For Birth and Beyond
We put up the first set of blackout curtains in James's room when the babies were around 19 months old, and in Julia's room two months later. Oh, how I wish we'd done it sooner. James immediately started sleeping in an extra 30 minutes. Everyone should have these up in the nursery from day one.
A Big Plastic Mirror
I'm pretty sure it's not the prettiest or cheapest one in the world, but our soft alligator plastic Fabler mirror from Ikea is the only one I know of. We haven't mounted it yet so sometimes we lean it against the wall and sometimes we put it on the ground. It's great that the babies can play with it. I took this idea from my friend Derek, and my friend Kashi saw ours and got one too.
Julia wants to admire the pants on her head in her mirror. (16 months)
Sing Along with Putamayo CD
It's only the best CD for kids ever made. You could play the first three tracks in your car and would be able to successfully pass them off as non-children's music. Then the fourth song, Old MacDonald, would kick in and your passenger would have a big clue, even though the song's a jazzy version. Not only do I love this CD, so do Mark and my parents. And the twins particularly love the first two songs. Putamayo is known for their great CDs that appeal to kids and adults. We also have Putamayo's Jazz Playground which is pretty great but not as amazing as this one. Our two Raffi CDs, Baby Beluga and Singable Songs for the Very Young: Great with a Peanut Butter Sandwich (thanks, Leslie!) are much loved by the babies. In fact their very favorite song, period, is Baby Beluga, and when they hear the first notes (well, technically whale noises) of it they excitedly jabber "Baby! Baby!"
Best kids CD ever.
Summer Infant Tiny Diner mat
We bring these plastic mats with us whenever we dine out. The little plastic suction cups adhere to the table, there is a little trough to catch errant pieces of food, it is easy to roll up and transport, and you can just wipe it clean when you're done. Kiddopotamus makes a similar one as well. (Thanks to my friend Kashi for recommending them!)
James and Julia using their mats for the first time. Apparently Mommy wants to starve them and only feed them peas. (21 months)
Photo Book for Baby with Pictures of People They Know
This may seem like an odd thing for a baby to have, but ours LOVE their Sassy Look Photo Book. They can see Mommy and Daddy and be reminded of their relatives that live far away.
I made a collage of the twins' baby friends using Picasa for the their photo book. Now they point to the other babies wanting to know their names and Mark says, "I don't know your baby friends."
For 0-4 Months
My kids easily broke out of blankets, which if you think about it can be kind of dangerous since you aren't supposed to give loose blankets to babies. Then we discovered Swaddle Me's which are essentially velcro strait jackets. Schweet.
Julia as Hannibal Lechter. (2 months)
For 4 Months and Up
My kids loved sitting in their Bumbos. Well, James did anyway. Julia often tried to hurl herself backwards to escape (see video here). I fed the babies in these for a couple months and read to them this way, too, because they could sit up without assistance. We didn't have the versions with trays which I regret because they would have come in handy for feeding and giving them toys or books to read. (Without trays, food can fall in their laps, and with regards to toys and books they constantly dropped them and I had to keep picking them up.)
A typical feeding: Julia tries to escape from her Bumbo halfway through. (7 months)
Just watch Julia in this video and you'll see why you should get a Jumperoo. Both my kids loved it. You may want to have them do a test run at someone's house though because my friend Sara's daughter wasn't as big a fan. Ours was the Fisher-Price Rainforest Jumperoo.
Julia having the time of her life in her Jumperoo. (11 months)
Pottery Barn Kids (or Land of Nod) Chairs
Yeah, they're expensive (think $100 apiece or more) so buy them used. I did and saved 75%. My friend Kashi wanted hers so badly she got some used that were embroidered with other kids' names! Thankfully I found some that hadn't been personalized. These chairs are so much nicer and better made than the kids' chairs you see at Toys R Us, all of which are covered with cartoon characters.
It doesn't matter that there are two chairs, the twins always want whichever the other's in. (20 months)
Snack Traps (and Lids!)
We got a Snack Trap as a hand-me-down from April and it's great when you're on the go or at a playdate. The snack stays in and comes out (hopefully) only when their hand reaches in. I think it's easier for babies to get their hand inside this one compared to similar products. One key thing: the lids are sold separately. Make sure you buy them though, otherwise you might find Cheerios in the bottom of the diaper bag.
Once Julia got her Snack Trap, she lay here eating contentedly for the rest of the playdate. (19 months)
Sippy Cup Leash
Make sure you have one of these. It doesn't matter the brand (here's ours by Booginhead) - just GET IT. Otherwise their sippy cup will be on the floor of restaurants and other places you don't want it to be.
Julia's pink and blue sippy cup is only on the footrest of the stroller instead of Pinkberry's floor, thanks to the sippy cup leash. (18 months)
I'm trying to restrict this list to gear and not toys, but not only do the babies love these Early Learning Centre / Stacking Faces bath cups (thanks Bubby!), I HAVE to use them to convince them to go into the bath. Each cup has different types of holes (tiny holes for water to come out like a sprinkler, a spout like a watering can, etc.) for water to flow through. I often have a baby upset to go into the bath and then I show them how much fun the bath cups are. Anything that makes bath time easier is a necessity in my book!
A Chinese Crested hair do-ed Julia plays with her bath cups. (20 1/2 months)
For 12 Months and Up
Vital Baby Straw Cups
I am in love with these cups and I evangelize them every chance I get. Here's why: they are one of the only ones on the market where the straw portion is on the inside of the cup. That means your little one isn't going to chew through it causing you to 1) hope they don't choke and 2) have to buy replacement straws. The straw cups we had before these cups were awful. They didn't have volume markings and there was always an ounce or so of liquid that couldn't be reached by the straw. Not problems with the Vital Baby cups. Vital Baby cup tip: The clear hinged lid can be removed. I recommend only using it when you're on the go and need to seal the cup-- otherwise it's just one more piece to clean. Also, always make sure the internal plug part is in securely - otherwise it might leak milk. (Don't let that deter you from buying the cups. If you follow my directions they are great!) Vital Baby also makes great silverware that color coordinates with the cups.
Julia with her cup. (20 months)
Apparently there is a room in my home of only blue objects and James and his cup are inside it. (20 1/2 months)
You will probably want a superyard to use as a playpen, or as we called it, The Zoo. Our friend April passed two sets of the North States Superyard Classic XT Gate (which link together) down to us. If the grandparents are over often, you may want to consider a superyard with a gate since they might find it hard climbing over to get to your baby, and it's more convenient for you too. We still use our superyard to block the TV and call it The Great Barrier Reef.
James looks forlornly from inside The Zoo. (10 1/2 months)
James cuddles his horsey while wearing 15 bibs (you can't see all of them) and a hat. Meanwhile the Superyard in the background is configured to protect the TV (and hold excess toys). (21 months)
Everyone seems partial to their own baby gate and can't open other people's. That said, I do love our Regalo Easy Step Walk Thru Gate.
When we first put the gate up Julia acted like she was stuck in prison. Too bad I didn't get a picture of the time she banged a tin cup against the bars. (16 1/2 months)
Crib and Crib Mattress
I can't complain about our $100 IKEA crib and our $39 Walmart SweetDreams crib and toddler mattress (both have high ratings in Baby Bargains).
Daddy puts Julia's crib together again when it's moved to another room. (21 1/2 months)
Julia acts like she can't get out, despite the crib not having a back.
Julia and James have fun testing out the mattress. Apparently it passes their all-important jump test. (21 1/2 months)