My Favorite Recent Purchases for a Toddler

Plus, what to get for friends with kids.
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It's been a year since I wrote about the 10 best items I've purchased for Sloan. Here are the purchases we're loving now that she's a (messy, opinionated, bright, resourceful) three-year-old!

Star projector. Remember the glow-in-the-dark stickers we all had as kids? This star projector brings all of that magic (and then some) to a child's room without the need to eventually peel them off the ceiling. It comes with a sleep timer and you can choose between several pretty celestial color combinations that project around the room. It's taken the place of Sloan's nightlight and it's turned sleeping in her room into an enchanting experience.

Colored bath tabs. I had these when I was a kid and they made bath time that much more fun. They transform your bath into a variety of colors (though the turquoise "mermaid bath" is Sloan's most requested hue) and don't leave any residue once you're done. Bonus: They come in large and small tabs and the latter size adds juuuust a touch of color to my baths, which makes them feel slightly elevated without feeling childish.

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Play mat. A reader recommended this large silicone mat to me after I complained about how much Play-Doh gets stuck in the grooves of our coffee table. And it's great for everything—arts and crafts, meals, etc. and makes clean up a breeze. While I don't keep it out all the time, it's hidden in a nearby drawer that Sloan has access to and has made our home a lot tidier.

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Inflatable mattress. Traveling with a toddler is a little awkward: Sloan's outgrown a crib, but she's not yet at a point when we can just throw her into a regular bed and assume she won't fall out. Recently we went over to a friend's house for a very last-minute sleep over after our air conditioner bailed on a 105 degree night, I was surprised that at 10 p.m. she had a full bed already set up for Sloan. The mattress, with safety bumpers built in, comes with its own bag for easy transportation and an electric turbo pump that inflates it instantly.

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Swan rashguard. When we were in Hawaii, my primary goal was to keep Sloan from getting sunburnt. Applying sunscreen became a full-time job, but the thing that made the whole process significantly easier was this rashguard. We got Sloan the pink version and I must have had 25 different people ask where it was from when they saw her on the beach or pool. It has UPF 50+ and dried almost as soon as she got out of the water, which is why we barely changed her out of it for the duration of our trip.

Bentobox. Any time I show a glimpse of the lunch I've prepared for Sloan, I get tons of DMs asking about her lunch box. It's a bentobox that separates everything into cute little compartments, cleans easily and is leak-proof. It's seriously made me question why I don't have one in my size.

Toddler dishware. There aren't many cute options for toddler plates and utensils out there —most veer far too cutesy or thematic for my taste. I came across this mismatched, but coordinating set of plates not too long ago and they're sweet without being saccharine. Plus they're BPA and Phthalates free (which are found in the majority of plates for toddlers), and dishwasher safe.

Easel. Sloan loves to draw, but if I set her up at a table or on the floor, the vast majority of her "work" will be done on said surface. This easel is one of her most beloved items in her room—she's frequently situated on the floor in front of it—and it's also big enough that we can draw simultaneously, which she loves. 

Kikiz Shoes. Here are some of the things I look for a kid's shoe: something that's easy to slip on (squirmy toddlers are tough to get dressed!), indestructible, comfortable, affordable, and cute. These shoes check off all of the boxes, which is why Sloan owns three pairs (white, navy, and pink).

iPad cover. Sloan is only allowed to watch movies on weekend mornings at home, but when we travel, we're a bit more lenient (especially on planes, waiting on long lines, etc) so we got her an iPad when we went to Hawaii. We loaded it up with her favorite movies and got a cute attachment that's a carrying case that also stands up so we don't have to hold it up for her.