Author Archives: Lauren Rubino

About Lauren Rubino

Lauren Rubino is the director of marketing and strategy at Kidz Central Station. She is also a mom to a very active toddler boy, so she's no stranger to kids' classes and activities! Have a question? Need help finding a class for your little one? Email her at lrubino@kidzcentralstation.com.

5 Tips For Getting Through Toddler Separation

children and mother crying first day go to pre-kindergarten school

For many parents, preschool has just begun, and for some it’s the first time separating from their little ones—as in, dropping them off and picking them up when the day is over. We all have to go through it at some point, and for some parents their kids are easier than others (my son still cries every single time I drop him off, but he stops 30 seconds after I leave so I think it’s become a bit of an act!). If you’re new to the whole preschool thing or can relate to my daily experience, here are five tips for getting through toddler separation—without being in tears on a daily basis yourself!

Discuss it. Make sure to explain to your child, no matter how old, what will be happening when you bring him or her to school. Sure, toddlers are young, but they understand way more than we give them credit for—and it’s important that they fully understand that mommy and/or daddy will be leaving and that they’ll have a blast while we’re gone. And make sure to explain what has become my son’s daily mantra: “When mommy leaves, she always comes back!”

Say goodbye. One huge mistake I’ve made in the past when leaving my son is not saying goodbye. I mistakenly thought that if I slipped out when he wasn’t paying attention he would be totally fine. And I was SO wrong. In fact, he got more upset, probably because I didn’t explain to him what was happening. So beyond discussing separation, make sure to say goodbye and that you’ll see him or her after a fun day at school.

Then just leave. Many if not most separation programs favor a gradual separation schedule—as in, kids gradually stay longer and longer and parents gradually leave the classroom/building. While a day or two of helping kids acclimate to a new school is totally fine in my book, it gets to a point when it’s time to leave. All kids will get through the tears and get used to a newfound sense of independence—but in my opinion, this can really only happen once parents leave for good. Lingering only gives kids a false sense that mommy/daddy will be staying at school too. Once your child’s teachers give the thumbs up to leave, get out as fast as you can and don’t look back.

Get the scoop from the teachers. If your child’s seemingly incessant crying is worrying you, or if you aren’t quite sure how to handle the whole separation thing, talk to your child’s teachers, as they’re the pros. Not only have they dealt with hundreds of preschool kids before—all with different personalities—but they can also give you advice on how to prepare for your child’s specific school and provide tips that will make the process easier.

Give yourself a break. If your child won’t stop crying and you feel totally helpless, or if you find tears rolling down your cheek when you leave your child crying, don’t be so hard on yourself. This too shall pass, and one day your child is going to enter the classroom, let go of your hand, and say “Bye Mommy!” with a big smile. Talk to parents going the same thing, or even better, parents who’ve been through it before and lived to tell the tale—you’re sure to feel better.

Your Kids’ Birthday Party Checklist

happy holidaySo you have to plan your child’s birthday party. It can be overwhelming just to think about it. Where are you having it? What theme should you choose? Where should you get the cake? The list of questions to answer and the amount of things to do seem endless—and if you’ve never put together a birthday party before, you may not know all of the details that need to be decided or all of the things that need to be done. To help you with this daunting (but fun!) process, check out our comprehensive kids’ birthday party checklist to help you get you through your first birthday party planning experience.

Choose a date. This one’s simple. You can’t plan a party until you know when you’re having it! Start thinking about the date and time at least three months in advance, especially if you’re hoping to have the party at a popular venue or if you’re inviting out-of-town family. Make sure to choose a date and then a backup date or two—just in case. Some venues book as many as six months ahead of time, so the sooner you can confirm a date, the better.

Make a guest list. How many kids and adults will you be inviting? This number may determine venues you can and cannot choose due to the size of your party.

Decide on a venue. Once you know your date and number of guests, it’s time to figure out a venue! Using Kidz Central Station’s Best Kids’ Birthday Party Finder, you can quickly and easily search for the best party for your child using the criteria most important to you: neighborhood, type of party, number of kids, themes available, budget, and more! If you’ve decided to host the party at your home, you can search the site for entertainers who will come to you.

Find entertainment. If you’ve decided on a venue that provides entertainment, (i.e. The Art Farm in the City or 92Y) you’re all set unless you plan on bringing in outside performers for face painting, special treats, etc. If you’re hosting the party at your apartment or a party room, you may want to find an entertainer to engage the kids in music, art, or another activity for a portion of the party (i.e. Music with James). If you do plan on hiring entertainment, choose immediately after booking a venue to ensure your entertainer of choice is free on your party date.

Send out invitations. While some venues provide invitations as part of their party packages, many other do not. These days it’s easy to send out email invitations and track responses using sites like Paperless Post and Evite. If more traditional snail mail invites are more your style, you can personalize invitations with photos of your child on sites like Minted and Tiny Prints, order unique invitations from sites like Amazon or Etsy, or head to your local party store to check out the selection.

Choose decorations/theme. Now comes the fun part. What are your child’s interests? Sesame Street? Frozen? Pirates? Princesses? Some venues, like Creative Dream Parties, can customize your party to include your child’s favorite TV/movie character or interest. It’s important to ask your venue if they can accommodate special themes, or if you will have to bring your own special decorations.

im1.shutterflyPick a cake. For many, the birthday cake is really important (and a source of stress). Factors such as taste, type, themes available, delivery options, and price can make it hard to choose the perfect cake. Grocery stores tend to have the most reasonably priced cakes, but may not be able to accommodate certain themes or have a huge variety of cake options. On the other hand, many boutique cake bakeries create extraordinary cakes to fit any theme or taste, but the cost may break your budget. Whatever route you choose, many bakeries need a fair amount of lead-time for your order, so decide on your cake early in the planning process.

Decide on food/paper goods. If you’re planning to serve a meal or light bites, you can decide this step a week or two out from your party. Many venues provide food for the kids—often pizza, water, and paper goods—and many others make you bring in your own. And, most places DO NOT include food and paper goods for adults, so you’ll have to decide on how much you want to cater to parents. Catering from a local grocery store or restaurant, or platters from Costco (or a similar store) are popular options, but if all else fails, call your local pizza joint and have a few extra pies delivered.

Don’t forget the favors! You can go crazy with party favors or make them simple—it all depends on your preference and budget. Party favors can be as simple as a little baggy filled with bubbles, crayons, candy, and other little treats, or can be as elaborate as personalized snack cups, placemats, or books. The kids will be happy with whatever you decide, so don’t stress about it.

Book or designate a photographer. Hiring a professional photographer is a great way to ensure that all of the important party moments are captured—especially for a first birthday. Photographers can be costly, however, so if a professional isn’t in the budget, designate someone at your party—a family member or friend—to be in charge of the picture taking. It’s impossible for the party host to also be in charge of pictures, so take the pressure off yourself and give the responsibility to someone else.

Think about tipping. Although certainly not mandatory, tipping those who took part in making your party a success—be it the coaches at a gym party, a musical entertainer, the people who set up the food—is always a nice gesture. Decide if and what you want to tip ahead of time so that you don’t find yourself scrambling at the end of the party to decide on an appropriate amount or find the right change.

Can you think of anything we’ve missed on our birthday party checklist? Let us know if there are any other musts when planning a child’s birthday party!

 

A Look Back at 2014, and Forward to the New Year!

Since tomorrow marks the start of a brand new year, we want to thank all of our friends, family, and all of the amazing NYC parents who use our site for all of their support in 2014! The past year has been a very busy and exciting for Kidz Central Station, and we’ve accomplished so many fantastic things:

• The site has grown to include hundreds of amazing kids’ programs in NYC, with over 3,000 classes, camps, and activities available throughout the year. For the upcoming winter season, we have tons of great options for every age and interest!

• We’ve made it easy for NYC families to search for and find a wide variety of new and unique classes in music, gymnastics, swim, soccer, dance, ice skating, tennis, theater, and so much more. We also give parents a range of scheduling options, from traditional semester classes and drop-in activities to special holiday camps and theater for kids.

• Kidz Central Station’s team has grown! Two NYC moms joined the team this year, who live and breathe NYC kids’ activities—in both their professional and personal lives!

• Parents can now purchase easy-to-use online gift cards on Kidz Central Station! Now all of your great programs can be given as gifts for upcoming holidays, birthdays, or as a special treat.

• We launched NYC’s Best Kids’ Birthday Party Finder! We are so excited about this new tool, which helps NYC parents simplify the process of finding and planning their kids’ birthday parties and gives the great programs we work with a way to spread the word about their amazing birthday parties.

Also, in the spirit of the holidays, we have teamed up with several parent groups in NYC to donate toys, clothing, and other supplies to children at a local shelter. We’re also donating a portion of our December proceeds to benefit the shelter as well.

Thank you for being a part of our success this year—it’s been a great ride and we look forward to continuing the journey in the new year (we have lots in store!). As always, if you have any feedback about the site or just want to chat, email us anytime. From everyone here at Kidz Central Station, have a happy, healthy new year. Here’s to a fantastic 2015!

Tips for Thanksgiving Travel With a Toddler

toddler  boy sitting in the car seatWhile New York is where I live, work, and am happily raising a family, I’m originally from outside of Boston and love having the chance to go “home” for Thanksgiving, where my parents (and my husband’s parents) still reside. If your family lives out of town like mine, you can probably relate to the excitement of traveling to see family and having more than just a short weekend to spend together. But of course with traveling comes a whole host of stressful things to deal with—making sure to pack everything you need (but not too much), timing your trip just right, and making it to your Thanksgiving destination with a happy child in tow. After many successful trips and (many more that I would rather forget), I’m happy to share a few things I’ve learned to make travel with a toddler just a little bit easier.

Get the necessities now. When traveling with my now 22-month-old son for an extended period of time, ordering the necessities he needs and shipping them to my destination ahead of time has become an absolute must. Of course I could buy everything when we get there, or guestimate how many diapers to pack or if the bath soap we have will take us through the week—but why chance it? With the ease of sites like Diapers.com and Amazon, you can buy what you need, ship it a few days ahead of time, and have one less thing to think about. Plus, you’ll have extra room in your suitcase for the things you really need.

Time things just right. I’ve traveled a fair amount with my son and the one thing I’ve learned is that timing is everything. If your child is just a few months old and has an erratic schedule, timing might not matter, but if your little one has a very predictable routine (like mine), my advice is to keep to it. If you’re driving to your Thanksgiving destination, leave at bedtime when traffic should be a bit lighter and your child can sleep his/her way through the ride. This will make for a less stressful drive for everyone involved. Naptime is the next best option, as you’ll get at least an hour or two of peace and quiet. If you’re flying, leaving in the morning is key. After a full night’s sleep your little one is bound to be less cranky and more willing to cooperate during the long process of flying. My family once flew back from a vacation at the exact time my son should have been napping. He threw an enormous tantrum as we were preparing to take off—disrupting everyone to the point that the stewardess handed out free headphones (that you usually pay for) to everyone on the plane to block out the noise. Once we were at cruising altitude he proceeded to throw himself on the (absolutely disgusting) plane floor and nap for two and a half hours. I was totally that mom with the uncontrollable child, and wouldn’t wish a trip like that on my worst enemy.

Do whatever it takes to get there. Traveling is stressful enough when you’re by yourself, so adding a toddler to the mix can turn an exciting vacation into an anxiety-inducing chore. So whether it’s extra snacks, toddler tunes on the radio, or a movie on the iPad, do yourself a favor and do whatever it takes to keep your sanity in tact. In my case, living in city means my family doesn’t drive as much as suburban families, so my son is more irritable than the average child when he’s strapped in a car seat for hours. While he doesn’t watch a lot of TV when we’re at home, if Elmo the Musical on the iPad will keep my city kid happy for a long stretch, Elmo the Musical is what he’ll get. I use a special holder that sits on the back of the headrest so he can’t fumble around with the iPad, so all my husband and I have to deal with is Elmo’s high-pitched, cheery voice for three and a half hours. But believe me, during our long drive to Boston next week that furry, red monster will be the Thanksgiving gift that keeps on giving.

Why Having a Child Has Changed My View of Halloween (and Everything Else)

baby devilOver the past 10 years I haven’t been the hugest fan of Halloween. It’s not that I don’t like an excuse to get together with friends for a party, but I hate the pressure of dressing up and going to a crowded, overpriced, overdone Halloween celebration—all the while feeling way too old to be there at all. At the age of 32 I am by no means old, but there are definitely activities I feel I should leave back in high school where they belong.

Having a child has changed all of that. Not the part about dressing up and going out, but the part about feeling too old. Now I’m just the right age to dress up my little man in costume (this year he’ll be the most adorable boxer ever, which completely fits his 21-month-old personality) and bring him to every kiddie Halloween party possible. I may even throw on some ‘80s garb myself to get into the spirit. When I sit back and think about how different my attitude is from just two short years ago, I realize that this kiddie-inspired excitement has permeated so many different areas of my life.

Take a casual night after work. Before having a child, I might have grabbed drinks or dinner with friends or ran errands before coming home to make dinner. Now I find myself running home frantically just so I have enough time to dance around to toddler tunes, put together a 10-piece puzzle (over and over and over again), eat grilled cheese, and snuggle before bed.

And then there’s the zoo. And playgrounds. And apple orchards. I hadn’t been to any of these venues for years before having my son, but I can now count on more than two hands the number of times I have chased my son down (and up) the slide, swung on the swings, and visited one of NYC’s many zoos. The Bronx Zoo’s Children’s Zoo is seriously my favorite place—watching my son’s wide-eyed expression as a little goat nibbles treats from his hand brings me the kind of joy I can’t quite explain. Not to mention getting to feed those cute little goats myself! And next up on my wishlist . . . Sesame Place! Now who would have thought?!

Sure, my son is the impetus for racing home early on weeknights and planning family outings to kid-friendly places on weekends, but the point is that I actually enjoy myself. I have a new appreciation for doing the fun, sometimes silly activities that having a child suddenly gives you the excuse to do. Not only do I get to take my son to music class and jump around on a trampoline at gym, I also get to enjoy activities I would look pretty ridiculous doing without a child in tow.

So while I sometimes feel a little old for certain things (and often purely for the fact that I am old enough to have a child at all) I am lucky that I get to experience life through the eyes of my child and gain a whole new perspective—Halloween costume and all.

Kids’ Classes to Sign Up For RIGHT NOW

Since fall’s halfway over you have to wait until winter for your kids to start new classes, right? Wrong. Luckily, so very wrong! Many kids’ programs offer mini semesters that start smack in the middle of the season, giving parents another chance to sign up for brand new kids’ classes for fall. Kidz Central Station has a bunch of new offerings starting soon, so if your little ones could use another fun activity each week, check out some great new classes to fill those empty holes in their schedules.

baby girl with her mother cook, bakeJCC in Manhattan. For working parents who want to experience the enrichment of classes with their kids, or for parents who want to enjoy a class together with their kids on weekends, the JCC in Manhattan is offering a whole new array of Sunday drop-in classes (and one mini semester class) that literally just started. From cooking classes to new parent support groups, there are some great options here, and since most are drop-in, you can pay by the class and not commit every week.

Soc Roc. A Kidz Central Station favorite, Soc Roc is starting new mini semester of soccer classes on November 12 at Babies ’R’ Us in Union Square. It’s a great program taught by a real soccer pro, known for fantastic classes all over the city for little ones as young as 18 months old. If you’re interested and want to see what it’s all about, Soc Roc is holding free trials on November 6 and 7, so you can get a taste of what the mini semester will bring.

14th Street Y. If music is your child’s thing, you’ll find no shortage of great options at the 14th Street Y. With mini semesters starting throughout November, there are classes for every age with songs, instruments, musical stories, and more. Kids age 12 months to three and a half years can rock out with Rock-a-Baby, Boogie with Brett, or Musical Notes with Nick, and there is even a Brett class for tiny musicians whoa re two months old and up.

Rockin’ With Andy. Known as one of the best infant performers in NYC, Rockin’ With Andy does it all—he sings, he plays instruments, and he dazzles little ones age four months to four years with a rockin’ good time. He just began holding weekly drop-in classes at Explore + Discover’s brand new facility in Murray Hill (single class or five-class packs are available) so you can stop in for a class whenever it fits your schedule.

Juguemos a Cantar. For Park Slope parents whose kids can’t get enough of arts and crafts, Juguemos a Cantar’s jewelry workshops are the perfect weekend option. There are two different workshops offered, one for age 4–7 and another for age 8–12, and both teach kids to design their own jewelry using an array of fun materials and their innate talents. As a bonus, classes are taught by Flora Mayer, an innovative fashion designer from Buenos Aires, whose art has been showcased in shops, galleries and museums in both Argentina and Spain.Two Children Painting Picture At Home

Looking for more great fall kids’ classes and activities to add to your list? Check out the weekend plays at the Galli Theater (The Ugly Ducking, Snow White, Rapunzel, and more!), amazing art gallery tours with Chelsea Childhood Center for the Arts, and drop-in classes every week throughout NYC!

5 Tips for Feeding a Picky Eater

Baby eating the oatmealMy son is not exactly the best eater. I try and try (and try) to get him to eat new foods, but nine times out of ten he either automatically spits out said new food, or offers a matter-of-fact “no” and turns his head. Basically, if it’s not pizza, waffles, or grilled cheese (can you see a pattern here?) it’s a no.

So I go into mealtime like a battle that has to be won—but I never ever do! I have, however, learned a few good tactics for getting my picky eater to get the nutrients he needs. Here are a few of my strategies for making mealtime just a little less stressful.

Eat as a family. Kids tend to eat pretty early, so it’s not always convenient to sit down and eat together. But, I’ve found that if I’m eating something my son can’t have, he wants it—whether it’s in his repertoire of foods or not. If my husband and I order sushi and he’s snacking on a good ol’ pb & j sandwich, he often throws his food aside for a bite of mine (although he doesn’t always like it in the end). As they say, you always want what you can’t have.

Pay no attention. If I put food in front of my son and immediately walk away, sometimes he’ll start picking at it. I think his reaction to certain foods comes out of wanting a reaction from me. I’m sure it must be hilarious to watch me dive across the room to catch the half chewed bite of chicken he’s decided to spit all over himself for the 15th time. Ignoring is sometimes just what the doctor ordered.

Outsmart them. Besides his love of carbs, my son also loves meatballs—which are conveniently a good vehicle for veggies such as carrots and zucchini (like in this recipe). He also loves spinach squares, which mix spinach with lots of cheese, so the spinach goes pretty much unnoticed. If you’re not a creative cook (which I am certainly not) you can always mix two foods together and hope that the offensive food is overlooked. For example, roast some cauliflower and put a small piece on the same fork as a chicken nugget—your little one might not notice a thing.

Make it kid-friendly. Due to my own preference for healthy eating, I sometimes forget that my son is just a toddler and might not be up for eating the same things as me. Serving foods that are accessible and easy (even if they aren’t exactly to your liking) may be the path of least resistance. If chicken fingers are on the accepted list but a plain piece of grilled chicken is not, cut your losses and be happy that your child is getting some protein. And look for foods with fun packaging and lots of kid appeal. I especially love ProBugs kefir yogurt pouches. They’re bright, they’re healthy, and they taste really good too!

Don’t stress. The most important tip I can give, especially to parents just entering the picky toddler phase, is not to worry too much. When it comes to our kids we tend to get anxious when things don’t go exactly to plan, but things usually work out in the end. I look at my healthy, lovable little boy—who could stand to be a little more adventurous with his food choices—and realize that it will come with time; I just need to be patient. While I sometimes envy moms whose kids gobble up whatever is put in front of them, I guess my little guy is teaching me, once again, that the best things in life don’t always come easy.

Get Outdoors this Fall! Fun Family Activities in and Around NYC

Fall is definitely my favorite season. Although I’m always a little sad to put my flip-flops away, there is something about the brisk air, beautiful leaves and trees, and new energy of the season that makes it seem ok that summer’s over. What I also love about fall is spending weekends with family—and the weather is perfect for running around outdoors and taking it all in before winter is here. If you’re looking for some great ways to spend your upcoming fall weekends, here are a few fun family activities from my own personal fall schedule.

Kids playing in an apple gardenApple picking. If you have lots of friends with kids like I do, I’m sure your Facebook newsfeed looks similar to mine—happy families posing together in apple orchards, as well as action shots of adorable toddlers dragging huge bags of apples behind them. I’m not usually the jump-on-the-bandwagon type, but my family is joining the craze next weekend, because apple picking is a pretty fun excuse to get out of the city. A few suggestions nearby: Harvest Moon, Masker Orchards, Wightman’s Farm, and Demarest Farms.

Bronx Zoo. The Bronx Zoo is one of my (and my toddler’s) favorite weekend activities. With tons of animals to visit (including a children’s petting zoo) and beautiful tree-lined paths to walk along for hours, it’s close to the city and can be reached by car, bus, or train. A great tip for city families: Check out the Family Premium Zoo pass—it’s a great deal if you plan on going a few times a year. It’s $189 for the year, which includes parking; admission for two adults, children up to age 18, and one guest; plus unlimited access to the area’s four zoos and one aquarium.

Woodbury Commons. Hands down the best outlets I’ve ever been to, Woodbury Commons has every store you can possibly imagine. You’ll find lots of great shopping for kids, as well as a great mix of high-end brands and every day staples for yourself. And since the season is changing (and little ones grow really quickly) there’s a good chance you’ll need to pick up some new things for the cooler weather. It’s also about an hour from the city, so it’s the perfect length of time for a good car nap there and another one on the way back.

Smorgasburg. If you live in Brooklyn, Smorgasburg may be as ordinary as going to your local grocery store, but I’ve never been—and I’m totally intrigued. Each weekend, “Brooklyn’s Flea Food Market” sets up shop on Saturday on the Williamsburg waterfront and on Sunday in Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 5, with over 75 delicious vendors of the best food, drink, and more Brooklyn has to offer. I don’t know about you, but to me it seems like the perfect place to eat, drink, and stroll around with my family on a beautiful fall afternoon. One thing to note: Sunday Smorgasburg will temporarily move to Pier 2 until October 5.

5summertimeplaygroundsnycParks and Playtime. There are great  playgrounds and parks in almost every NYC neighborhood, so you don’t necessarily have to leave the city to make the most of fall. One of my favorite parts about living in New York City is having so many outdoor places to play just a quick walk from my apartment. Head to Central Park for running, playing, and tossing around a ball; visit Washington Square Park for some time on the swings and a stroll; or try out Riverside Park for views of the Hudson while your kids climb on the playground jungle gyms. Don’t underestimate all of the fun fall activities right outside your door.

One quick tip: For just about all of the above activities, get an early start—as in, the minute these places open. You’ll avoid long lines, crowds of people, and impatient kiddies, and you’ll enjoy your time as a family much, much more. Take my word for it!

Diaper Bag Must-Haves For New Moms

Newborn baby and his father's hand - care and safety conceptAfter writing my last post about diaper bag must-haves for moms
with toddlers
, I realized that moms of infants need a completely different set of items in order to be prepared. When my son was an infant, I slowly learned through trial and error what I needed to have with me at all times, and what was just making my bag a lot heavier. So for all the new moms out there who feel as unprepared as I did, here is a short list of musts for every outing with an infant.

Diapers and wipes. Same as a toddler, you need these items at all times. The difference is, you need to carry a lot more! When babies are really little you never know when a blow out may occur, so it’s important to have a good-sized stash on hand.

Change of clothes. Speaking of blowouts, since diapers don’t always contain the mess, it’s important to keep an extra outfit in your bag just in case (and usually one you don’t like that much so you don’t sacrifice a good outfit!). One caveat: babies grow quickly so make sure you’re always carrying your little one’s current size. You don’t want to end up with a 3-month-old outfit for a 9-month-old child!

Extra food/bottles. Hunger seems to be everyone’s first guess when an infant cries, and nine times out of ten they’re right. Having a bottle, water, and extra formula (and this really handy formula holder) or a freshly pumped bottle of milk in your bag is a must. And of course if you exclusively breastfeed, you’re all set!

Burp cloths. Where there’s an infant, there’s spit up, so you’ll probably need one of these in your bag (and in your hand) at all times. I used to use the boring white ones when alone at home, but when my son and I were out, I wanted a prettier option. The aden + anais burpy bibs were my absolute favorite—they’re really soft, come in lots of great designs, and double as bibs when your baby gets older.

Toys. When my son was a newborn, all I needed was the motion of the stroller to keep him happy. But as time went on, Sophie, that silly overpriced giraffe that everyone buys (but no one fully understands the appeal of) is the one toy I had to have at all times. If Sophie isn’t your child’s thing, rattles, shakers, or any other brightly colored toys with different textures and funny sounds will do the trick.

A hat. While a cute baby fedora may be just a fashion item, a warm hat for the winter or a summer hat for sun protection is an absolute must. And since 95% of the time I find myself running out the door in a hurry, keeping an extra hat in my diaper bag means one less thing I have to remember to pack.

Your personal problem solver. When your baby is crying, you’ll do anything to make him or her stop. My son never took a pacifier, but for some moms, it is the ONLY thing that works. I even have a friend who kept her baby carrier in her bag, as it was the only solution for moments of distress. For me, it was a white noise app on my phone. Mine was Relax Melodies, but there are tons out there. My son once sat for an hour in the car with my iPhone propped against his car seat and the sound of a vacuum on full blast. As they say, whatever it takes.

Diaper Bag Musts, From an Unprepared Mom

Diaper BagI’ve never been the kind of person who carries Advil, tissues, Band Aids, or any other “just in case” item. I’m just not the type. Reaching into my bag and finding a pair of sunglasses makes me feel like I’m overly prepared. Despite my efforts (ok I don’t try all that hard) I’m not a naturally maternal person who has all of the necessities when an out-of-the-ordinary situation arises. Until now . . . kind of.

Having a child has partially turned on the part of my brain that questions whether or not I have everything I need in a pinch. If you look in my personal bag, I still don’t have any of the things I might need in case of disaster, but my diaper bag—completely dedicated to my toddler son—is a different story. Despite the fact that I live in New York City and there is a drug store on every corner, my diaper bag is filled with everything I’d need if my son was hungry, bleeding, covered in dirt, and bored out of his mind all at the same time (which is entirely possible). So I thought I’d share a few of my diaper bag must haves for every mom with a toddler—and I’m sure all of the completely prepared moms out there will have some great suggestions for me!

Diapers. If your child is under three this is a no-brainer. If you’re me, in addition to simply having diapers, it’s important to make sure that you’ve actually replenished your stash before walking out the door.

Wipes. Whether your little one is in diapers or not, wipes are an absolute must. Besides diaper changes, wipes are great for cleaning up spills; wiping high chairs, restaurant tables, or any other icky surface; and they also serve as a great substitute for tissues (since I never have them). Any other creative uses? I’d love to hear them.

First aid kit. Whether you create your own or buy a pre-packaged kit (my choice is the latter), any mom with children who can even attempt to walk solo should keep a small stash of bandages and antiseptic wipes in her bag. My son is constantly falling, so I need to be able to swoop in, Sesame Street band aid in hand, and clean up his perpetually scraped knees.

Snacks. No mom should leave the house without a snack (or five) in her diaper bag. Kids get hungry at the most inopportune times, and it’s best to have a quick fix ready to go—or whining will quickly ensue. My diaper bag is filled with packages of Cheerios, Snackimals (the Snickerdoodle flavor is my personal favorite), and Goldfish, but there is an endless supply of portable kids’ snacks available. Freshly cut up fruits and veggies are of course a great option, but that would never fly with my son.

Water. I always have one of those really mini water bottles (Poland Spring makes them) in my bag, just in case. While I try to bring a pre-filled cup for my son everywhere we go, in the event I forget and water isn’t readily available, I always have back up—and a lighter option than a full-size bottle.

Disposable placemats. I wish I thought of these myself. If you’ve never used a Table Topper, you’re totally missing out. These plastic, disposable placemats stick to the table and have fun-themed designs so kids can happily eat their finger foods on a clean surface. Not only are they great for restaurants, they come in handy any time you need to protect a clean surface from a chocolate-covered child.

An activity. Whether it’s a book, a kiddie computer, a ball, or crayons, I always feel better being out with my son when I have some kind of activity in my back pocket. At 20 months old sitting still is not his favorite pastime, so being prepared with something to play with is always to my advantage. Of course he usually wants to play with whatever is around and not actually a toy, so if salt shakers and spoons keep him busy at a restaurant, I’m game.

Hand sanitizer. New York City is a dirty place. Need I say more?

Money. I switch my bags constantly. During the week my necessities (wallet, keys, phone) are in my work bag, during the weekend they’re in my diaper bag, and if I go out for dinner or run a quick errand, they’re all transferred to a different (smaller) purse. Often I’ll leave one of my necessities—many times my wallet—in the wrong bag, so I like to keep an extra $20 bill in my diaper bag. That way, if I’m out with my son and run out of diapers, wipes, snacks, water, placemats, activities, or hand sanitizer, I can buy what I need in a pinch—just in case.