Playgrounder

Jason Kottke’s Favorite Stuff for Kids

Jason Kottke’s Favorite Stuff for Kids

We asked Jason Kottke, full-time blogger, New York City resident, and father of two, for a list of his five favorite things for young kids. Jason’s choices focus on his experience with raising two kids in an urban area where space is always an issue. This means making smart (and cost-effective) choices, prioritizing on creativity, and improvising a lot. Here’s his list:

A versatile, durable stroller: The Bugaboo Bee ($500-530). This thing is well-made, strong, can be pushed comfortably with one hand, has room enough below for groceries/diaper bag/toys but isn’t one of those SUV strollers, and is small enough to navigate Manhattan’s tight spaces. Hands down the best stroller I’ve seen. We’ve logged so many miles with ours — maybe 1000? maybe more? — that we had to replace the wheels (bearings were still good, the wheel treads just plain wore down).

Good diapers: Pampers Swaddlers Size N ($14). One of the biggest surprises about having kids was how well-engineered some of this stuff is. The size N diapers from Pampers are a marvel, one of the best-engineered “gadgets” I’ve ever run across…they rival the unibody MacBook Pro in this regard. The Swaddlers are thin, comfortable, fit snugly around the legs, oh-so-soft, and can hold what seems like 18 gallons of liquid. I don’t know, maybe the newborn-size Huggies ($19) are similar but the Swaddlers were so amazing that we didn’t mess around with anything else. We switched to Seventh Generation ($40) with the size 2s…the Ns and 1s were way too square, bulky, and felt like cardboard.

Diaper bag: Don’t get faked out here: a diaper bag is a bag for carrying diapers in, not one of those massive over-Velcroed all-in-one contraptions with too many zippers and pockets sold at Babies R’ Us for too much money. A simple over-the-shoulder canvas bag ($20) is fine; it’ll hold 3-4 diapers (we put ours in a gallon Ziploc), a bunch of wipes (quart Ziploc), a bib/spoon, and a few other items. If you want to spend a little extra, get one that looks good; you’re going to be hauling it around 24/7 for years so you might as well. Oh, and get a style that both parents feel comfortable with…some dads, they don’t like the pink.

An improvised toy: Old Fashioned Quaker Oats canister ($4). You know, the big can. Buy it, eat oatmeal for months, and then give it to your kid when you’re done with it. It’s a drum, a car garage, a cave, a shaker, a block carrier, a hat, an echo chamber, a steam roller, a doll’s bed, and flower pot. Basically the perfect cheap, replaceable, recyclable, open-ended toy.

A great gadget: iPhone 3GS ($200). Almost indispensable with a newborn…it contains the answers to all sorts of questions: How long has she been asleep? When did she last eat? Can you come upstairs and change the baby? Can you come home…the baby is crying and needs to eat? What the hell am I going to do for 45 minutes in the dark with one hand free while I struggle to stay awake feeding this baby? Do I need to worry about this thing on her forehead? Where’s the nearest 24-hour drugstore?