some good articles on floor beds from my favorite Montessori blog. Frankly, Jackson’s room was so small that a floor bed doubles as a place to play and sit with him more than my commitment to his bedtime independence. We have a backrest that we made from mounting a massage table to the wall. (I know that’s super random, but you could achieve the same effect if you don’t have a massage table lying around with these wedge pillows.)
We’re trying to keep Jackson from using a pillow indefinitely, because it turns out that they’re really not that great for us (but don’t just cold turkey stop using your pillow! Your neck depends on it, and you’ve got to transition slowly. I’m loving my chiropractor’s recommended pillow). He has his trusted organic cotton Aden + Anais swaddle blanket tucked snuggly around him, and another crocheted blanket from his godbrother around his legs and feet.
My favorite pjs are Hanna Andersson‘s organic cotton ones. And although I love one piece zip ups, since Jackson is potty training, we need to increase our collection of two piece jammies, so he can go to the bathroom on his own. I wish that I had thought of that when I was getting his 2T jammies. Otherwise we keep the house at 65 at night (see our other sleep habits here), and Jackson has a white noise machine and a fan in his room. We have a salt lamp in the hall, but try to keep his room really dark with blackout curtains, and covering the light of his baby monitor with duck-tape. I’m not sure if he’ll need a light to go to the bathroom, but if he does I’m planning on going with this one.
Our bedtime routine (recently moved back to start at 6:30 after reading the sleep book so Jackson’s asleep by 7:30) is potty/ bath/lotion/jammies/tooth-brushing(s)/ Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (read by mom) / Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton (read by dad) / Lord’s Prayer (Jackson requires that his stuffed animals have their paws folded in prayer) / Song: Swing Low Sweet Chariot/ Goodnight Kisses/ Tuck into blankets and stuffed animals / nurse to sleep. (We plan to phase out this last one in the next couple of months.)
4. playing toddler
Melissa and Doug’s wood blocks // Ledo Duplo //Haba Blocks // Cardboard Bricks // Tinker toys // Magformers // Magna-tile // wooden puzzles // bouncy sensory balls // matchbox cars // little people mini barn // play kitchen//stuffed animals // play silks // coin box // hide and squeak eggs //Green Toy Tea Set & Chef Set // classic crayola crayons // beeswax crayons // construction paper // easel & learning tower // travel art desk //Aquadoodle // Waterworks Water Wow
We try to do lots of building, art, and imaginative play toys that are low-tech and open ended. If I had an unlimited budget I would get 100% Waldorf toys, because they are the best. But since we have a rather limited budget here’s, what we’ve been given, found second hand, or occasionally purchased new.
Jackson’s favorite is probably Melissa and Doug’s wood blocks right now (with duplo legos a close second). We have about 150 pieces from a half set passed down to us and a new set my grandma brought him this summer. We have about the same number of duplo legos. The legos are tricky right now with his fine motor skills because they are both wonderful and extremely frustrating, but despite the opportunities to talk about how we don’t throw legos when we’re mad, Jackson loves them and will only grow into them. (Dream blocks would be the really gorgeous all natural wood ones by Haba.) Other building sets we have are some giant cardboard bricks and half a set of tinker toys. I know that Jackson’s getting Magformers for Christmas from my parents, and I’m not sure if that will mean we don’t ever get the beloved Magna-tile building sets or not. But both are supposed to be fantastic. We keep the blocks, the legos, and the tinker toys in 13 inch fabric bins in the bottom level of living room Ikea Kallax 5×5 bookshelf.
Jackson also loves wooden puzzles. My godson (who I nannied) was not interested in the exact same puzzles, so it seems to vary from kid to kid. Jackson also loves bouncy sensory balls (which are the only toy allowed to be thrown) and matchbox cars (we have a lot of these from when my husband was a kid, although I think technically they are for kids 3 and up because the little parts could come off). I think that he will also love the wooden train set he just got from his Grandma Kate. He enjoys his little people mini barn from time to time as well as his play kitchen, his stuffed animals, play silks, and coin box. I think as he develops more imaginative play he’s going to enjoy these more.
He loves his Tomy hide and squeak eggs. These are play food, but also a puzzle. They also have sort of ruined me for all other play food because they are so versatile. I would never have thought to get them, but his Great Aunt Sue got them for his birthday after extensive toddler toy research and checking Amazon reviews. She (and the 2500 reviewers) were right: they’re great. He’s also crazy about his Green Toy Tea Set. It’s made from recycled milk cartons, and several mornings a week he gets to have “tea” (mostly water with a few drops of decaf tea) in his tea set cup with us at breakfast while we drink our coffee. For his birthday my parents got him the Green Toy Chef Set.
In the art supply department we have a number of sets of crayons (classic crayola, triangle and beautiful beeswax ones from Grandma), some large white paper on a roll, and construction paper. We have limited space and right now don’t have a craft table (this is mostly about space, but somewhat also a move to keep him from sitting in chairs more than necessary), but we use the art easel on his learning tower and his travel art desk for coloring.
The other day I found him pretending to color with a tinker toy rod, which made me realize that I do limit his access to crayons a lot (enough that he has to pretend to color), even though really with a magic eraser crayons are pretty easy to clean up. I’m thinking maybe some water coloring like Aquadoodle (or get out our travel Melissa and Doug Water Wow) might be a less messy option.
5. reading toddler
Sandra Boynton // Cars and Trucks and Things that Go //Arthur’s Really Helpful Word Book//First 100 Words // Numbers, Colors, Shapes //Dr. Seuss ABC // The Foot Book//Go Dog Go // Alison Jay’s 123 // Alison Jay’s ABC// Happy Healthy Baby Series//Thomas the Tank Engine Story Collection
We have a lot of children’s books, I did a rough count and we easily have over 50 board & early reader books that we read to Jackson on a regular basis. He loves all things Sandra Boynton (Blue Hat, Green Hat, Barn Yard Dance, But Not the Hippopotamus, Hippos go Berserk, Moo, Baa, Lalala). The books that he can sit still the longest for are books that are filled with tagged images like Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things that Go or Marc Brown’s Arthur’s Really Helpful Word Book. (I think that Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever would also be great.) Others that he spends a lot of time on are books by Roger Priddy (First 100 Words & Numbers, Colors, Shapes), Dr. Seuss (ABC & The Foot Book), PD Eastman (Go Dog Go), Alison Jay ( 1 2 3 & ABC) and books with photographs of real babies or toddlers (Elizabeth Verdick & Marjorie Lisovskis Happy Healthy Baby Series). We are getting him Rev. W. Awdry’s 1940 classic 500 page Thomas the Tank Engine Story Collection for his birthday based on how much his godbrother loved it at that age.
6. praying toddler
Baby’s Hug-A-Bible // Baby’s First Bible: A CarryAlong Treasure //Tomie dePaola’s Book of Bible Stories// Jesus Storybook Bible // Goodnight Jesus // Brian Wildsmith’s Bible stories //The Birth of Christ in Icons //Who Is Coming to our House? // Little People Nativity Christmas Story
One of the great privileges of parenting is seeing Jackson begin to develop a sense of God and prayer. One of his words these days is “Bible.” Which perhaps he employs because we nearly always respond that we’d be happy to read him his Bible (or bring it to him while sitting on the potty). We have several baby and children’s Bibles that Jackson loves (and more that we haven’t introduced him to). He loves the fleece covered Baby’s Hug-A-Bible and the large board book with cut out peak through windows of Baby’s First Bible: A CarryAlong Treasure. He likes looking at the pictures of Tomie dePaola’s Book of Bible Stories, and at lunch time I will often read to him from the wonderful Jesus Storybook Bible (I say lunchtime because he’s a captive audience then and will let me read a bunch of text that he would not most other times). I’d love to get some of Brian Wildsmith’s gorgeous Bible stories too someday.
We have Eastern Orthodox family and we love icons around here. (His cousins have the charming Goodnight Jesus by Angela Isaacs and Nicholas Malara with lots of icons that I’d love to own. And I’d love to get The Birth of Christ in Icons by Marina Paliaki ). Jackson loves our tiny 2 inch wooden diptychs (a two paneled icon that has a hinge and can open or close) that are similar to this little triptych (a three paneled icon with two doors). He loves to open the doors and give Jesus a kiss (He doesn’t get to just play with it though; it’s sturdy enough but probably not made with non-toxic pigments, and we like to instill reverence and respect for icons).
For Christmas (probably splitting up the set so some of it comes in his shoes on St. Nicolas Day) Jackson is getting the Little People Nativity Christmas Story. (There is a smaller set as well.) He loves his little people barn, and he has already shown interest in the nativities we just put out, so it’ll be great that he can have one to really play with. Finding a sturdy, non-choking sized, non-plastic nativity is tough (I’m not sure this one in wool and one in wood has big enough pieces, especially baby Jesus), so although I don’t love the cutesy, very western looking style of the little people one, it’s the best one for our life right now. We also love the little Christmas board book Who Is Coming to our House? and Song of the Stars.
7. fed toddler
We’ve been paleo for nearly six years, so that’s the way Jackson eats as well. For the most part now that Jackson has (nearly) his first set of molars, he eats mostly what we eat cut up very small or mashed with some butter. (If you want to see a collection of paleo baby resources check out my pinboard.) I think everyone navigates toddler pickiness their own way, and what works for us is eating the same breakfast and lunch everyday. Every morning breakfast is cooked spinach, sauerkraut, sausage, and an egg yolk. Nearly every day lunch is (canned) salmon, avocado, cooked Brussels sprouts (just the mushy insides), and baked apples with cinnamon. Most dinners involve a meat with a side of sweet potatoes and broccoli (not yet a vegetable Jackson appreciates). We do a lot of one bit of fruit for one bit of a meal when he has a hard time eating, and usually his love of blueberries or bananas helps him finish out most of a meal. But he’s still nursing, so if he doesn’t want to eat something (usually because he’s sick or teething) we don’t freak out (too much). He’s not really that picky of an eater, and I think that has a lot to do with all of us just eating what is in front of us.
Most of the time he eats it straight from the tray of his booster Travel Feeding Seat with his fingers, but often when he slows down he likes to use a little fork or spoon. We love the little Baby and Toddler Stainless Steel Silverware . To store his left overs or bring a snack somewhere I usually use a little jam jar, or if there is a variety of things a silicone monkey platter/baby food ice tray with lid. (This is really great for bringing a whole toddler meal somewhere. Just don’t cut something up inside of it with a sharp knife, it will go through the silicone.)
We also have two extra booster seats for his cousins when they come to visit. We have counter-height chairs, so they are a bit tall, and it’s definitely easier to wrangle 3 toddlers if they are all buckled in. It was a really small investment for extending a lot of hospitality to friends and family with little kids. I think having one or two extra is remarkably convenient. Plus it makes grabbing a booster to take with us a bit faster if it’s not the one strapped to our kitchen chair (and covered in a lot of crumbs). Also, potty training tip, Jackson sits on a pre-fold diaper on his booster seat; it makes meal time accidents a lot easier to handle.
His older cousin loves his bamboo bowl and plate (we do use the bowl for Jackson’s soup right now), and I think that Jackson will like them as well. You have to hand wash the bamboo plate, so stainless steel might be a great way to go instead (but I hate, hate, hate the sound of metal scraping on metal, so silverware on metal plates is a no-go for our house. But check out Wellness Mama’s guide to eliminating plastic for her take on kids stainless steel plates) We do, on the other hand, love to use stainless steel shot glasses for Jackson’s water glasses.
We let him figure out how to drink out of a cup from the very beginning, which honestly is equal parts cool to watch him master and results in a lot of water being dumped (purposefully) on food and the floor. For non-mealtime water drinking (and he pretty much only drinks water or nurses) we like our Pura Kika bottle with a silcone top and straw. (We have a stainless steal contigo too. It has more plastic coming in contact with water than the kika, and sometimes the straw comes out inside the water bottle, and sometimes Jackson loses his mind trying to put the bit valve back into place. But it’s been a pretty solid water bottle all the same.) And for home made smoothies we love the silicon pouch by squeasy.
8. moving toddler
Stroller // Lambskin Fleece // pre-fold diaper // Ergo // travel potty & reusable insert // wet bag // pura kiki water bottle // Essential Oil Hand Sanitizer Spray // Snack Pouches //bison bars // Big Books of Color // Little Etch a Sketch // Reusable Stickers // Water Wow! // Sun hat
This post has already become the longest I’ve ever written, so for all thoughts on traveling with toddlers and going on winter walks check out those posts with lots of links and resources. But here’s the quick toddler version of what we take when we go out and about.
Mostly our trips are walks to the park. We get out for a 5 mile walk 95% of the time with our little umbrella stroller or recently a very sweet friend passed along her jogging stroller to us. If it’s really cold I’ll put our Lambskin Fleece down on the seat, but otherwise Jackson just sits on a pre-fold diaper. (And of course dress Jackson really warm and bundled with all the items from the first section.) We still use our Ergo too, more in the back carry position these days, and I’ll often take the ergo in the bottom of the stroller, especially if it’s threatening rain.
Our travel potty with reusable insert with pre-fold diapers and two sets of pants in a wet bag in the diaper bag are essential items no matter if we’re out for a walk or going to church or shopping. Other items in our diaper bag these days are pura kiki water bottle, a few cloth and disposable wipes, Essential Oil Hand Sanitizer Spray, Snack Pouches, Epic bison bars and a book or toy. (Our favorite travel books or toys are the collections Big Books of Color that have lots of Dr. Seuss and PD Eastman, Little Etch a Sketch, and Melissa and Doug’s Reusable Stickers & Water Wow!) It’s hard to remember back to when we needed to have Jackson wear a Sun hat, but it really wasn’t all that long ago that the sun was out.
Do you have any other toddler essentials or fun and practical gifts?
*Note* This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means if you were to buy a book or a baby thing, I’d get a tiny commission at no cost to you. Thanks for supporting Stories & Thyme!*
Subscribe to Blog via Email
Follow Me on Instagram!
- Follow me on Twitter!
Belonging to A Church
Reflections on Dyslexia: May B. A Novel by Caroline Starr Rose
A Defining Retreat: Deciding to Leave Grad School
The Beginning of a Love Story In Honor of Anniversary Weekend
Scramble Up A Simple Paleo Breakfast
Bake Up A Flourless Chocolate Cake
Organize Bookshelves by Color
My Life In Trees
An Elimination Diet Figure Out What Foods Are Making You Sick
A Goodbye Letter to Our Church: Leaving Those You Love
Paleo Chai: A Blended Coconut Oil & Butter Recipe
16 Online Resources: Liturgical Prayer Apps & Websites