Simplifying Baby Gear

While expecting the arrival of our first little one, I was quite overwhelmed by all the fun gadgets that were available for her entertainment. Everything from a jumperoo, exersaucers, play mats, toys for the car seat, toys for the swing, etc. I had a neighbor friend that received most of these for her little girl (born shortly after Karis) and I found myself struggling inwardly with desiring these items for Karis as well. Sounds silly? Well, they all looked so fun and did keep the little one entertained…

But…the question that I had to ask myself was did I really want my child to have all these gadgets? Would a huge supply of toys really entertain her or rather teach her that she had to be entertained by stuff? This overwhelming load of fun things could just as easily fill her with disatisfaction, and she could grow to need new and better things to keep her satisfied.

In the end we concluded that it was not necessary to invest in an abudance of gadgets…even when you can get them at a good price (using the wonderful tools of craigslist or garage saling!). We wanted Karis to learn to be content with a few toys and also develop the creativity to entertain herself. We also did not want to buy into the consumerism mentality that eventually just leads to increased waste. As we desire to be good stewards of our environment, this is very important to us. I was amazingly surprised by how easily she finds entertainment in such simple things, everything from tin food cans, measuring cups, the lid drawer, books, etc. At 15 months she doesn’t play with alot of toys…in fact, she would more often be found exploring the house.

This being said…I have a few recommendations of items that we found very useful, helpful for development and worthwhile to invest in. Please note that it is not necessary to have all these items new. You would be surprised how many people buy lots of new things for their one child and then sell it after just one child’s use, leaving it in practically new condition. Craigslist here we come! Also note, these are just my personal thoughts and opinions and are open to differing opinions.

1. Take Along Swing – this item is compact and easily movable! This works especially well in small places and can be easily transported upstairs, which was a very nice feature. We also took this with us on a few vacations. We bought this new at Babies R’ Us, but they are also readily available on craigslist. Worked well from 0-6 months.

2. Johnny Jump-up - I remember the days my younger siblings entertained themselves for long periods of time in this jumper! Great for developing the strength in their legs, small, and lots of fun! We borrowed this from a friend the first time around, so we will have to find one for sale with the next one. I have seen them for under $10 on craiglist or garage sales. We had a Graco one with a basic tray, which works well for snacks or to give them small things to play with. Works well from 6-10 months or so.

3. Walker (this one linked is as close to simple as I could find for an example!)- This was a hand me down from my family. This worked very well as Karis learned to walk. She used it for several months, and now she just loves to walk and push it around. I was surprised how well it actually works on carpet (as that is what we have in the majority of our house). We kept downstairs to avoid the risk of falling down the stairs in it. There are alot of fancy ones out there that are significantly large or have excessive toys on them. We have a small one with a tray and no additional toys. Works well for us from 10-15 months, or until they start walking.

4. High chair - we choice a portable space saver high chair that secures on top of a chair. This works well especially for small places as in our home. It is portable which made it wonderful for bringing on vacation or when invited to other friends’ homes. Made feeding times so much easier!

5. Baby Carrier – I am a huge fan of the ergo baby carrier! This was the best investment we have made. We tried the standard bjorn and found it extremely uncomfortable to the back. The ergo provides more significant support and works in three different positions (front, back and side). We also love the Moby Wrap as a snug comfortable hands free fit for the early months of life.

We bought our carseats and stroller off of craigslist as well, saving ourselves a pretty penny. The Lord provides! We also found a pack n’ play to be very useful, another great traveling item.

Things we borrowed or bought but then later sold because we found to be nice but ultimately unnecessary in our opinion and mainly adding to clutter were an exersaucer, play mat, and bouncer (the swing covered any need for the bouncer, accomplishing the same purpose). I had also bought so many “safe” bath toys over the years, only to discover that they would get all moldy and gross. And you know what? My kiddos are perfectly happy in the bath now with just a little toy matchbox car.

Next week…we will dive into simplifying the toy collection as the infants grow!

About Lindsay

Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of three, homemaker, and writer. She is the editor of Passionate Homemaking since its beginning five years ago. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

20 Responses to Simplifying Baby Gear

  1. termite detection dog August 16, 2012 at 2:02 pm #

    I’m going to bookmark your site for the future. Keep writing great posts like this!

  2. Samantha August 16, 2008 at 3:02 am #

    Hi
    I completely agree with you. Babies should be allowed the freedom to create and entertain themselves. I too went through the struggle that you faced. In fact, I had a lot of hand me down toys dumped on me the moment by baby was born. I promptly gave them away to an orphanage. My baby grew up finding her entertainment for hereself!

    I propose to create a large section on needs of different members of the family in my website http://www.grihast.com or http://www.homemakersalmanac.com. Please do visit my site and share with me your views on the articles that I am putting in there.

  3. Ruth August 15, 2008 at 5:19 pm #

    I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading this discussion! I just had baby #4 (a “surprise”!), and I had already given away all of my baby stuff, except for a much-loved sling.

    These are the things that I like to use:

    Carrier (I currently have an old over-the-shoulder baby holder sling, but a new Ergo is on its way!!)

    Baby bathtub for the kitchen sink

    Swing (used about 15 minutes per day)

    Cloth-covered bouncy chair

    Stroller

    Car seat

    Oversized receiving blankets for swaddling

    Cloth diapers for burping baby

    Boppy pillow for nursing comfortably while sitting up in bed (not a necessity, but I enjoy using it)

    Nursing pads, to help with leakage; I just bought a bunch of washable ones on ebay.

    Port-a-crib for naps (baby sleeps with me at night)

    Later I’ll get some kind of high chair or a little chair that hooks to the table.

    Soft, comfortable clothes … I don’t like baby clothes that have collars or buttons.

    I don’t use baby food, baby bottles, walkers, or exersaucers.

    Enjoy your babies, ladies! It is a precious time of life and goes by quickly!

  4. Jill August 15, 2008 at 10:55 am #

    In reply to the last comment…

    I, too, feared all the stuff that our daughter would get for her first christmas and birthday (which are a month apart) so I sent our parents/siblings a long list full of stuff for early childhood…the next 6 years or so! I would rather her get something nice that she won’t even notice until she is 4 than toys to fill in the time until then – when she already has more than enough (and prefers dishes, cereal boxes that are headed to recycling and books)

    At the top I put a little blurb about how everything we have received in her young life has been such a blessing…and we do not want to dictate future gift giving…but it is our desire that we focus on things she needs and quality toys that will last her childhood and childhoods of future siblings to come and not to have a house full of toys that rarely get played with – we do not have the room! I listed a ton of ideas with a big variety of price ranges…examples include wooden blocks, wooden doll house from plantoys and accessories, very simple wooden kitchen set, broom, specific books, church clothes (to complement our garage sale finds!) I think our parents appreciated the guidance and understood our desire to not have a house overflowing with toys. The list will work for years to come. I will just update and send out with any changes (age appropriate art projects etc). This year I plan on putting a little note about how we opened a savings account for her…and a friendly reminder of how much they have already blessed her with so many wonderful things that she doesn’t need much more!

    I realize that this will not work in all families and some would consider it downright rude! But our families asked for ideas and I took the opportunity to tell them our desires!

    Hope this gives you a few ideas!

  5. Andrea August 14, 2008 at 6:36 pm #

    I love the Ergo carrier too! I wouldn’t get anything done around the house without it, especially now that I can wear my daughter on my back. My other “can’t live without it” baby item is a nursing cover. I have gotten a ton of use out of my Hooter Hider. I know some people can get away with covering up with a blanket, but I need something my lil’ one couldn’t pull off.
    I totally agree with your less is more approach to toys. etc. My daughter is turning one in 2 weeks and I cringe to think how much stuff she will be given by her grandparents! Any tips on how to explain to relatives that we honestly don’t want/need more toys?

  6. Brittney August 14, 2008 at 5:13 pm #

    This might be asking a lot, but all the terminology you used to describe what type of car seat/stroller you used was so confusing to me…could you post a picture of those items? It sounds like you ended up with just as much stuff as if you would have just got a travel system though? I’m gonna be a first time mom in December so I’m really clueless and actually don’t know if you ended up with as much anyway but it just sounds like it. How did Kate (in #6 post) buy a car seat that was small enough for a newborn but lasted until booster car seat size? I haven’t run in to one of those. Also, I’ve heard the travel systems are nice because if your baby falls asleep in the car, you don’t have to wake them up to put them in a stroller. Does this matter a lot? I don’t want a travel system because of bulkiness but how to do avoid bulky strollers unless you only use an umbrella stroller. Again, I don’t know yet because I haven’t done it before :) Too many questions I know but any advice would be appreciated Lindsay!

    • Lindsay August 14, 2008 at 7:06 pm #

      I can understand the confusion. There are so many options out there and it is difficult to decide which will be best suited for your family. Here are a few of my thoughts. May they assist you in some way as you prepare to welcome your little one! Congrats!

      This is the stroller we have -Zooper Waltz. We love it due to all the wonderful features, accessories, and that it works for a very young infant up to older toddlers. Very good brand as well. This stroller can be used as a travel system as well, if desired.

      If you want to go the travel system route, this is the system I would recommend from my research, as it is small and very much like an umbrella stroller. The zooper is small but not as compact as an umbrella stroller – Combi

      If you want to skip the infant car seat, I would check out this carseat – First Years True Fit, fits 5-65 lbs. I have a friend who really likes this car seat.

      Infant car seats are very nice for infants as you mentioned, but not worth buying new if you can avoid it, due to the shortness of the time the infant actually uses it, unless you are planing on having several children and getting a lot of good use out of it.

      We did have an infant car seat, but didn’t use it attached to any stroller (as in the travel systems), just mainly for in and out of church or someone’s house. If I was out and about (shopping, etc), I would put her in a carrier as it didn’t take much space. She was able to sit in our stroller directly at two months or probably even earlier (it lays down like a carriage and is very comfy), so I didn’t really need to use a travel system. But that is just my personal choice. Many find the travel systems very useful. If you want to avoid bulkiness, go with the combi system that I linked to above.

      Another option is a car seat carrier and infant car seat and then just getting a simple umbrella stroller after they grow out of the infant carrier.

      Just my thoughts and suggestions for you.

  7. Mrs. Jo August 14, 2008 at 3:37 pm #

    To the commenter Jen:
    I recently did a post on baby/toddler clothing and organization you mind find helpful. Go to my blog and look under Frugal Friday Posts. =)

    I agree with you Lindsay that simple is good and I live in a small apartment too! Having two makes things a little trickier. (And 3 will be interesting too I’m sure–we’re due any day with #3).

    We found the portable little swing to be WONDERFUL for our first baby but it was too much of a temptation and a danger for our second as the toddler sibling tried to swing the baby wildly. So the swing got minimal use the second time around. Our kids didn’t enjoy slings or johnny jump-ups, but a double-stroller was an essential for getting out and about! I do have a nice sling for #3 and am sure it will be used much since I won’t have enough hands for all of my little ones! I found the bouncy chair to be wonderful for a second baby as I could put him up on a table in it or in a Pack n’ Play to protect him from his sister. He could sit near us and watch us eat supper too as a tiny infant. Play mats aren’t necessary but if I have gotten them for free or for mere cents I think they can be nice for those times when you want them to do a little bit of tummy time or playing quietly at church, etc.

    Our kids really enjoyed the exersaucer. We had a simple one with minimal toys and no music and they are supposedly safer than walkers. The danger with walkers is that the older sibling may push the baby around faster than they should or shove them down stairs. An exersaucer, on the other hand, stays put and was nice for the two to play together as they looked at the toys. It was a great thing during the 6-12 month stage when I needed to keep baby entertained for a little bit while I made supper or something. The toddler couldn’t push it over as she could a swing or bouncy seat.

    I agree that portable high chairs are best! Many transition into boosters and can be used for several years and will last through many children.

    A crib is really wonderful to have, but we got by with our first child in just a Pack n’ Play the first couple of years. I’m glad we were given a nice crib for our second! Bassinets aren’t really necessary but can be nice for those first few months of late-night feedings since they make it easy to reach over and grab the baby next to the bed.

    Some things I didn’t use:
    Cloth bibs (our kids weren’t big spitter-uppers or droolers)
    Musical, annoying toys or mobiles
    Diaper genie or wipes warmer
    Bottle-related things (though moms who do formula would need all the things)
    Breast milk storage bags
    Hand-breast pump (biggest waste of money ever unless you have a very nice supply that is overflowing!)
    Baby powders/lotions/special soaps or creams
    Baby shoes for the newborn stage (I do make the cute leather shoes for about 6 M on but most shoes you buy in stores don’t fit right and never get worn the first year!)

    Things I did find to be awesome:
    *Sippy cups that do not leak or break easily! We like Playtex.
    *Soft, cuddly blankie that can be a security blankie for the first few years
    *Simple, comfy baby clothing
    *Sun hats with velcro straps to hold the hat on
    *Car seat cover for winter babies to keep them snug and warm
    *Rattles and simple toys
    *Crackly cloth books to chew on and feel
    *Sturdy double-stroller
    *Lightweight umbrella stroller for those trips into stores or places where it’s hard to juggle two. I keep mine in the trunk of the car and it’s easy to whip it out and put the little one in and let the toddler help push.
    *Washable bibs that can be quickly washed and dried so you only need one or two on hand
    *While not a necessity, the cloth grocery cart cover I bought brand-new at a yard sale for $5 is amazing for quickly making a cart sanitary and fun for baby. As someone who does a lot of grocery shopping with kids and wants very much to avoid germs and colds in the winter, this has been so nice instead of having to wipe down every inch of the front of the cart only to watch them lick it afterward!
    *Nursing cover or lightweight quilt

    While I’m sure I’m forgetting a lot, this is a start when it comes to my baby preferences! Different families will have different likes and dislikes and stuff but I totally agree that most people nowadays overdo it. All you have to do is take one look at the parenting magazines to see the insane amount of money people waste on unnecessary baby things! Most of it is excessive and unnecessary!

  8. Megan Wells August 14, 2008 at 6:59 am #

    Lindsay, Thanks for this timely post. My husband and I have been discussing what gear is essential, and this greatly helps. I have the ergo carrier already on my list of prospective gear. One quick question….did you go with a ‘travel system?’ (infant carseat/carrier, stroller)? Or did you just end up getting separate items?

    • Lindsay August 14, 2008 at 3:22 pm #

      I honestly was not a big fan of the travel systems due to the large size of the strollers. They take up so much space and were just huge and bulky to drive around. The only travel system that appealed to me because of its compact size (umbrella stroller of sorts) is the combi travel system. We ended up choosing a Zooper Waltz stroller that the Lord provided for us and we love it (and they are local to us!). It has alot of great features and is pretty compact. We used a snugride infant seat which is compatible with it.

      My first baby was small otherwise I would try to live without an infant seat, because they just grow out of it so fast. We found our infant seat off craigslist for $25 so it wasn’t a great loss and we sold it when we were done for $35, so we actually made a profit. That is the benefit of finding good deals on used items.

      We will not be getting a double stroller with our second for the same reason of bulkiness. We will just use our baby carrier for the second or vis versa.

  9. Lanette August 14, 2008 at 12:09 am #

    We had a few things for our first baby, probably not as many as are on your list. We moved to Poland when our second was ten weeks old, and we just assumed that we’d get what we needed there instead of shipping it over. Unfortunately (or so we thought at the time), Poland is not the land of baby gadgets. So we simplified by default. LOL. What I would have given for a baby swing then. A missionary friend in Hungary got a friend in her home church here to buy one and ship it to her. For our third, we were back here and bought a jogging stroller and a moby wrap (highly recommend it, btw). A friend loaned us a bouncer, and that’s it so far! Part of the reason Poles don’t need baby gadgets is that they live together multi-generationally, so there’s usually a grandparent around to help the baby bounce, jump, walk, etc. personally if the mom can’t or won’t. I now have two older daughters to help similarly. He’s also an extremely happy baby. I’m about to go to a huge children’s consignment sale, so hopefully your post will help prevent me from overindulging! One problem we have with simplification is handling the things that the grandparents buy. Neither of our parents really understand our parenting philosophy, and pretty much (inadvertently) fight it at every step, especially concerning “stuff.” When I tried to explain our desire for toys that aid development, creativity and self-entertainment rather than toys that simply entertain the child, my step-mother-in-law informed me that all baby toys did that (inspire creativity, not entertain). This reminds me that I need to make a very specific wish list for the upcoming birthday…

  10. Jen August 13, 2008 at 10:56 pm #

    I agree with your stand on simplicity and also that little ones don’t need to be bombarded with all the bright lights, crazy sounds, and just obnoxious plastic junk out there. If the toy’s sound is annoying to us, imagine what that’s like for an impressionable baby – talk about sensory overload. I used a baby sling with my two girls and it was so wonderful to have them right snuggled by my heart, plus I thought it was helpful to keep stranger’s hands off your new baby in the store and stuff b/c they’d have to invade your personal space in order to spread their germs to your newborn. But it put too much strain on my neck, so I didn’t use it as much as I would have liked to. I don’t agree though with your recommendations for the bouncy chair and the walker. I have read much about the importance of letting children develop naturally, that when they’re ready to sit, they’ll sit (i.e. those Bumpo seats) and likewise with walking and standing and that as they slowly build up to being able to accomplish those things they’re gradually building their muscles and their bones are getting stronger. So you’re not forcing them into unnatural positions that could effect their musculoskeletal growth. In other words, God’s timeline is best, not Graco’s. When they’re ready to walk or stand, they will. Their little legs just aren’t ready to support the weight of their bodies, or else they’d be doing it on their own. And b/c their bones are soft yet and their joints are somewhat sloppy, it’s just not something I would put my little ones in.
    I’m interested to hear your ideas on streamlining toys and what your thoughts might be on what to do with the overabundance of crazy, unhealthy toys giving by loving grandparents who visit often and NOTICE what’s out for play?
    Also, any ideas for clothes organization? I’m wondering if you’ve ever come across a list of exactly what you should have for your kids each season. Thanks, Lindsay!

    • Lindsay August 14, 2008 at 3:13 pm #

      It is important to note that with the jumper and walker, the infant is definitely not supporting themselves. They are just exploring with their legs (bouncing and walking), but their legs are not supporting them, the seat is. It definitely did not seem to hinder my Karis’ development, if anything it provided her with the ability to explore in the process of her development.

  11. Ana August 13, 2008 at 9:07 pm #

    I love my Ergo! I so wish I’d heard of them when I had my first son. Definitely worth every penny. We actually borrowed a lot of our baby stuff; it’s good to have friends with kids different ages! One of my friends and I actually swapped a swing back and forth; it worked out that neither of us really had to store it because of the ages of our babies. But yeah, most of that stuff you just don’t need. The dirty little secret the baby stuff people don’t tell you is that your kid will like garbage and other random stuff a whole lot better than all that fancy, made-just-for-baby stuff. I definitely had stuff from son number one that I wish I hadn’t bought.

  12. Kate August 13, 2008 at 5:30 pm #

    The one thing we never bought was one of those travel strollers/baby carrier/car seat things. I never liked those baby carrier car seats. So we went w/just a regular car seat and my children have been able to use it from their first car ride until they were ready for a booster seat.

    Our families bought most of the big ticket items. We have a regular highchair tho. I think what shocked us was how much baby furniture was! Thankfully family bought those. But we said what we wanted, basically a dresser (room on top for changing pad)..which I recommend getting over a changing table. (waste of money money) Our only baby store is Babies R Us, so we had to go to a bigger city for better selection. LOVE catalogs too!

    We also have that swing! Because of my back issues, I’m not the baby carrier/wearer in the family my husband is.

    A shameful plug, but our children bathed in the sink until they were 2 lol. then we just moved to the bath tub!

    LOVE LOVE LOVE Johnny jump up, Altho the one we have is all cloth, no tray. I think the only way I was able to shower was to hook that up in the bathroom so the baby was close by.

    Oh, and for lil lil ones, we would stuff receiving blankets down the sides so the baby would fit. Obviously none of our babies went in it before they could hold their head up. all my babies loved this!

  13. lylah ledner August 13, 2008 at 3:57 pm #

    makes for great garage sale stuff….u go girl! love the post!

  14. Emily August 13, 2008 at 3:00 pm #

    I like your list – mine would be very similar! The only difference is we borrowed an exersaucer instead of a walker, and we have a regular high chair. I, too, love the Take Along Swing (loaned out to my sister in law now) and the Euro Bath. It is work to keep things simple, but it is worth it. I will be looking forward to your advice on streamlining toys since it is about time for me to clean some out. My daughter is a few months younger than yours. Thanks for all your wonderful writings – I enjoy them!

  15. Jennifer Ott August 13, 2008 at 12:31 pm #

    I so agree! After 3 little ones (and indulgent grandparents), I am getting rid of more and more stuff. The best play thing/entertainer for little ones? An older sibling!

    I do enjoy our swing, but would’ve preferred a travel-sized one if we hadn’t been given ours. We got rid of the crib in favor of the pack-n-play. My daughter still prefers a ring sling (we also used a fleece peanut shell with her; she was a December baby), but the other 2 like my Beco (similar to an Ergo).

    Thank you for your advice and opinions! I wouldn’t read your blog if I didn’t want to hear what you think!

  16. Alyssa August 13, 2008 at 10:32 am #

    We have that exact swing- our 5 mo old loves it!
    I’ve thought about a space saver high chair, but I’m probably just going to use the full-size oak high chair my mom still has. We’ll just have to see if it fits in our little dining room! We live in a 1 bedroom apartment, so just about everything has to be “sized down”. :)

    I must say I haven’t really used a baby carrier. I tried a sling for my newborn and she just cried. I recently tried it and she liked it, but at 15 lbs my back just can’t handle it! If we go on a hike or something, I’ll have to try my mom’s carrier, which is similiar to yours. (And daddy’s service may be enlisted!) :) I’m praying either my back gets stonger or she’s an early walker- she’s getting heavy!
    I may look into getting a johnny jump-up. My little girl would probably love it- she’s an active baby!
    You’re right, though, that babies don’t need everyting! As I type, my baby is swinging and “talking” away quite contentedly! :)

  17. Sweetpeas August 13, 2008 at 8:08 am #

    Your list looks pretty similar to mine (though I’m not a fan of walkers, and we have a bouncy seat w/ a toy bar that (if turned on) plays music & lights up if baby hits one of the toys, annoying noise, but my older girls LOVED it as a baby, not sure I’d buy it, but it was a hand-me-down that I chose to keep for the new baby). I’d recommend a stretchy wrap or hotsling pouch for the newborn, I haven’t used an Infantino but based on reviews I’ve seen, there are better options out there :) I’m a big fan of wraps, so that’s my carrier of choice from newborn through . . . I still very occasionally use one w/ my 5 yr olds.