Our toddlers are days away from turning three-years old which means it is time for another must-have list! :) What are the things that have made this past year with toddler twins just that much easier? I have found that as our twins get older, it is becoming much less about finding things that work for twins and more about finding things that work for having three children. Most of these things are applicable to making life easier with three young children, not twin specific.
Side note: I can't believe that my next must-have list will probably be for the youngest of four children-- newborn things again! This pregnancy is flying by; I'm already in the third trimester!
1. The Aqueduck Faucet Extender
|Without the Aqueduck, reaching for the water flow|
|With the Aqueduck, standing flat footed on the stool|
|Not sure what the silly face is for, but using the Aqueduck|
This is seriously a parenting must-have, twins or not. I can't believe I didn't own this when our oldest was small. This makes washing little hands so.much.easier, even with a stool boosting them up. The Aqueduck moves the water flow closer to them and is easy to take on and off, which is useful when you have guests using the bathroom or if you want to bring it with you on a family vacation. I know this will be coming on our next timeshare trip.
2. Lunch containers
|All these are from-- where else?-- Target|
I don't have a specific lunch container that I highly recommend... Instead, this is much more about just having a lunch container that suits your needs. I love how these lunch containers from Target don't have fancy lids to open or lots of compartments to keep clean. I can take the lids off and let the boys finish their picnic lunches in their carseats. They are small enough to easily fit in their laps and hold the perfect portions for our almost three-year olds and five-year old. We pack a lot of lunches and so having containers for each of them is very useful. I also have water bottles that I refill for them and bring with us. Again, I don't have a brand that I am in love with. I tend to prefer water bottles that don't have a lot of small parts and no valves. Easy to clean is a must!
3. Thirty-One Picnic Thermal Tote
I do have a lunch pail that I absolutely love for heading out with all four of us-- me and the boys-- and the times when my husband goes out with us too: the Thirty-One Picnic Thermal Tote. I love this lunch pail. It fits us perfect for our park trips, afternoons out running errands, and when I'm bringing snacks to our oldest son's little sports games. I use this thing almost every day. I can also fit my water bottle in here along with our lunches. This lunch pail is not too big and not too small. It is also soft so I can shove it underneath our stroller. The handle is adjustable so I can hang it over the handlebar of our stroller. I bought this lunch pail because I was out with one of my girlfriends and she had packed her lunch in it. I absolutely loved it and how well everything fit inside! I went home and told my Thirty-One consultant that I wanted one and promptly placed an order. :)
5. Croc-like shoes
|Putting his Crocs on all by himself|
|Putting his Skechers on all by himself|
I know what you are thinking: CROCS?! Yeah, Crocs. When you have three kids, it is really (really, really, really) annoying to help get three sets of shoes on six feet, tie six shoes, and then-- Lord forbid-- we go somewhere where they have to take their shoes off. Or their shoes get wet. So Crocs, or Croc like shoes, are just the ticket. The little boys can put their Crocs on and off by themselves. If they get wet while we are out, they dry quickly, unlike canvas sneakers. They breathe. They work like flip flops and protect their toes like sneakers. When we go to the spray park, they can wear their Crocs in the sprinklers. I let the Crocs dry and then they wear their Crocs over to the playground. Love a multi-purpose shoe! Their feet have grown again and it was time to buy shoes for this summer. A friend tipped me off to the Skechers Boy's Guzman Seeperz. They have all the convenience of Crocs without that oh-so-stylish Crocs look. I loved the price tag-- I bought all 3 boys a pair at the outlet mall for just under $50 compared to one pair of Crocs at $29.99-- but for our oldest they have been a little disappointing. The shoes are still intact, but the white on the toes start chipping almost the same day we brought them home. Little kids are quite hard on play shoes, although they haven't chipped near so bad for our toddlers.
In my blog post "0-2 year old twin must-haves," I said drop-in childcare and a baby-sitter were a must. Sadly we have moved from North Carolina to South Carolina and we no longer have a drop-in childcare place (believe me-- I have looked!). Being a military family, we move a lot. We are probably only going to be living in South Carolina for another year. When our oldest was a baby, I never had a baby-sitter I hired. I never even looked. I would ask my girlfriends in the FRG or I would reschedule whatever I had planned. My husband was always underway or working. I had a sling and our son went everywhere that I went. Having three kids with a fourth on the way changes that a little bit... I kind of need a baby-sitter for a lot of things, like my OBGyn has a no kids in the exam room policy. Actually, my last OBGyn had that policy when I was pregnant with our twins, but it was much easier to drag one fairly well-behaved toddler with me than a preschooler and two toddlers-- it's slightly more distracting. Also, with three kids and our fourth on the way, we like getting out every now and then. My hubby and I want to use a baby-sitter to go birthday shopping for our toddlers. Not a very fancy date, but it sure is nice to get out without three kids in tow and chat as a couple. With a busy family, it is good for our marriage to take advantage of those little opportunities to get out by ourselves.
I know what a lot of my military wife readers are thinking, "But where do I find a baby-sitter?!" I don't really know. One of my best friends has found their baby-sitters (2 different duty stations) on sittercity.com. It is free for military families: Sittercity Military Program. My sister has even used a baby-sitting site like that, for her daughter and also to find a pet sitter for her cat. One of my really good girlfriends used to baby-sit for those sites before she had kids; I would definitely hire her to watch my kids (and I often do abandon my kids at her house-- haha!). I didn't have good luck finding a sitter on those sites when we first moved here. I get really nervous leaving our asthmatic toddler with people I don't know. I'm going to have to give them a try again when we move next time; I don't know if we'll move somewhere with such an awesome neighborhood as we have here. I found our current sitter by word of mouth from my neighbors. I do know that I didn't just have a baby-sitter fall into our lap when we moved to South Carolina, away from our awesome baby-sitters in North Carolina. We found our baby-sitter here by asking people about baby-sitters. I messaged people. I posted jobs on baby-sitting sites. I met up with people. I actively searched for a baby-sitter and, after a couple weeks, I found the perfect match for us-- a fabulous Navy wife who also happens to have asthma (makes me much happier finding someone who understands asthma to watch our boys!). It takes patience. It is hard as a military family, moving to a new state and finding someone you trust to watch your kids, especially when you don't know anyone. Give it time. Keep looking. It can happen!
7. Our Baby Jogger City Select with a Second Seat
Well, you knew this would make the list. Read my previous blog posts about it here:
- "0-2 year old twin must-haves"
This post includes pictures of our toddlers at two-years old using our stroller.
- "I love my stroller"
The original post about our stroller.
I put one seat in most of the time because only one of our toddlers really ever wants to ride in the stroller anymore. The other prefers walking. When baby #4 comes along, I'm going to put our glider board back on our stroller. That way I will have the glider board for one toddler, a seat for the other toddler, and the infant car seat adapter for baby #4. For times when we are going to the park and hanging out for a long period of time, I love having the stroller with me to help carry all our stuff.
This is the age where our toddlers want to help with e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. They want to help unload the dishwasher, clean the bathtub, fold the laundry, pick up toys, carry in the groceries... but they don't really want to follow through with all of it or do any of it exceptionally well (well, the way I would do it if I didn't have "help"). Today when I cleaned the bathtub, I let one of our toddlers help me scrub. No need to worry; I used baking soda to clean the tub so it was entirely safe. I just gave him an extra scrub brush. (Read "Homemade household cleaners.") In my blog post "Domestic goddess," I talk about our cleaning schedule. They love helping me clean. I give them rags to dust with and dole out small tasks for them to help with. Today I gave one of our toddlers one piece of laundry at a time to put in the laundry hamper as I folded clothes. I like encouraging them to help because I've seen how awesome it can be-- our five-year old is an exceptionally good help. He's even started washing dishes lately! Yeah, awesome help. Encourage it while they are interested. :)
The other thing they love is having little things that they can do by themselves. Our boys love coloring. I put the crayons and the paper on a shelf that they can reach. This took time-- we didn't start out with the crayons within reach. They have learned that if they want the privilege of using the crayons whenever they want to, they need to use them at the table. They feel like big kids getting the crayons out whenever the urge to color strikes them. Having these little independent activities that they can do by themselves helps them start understanding responsibility and following instructions. These types of things are much easier when you are delegating to the youngest age. When we had these types of responsibilities for our oldest and our twins were around 18-months, we had to set him up in an area that wasn't accessible to his younger brothers who were not old enough to understand what he was doing and why they couldn't participate. Now that they are almost three, they understand when we tell them that their older brother is working in the office and they need to stay out. We can usually distract them with an activity of their own at the kitchen table. We have designated areas for all these types of activities/responsibilities. Our office is transitioned to a K'Nex/Lego workspace for our oldest (right now my hubby and our five-year old are building a 3D Star Wars puzzle in there). Most of our toddlers' activities are at the kitchen table so we can keep a close eye on them and make sure they get properly cleaned up when they are finished.
9. Oliver's Labels Safety Wristbands
This one is identical twin specific. We bought these wristbands when our twins were born. They were much too big for newborns, but we started using them after we found our first baby-sitters in North Carolina, before our sitters could tell our identical twins apart, or when we would drop them off in a childcare situation (drop-in childcare, church nursery, etc.). These are very useful when we have new baby-sitters (our new baby-sitter here in South Carolina now can tell our boys apart) or when we have friends/neighbors watching the boys. Now that we've been making all new friends, these have been quite useful again, especially since our toddlers don't like being called by the wrong name. "That not me! That my brother!" These are also super handy when you have a lot of extended family visiting or out of town guests that aren't used to interacting with your twins. Our boys have such different personalities (and look different now that they are toddlers and not newborns) that it only takes people a little while to identify them. As I said, we bought each of our boys a pack when they were born. They are turning three in a few days and we are still using the same pack. When we had family in town for a couple days, I usually just kept the same wristband on them the whole weekend. These wristbands are very durable and did well through bath times and daily wear and tear for those long weekends.
(I am avoiding saying "knowing who is who" because I seriously do hate the "who is who" game. Read my blog post "Identical brothers.")