This is our second time into toddlerhood, we learned a lot the first time around, and obviously in 6 years, things have changed and progressed and we've learned more since then. I'm sure if there were a third journey we'd learn even more. But, for now, I wanted to share our must haves.
Obviously, every family is going to be different. This is what has worked for our family. And a lot of it has to do with easing communication which therefore decreases tantrums, crying and frustration for the little one. I really wanted to sign with Kaitlyn. Really wanted to. But, since she was born with her tongue tied and that ultimately led to years of speech therapy, we made the decision with her speech therapist and doctor to not sign. We all agreed it would cut down on her frustration, however, her frustration fueled her to work harder on her speech which greatly benefited her in the long run. Samantha was also born tongue tied and while I do not think she'll need speech therapy because she was "clipped" earlier and has such an extensive vocabulary, I don't want to risk it.
Without further digression, here is our list:
* Sippy Cups. And a lot of them. It is so important to wean baby from the bottle. We usually start at about 10 months because this is the age they seem to be more willing to try something new and typically aren't as attached. However, it's hard to know what kind they will like: hard spout, soft spout, big handles, little handles, no handles, clunky, tiny and so on. We buy a variety and when she shows her favorites we stock up on those. They are always kept in a cupboard she can easily get to because it cuts down on frustrations. If she wants something to drink, she just walks over to her cupboard and gets a cup and brings it to me and it's clear that she's fussy because she's thirsty. No guess work involved.
* Hip Hammock (or sling that works with little ones over 25 lbs). I personally love the hip hammock. It holds them on your hip until 35 lbs and evenly distributes the weight across your back and shoulders. This makes it so easy for when we're out shopping and I have to run into the grocery store and look in the backseat to discover she's sound asleep. I then have to make a decision based on 3 choices: 1. Wake her up and deal with the consequences; 2. Put her in the stroller and maneuver the stroller and groceries; 3. Put her in the hip hammock, push a basket and let her sleep. I personally like #3. I know there is a huge variety of slings and carriers on the market, this just so happens to be my personal favorite at this age, but find what works for you and your baby.
* Musical CD of classical lullabies. This has saved our sleep. It's the same CD we used for Kaitlyn. It only gets turned on twice and then plays on repeat. The first time of the day is during nap time. Samantha knows that if we're going into her room and I turn the CD on and hand her a blanket, it's nap time. And she will now go down without fussing. Same thing at night. It also creates enough background noise where Dusty can drill into the walls, I can vacuum and Kaitlyn can sing at the top of her lungs and she will sleep through it.
* Good Tennis Shoes. I am a big fan of comfort over looks any day of the week. Samantha wears her sketchers or her Stride Rites every day. They don't leave any marks on her feet, she has figured out how to walk really well in shoes and her feet are protected from the elements.
* A favorite blankie. Samantha FINALLY has a favorite. She had one that she really liked, and she would cuddle it when she slept, but it never was something she had to take with her. Then, I made her one that was minkie on one side and silky on the other. She will drag it all over the place (which reminds me, I need to go pick up more yardage of it so they can be in rotation!), and insist on it to sleep with. And it's super lightweight, so I more comfortable when she insists on putting it over her head or walking around with it draped over her.
* Easily accessible toys. I am a firm believer in teaching kids how to entertain themselves at an early age. It helps foster an active imagination, it gives you some time to enjoy that cup of coffee and it just is so sweet to peak into their room or their space and see them playing while imaging what could be going on in their heads. Samantha has toddler toys in her room that she can get to easily, both in and out of bins. Since kids love the activity of pulling things out of boxes and shoving them back in, she has soft cloth cubes that she can easily carry that are filled with toys.
* Easy to put on clothes. Once they can take off, it's all they want to do. They do not have time for you to bother them with being dressed, brushing their hair or any of that. At least, that's what Samantha tries to communicate with me by thrashing all over the place and yelling "Up! Up!" as I'm trying to get her dressed. They are going to get dirty, they are going to need something they can move easily in and they are going to try and take their clothes off. Samantha does not like to be in just a diaper ever. If she is, she'll bring us whatever clothing she is missing (top or bottom) and insist we put it on her as she walks. This also makes it so much easier for when they start insisting on doing it themselves.
* Patience, a sense of humor, a camera. This time goes by so incredibly fast. In my opinion, the first year is nothing compared to the ones that come after it. Each day they are learning and figuring out so much and from month to month they loose that baby-ness to them. They become such individuals and it's just overall scary how quickly they leave their babyself in the dust. Enjoy it. Take a ton of pictures, there is no such thing as too much. Videotape their tiny voices and the silly noises they make, watch their brains work, learn to laugh when everything goes wrong and remember how hard their brains and bodies are working.
For us, everything else is fun, but these are the necessities. These are the things that makes our days go by easier.