When choosing the best toys for one year olds, whether they’re for my own children or gifts for others, I am always considering LONGEVITY. I hate buying toys that have a short shelf-life. It is such a waste of money!

the best toys for one year olds

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So learn from my mistakes and toy faux pas with my three children and their many MANY toys.

Here is the short list of our absolute favorite toys for one year olds that have

  • stood the test of time
  • been enjoyed in the baby AND toddler stages
  • NOT driven me completely crazy with songs and sounds
  • been easy to clean
  • proven to be durable

Baby Einstein Musical Octopus

Our son’s all time favorite toy for 3 years running is this Baby Einstein Musical Toy (now renamed Baby Einstein Octopus Orchestra Musical Toy). Has an off, low, and high volume option and 2 modes for playing. My favorite is the orchestra mode where your baby can turn different instruments on and off during the song. This helps baby recognize the sounds of different instruments and make unique combinations of sounds. Perfect for the musically-minded baby!

Oombee Cube

Love this little cube! We purchased 3 of these from for our son and a couple of friends’ babies. This is great for that manual dexterity and fine motor development. Also great for teaching shapes and colors, and you can throw the whole thing in the dishwasher (top rack)!

I love that each shape is tethered to the cube with a short string. Shapes do tend to get a bit tangled during play, and younger children will need help untangling them. However, for older toddlers, the tangling provides a good problem-solving challenge.

Spike the Fine Motor Hedgehog

We love Spike! This toy is excellent for fine motor skills (go figure!) but also a couple of other things including hand-eye coordination and color/pattern/number recognition. This toy has SUPER longevity. Our 2 and 4 year old sons still love to arrange the spikes in rows of patterns and put a particular color spike in a particular number hole. Now that the older one can can pop the “shell” part of Spike off, he loves to push the spikes out from the inside (ingenuity!). And the baby just loves to hold and taste the spikes (perfect size for tiny hands). Again, this can all go in the top rack dishwasher for easy sanitizing.

Fisher Price Piggy Bank

We have a thing for Fisher Price toys in our house, and this piggy bank is one of our most favorite. MY favorite thing about this toy is that my baby can play with it and have a great time with NO SOUNDS. It’s just as fun to put the coins in and take them out 1000 times without sounds as it is with. Great for when mommy needs a little quiet! This toy also hits the mark on fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and color/number recognition.

Fair warning: these coins fit REMARKABLY well in those tiny slits of the heat register covers. Ask me how I know.

Washable Stacking Cups

I mean just check out the Amazon reviews on these stackable cups. You can’t argue with that! I have purchased at least 6 sets of these for my own kids and for gifts. EVERY baby shower gift I give comes accompanied by these stacking cups. All 3 of my kids have enjoyed them, and my oldest still loves to play with them in the bath tub. (Read more about bath tub toy safety here). These are great for the bath because they have holes in the bottom and are super easy to clean.

Even if these are not destined to become bath toys, they will still be hours of fun on dry land. Flip them over to stack up a tower, or nest them down as shown in the Amazon photos. Each cup also has a number on the bottom and holes of different shapes. That makes these great for color/number/shape/size recognition along with the fine motor skills needed for stacking and nesting.

Mom on!

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Showering a mom-to-be with gifts is a tradition that dates back to ancient times. In modern culture, the baby shower is a staple for a first-time-mom. Though recently, some millennials have started throwing diaper parties for dads. As with all things related to gifting and soliciting gifts, this begs the question: Is a diaper party tacky? Should I have a diaper party, and if so, what is the accepted etiquette?

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Is a Diaper Party Tacky

What is a diaper party?

A diaper party is a new social gathering gaining popularity among young parents. The goal of a diaper party is to stockpile diapers by requesting each attendee contribute a case of diapers. Diaper parties are typically for men only.

I’ll make no bones about where I stand on this issue. A diaper party is tacky.

First, stockpiling diapers before your little one is born is not beneficial, and you can read all about that here.

Second, soliciting gifts from and friends is never a good look. Society is shifting such that more people are becoming increasingly centered around themselves and meeting their own needs. This shift has become so pervasive and widely accepted that people behaving in this way don’t see themselves as acting selfishly because it has become the norm in some circles.

Having a diaper party or having a raffle-style donation at a baby shower is like asking people to buy you more gifts.

Many people love to give gifts, but that quickly vanishes when the person receiving the gifts seems greedy, ungrateful, or expectant. Giving gifts is an act of love, not an act of obligation. If someone wants to gift diapers, they will. And if they don’t, it is in poor taste to conjure up a situation in which they are expected or outright asked to gift diapers.

The very worst thing you could do is throw a diaper party for yourself (or your dad-to-be).

This feels icky just writing about. It would be like throwing your own birthday party or baby shower. It is just tacky. There’s no way around it.

If someone offers to throw the dad-to-be a diaper party, there is a lot to consider.

Can you politely decline and explain your reasons for not wanting a diaper party? (Try “That is such a generous offer! We are actually going to hold off on stockpiling diapers until we can see which ones our baby tolerates the best.” Or, “That is so thoughtful! We are so overwhelmed by the generosity of our friends and family who have already showered us with gifts for our baby, and we cannot possibly accept anything more!” Or, “The most important thing to us is having loving family and friends to support our baby! Instead of a diaper party, let’s have a gathering once the baby is born, so everyone can spend time together and get to know our new little bundle!”)

If there is no way to politely decline the offer of someone else throwing your dad-to-be a diaper party, you must consider the guest list. Just as with a baby shower, you should invite only close family and friends with whom you normally exchange gifts (birthday gifts, holiday gifts, etc.). And of course, be sure to follow all of the standard party etiquette below.

If you have a diaper party thrown in your honor

  • keep the guest list small
  • make it clear on the invite that diaper donations are much appreciated but not expected
  • convey your sincere thanks at the party to each guest who attends
  • send hand-written thank you notes to each guest who attended regardless of whether or not they gifted diapers

What can be done instead of a diaper party?

  • Encourage the new dad to have a celebration with his friends that would have attended the diaper party. They can trade advice or funny stories about being a dad.
  • Have a small party after the baby is born so family and friends can meet them. If people are organically moved to give a gift, they will give one.
  • Use the opportunity to promote the idea of time over money. Start expressing to friends and family early that you value them spending time with your little one over giving them material gifts.
  • If the new dad feels excluded, throw out the the idea of a female-only baby shower and have a unisex baby shower instead.

I hope this helps you navigate the difficult social waters surrounding gifting!

Mom on!

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Welcome to the second post in our Minimalist Pregnancy Prep series. If you missed the first post of the series, click here to read about what you ACTUALLY need on your baby registry. Let’s discuss all the details of preparing disposable diapers for baby and all of the diaper don’ts.

Here’s a thought to get us started: Would you order a year’s worth of coffee you’ve never tried just so that you didn’t have to be bothered to buy coffee for a year? Of course not. Substitute any important product into that scenario and you’ll likely come up with a similar answer.

The bottom line is: most of us would not stockpile products that we are unfamiliar with. Things we stockpile tend to be items we love and things we know we will use. Usually, the reason for stockpiling is that you come across a fantastic bargain on a product you love at an abnormally low price, so you buy a whole bunch. This makes sense because you’re saving money on something you would buy and use anyway. Or maybe there is a specialty store that you don’t visit often, so you stock up on their items a few times a year. This makes sense because you’re saving yourself time and aggravation by preventing the need to make an extra trip out of your way. But creating a stockpile of items you’re unfamiliar with and are easily obtained (can be purchased at most grocery, pharmacy, and big box stores) isn’t an efficient task.   

Minimalist Pregnancy Diaper Don'ts

Diaper Don’ts

Don’t stock up on diapers or create a complete “diaper stockpile” before your baby is born. I have seen countless articles and infographics on Pinterest advising you on how many of each size diaper you need to stock up on before your baby is born.

That is not sound advice for every mom

I don’t believe that that there are moms out there purposefully passing on bad information. Things probably went smoothly for those moms and their babies, so they aren’t aware of the issues other babies and moms face with diapers. This is great for them, but not great for the mom who may spend hours couponing, shopping, stacking, and organizing a year’s worth of diapers because someone promised her that diaper stockpiling was a genius idea only to find out those carefully prepped diapers won’t work for her baby.

What IS sound advice for every mom preparing for a new baby is to keep your options and your mind open. Wait to see what products will work for your baby before purchasing anything in bulk.

Downsides of diaper stockpiling

Fits of different brands or different product lines of the same brand might not work well for your baby. In general, all diapers have give and stretch to them. But some have more or less stretch, some fit higher or lower up back and belly, and some have more or less room built in for expansion of the hydrogel.

Also your baby may grow out of sizes quickly or stay in some sizes longer than the average baby. In which case someone else’s chart of how many of each size diaper worked for their baby will be completely different for your baby. No one’s baby is average in any way. Certainly there is a general growth curve that most infants follow, but by no means does every baby grow at the same rate. This makes it difficult to accurately predict how long your baby will be in each weight range for diaper sizing. There is also an average amount of wet and dry diapers that babies tend to produce by age, but you might have an above average producer of dirty diapers (congratulations!).

Another diaper variable is that certain brands are better than others for your baby in terms of absorption and containment. Blowouts are inevitable, but some babies constantly blow out in certain brands but not others. I believe this is probably all tied to the fit of the diaper on your precious individual’s bottom, and whether your baby tends to hold it all in and go at once or go frequently in smaller amounts. You won’t know this until you meet your little pumpkin.

A less likely downside of diaper stockpiling is that your baby could be allergic to a certain ingredient in disposable diapers.

Ingredients in diapers that can cause an allergic reaction on the skin (diaper dermatitis) or other irritation:

  • diaper fibers (although cotton-specific allergy is rare)
  • hydrogel (absorbent gel used to soak up liquid – also goes by the names Super Absorbent Polymer [SAP], sodium polyacrylate, Absorbent Gel Material [AGM], and others)
  • plastics
  • dyes
  • fragrance
  • preservatives

A baby’s symptoms of a diaper allergy can include redness, swelling, itching, pain, fussiness, raw skin, and general discomfort. Allergic reaction to ingredients in disposable diapers is not very common. However, in some ways it mimics the symptoms of diaper rash which can make it hard to identify. A process of trial-and-error with different brands usually takes place until a non-allergy-inducing brand is found.

More likely than a full-blown allergy is just the simple fact that different brands work for different families, and you will very likely find a brand that you love that works better for your baby. And you probably won’t know what that brand is until you’ve tried a few different ones.

Exchanging and returning diapers

Most stores will exchange unopened diapers if you need to swap out sizes. For this reason, I never open a box of diapers until I’m ready to use it.

Some stores will offer store credit if you return unopened diapers without a receipt. The tricky part here is that you often need to know what store the diapers were purchased from. Grocery stores, pharmacies, baby stores, big box stores, and club stores sell different pack-ups of diapers. For example, you might only find a 236 count box of size 3 Pampers Baby Dry only at Costco, BJ’s, Sam’s Club or similar club stores. (Also you usually need a membership to exchange merchandise at a club store). Target might only sell Pampers Baby Dry size 3 in boxes of 180 or smaller. Store will not take a return or exchange unless the item is absolutely identical to the item they sell.

Being stuck with boxes of brand new diapers you can’t use or exchange is a real bummer. Diapers are expensive! You don’t want your hard-earned money or someone else’s sitting in a box in the closet waiting for your guilt to dissipate enough to donate them. 

If you are trying to return or exchange diapers that you received as a gift, you could try downloading an app like ShopSavvy which allows you to scan the barcode and then lists a number of online and local stores that sell the product. I have found that this is not reliable 100% of the time, but it does work to some extent.

More products to hold off on stockpiling:

  • diaper cream
  • lotion
  • baby wash or shampoo
  • healing balm
  • wipes
  • baby’s laundry detergent

It’s very likely that you will identify your favorite products for you baby through trial and error. Don’t invest yourself heavily into a ton of product you may end up not using. 

HOWEVER, I am not an unrealistic person. I realize that you both want and need to be prepared.

My suggestion is to buy a small pack of size 1 diapers in a brand that is sustainable to you (cost-wise). Don’t buy a small pack of the most expensive organic, environmentally friendly diapers to try out if your budget won’t allow you to continue to buy that brand. Buy ONE each of the items above (diaper creams, laundry detergent, etc.) and then wait and see how your baby reacts to it. Use it and see if it’s effective and if you like it. THEN after the brands have passed your scrutinizing mom test, go ahead and stock up to your heart’s content!

Many people want to have every. possible. thing. ready for their baby, and that is fine. Just be sure you’re not setting yourself up for more aggravation down the road! 

Mom on!


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Welcome to the first post in our Minimalist Pregnancy Prep series. Every expecting mom loves planning for their baby’s arrival. Getting a baby registry together with all the items you’ll need is a fun and exciting way to prepare for your baby. Read on to find my top baby registry tips from a second time mom who’s been there and done that.

Baby registry tips form a second time mom

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The absolute essentials:

  • clothes (launder only a few outfits and leave the rest with the tags on and receipt attached just in case)
  • bibs/cloths
  • crib
  • crib sheets
  • car seat

Red light: What you really don’t need and won’t use:

Wipe warmer

Hear me: YOU DO NOT WANT YOUR BABY GETTING ACCUSTOMED TO WARM WIPES. Trust me on that. This will cause all sorts of fun changing-room drama when you’re out and about and dare to put a room-temperature wipe on your little one’s butt. DRAMA. No thanks. My babies both survived on room-temp wipes (shocking, I know) and your baby will, too!

Bottle warmer

Bottle warmers are super aggravating to me. They take up valuable counter space and they really are not worth their weight. The thing I disliked most about my bottle warmer was that it took a ridiculous amount of time to heat up the bottle to the “perfect temperature.” It also made the outside of the bottle pretty warm. Too warm, in my opinion, to put near my infant. I ditched the bottle warmer fast and never looked back.


SAY WHAAAAATTTT? Yes, I am telling you not to buy diapers. Don’t register for diapers. Don’t have a “diaper party.” I hear you. You’re saying, “Why in the hell would I not stock up on those expensive little disposable butts????? Do you know how much those things cost?!?!?” Yes, I know. I have 2 in diapers right now. I KNOW. HOWEVER….. I have a lot of good reasons, and you can read in depth on why you shouldn’t start a diaper stockpile here.


Even more than my (excellent and convincing) reasoning above for diapers, do not buy formula in advance! Formula allergies and sensitivities are even more prevalent than diaper allergies and sensitivities. I don’t even remember how many types of formula we tried with our first son before settling on the only one he would tolerate: Enfamil AR. We threw out A LOT of basically full containers of formula because our son couldn’t eat it and we didn’t have anyone to give them to. Luckily we found that our pediatrician had sample cans of a bunch of different formula brands and types and would give us one to try so we weren’t constantly buying cans to try and then ultimately throw out.

Crib bedding and bumpers

Don’t do it! Babies should sleep alone in their crib without crib bumpers/pads, bedding of any kind, or stuffed animals. The American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines say a baby should be in a crib with a firm mattress and well-fitting fitted sheet ONLY. NOTHING ELSE!!!! I know crib bedding and bumpers are adorable and can make the nursery look just so, but the beauty of it is not worth the risk to your baby.
We see gorgeous nurseries on Pinterest and in magazines all the time with bedding and bumpers. I see crib bedding and bumpers in all the baby aisles. But I have never owned any and never will. God forbid something terrible ever happen, I would never forgive myself. The potential risk is far too great for me to even consider using any of these products. I have adorable fitted sheets, and that’s perfectly good for me.
I also don’t think you need to buy waterproof crib mattress pads. Almost all crib mattresses are waterproof and can be cleaned off with mild baby-safe cleanser. Or my favorite: castile soap.

Boppy or other nursing pillows

I won’t try to hide it: I really loathe the Boppy pillow. It seems like every pregnant person in the last two decades has put this on their registry, but I am not sure why. When I was breastfeeding in the hospital, the lactation consultant didn’t come waltzing in hailing the Boppy pillow. We rolled up some hospital pillows and called it a day. Once I was home, I actually found that a rolled up throw blanket worked the best for me and was easier to manipulate to the exact shape I wanted when I was nursing. The Boppy has been upstairs in a closet where I move it around every so often and swear about the space it takes up.

The Cadillac of portable cribs

Portable cribs come with some crazy stuff these days! Adjustable heights for newborns, newborn changing tables, mobiles, mirrors, diaper caddies, newborn napper, etc. You honestly don’t need any of these things. Plus when your newborn outgrows all of it and you just want the actual crib part, you are going to have to find some place to store all of that crap. I do recommend having a portable crib, but just something basic like this. 

baby registry tips

Yellow light: Not necessities, but things you may want to consider:

Diaper Genie

I’ve heard people say you can just throw diapers in the garbage. That is absolutely true, but if you don’t want to live in a house that smells like baby poop 24/7, I highly recommend making the small investment into a Diaper Genie.
These things really do contain the odor (and I don’t even use the odor-neutralizing pouches). Plus they have a small footprint and are easy to use. Replacing the refill bags is super easy and if you have a BJ’s membership, you can almost always get at least a $4 coupon off the refills. Also big box stores like Walmart and Target sell store brand refills that fit the Diaper Genie on the cheap.
This is something with a relatively low cost that is worth every single penny. That coming from a mom with 2 babies in diapers. Check out the one I use here.

Baby Breeza

It’s expensive. I’ll give you that. But the convenience cannot be matched (especially at 3am). I am an enormous fan on my Keurig, and the Baby Breeza is basically a Keurig for babies. It has a water tank that keeps the water constantly heated to the perfect temp for bottles, and it has a 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 ounce setting. You can put the powdered formula in a reservoir in the top, and it will mix the right amount of formula and warm water and pump out the perfect ba-ba. You can also use spring water or filtered water if you don’t like using tap.
To be honest, I don’t put the formula in mine simply because I don’t feel like cleaning it. We use our Baby Breeza just for the perfectly warm water on demand. This means no waiting for tap water to heat up in at 3am in the dead of winter, no microwaving spring/filtered water, and no bottle warmer. It is absolutely fantastic, and if you can afford it or are lucky enough to receive it as a gift, you will love it, too. Check it out on Amazon here. 

Something to set your baby in

I am not big on swings at all. I think they are a waste of money and space. We were gifted a swing that has been used MAYBE 10 times across two children. If you can get a swing on the cheap, then go ahead and try it, but I would not recommend spending $250 on a Mamaroo. Although in total transparency, I’ve never tried the Mamaroo, so who knows, it could be amazing. But it would have to be pretty great to justify spending that kind of money.
With that said, you will want to have something you can set your baby down in. With my first, we put a baby blanket on the floor and set him on it, and it worked perfectly. However, if you have other children or pets, you will want something more secure and out of the way. With our second, we set up the portable crib downstairs in the family room which worked perfectly. We already owned one that we used as a travel crib, and I am big on getting as much use as possible out of one purchase. That was a win for us.

Green light: The A List. The PLEASE-TAKE-MY-MONEY list:

Halo Sleepsack

There is a reason they give these out in hospitals and you hear parents raving about them: they are fantastic! With my first baby, I used a different brand which I liked, but after trying the Halo, I am officially converted. This sleepsack is amazing quality and most importantly: helped my infants sleep!
There are many things that contribute to great infant sleep and this is definitely one of them. Everyone knows swaddling babies helps them sleep better, but blanket swaddling takes some skill, and even then babies tend to wiggle their little arms and legs out. The shape of the Halo is perfect for keeping tiny limbs contained (which also helps calm a baby’s startle reflex), and the Velcro is plentiful and high quality. I have washed all of my sleepsacks a million times and they hold up perfectly.
These are also made in a variety of materials so you can get lighter or heavier weight fabrics depending on your climate and needs. This is my number one recommendation when people ask me what they should put on their registry. SLEEPSACKS! Lots (OK maybe 4 or 5) of sleepsacks. Check them out on Amazon. 

Halo Sleepsack Wearable blanket

I feel very strongly about abiding by The American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines which state you should not put anything in baby’s crib including blankets. However, we live in a cold climate and I am always worried about my baby being too cold. 
This wearable blanket is the perfect solution. It is just like the Halo Sleepsack but without the swaddle. When your baby starts rolling, you don’t want to swaddle them anymore because it could pose a risk of suffocation. However, once you ditch the Halo Sleepsack Swaddle, you lose all of that comfiness and warmth it provides. Don’t be tempted to put a blanket in your baby’s crib at this point. Just switch over to the wearable blanket.
It keeps them nice and cozy warm and is available in different fabric weights just like the swaddle. It’s the perfect balance of safety and comfort. Check it out here. 

Amazon Echo Dot

When you have a new baby, there are a lot of things to keep track of. If you formula-feed, you will need to track feeding times, time between feedings, and feeding amounts. If you breastfeed, you will need to track feeding times, time between feedings, and how much time is spent nursing on either breast. Your hospital and pediatrician will also ask you to keep a count of wet and dirty diapers. And if you’re trying to adapt your baby to a specific schedule, you will want to track their nap times and length.
This is A LOT of information for an exhausted new mom to keep track of. I remember being so exhausted as a new mom that it was starting to affect my vision. Tracking so much important information (about 12-20 times a day) with paper and pen is a real challenge. It’s inevitable to forget to log something or lose the papers all together. After a few weeks, we found the most amazing (and cheap – about $35) solution to this problem: the Echo Dot.
I formula fed both our babies (the first one due to breastfeeding impairment because of my epidural) and we took shifts switching on and off to feed the baby overnight. Now let me tell you: when you are an exhausted, EXHAUSTED new mom and you get a few hours of sleep in a row because your amazingly fantastic, dedicated (and hot) husband is getting up to feed the baby, you do not want him waking you up to ask the time of the last feeding. And really, he doesn’t want this either because tired new moms can be cranky to say the least.
The newborn phase (especially for new parents) is this exhausted haze where you have no idea what time of day it is, you haven’t left the house in a week, and everything starts to blur together. Eat, wake, sleep, repeat on what feels like an endless cycle. 
We used the Alexa Skill called Baby Stats to track everything (IT’S FREE!). Put the Echo somewhere convenient either in the kitchen where you make the bottles, in the baby’s room, or next to where you will be doing your feedings (or buy multiples and put them everywhere). Then you just ask Alexa to add a feeding or ask her when the last feeding was. It tracks it to the minute.
The Echo Dot is completely controlled by your voice, so you don’t have to keep a physical log.
Baby Stats skill tracks:
  • kicks
  • pumping
  • breastfeeding
  • bottle feeding
  • wet/dirty diapers
  • sleep
And you can get weekly pregnancy updates tailored to your due date. The Echo Dot has to be in my top ten list of things I have ever purchased. Trust me, just go to Amazon and buy it now.
I hope these tips help you craft the perfect registry for your baby! Keep in mind that you don’t need to own every baby product in existence to be a great mom and have a happy baby!
Mom on!

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