What You Need for Toddlers

Potty Training in Special Situations
Potty Training in Special Situations. Ryan McVay / Getty Images

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

So as you hit the toddler years, what products and gear do you need to have on hand to help your young child 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, 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 as your toddler becomes more active and steadier on her feet, you may need to rearrange the configurations, and you 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 a break. Toddler play yards or fenced-in areas like the PlayZone can let you set up a safe area specifically for your child even if you have a relatively small living space.

Some of these products have expansion kits that let you enlarge the self-contained area as your child becomes more mobile.

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 once you have a toddler.

For younger toddlers, you can quickly mash up the chicken, fish, or other dishes the rest of your family is eating (this is a great way to get your child used to eating the same meal as mom and dad). You can also use your food processor 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. Keep trying! 

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. Some ride-on toys can convert into push toys, which allows younger toddlers to 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 young child is learning to walk. That said, sometimes society and weather conditions require footwear for your toddler. And getting a good pair of first shoes will help your new walker with balance and avoid pinching or pain.

You'll want to look for a good, sturdy and comfortable shoe with good ankle support for toddlers. The most important thing is to get a shoe that fits well. 

A Nice Set of Blocks
As you probably already know, most toddlers can entertain themselves with an empty box for hours, but there are some toys that help toddlers develop cognitive and fine motor skills, like blocks. 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.