#DadLife: Things I Couldn’t Live Without As A Stay-At-Home Dad Vol. 01
It has almost been a year since I started a full-time career as a stay-at-home dad. Along the way I’ve seen and used hundreds of products, toys, utensils, and whatever else you can throw at a child (safely throw, of course). Out of the piles of chaos, only a few have had a starring role.
These are the go-tos and everyday in-hand, on-back products that have helped make the stay-at-home dad job easier.
[Editor’s Note: There is no sponsored content in this article. Just straight-up honesty about the products that saved my days and saved my sanity.]
Baby Einstein™’s Take Along Tunes ($8.99)
I wish I knew if this toy contained some magic relic that enchants tiny babies, or if it’s blessed by singing angels at the end of the production line, or if the flashing lights are in tune with the happiness of babies everywhere. For whatever mystical reason, kids love this thing.
We bought this toy for my son around month four and at month fourteen he still plays with it (we actually have two since one had the bottom sticker scraped off during a teething period). Initially, the lights and classical music were a great distraction. Now, it holds his interest as he figures out the cause and effect of pushing all the buttons he can.
You’re going to want to throw it out the window after you’ve heard the freebie classical songs for the one-billionth time. But remember that those songs are better than the unwavering tones of misery emitting from your baby’s mouth.
UPPAbaby Mesa ($299.99)
This car seat is expensive but it carries that price tag for a reason.
First, it’s one of the safest seats on the market. It’s like putting a bike helmet on your baby’s entire body.
Second, it’s versatile. Most car seats are built to lock into one type of base that remains inside your car. The Mesa is built to snug into any car or airplane when you’re on the go, no base needed. You can rent child seats from car rental companies, but you can never know their safety record. When you bring your own, you know everything checks out.
Third, it’s easy to use. One button gets it in and out of the stroller. One button gets it in and out of the car seat base. We never tried other car seats, but I don’t know if I could use another after the Mesa.
Zutano Baby Cozie Booties ($21.00)
Boots without the fur.
We had a pair of these when little dude was a littler dude and didn’t use them that much. Then I brought them for him to wear on his first flight and have been a fan ever since.
They’re easy to snap on. They’re easy to pull off (as he often does before napping). They pack well. And I wish they were made in adult sizes. These are the perfect on-the-go slippers.
REI Trail 25 Backpack ($69.95)
There are an overwhelming amount of diaper bags on the market. Most are designed for women, some claim to be unisex, a few are for men. Some are cheap, some are expensive. At the end of day, it’s all so you can try and look good dragging around diapers in various stages of cleanliness, toys, wipes, and an arsenal of other crap you’ll need to get through the day.
Most diaper bags are messenger-style, which are a pain when you’re trying to carry a kid or sling it over a stroller. I wanted a backpack. I didn’t bother looking for bags designed for men to be diaper bags and instead went to hiking packs. They have straps and clips and pockets and hidden pockets and pockets inside pockets and most often, they’re super easy to clean in the event that a diaper/bottle/baby erupts all over it.
WaterWipes Sensitive Baby Wipes ($23.99*)
When you have a kid, you wipe everything. Shopping carts, hands, faces, high chairs before and after they eat, tables before and after they eat, floors after the eat, handles, keys, toys, hands again, faces again, toys again, pacifiers, butts, nuts and wieners.
WaterWipes are the best. No chemicals. No dangers. Easy to take with you, easy to use, and you never have to worry. We’ve gone through more of these than we can count and it’s a must have for scrubbing filthy children.
*Price is for a box containing 9 packs with 60 in each. Which is the way to go so you can just throw a pack in a diaper bag.
ZoLi BOT Straw Sippy Cup ($12.00)
We skipped the sippy cup phase with our mutt. He immediately took to straws, most likely because he figured out he could suck down a five gallon bucket of water without blinking.
We use a bunch of straw-based cups (like the Lollacups) when we’re at home but when we’re on the go, we ZoLi. The difference is when little guy decides to jettison his cup to the seat next to him, the ZoLi doesn’t spill. The straw is “sealed” and doesn’t allow beverages to continually pour all over the car, the house, himself.
Chicago Cubs Toddler Hat ($14.99)
I am, and always will be, a fan of the 2016 World Champion Chicago Cubs. And by birth law, so now is my son. Just because he was born in Los Angeles doesn’t give him the right to cheer for the Dodgers, or even worse, the Angels. And I’m going to take as many pictures of him in this hat as I can so he’ll never forget [betray] that.
I also have a firm belief that just because the retail market TRIES to make you dress your kid in terrible clothing with terrible slogans or animals or vehicles on them, doesn’t mean you have to. You can find hats and clothes that are way cooler.
White Noise App ($0.99)
During his first three months on this delightful planet, the kid wasn’t much of a sleeper. As most babies do, he responded well to white noise.
The over-appropriately named White Noise App was perfect. It has a great library of sounds, it’s easy to use, and we still use it to this day (as you read this, there’s a crew remodeling a bathroom right outside his door and he’s sleeping like a log).
The added bonus is that it’s an app on your phone. You don’t need to carry around another thing just to make noise. You always have your phone with you and can fire up the app to drown out the world around them.
Munchkin Snack Catcher ($3.00)
If your child is like mine and was born with hands the size of a backhoe bucket and the ability to open his throat to swallow mass amounts of food into a blackhole stomach, you do what you can to slow them down.
The Snack Catcher does just that. It lets us put a small amount of snack food at the bottom and then dude has to fish it out. The design at the top keeps snacks in and also knocks loose snacks back into cup. Also good for snacks on the go when you have to throw them in a car seat and run.
Dewalt DC970K-2 18-Volt Compact Drill/Driver Kit ($79.00)
You wouldn’t believe the amount of stuff that needs to be assembled when you have a kid. And then there’s stuff that needs to be disassembled, repaired or replaced, then reassembled.
We bought this before he was born and it’s been a loyal tool used almost weekly. The batteries it came with still hold a great charge.
PRO TIP: Make sure you buy an Allen bit kit. For some reason every furniture company has decided that giving you a crappy Allen wrench to assemble massive dressers is okay. It’s not. Buy the Allen bits and you’ll save hours.
Dewalt Folding Boxcutter ($12.99)
When you think babies, you think folding boxcutters. It’s a natural combo.
With babies comes an insane amount of baby stuff in boxes. And those boxes don’t easily fit into your recycle cans outside because they’re usually enormous. If you ever want to fit more than three in a can at a time, you have to cut them down. Over and over and over.
Plus, everything is sealed with packing tape, or bound with some sort of blood-inducing plastic strap and it’s just easier to slash it open.
Also, it’s slightly therapeutic.
Scotch® Heavy Duty Shipping Packaging Tape with Dispenser ($3.99)
My belief is that if mothers are her to protect, and fathers are here to prepare, and babies are here to destroy. They have no understanding of “gentle.” Our tiny tank has always had a liking for books, and that is often accompanied by a knack for mulching them with his tiny sausage fingers. Packing tape can fix that. In most of his favorite books, you can find pages “remastered” with packing tape concealing a previous massacre.
The Oogiebear is a strange looking device. It’s roughly the size of a thin crayon with two tiny plastic loops on either end. What is this odd thing for?
It’s for digging the gross boogers and ear wax out of your kid’s heads quickly before they swat you away or wiggle free. It gets in the places that adult fingers don’t fit. Most parents know that even their smallest fingers can’t venture up a kid’s little piglet nostrils. It’s a dream for a slightly-OCD person like myself who NEEDS to get that one fleck of ear wax out before anyone thinks he’s the dirty kid on the playground.
Again, this thing is also oddly therapeutic.
John Deere Massaging Corn Teether ($8.99)
I bought this last Christmas when I was deep in an Amazon Prime blackhole. My brain just went, “Heh,” then I added it to my cart and put it in his stocking. Now, after a series of tried and failed teething devices, this goofy thing is the only thing he’ll munch on.
When I bought it, I had no idea that it vibrated when he bites down on the corn end. It gives a quick, soothing shake to teeth and gums. It makes him feel better and it’s kinda fun watching his eyes gloss over when he uses it.
That’s a pretty lengthy list for year-one. And I managed to talk about baby butts and box cutters in the same article, so I’m considering that a personal victory.