We now interrupt your regularly scheduled beauty programming to bring you an important public service announcement for parents. If you have small children who will soon start daycare or preschool, the following is required reading.
Arwen Grace, my chipmunk-cheeked 10 week old baby, started daycare this week. While it was difficult to return to work and leave my little munchkin in the care of others, I have to admit that it was easier the second time around. With my son, Westley, I felt incredibly guilty – like I was abandoning him. And on top of that, I didn’t know what essentials and “gear” he needed for his days at daycare. This time, I’m informed and prepared. So here’s your chance to take advantage of my expertise.
For baby, you’ll obviously need diapers, wipes, ointment and bottles, but these five must have items are the real lifesavers:
PackIt is a cooler – with freezable gel walls – that keeps food and drinks cold for up to 10 hours. Just put it in the freezer overnight, pull it out in the morning, pack and go. Three years ago, on a whim, I bought a red PackIt with robots on it for Westley to use as his daycare lunch bag. He uses that bag to this day – and it works as well now as it did on day one. I love PackIt so much, I purchased lunch bags for myself and my husband. And I recently gifted my retired dad with a PackIt when he started a seasonal job with the Philadelphia Phillies.
The nice people at PackIt gifted me with this lunch bag for Arwen’s daycare gear. Not only is the design super fun, it’s also extremely functional. I noticed that, since I purchased all of those PackIts years ago, they’ve added a zipper closure to the top of the bag – which is a great update. For Arwen, I freeze the bag overnight and pack it with her prepared bottles in the morning. That way, her milk stays nice and cold/fresh en route from my fridge to the daycare’s. PackIt also gifted me with one of their Freezable Baby Bottle Bags, but Arwen needs more bottles than can fit in that particular style. But it’s perfect for running errands when you only need to keep one or two drinks cold. And I continue to use my PackIt lunch bag at work. In the morning, I pack my lunch in it. When I get to the office, I put my lunch in the fridge and the bag in the freezer. In the afternoon, I remove it from the freezer and pack it with my bottles of expressed breast milk – and it keeps them cold during my hour-long commute home.
Update: If you want to purchase a PackIt of your very own, you’re in luck because they’re on sale right now at Zulily. Lunch bags are marked down to $13.99 (from $20) – plus they have a bunch of other cooler styles, also discounted!
When you send a baby to daycare, you also have to send in a small arsenal of clothing, bibs, blankets and whatnot. And I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to send something in and never see it again – because it got lost or accidentally went home with the wrong child. Daycares advise that you write your child’s name (or initials) on the labels so that they don’t get misplaced. But have you seen those labels? They’re itty bitty. And even if you label them that way with a permanent marker, it might be illegible after several washings. This is where Mabel’s Labels will save your life. Okay, maybe not your life but certainly your wallet. Mabel’s Labels Tag Mates clothing labels are laundry safe and designed to adhere to almost any fabric. You can customize them with your child’s name and an icon. I discovered them when Westley started daycare and I’ve been using them ever since. They even have onesyou’re your kid’s shoes. And trust me, they’re durable – the tags don’t come off until you take them off. Now, I buy them in bulk because almost anything that goes to daycare has a Mabel’s Label tag on it.
Even more important than protecting your child’s stuff is making sure that they get the right bottle. But with multiple babies’ bottles getting co-mingled in the refrigerator, mixups are inevitable – right? Wrong…at least when it comes to my babies. That’s because I use Inchbug Orbit Labels. The name is kind of a misnomer because they’re actually bands – re-usable, customizable bands that wrap around your child’s bottle or cup. The come in fun colors with cute icons, and fit a variety of different bottles. They stretch to fit most bottles and containers. I used them with Westley’s BornFree bottles and assorted sippy cups, and now I’m using them with Arwen’s Avent Natural and Tommee Tippee baby bottles.
Before Westley needed one, I didn’t even know what a nap mat was. It’s basically a sleeping bag with an attached pillow. I didn’t do too much research before buying this football nap mat for him (of course, we personalized it with his name), but it’s held up well. We send it in to daycare on Mondays, bring it home on Fridays and wash/dry it on weekends. I really lucked out on the quality because it’s still kicking three years later. When the time comes to get Arwen a nap mat, though, I think I’m going to get one from Pottery Barn Kids. Which leads me to the final must-have on this list…
If you haven’t noticed yet, I have a penchant for putting my kids’ names on things. So it only makes sense that I would do the same for their daycare bags, right? Two years ago, when my son discovered superheroes, I bought him a Batman backpack from Pottery Barn Kids. I got his name embroidered on it, so there was no question about which wannabe caped crusader it belonged to. He’s schlepped that bag back and forth from daycare for the past two years – and we often use it on weekend trips or visits to my parents’ house. The bag has held up beautifully despite my son’s inability to handle anything delicately.
So when it came time to get Arwen ready for school, it wasn’t even a question where I would get her a bag. For her, I ordered the Mackenzie Plum Geo with her name stitched on the front.
If you have any daycare/preschool must-haves that are not on this list, please share in the comments section. I’m always looking for products that make working moms’ lives easier.