A quick glance around our living room will tell you a numbers of things. 1. I have an unhealthy obsession with Lucozade. 2. We still haven’t got round to putting our wedding photos up. 3. You can barely walk two steps without bundling into some kind of baby toy, gadget, car, stimulator, book or singing cuddly thing that’s powered by batteries and almost impossible to turn off.
Positively, a lot of these products are well used and much loved. Negatively, some barely made it out of their packaging before being flung to one side and consigned to a life of being occasionally tripped over. Which got me thinking. Wouldn’t it be great if a mum or dad with a kid around the age of one helped other new parents see more than 0.2% of their floor space by coming up with a concise list of the products that have either improved their lives or floated their child’s boat? Spoiler alert: the answer is yes and that parent is me. Here, in no particular order, are the 13 best products from my baby’s first 13 months.
1. Vtech Musical Rhymes Book
Largely due to the fact it sang six songs, made a lot of different noises and was durable enough to withstand being flung from the bed, out of the high chair, down the stairs or off any kind of worktop, this plastic book proved invaluable when trying to a) entertain the bubster during the early days of weaning or b) get our son to lie even vaguely still during a nappy change. Bonus points are awarded for the attention grabbing little bits that twist or move. Danger points are deducted for the pain inflicted when baby traps your finger in between the pages or drops the book on your head.
Get it: £15.99, Argos
2. The Original Jolly Jumper Baby Exerciser with Door Clamp
I didn’t like sitting in chairs or lying down when I was a pint-sized cherub. And from an early stage it was clear that our little man was wired the same way. “The only thing that worked with you was a bouncer,” revealed my mum, so my wife and I crossed our fingers and suspended our child from a doorframe. Initial trials with a much cheaper version had mixed results, but the moment we upgraded to this far superior product the bubster was hooked, bouncing for hours and smiling for even longer. It’s not the easiest structure to strap onto a squirming infant, but all efforts are worth it when you discover the reward is 20-30 free minutes to check Facebook and savour a cup of tea (or, you know, do the dishes, load the washing machine, cook the lunch etc. etc.)
Get it: From £55, Amazon
3. Oasis Disposable Steriliser Bags
If you’re going away with your little one and don’t want to waste a significant percentage of your luggage space carting a bottle steriliser halfway round the globe, you can source a steriliser at your destination, spend a lot of potential sunbathing time boiling bottles in a giant pan or plump for these simple and effective steriliser bags. Really? Yes, really. Like you, we were a little scared to begin with. But, along with some Milton sterilising tablets, we used them for a week while on holiday in Dubai and our son only got sick six times. Stop panicking, I’m joking. Despite continually eating sand, chewing on a variety of sun loungers and licking a dirty ice cream wrapper that blew into his pram, he was in rude health all week.
Get them: £9.99, Boots
4. Dr Brown’s Natural Flow bottles
In an ideal world we would have saved some cash by buying cheaper bottles. Then again, in an ideal world our son wouldn’t have suffered from tummy-tightening, tear-inducing, sleep-shattering, colic. But he did. My goodness, he did. Infacol helped to some extent, but these bottles made the by far and away the biggest difference.
Get them: £19 for three, Tesco
5. IKEA Antilop High chair with tray
Wow. Has my life really come to this? Am I actually about to recommend a high chair? Yes, I am. And I am going to recommend it because: it’s cheap; it’s easy to wipe clean; it’s simple to put together; the tray’s big enough for a number of distraction devices; and our son likes it.
Get it: £13, IKEA
6. Skip Hop Pronto Changing Station Bag
Boy, have this portable baby changing mat and I seen been through some ‘action’ together. If it could talk it would tell tales of escapee excrement, free-flowing pee pee, car boots, park benches, disabled toilet floors, uninvited breast feeders and lots and lots of baby and adult tears. But it can’t, because it is a changing mat. A fantastic, wouldn’t swap it for any other mat in the world changing mat, but a changing mat nonetheless.
Get it: £30, John Lewis
7. Fisher-Price Roar ‘N’ Ride
We bought this product in the hope that it would stop our son screaming like a deranged lunatic every time he sat in his car seat. It didn’t work. The tantrums remained, so we brought the lion and his shaker back into the house and dumped them in the toy box. For two months they remained discarded and unloved. Then completely out of the blue, the wee man pressed the button on the lion’s tummy, heard the music and started grinning and dancing (read: wiggling his butt and flexing his knees). From that moment on, it has resided on our lounge window and he can’t get enough. Every morning he’ll point at it, every morning I’ll press it and every morning we’ll dance, dance, dance.
Get it: £14.99, Toys R Us
8. Tommy Tippee Sangenic Tec Nappy Disposal Tub (white)
Confession time. I’ve reached the stage of parenting where I just shrug and reach for the soap when I discover that I’ve got a bit of poop on my hand or arm. Is everyone else out there on the same page? If you are, it’s a pleasure to meet you, but let’s agree not to shake hands. If you aren’t, meet your new best friend. Out of the three or four nappy bins we’ve tried, this is by far and away the best at a) containing the stench of my son’s nappies and b) keeping all the nappies you’ve previously put in the bin away from the bit you have to stick your hand in.
Get it: From £17.99, Amazon
9. ASDA Little Angels Organic Squeezy Fruit Pouches
From one end of my baby to the other. That’s right, people. What goes out, must come in and when our little prince began teething chilled squeezy fruit pouches were pretty much the only thing that he would allow past his lips. Other brands of squeezy fruit pouch are available, and all of them are decent enough, but in terms of variety, price and portion size my wife and I would thoroughly recommend ASDA.
Get them: Six for £4, ASDA
10. BabyBjörn Miracle Carrier
How cool did I look whenever I transported my wee man around town in this sleek black and silver number? The answer is not very. With the possible exception of Alan Garner in The Hangover and Ryan Reynolds the second he decides to wear one, no-one has ever looked cooled in a BabyBjörn. But who cares when it’s such a parental game-changer? For the first couple of months, my wife or I had to carry our terra firma-hating little angel in one arm or the other. Then this transportation device came into our lives and gave us the freedom to use both hands again. It was a revelation and we made the most of it, taking baby into town, on long walks or simply up and down the stairs until he fell asleep and we could sit down and watch TV. There are cheaper versions than the Miracle, but we chose it because our son was a bit of a chubster and we felt the extra back protection would come in handy.
Get it: £79.20, John Lewis
11. Mothercare Ergonomic Bath Support
Splish, splash, in the interests of hygiene, he was having a bath, whether he liked it or not. And let me tell you something. At first he DID. NOT. LIKE. IT. But then we got this bath chair and his mood altered completely. It might not be as tech-laden as a lot of other bath chairs, and it might not be 100% proof when it comes to protecting the bath giver from a urine fountain, but it’s cheap, portable, durable, easy to clean and comfy.
Get it: £10, Mothercare
12. Sleepyhead Deluxe+ Baby Pod
Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good. And proof of this comes in the way I purchased the only item my baby would lie down and go to sleep in during the first five months of his life. Did I research the Sleepyhead in minute detail, Googling reviews, buying magazines, assessing its features and comparing it to other similar products? Did I heck. I simply ran into John Lewis in an exhausted haze and begged the lady behind the counter to suggest something that might help a couple of new parents who were so tired they’d begun hallucinating. Her reply? “The Sleepyhead is getting some great reviews from parents.” Sold to the very grateful man with porridge on his chin and his T-shirt on back to front.
Get it: £120, John Lewis
13. Bigjigs Toys Push Along (Frog)
Yes, this toy looks like it could spawn its own horror movie series. And yes, it’s nowhere near as advanced as half of the stuff that’s lying around our house. But if my kid isn’t commanding my wife to race it up and down the kitchen, he is chasing her with it or using it to explore the house. It’s a strange love affair, but it’s one we’re happy to encourage because it’s both helping his motor skills – he has to pick it up with his hand, manoeuvre it round corners, lift it up steps etc – and his walking. Note: on the website it says recommended for 18 months +, but my little one’s just about to turn 13 months and he’s all over it.
Get it: £7.69, Bigjigs Toys
And that would be it for this week if I hadn’t decided to end the article with a random paragraph about other products that nearly made the list such as:
Water Wipes – difficult to get out of the packet, but great for our baby’s skin.
Ice cube trays – great for storing any food you cook for the bubster in the 6-9 month phase.
A generic rucksack with lots of pockets – we found ours just as good as an expensive baby bag.
A milk powder holder from the Poundland – it’s green and has got three sections.
Bugaboo Cameleon pram – hands down the best hand-me-down we’ve been given.
Argos ball pond – brilliant… if you can be bothered fetching the balls from under the sofa every night.
Tommy Tippee nail scissors – much easier to use than nail clippers.
Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Cookie Jar – an old favourite for a reason.
Jellycat Bashful Dino – my son’s comforter, best friend and partner-in-crime. Why we’ve not bought some backups is beyond me.