Back in June during my blogging frenzy, I wrote about my favorite toddler toys and clothing. I figured a natural next step is to talk about what we've loved most in the eating department. I'm specifically going to be talking about accessories, not food, although I have included our favorite juice and snacks. Now, I realize that all of these items won't be or aren't "essential" for everyone, but I can recommend them all highly. I love reading about all things baby and toddler, so of course must contribute my top picks for a good dining experience.
Stokke high chair. I didn't register for a high chair before baby A was born, partially because I knew we wouldn't use it for a long time but also because we have a small house and I had no idea where it might fit. When he did start eating solid foods, we used a Fisher Price Space Saver High Chair, which was great because it fit conveniently in a standard-sized chair and could be moved when needed. My mother-in-law, being of Danish origin and considerably blessed with a pleasing decorating savvy, mentioned around the time of A's first birthday how nice the Stokke high chairs were. She had them for her own children, and when they stopped using them as high chairs, she often perched in the seat herself. I admitted that they looked very attractive, certainly much more so than the big plastic high chairs with what look like impossible-to-clean covers. AJ (I have henceforth decided to refer to him with first and middle initial-the single "A" is becoming confusing) was lucky to receive one for his first birthday, and we have loved it. First of all, it is incredibly easy to clean. I use a wet rag for the really sticky stuff, but often all it takes is a swipe of a damp paper towel for the seat to return to a spotless state. There are cushions, for those of you who fear the seat looks uncomfortable, and I did use them at first, but tired of having to take them off and wait for them to air dry after a wash. Either way, cushions or no, there is no accumulation of crumbs or mess possible with this chair. The compact nature of the chair is also wonderful. We have recently stopped using the tray, because it's so nice for AJ to be "scooted" up to the table with us, but when I did use it, I simply removed it and placed it under the table and against the wall, totally out of the way. This way, when we weren't eating, the high chair looks like a simple wooden stool right next to the other chairs. And for my final point, there is an incredible aesthetic appeal in a high chair that looks like an actual piece of furniture. You don't have to put it away when your toddler is ready to sit in a standard-sized chair. WORTH EVERY CENT. Go to their website-they have some gorgeous new colors. Side note: I do recommend the aforementioned Fisher Price seat as well-the one we purchased was all plastic with no cover, so still very easy to clean and maintain.
Tommee Tippee bibs. These have been a lifesaver for us, and almost every other mom I know that uses them. They are made of a thick plastic which is much more durable than the thinner, polyester waterproof bibs I had relied upon before. There is a deep pocket which catches the countless missed mouthfuls of food, making clean-up a breeze. When AJ is done eating, I toss the bib right in the sink with the other dishes for a good scrub. One pack of these and you're good to go.
Playtex sippy cups. Now we are actually past the sippy stage (except for one for milk right before bed and the occasional drive in the car), but I will have you know that not all sippy cups are equal (not unlike bottles) and it took a while to find the one best for AJ. These basic Playtex cups do still have the pesky valve that needs thorough washing, but their flow is a good speed, the valve isn't so tiny that you'll have to worry about mold or something nasty like that, and a happy bonus is that there are plenty of adorable character cups out there in the larger size. We had to have a few featuring Nemo, of course.
Target $bin snack containers. I feel a bit silly recommending an item that is often seasonal but these have been my favorite little containers for snacks, and since I check the dollar bin regularly, it's almost always true that there will be something like them available. I managed to snag a photo of the Sesame Street-themed bins from a few months ago, where we found ours. I could kick myself for missing out on the Dr. Seuss bins that were out recently-there were probably more adorable containers with lids to be found!
go-to juice: Knudsen's. It's a well-established truth, whether we like it or not, that juice isn't exactly a healthy option for fruit consumption, despite its widespread dominance in grocery stores. I want to say that right off the bat before recommending any. Thankfully, my little guy has no trouble with eating fruit, but I have always struggled to get him to drink. He might drink a single glass of milk in one day, and while I regularly offer water, he doesn't guzzle it as he should. Thus, I often provide a juice for him, particularly when we're out on a play date or trip to the park (At home, I pour a tablespoon-or less!-into his water cup, and he tends to drink a little better than if it were plain water). It took a while for me to find the "perfect" juice, but I finally honed in upon these Knudsen's juice boxes. Every juice box is made from concentrate, so you might as well let that go, but the sugar content varies a lot from brand to brand. Not only is the amount of sugar fairly manageable in these boxes, the serving size is at least 1/4 less than most others I've seen. AJ thinks they are the best, and calls them "berry juice." Side note: PLEASE read The Honest Toddler's take on juice. You'll thank me.
go-to non-virtuous processed snacks: Trader Joe's freeze-dried fruit, Annie's Organics whole wheat bunnies, whole-grain Pepperidge Farm Goldfish, Cheerios. Though I aspire to have slices of cucumber and carrots next to homemade crackers as a snack some day, it is infinitely easier to have a few options that one doesn't have to prepare for snacks. This is especially helpful for days when we'll be out of the house. These are our favorites. AJ eats the freeze-dried fruit like it's crack, and it doesn't build up in his teeth like fruit leather does. He loves "bunnies" and "goldfish", and what can I say? Cheerios are the best. And for the record, no off-brand really meets up the standards of the original.