Dec 252014

diaper bags for twinsIf you ever manage to leave the house with your twins while they’re still in diapers, you’ll need a good diaper bag. Nearly all of the supplies you need to change a baby are essentially doubled – diapers and wipes, spare outfits, toys, everything. You need a diaper bag with capacity! At the same time, you don’t want a suitcase hanging off of your shoulder while you juggle (or chase) two little ones. Finding the right diaper bag that balances space, size, and style isn’t easy.

Key Features of Diaper Bags for Twins

The best diaper bags for twins have several features in common, including:

  • Storage. You need a good-sized cargo area for diapers, wipes, and outfits, plus some exterior pockets for snacks, formula, your keys, and everything else you’ll be toting around. And zippered pockets are a plus.
  • Carrying options. Most diaper bags come with tote straps, but a shoulder strap is a must for parents of twins. I really like the diaper bags that put extra thought into this and make it wider and ergonomically supportive.
  • Stroller attachment. A shoulder strap, or better yet specially-designed clips, to fasten your diaper bag to a stroller’s handles should be your priority. This frees your hands to wrangle your little ones, pick up discarded toys, you name it.

Skip Hop Duo Double Deluxe Diaper Bag

Double deluxe diaper bag
Buy this diaper bag now
This double-sized version of the popular Skip Hop Duo is designed specifically for parents of twins. It claims to be the only diaper bag that attaches to a double stroller, which is accomplished through clever “shuttle clips” on the bag. You can carry it by the handles or messenger-style with a long shoulder strap. The magnetic closures, extra cargo space, and sixteen pockets make this an excellent choice for lugging along everything you need to diaper two little ones.

Features: -Can be carried by tote or shoulder strap
-16 pockets total
-Shuttle clips for attaachment to double stroller
-Magnetic closures throughout
Dimensions: 18 x 4.2 x 13.5 inches
Reviews: Double deluxe diaper bag reviews

Diaper Dude Diaper Bag

Diaper Dude Bag
Buy this diaper bag now
Say goodbye to flowery girly diaper bags! This bag, featured in US Weekly, Parenting Magazine, and other places, is designed with the dad in mind. It’s cool, hip, and masculine. And modern, too: there’s a key ring and cell phone holder. The main compartment has a pouch for diapers and plenty of room for clothes, wipes, and other essentials. Three large outer pockets give you the cargo space you’ll need for two of everything.

Features: -Ergonomic carry strap for comfort
-3 exterior pockets with zippers
-Large inner compartment with diaper pouch
-Includes padded changing pad
Dimensions: 16 x 4 x 14 inches
Reviews: Diaper Dude Bag Reviews

Diaper Diva Zipper Diva Bag

Diaper Diva Twin Diaper Bag
Buy this diaper bag now
Here’s the girl’s answer to the Diaper Dude: the Diaper Diva. It’s nearly identical but with pink highlights instead of gray. The same three exterior zippered pockets, large main compartment, and elastic pockets provide plenty of storage for diapers, wipes, toys, food, etc. The shoulder strap is extra wide, adjustable, and has an ergonomic “shoulder-saving” design; that’s a great feature of this diaper bag.

Features: -Wide, adjustable, ergonomic shoulder strap
-Bottle pocket plus two large elasticized slots in back.
-Removable cell phone pouch
-Interior key clip to hold car keys
-Stroller straps included
Dimensions: 16 x 3 x 14 inches
Reviews: Diaper Diva Bag Reviews

Vera Bradley Baby Bag

Vera Bradley Diaper Bag
Buy this diaper bag now
Here’s a stylish diaper bag that you’ll want to keep using as a large tote once your twins are out of diapers! It’s Vera Bradley and comes in dozens of different patterns. It’s made of sturdy soft cotton with reinforced double handles. Easy zip top opening with the ribbon pull, and four exterior pockets of varying size. There’s also a large, soft, machine-washable changing pad included.

Features: -Full zipper pack with 11 pockets inside and out
-Large 26″ x 14″ terry-covered changing pad included
-12″ strap drop, and machine-washable
-Dozens of Vera Bradley designs available
Dimensions: 17 x 7 x 12 inches
Reviews: Vera Bradley Diaper Bag Reviews
Oct 162014

fall activities for familiesFall is my favorite season, a time of change when the cool weather means long sleeves and regular use of the crockpot.

As the mosquitoes and heat of summer relent, it’s the perfect time to take your family outside for a last hurrah. Remember, winter is coming. So is cabin fever and flu season. You might as well enjoy the outdoors now while you can!

Here are twelve fall family activities to help you make the most of it.

1. Rake leaves, and then jump on them

Let’s start with the age-old classic of raking leaves — something those of us with mature trees in the backyard are going to have to do anyway — but getting the kids involved. All you need is a dry, crisp fall day, a rake, and possibly your allergy medications.

If you can persuade them to help with the raking, great. Usually that keeps their interest for about ten minutes. Before you bag them up, however, the kids will definitely be on board for jumping, burrowing, and playing in big piles of leaves.

Fall family leaf jumping

Credit: Flickr user deedsfam

2. Build or fill a bird feeder

Autumn brings plenty of feathery friends around. Some of them need to bulk up for the migration south, while others who stick around could use an extra meal or two. Why not fill the bird feeder and get your little ones to watch the animals it brings?

Even better, get them involved by building your own bird feeders. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Pine cones, optimally the shorter, squatter ones with big gaps in them.
  • Peanut butter. Spoon a couple of tablespoons into a plastic bowl
  • Bird seed or sunflower seeds

Let your little ones slather peanut butter on the pine cones, and then sprinkle them with (or roll them in) the bird seed. Tie a string to the top to fasten these to trees, bushes, or other places within easy view of the window. Sprinkle some loose seed on the ground nearby to help the birds find them. The local critters will thank you.

3. Visit the pumpkin patch

family pumpkin patch

Credit: Flickr user glennf

Support your local farmers by visiting a bona-fide pumpkin patch. The day your little one gets to pick out his own pumpkin (especially if it’s still on the vine) will probably be the highlight of his fall, at least outside of October 31st. Pumpkin patches usually have other fun stuff for families, like hayrides, playgrounds, and face painting.

Your child’s first visit to the pumpkin patch as a baby, and also the first visit as a self-mobile toddler, are photo-worthy moments. The fall colors and bright orange of the pumpkins really make photos pop. So make sure the bring the camera! You can save all of your family photos on sites like Shutterfly.

4. Carve pumpkins and roast pumpkin seeds

Now that you have a whole mess of pumpkins, let’s make the most of them. Carving pumpkins is one of our all-time favorite fall activities. It’s incredibly messy, but that’s part of the fun. I highly recommend buying a pumpkin carving kit, whose narrow carving saws are ideal for the job. They’re much safer to use around little kids, too.

Your job is the carving, but the sticky job of seed and gunk removal can be delegated. Your little ones might also be good at picking out designs, doing the design-poker thing, or washing the seeds.

Roasting Pumpkin Seeds

Roasted pumpkin seeds make for an easy, healthy snack. They’re very simple to make, too. Here’s my tried-and-true recipe:

  1. Wash the seeds thoroughly and spread them out to dry. Note, it takes hours for them to dry completely, and you have to keep spreading them around. It’s best done overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
  3. In a large skillet, melt a few tablespoons of butter and stir in the pumpkin seeds. Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon each of salt and garlic powder. Season salt also works well.
  4. Spread the seeds out on a baking tray or pizza pan.
  5. Bake for around 45 minutes, stirring the seeds occasionally so that they cook evenly. They’ll be dark golden brown when finished.

5. Drive for leaf peeping

Fall leaf peeping activities

Credit: Flickr user vampa___

Yes, this is a real thing. You pile everyone into a car and take a drive to enjoy the colors of fall. Timing is everything for this activity: you want to find a day when many of the leaves have turned, but most haven’t yet fallen. For us, it’s like a 2-week window. Everyone piles into the car, and you take a long drive along the river or up into the countryside.

Bright colors should be enough to distract the average toddler for about 2 minutes. This activity is best combined with your farm visit, apple picking, or pumpkin picking, so it’s not the only point of the journey.

You can look up the best time to go for your area online. For example, ABC News has a map of the peak leaf peeping times across the U.S. In some areas, especially the west coast, you might be in for a bit of a drive. Plan to make a whole day of it!

6. Visit a farm

A farm might not be the first place you think to visit in the fall, but there are plenty of reasons to go — fresh produce, close-up encounters with farm animals, and probably a hay ride. The newspaper is probably the best place to find these, both in advertising sections and in the entertainment / around town sections. Word of mouth is good, too. Failing that, you can always search for your city name and farm with hayride, which is a staple of most family-friendly farms.

Fall family farm visit

Credit: Flickr user anjanettew

We make an annual trip to a family-friendly place where the favorite activity is feeding baby goats (you get a baby bottle full of milk for like $1). We also visit the cows, horses, chickens, ducks, etc. It makes for some great pictures; just be sure to wash everyone’s hands afterward!

7. Go apple picking

All right, I saved one of our all-time favorite activities for number seven. This one is again a matter of timing, and perhaps a little bit of research too. There’s probably a big, commercial orchard in your area where you can go pick apples, peaches, or any sort of fruit/vegetable throughout the year. They’ll have plenty of parking, and regular hayrides out into the right orchards where you can pick red, green, or other varieties of apples. You can’t go wrong with these kinds of places, though they can be crowded.

Family apple picking

Credit: Flickr user joyosity

Alternatively, it might be possible to find a small orchard or apple farm for a more rustic and intimate experience. These family-owned farms might not be able to afford the big advertising, but they’re a lot of fun. No matter where you go, be sure to bring some little bags for the kids to carry. Side note, unless you watch them, they’ll probably do most of their apple picking on the ground. Since you’re paying by the pound, you’ll probably want to go through the harvest before you leave the orchard to pay.

8. Make caramel apples

You’ll probably get home with more apples than you can possibly eat in the next month, which leads me to my next activity suggestion: making caramel apples. It sounds a lot harder than it is. All you’ll need is about 6 of your best apples, a package of those square caramel candies (14 oz), and 2 tablespoons of milk.

  1. Wash and dry the apples. Remove stems, too.
  2. Microwave the caramels and milk in a microwave-safe bowl for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. While that’s going, set up a drying/cooling tray with foil or wax paper.
  4. Roll the apples in the caramel dip

That’s all it takes! Now you have a tasty fall treat to help you celebrate the orchard harvest.

9. Take an outdoor hike

Fall family hiking

Credit: Flickr user abplanalp

A hike is a great form of outdoor exercise to help your family enjoy the fall colors. Dress everyone in warm, comfortable clothes and most importantly, good walking shoes. You might also want to bring a backpack with drinks and snacks.

I’d recommend that you don’t venture too far from the car, especially since little legs have to take about two steps for every one of yours. Also, remember that every step taken away from the car is a step you have to take back. In other words, if you walk 1/2 a mile, your total hike will be 1 mile. Keep that in mind!

10. Press a leaf collection

Did you have to do the leaf collection and identification project in elementary school? I did, and it was torture, because that was the pre-internet era. Now it’s easy to identify leaves — there are even apps for your phone that can take a picture and match it to the correct tree — and so this is a fun project for kids. On which they won’t be graded (thank goodness). You can even make an art project or scrapbook out of it, since pressed leaves last a long time. Here are some other creative, crafty ideas for leaves on Pinterest:

11. Tackle the corn or haybale maze

If you live in the midwest, you’ll probably notice once of these unique attractions in early fall. Corn mazes are usually gone by late October, though, because the corn has to be harvested. Hay bale mazes are another long-lasting option, and lots of fun to enjoy with the family. You know the right-hand rule for solving a maze, right? If you don’t, now is a good time to learn it.

Family fall zoo visit

Mongoose (Credit: Flickr user airwolfhound)

12. Visit the Zoo

Last but not least, I’d like to suggest the fall activity we most recently enjoyed: going to your local zoo (or, failing that, a petting zoo). Fall is a great time to visit the zoo because it’s far less crowded, the blacktop doesn’t get as hot, and many of the money-sucking displays have closed, so there’s less temptation for your little one. You might even be able to find free parking!

It’s Your Turn

It won’t be long before winter’s here, and the crummy weather forces your energetic, restless little ones inside. I hope you take advantage of some of these suggestions. What’s your family’s favorite fall activity? Please use the comments below to share it!

Aug 262014

double stroller reviewsThere are a few baby products made just for twins that I’d consider essential, and first on that list is a double stroller. This is also a product where you need to do your homework! Between my twin boys and their older sister, we’ve had six different strollers in three years.

Three of these are single baby strollers that are reviewed elsewhere. The other three were double strollers for the twins: a lightweight umbrella stroller for travel, a tandem stroller for public outings, and a double jogger for walks in the neighborhood.

Here, I review and compare the features of the best double strollers for twins including umbrella models, tandem strollers, and double joggers.

What’s Important in a Double Stroller?
Lightweight/Umbrella Strollers for Twins
Delta Lightweight Double Stroller
Graco Quattro Double Stroller
Tandem Strollers
Graco Ready2Grow Sit & Stand Stroller
Contours Optima Tandem Stroller
Double Jogger Strollers
Instep Safari Swivel Wheel Double Jogger
Schwinn Turismo Double Stroller
City Mini GT Double Stroller
Once you have a double stroller, check out our article on must-have double stroller accessories.

What’s Important in a Double Stroller?

Since I currently own 3 strollers and use one about once a day, I’ve come to appreciate certain features of double strollers that matter more than others.

  • Tandem or side-by-side? This is probably the most important consideration when I’m deciding which stroller to dig out. If I’m headed to a store, someone’s house, or another place without extra-wide doorways, I’ll usually opt for the tandem stroller. Granted, the twin who ends up in back usually gets fussy about it. But that’s better than knocking down a product display or, you know, passerby.
  • Wheels for the terrain. One nice feature of jogging strollers is the big, all-terrain wheels. As you’ve probably discovered already, the standard double-wheels on most baby strollers are great on concrete but struggle with grass, gravel roads, or other bumpy surfaces. If we’re going to cross one of these I’ll take the jogger out.
  • Comfort for the babies. The longer the planned outing, the more important the babies’ comfort is to me. Any stroller will do for a quick walk around the block. If we’re headed to a walk-a-thon or long shopping trip or all-day event, I go for the tandem stroller because it has the most padding and extra storage.
  • Compact and lightweight for travel. We recently took a 10-day road trip and had bought our third twin stroller, a lightweight umbrella one, just for that voyage. It turned out to be really nice for day-to-day use because it folds up to be more compact and is lighter weight than our two others. There’s also the weight limit for airplanes to consider. Any time there will be lots of folding and lifting involved, go for a stroller that’s under 30 pounds.

See also this article, 5 tips for choosing the best stroller, from And have a look at our favorite double stroller accessory.

Umbrella Strollers for Twins

Umbrella strollers are designed to be compact and lightweight. You’d be surprised at how cleverly these fold up even when they hold two babies at once.

Delta Lightweight Double Umbrella Stroller

lightweight stroller reviewsBuy this stroller This is a lightweight, compact, and reasonably priced umbrella stroller for twins. It’s safety certified by ASTM, and has brakes on all three sets of rear wheels. Retractable sunshades for each seat provide some protection from sun, rain, and even well-meaning strangers.

I can’t emphasize enough how useful it is to have a compact umbrella stroller that will hold both of your twins. It doesn’t take up nearly as much space compared to other twin strollers. You can throw it into a mostly-full trunk, you can gate-check it on most airlines.

Features: •   Lightweight frame fits through standard 30″ door
•   Meets or exceeds all ASTM standards; JPMA certified
•   Shock-absorbing 360-spin front wheels
•   Parent cupholder and 2 hanging storage bags
Dimensions: 31 x 33 x 40 inches ; 21 pounds
Price Rating: double stroller price rating
Reviews: delta double stroller reviews

Kolcraft Jeep Wrangler Twin Umbrella Stroller

twin umbrella stroller
Buy this stroller now
If you have two little adventurers, you might want an umbrella stroller made of sterner stuff. This one from Kolcraft is ready for off-road if you need it to. A 3-point buckle holds your twins securely in their seats, but has a quick-snap release so that you can get them out easily. One really nice feature is the cool-climate roll-up backs for the seats, which give you the option of creating more airflow to keep the little ones cool.

Despite its rugged features, this umbrella stroller is light and compact. Plus, it folds up easily to make travel a breeze. We own two different (single baby) strollers made by Kolcraft with the Jeep label, and both live up to the reputation. The all-terrain tires are the best I’ve seen on a stroller: they can really handle thick grass, gravel roads, and other rough ground.

Features: • All-terrain tires to handle more than just concrete
• Reclining padded seats for baby comfort
• Removable cargo bags and parent cupholder
• Safety certified by JPMA
Dimensions: 30 x 32 x 38.2 inches ; 18 pounds
Price Rating: double stroller price ratingdouble stroller price rating
Reviews: Jeep Umbrella Stroller Reviews

Graco – Quattro Tour Duo Double Stroller

twin umbrella stroller
Buy this stroller now
If you have two little adventurers, you might want a folding double made of sterner stuff. Technically, the Quattro isn’t an umbrella stroller, but it folds flat to allow for easy transport and storage. Even so, it’s full size with plenty of room for both twins. Each seat has a cupholder, tray, and its own canopy.

This stroller has the one-handed gravity fold, which I love. You can also lock the two front wheels to use it as more of a jogger.

Features: •   2 multi-position reclining seats (rear seat can lay flat)
•   Parent’s tray with storage and 2 cup holders
•   Extra large drop-down storage basket
•   Convertible 3-point or 5-point harness
Dimensions: 29 x 22 x 44 inches ; 47 pounds
Price Rating: double stroller price ratingdouble stroller price rating
Reviews: Graco Quattro Stroller Reviews

Tandem Strollers

Tandem strollers let one twin ride in front, and one behind. This may or may not work for your multiples, depending on their personalities. But a tandem stroller is useful for, you know, going through regular-sized doors and shopping in stores with narrow aisles.

Graco Ready2Grow Stand and Ride Double Stroller

graco double stroller review Graco double stroller options Buy this stroller Perhaps the most popular tandem stroller for twins is made by Graco. The latest model, the Ready2Grow Stand & Ride, is an all-around tandem stroller; if you had to buy just one twin stroller, this would be it. There’s stadium-style seating, which helps the twin in the back see out better. Each seat has its own canopy and footrest. The rear seat reclines to essentially flat – I used that very feature tonight to give my younger son a bottle while we watched his older sister’s swim lesson.

The ability to plug in 1-2 Graco car seats really makes this stroller versatile: you could use it for an infant and an older child, two children, baby twins, or some combination thereof. Perhaps the best feature is the one-hand fold: you push, twist, and the stroller folds all the way down and latches. It’s fast and easy, a useful thing for when you’re holding a baby in a busy parking lot.

There are twelve different configuration options accommodating twins or siblings of different ages. Last but certainly not least, each seat has a storage and snack tray!

Features: •   12 different seating options for 2 children, starting at newborn
•   Rear seat holds child up to 40 pounds, front seat or bench up to 50 pounds
•   Accepts one or two Graco car seats
•   Front swivel wheels and suspsension
•   Storage and snack trays
Dimensions: 27.2 x 22.5 x 41.5 inches ; 34.4 pounds
Price Rating: twin stroller pricetwin stroller price
Reviews: Graco double stroller reviews

Contours Options Tandem Stroller

Contours double stroller
Buy this stroller now
Here’s a robust tandem stroller with a lighter frame. Weighing in at less than 37 pounds, this stroller has a lot of flexibility: the reversible seats can be positioned six different ways, and there’s even an attachment for an infant car seat.

For me, when it comes to strollers (or minivans, or anything else), cupholders are a make-or-break feature. This stroller has four: two for the adults, and two for the little ones. There’s also a large storage basket underneath, and a small storage bin on the handle (great for keeping your keys or cell phone).

Features: •   Lightweight aluminum frame
•   Independent reclining seats
•   Height adjustable canopies
•   Extra large storage basket
Dimensions: 30.5 x 21.7 x 15.0 inches ; 36.6 pounds
Price Rating: double stroller price ratingdouble stroller price ratingdouble stroller price rating
Reviews: contours double stroller

Double Jogger Strollers

Double jogger strollers aren’t just for the fitness-crazed. True, the wheels are larger and can be locked in position to cruise at jogging speeds, but these lightweight strollers are well-suited to family outings, walks, and other outdoor activities.

InStep Safari Swivel Wheel Double Jogger

Instep Double Jogger Stroller
Buy this stroller now
One of the most popular strollers on Amazon is the Instep Safari double jogger with swivel wheel. This stroller is designed for comfort and safety, with high-performance pneumatic tires (12″ front, 16″ rear) and a dual-trigger folding mechanism to prevent mishaps.It seats two children up to 50 pounds each (that’s like, a 4 year old) and has built-in handles for carrying the stroller when it’s folded. The manual swivel lock lets you flip between jogging mode, when a fixed front wheel is essential, and strolling mode when you’ll need to turn easily.

Weighing in at nearly 50 pounds, this stroller is built for comfort and stability. True, you can easily snap the wheels on and off during transport, but there are lighter strollers out there if you do much traveling. I do like the molded parent tray with two cupholders and the slip-resistant rubberized grip. And the 110+ reviews of this stroller are largely positive.

Features: •   12-inch front and 16-inch rear pneumatic tires
•   Dual trigger folding mechanism for extra safety
•   Pivoting child trays with two cup holders each
Dimensions: 49 x 32.2 x 40 inches ; 49 pounds
Price Rating: stroller pricestroller rating
Reviews: Instep Safari Jogger Reviews

Schwinn Turismo Double Jogging Stroller

Schwinn Turismo Double Stroller
Buy this stroller
If anyone knows how to make a good jogging stroller, it’s a bicycle company. The Schwinn Turismo double jogger is a higher-end jogging stroller and it shows. Lightweight aluminum frame, independent 5-position canopies, and quick release rims are just some of the conveniences this model has to offer. The handle is rubberized (no-slip) and adjustable for maximum comfort. The seat-backs are also independently adjustable, and there are built-in speakers for your iPhone or MP3 player.

The seats are truly independent, which will help keep your twins from bickering while you’re out and about. That’s a key feature that separates this stroller from most other side-by-side strollers I’ve seen.

Features: •   Lightweight aluminum frame with rubberized, adjustable handle
•   Aluminum Quick Release rims with extra-thick tires (12″ front and 16″ rear)
•   Parent and pivoting child trays with cup holders
•   Independent 5-position canopies to protect from sun/rain.
Dimensions: 50 x 33 x 40 inches ; 43 pounds
Price Rating: double pricestroller pricestroller rating
Reviews: Schwinn Turismo Double Jogger Reviews

Baby Jogger City Mini GT Double Stroller

City Mini Double Stroller Buy this stroller Baby Jogger’s City series of strollers are wildly popular. They’re safe, lightweight, and easy to fold. This one, the City Mini Double GT, recently won the Parent Tested, Parent Approved (PTPA) media award for baby strollers. This could easily be your everyday stroller; you can lock or unlock both front wheels for walking or jogging, respectively. Both seats fold back to a near-flat position and have mesh backs with retractable weather covers. The individually adjustable sun canopies have little peek-a-boo windows. There’s lots of built-in storage: an under-backet and pockets behind each of the seats.

The Citi Mini Double will hold up to 100 pounds, but it still fits through a standard-size door. A patented one-hand quick-fold technology lets you easily collapse the stroller, at which point it weighs only 26 pounds. That’s impressive!

Features: • 8″ quick-release EVA wheels with sealed ball bearings and front wheel suspension
• Dual lockable swivel front wheels for jogging or long walks
• Universal mounting bracket for stroller accessories
• Unique one-hand quick fold up.
Dimensions: 30.5 x 7 x 33.5 inches (folded), or 44 x 29.75 x 30 inches (unfolded); 32.5 pounds
Price Rating: double pricestroller pricestroller ratingbest stroller

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Books for parents of twins Video Monitors for Twins Help Teething Babies 6 ways to contain and entertain twins
Study up! Read about our recommended 7 books for new parents of twins. See our reviews of the latest video monitors for twins if you want to keep an extra close eye on your little ones. When your babies are teething, here are a few ways to offer some relief. Twins taking over the house? See our 6 ways to contain and entertain twins for helpful ideas.
Jul 212014

Contain entertain babiesHaving twins or multiples at home can be overwhelming. One of the hardest parts is simply multitasking – finding some way to entertain one twin while you nurse or feed or change the diaper of the other. This is a problem that’s magnified ten times when your little ones start crawling, and twenty times again when they start pulling up and walking.

We’re just going through that now, and it’s inspired today’s post: six ways to contain and entertain your twins.

These are ordered to match your twins’ development: newborn items first, and then gear that works for crawling or walking babies.

Boppy Pillow Contain twins1. Boppy Pillow

Before your little ones are mobile, the Boppy Nursing Pillow is an indispensable item. You can use it to support one or both twins while you nurse in the “double football hold”. Or, you can plop one baby in it while you take care of the other. Or, do as we did and have two Boppies, one for each twin. The C-shaped pillow provides ergonomic support, supporting the head and neck. By the way, their feet go toward the bottom, in the break in the circle.

2. Bumbo-type Baby Seat

Baby bumbo seat

Baby in Bumbo

You’ve probably heard of the Bumbo or similar floor-type baby seats – it’s a contoured plastic seat with a round base that support your baby in a sitting position. The interior is padded foam; the exterior hygienic, non-toxic, and easy to clean. Bumbo seats are great for feeding (especially solid food) and the perfect place to set your little one after he or she’s taken a bottle, to help prevent spit-ups.

No straps are required; the seat is contoured to hug a baby’s legs and bottom. The Bumbo’s round base makes it super-stable on the floor, and it has straps so that you can fasten it to a chair as well. Read this great review on Bumbo versus Bebepod.

 Twins portable swing3. Compact Portable Swing

We bought a Fisher-Price portable swing for travel and it’s probably one of the best baby products I’ve ever had. It’s compact, standing only about 2 feet tall. The variable speeds and music often lull babies to sleep, and there are little dangle toys to keep them entertained if that doesn’t happen.

One of the best things about this swing is that it’s compact, with a small footprint to save space in your home. Further, it folds up nearly flat, so it’s great to throw into the car for trips or visits to someone’s house.

4. Play Mat or Activity Gym

Activity gyms like the Treetop Friends Play Gym offer a soft, safe place for one or both of your twins to lay and play for a while. These are great for when your babies are just starting to move their arms and legs, but haven’t started rolling or scooting around on the floor. The mat defines a safe play area; it’s soft and padded and somewhat protected by the plastic arms overhead. Plus, the dangle toys engage and entertain your baby while laying there.

Baby gym entertain twins

These are also relatively compact, so they’re another good travel item. In particular it’s nice to bring over to someone’s house – you know it’s clean and safe in case you want to put a baby down.

5. Pack ‘N Play or Play Yard

Playpen for twinsWhen your little ones can move on their own, or even before that, a pack-n-play is the classic place to “entertain while containing” them. You can keep a few toys or a soft blankie in there to make it inviting. The mesh screen lets your baby see and interact with you, while keeping them sequestered.

If your twins will tolerate it, nothing’s better than a play yard to keep them busy while you get a few things done around the house. For our boys’ first birthday (which was in a county park), we brought along their pack-n-play and filled it with 100 lightweight plastic balls, the kind you’d find in a ball pit, which we bought on Amazon. They loved playing in there; before long other babies were being dropped in to share the fun.

6. Shopping Cart / High Chair Cover

The last item is not so much for home as for when you go out in public – to the grocery store or a restaurant. It is, hands-down, the item we’re most often asked about by complete strangers when they see it: a shopping cart and high chair cover.

Twin cart coverThese soft fabric coverings have straps to fit snugly around the edge of a grocery store shopping cart or the standard wooden high chairs you find in most restaurants. They’re softer than the hard metal or wood, and they prevent your little ones from touching those potentially germ-covered surfaces. In a shopping cart, it makes a cozy little nest that also keeps most little things (toys or pacifiers) from falling through the bars.

A bonus way to contain and entertain your twins: the Radio Flyer Pathfinder wagon, which we love enough to give it its own article!

Jun 282014

summer safety for toddlersSummer’s finally here, and with two extremely energetic twin boys in the home, I’m obviously thinking about all of the trouble and harm they might get into. Say what you want about winter in the temperate zones, but at least it forces us indoors where things are *reasonably* safe. I say “reasonably” because we’ve had just as many traumatic injuries indoors as we have outside.

However, with the better weather, we’re spending as much time as possible outdoors. We are fortunate enough to have a decent yard where the kids can play. They love it. We love it. And still, I’m worried about a long list of outdoor dangers. I’ll cover them here, along with the steps we’ve taken (or will take) to address them:

1. Car and driveway safety

It might be my imagination, but it seems like people are getting worse and worse at driving. Texting while driving, GPS systems, and general inattention are some of the reasons for this. We live on a non-through street and we still have people who zoom past the house in the middle of the day, going ten or fifteen miles per hour over the limit. This just drives me crazy.

I want to go out there and yell at them to slow down, but I also don’t want to be that person in the neighborhood.

toddler safety driveway guard

Driveway Guard

Our driveway is the main concern — our kids like to ride their bikes and scooters up and down it. We’re always telling them to stay away from the street, and they usually obey, but it’s that one time that you have to worry about. What I really want is the bright orange Kidcusion Driveway Guard which creates a visible, physical barrier between your kids and traffic.

2. The Relentless Sun

neutrogena kids sunscreenWe recently took a vacation, and even though it was “up north” it demonstrated how strong the sun can be during summertime. Especially when you’re playing outside in the yard, at the pool, or on a beach. It seems like despite all of the technology that we’ve invented to protect ourselves from sunburns and ultraviolet radiation, lots of people (and their kids) are getting way too much of both. Sunburns are painful, torturous experiences for children. More worrisome is the UV exposure, which can cause mutations in the DNA and damage skin permanently. I’m a geneticist, trust me on this.

Sunscreen Problems with Kids

Sometimes in the scramble to get 200 pounds of baby gear together, you’re going to forget the sunscreen. However, I think most of the time, it’s not a failure to use sunscreen, it’s a failure to use it enough. Our kids really don’t like waiting to put it on before going to play, and they don’t want to stop playing to get another coating of it, even when they’re due. Or they change outfits and suddenly have a bunch of new skin exposed. Honestly, what works best for us is the Neutrogena kids sunscreen, which sprays on via aerosol, is waterproof, and comes in 70 SPF. We keep two bottles in the van, so that we can find at least one of them.

Getting Out of the Sun

summer safety kid tentEven after coating them with sunscreen, you should probably minimize the direct sun exposure your kids are getting. A physical barrier that provides some shade is optimal, and it has the side benefit of keeping everyone a little bit cooler, too. A lot of areas — playgrounds, ball fields, beaches — simply don’t provide enough shade for families.

So we like to bring our own, in the form of a little portable shelter like the Schylling Pop-up UV Shade. This thing is small and lightweight to carry, and goes up about two minutes. Your kid can sit in the comfort of shade and still play, but without the direct sun. As an added bonus, it also works to keep off the rain.

3. Water Hazards: Pool, Lake, and Ocean Safety

It’s a fact that you and your toddler will probably spend some time around water. You might not be aware, but drowning is one of the most common causes of accidental death among children (in first world countries). According to the CDC, there are about ten deaths per day from drowning in the U.S., and two of those are children under 14 years of age.

The most at-risk group for drowning is children aged 1-4. It causes 30% of deaths in that age group, the most common cause after birth defects. And where do most of those drownings happen? In home swimming pools. Those aren’t the only danger zones, though. In 2010, there were 672 boating-related deaths in the U.S., 72% were from drowning. And 88% of those victims weren’t wearing life jackets. We are very conscious of water safety, and I think that’s well justified after reading those statistics.

Reducing the Risk of Drowning

water safety life jacketsResearch has shown that three factors can reduce the risk of losing a child to drowning:

  1. Teaching them swimming skills. In other words, get them some swim lessons! You can start at about 12 months old and go all the way until your child is practically a fish.
  2. Learn CPR. It saves lives and also improves the outcomes of water-related injuries.
  3. Use life jackets. They’re required by law for children when boating, by the way.

Use Life Jackets Around Water

We have U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets for all of our children. They wear them any time we’re around water: at the beach, lakeside, dock fishing, and even swimming in a pool. Not only do they help the child float, they’re also bright, which makes your child easy to see in the water (or in crowds), and they’re easy to grab.

See this wonderful CDC Fact Sheet on Water Safety for some excellent tips.

4. Aggressive Pets and Wild Animals

Humans might be at the theoretical top of the food chain, but that doesn’t mean that animals can’t harm us. Especially our little ones, who are basically defenseless and don’t know any better. We have a lot of wildlife in our neighborhood; probably the greatest concern is the white-tailed deer that frequent our yard. These are not shy animals, and though they’re generally going to run away if a child comes near, they are big. And fast. And sometimes they might have a fawn they’re trying to protect (something my neighbor’s dog found out the hard way).

One year old RottweilerAnother “animal” concern that’s statistically more likely to harm a child? Pets, especially aggressive dog breeds like pit bulls, rottweilers, and dobermans. Before you dog-lovers take up arms against me, let me say that I’m a dog owner, too. I’ve been to the shelters. I know that some breeds get an undeserved reputation, and that both nurture and nature can affect a dog’s temperament. But we’re talking about protecting your toddler from other people’s pets. It’s common-sense stuff like close supervision at all times, and fencing the yard, and teaching your toddlers not to approach strange dogs. Even though we have a dog, and the kids are good with it, they know that they should not even go near another dog unless Mommy or Daddy says it’s OK.

5. Ticks and Mosquitos

insect repellent Letting your toddlers outside — even into the backyard — might put them in contact with some itch-inducing forms of wildlife. Mosquitos, ticks, and biting flies are doubly hazardous: they bite and cause irritation, and they can also carry serious diseases, like West Nile (mosquitos), Lyme disease, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (ticks).

Ticks are usually waning by high summer, when most of us go outside. But mosquitos are on the rise, and they like the same places we do: shady backyards, poolsides, lakeshores, etc. I fricking hate mosquitos as I hate nothing else. So we believe in using bug repellent — the kids get the Cutter Sensations version (7% DEET), which is pretty mild compared to what I wear when I’m hiking (25-75% DEET). To repel mosquitos from our backyard or patio, we also try:

  • Citronella candles and torches
  •  Mosquito dunks in standing water (rain barrels, koi ponds) to kill the larvae
  • Mosquito coils, which work for hours (good) but have to be lit (bad)
  • Bug-free backyard, either the fogger (easier to use) or the one you spray with your hose, which lasts longer
Leaves of 3, Let it Be

Leaves of 3, Let it Be

6. Poisonous Plants

Then, of course, we have toxic plants to worry about. Most notably, poison ivy. Parents should learn what this plant looks like, and keep everyone the heck away from it.

This plant comes in many forms: it grows on the ground or on trees and fences. Its leaves might be rough or smooth. But the one reliable characteristic is that every plant has leaves in sets of three. If you can simply avoid it, you should. If it’s growing in your yard, however, it’s got to go. A diluted bleach solution will kill it (and almost any plant, by the way).