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The Greatest Parenting Inventions Ever
Who among us hasn't used the TV to keep kids in line while cooking dinner or going to the bathroom? We can't be a 24/7 source of entertainment, so thank goodness for Dora, the Wiggles, and their wacky buddies on Yo Gabba Gabba!. After a few Sesame Street episodes, we'll turn off the set to resume our stellar hands-on parenting, because it's like comedians always say, "We'll be here all week!"
- Michael Brian
Bless their hearts, but there are some things our kids just cannot do: cut onions, pick up Motrin at the Walgreens, and tie those cute little shoes of theirs. But thanks to Velcro, kids can take care of their shoe situation themselves, allowing the whole fam to get out of the house faster.
- Andrew McCaul
We're glad someone invented the lightweight umbrella stroller, which transformed the meaning of going anywhere with your kids. Before that, going somewhere with a stroller was almost as cumbersome as traveling with a covered wagon in the 1800s. Except that oxen weren't pulling the thing—you were pushing it. And then you walked 5 miles to pick up the kids at daycare. In snow. Uphill both ways.
- Alexandra Grablewski
It's tough being a baby when you’re running a fever and your mom sticks a thermometer—up there. And it's no picnic for parents, either. With all of the poop explosions and endless diaper changes, we welcome one less opportunity to avoid going—up there.
What do most moms want to bump to the top of the food pyramid? Cheerios—the easy-to-pick-up whole grain finger food. They've managed to satiate the tastes of drooling babies for thousands of years. Well, maybe not thousands. But a lot. And surely more to come.
Amidst the controversy surrounding vaccines, all we have to do is look at countries where kids aren’t routinely vaccinated to see that they keep our kids safe from deadly diseases. So—not fun to get, but necessary. Get the scoop on everything parents need to know about vaccines for their children and themselves.
Jim Henson's educational-yet-entertaining Sesame Street was innovative at its premiere on November 10, 1969, and it still is today. Not only has the company behind it expanded to a website, movies, computer games, an amusement park and more, but the original show still stands up to the newest and hippest kid-stuff to hit the market. Yes, your kids can still watch those segments about the letter “Y” and how to use the cross walk that you watched. And we all can feel pretty good about that.
The most wonderful time of the year is wonderful for many reasons—among them, goodwill to men and batch after batch of Christmas cookies—but for parents, Christmas is a Christmas gift in itself: Santa's naughty and nice lists keep kids on their toes about three months a year. Now if only someone would cover the summer months, life would be a breeze.
We love fostering our kids' creative juices and all that, but do they have to get purple Crayola all over their jeans? Washable markers let us relax when our kids release their inner Picassos—otherwise, arts and crafts time would be conducted in a plastic bubble, with our kids forced to wear disposable body suits.
Since 1956, Play-Doh has saved the day again and again, probably allowing for more hours of creative entertainment than any other toy. It's safe, clean, and totally portable in those iconic little yellow tubs. And playing with it is something every kid can do. (It's so good, we sometimes find ourselves reminding our kids not to eat it.) And if Play-Doh somehow made an edible version that included a serving of veggies, there'd be way less arguing at the dinner table.
- Gabrielle Revere
Cheers to anything that takes away tears at bath time. Still waiting for something to make the following concepts tear-free as well: getting shots, going to bed and being denied marshmallow cereal for dinner.
- Ned Matura
Portable DVD Players
Nowadays kids are so used to being able to watch their favorite episodes of Dora in the car they probably couldn’t imagine a world where we had to go through rounds and rounds of "I Spy" and "100 Bottles of Beer On The Wall" to make time fly. Keeping the "Are we there yet?"s at bay used to be tiring, but now it's effortless, saves everyone's sanity, and makes the destination and the getting there more enjoyable.
Sure, it protects our fragiles in the mail, but it also entertains our kids, sometimes more so than Sesame Street and Play-Doh combined. Bubble wrap reminds us that it's really the little things in life that are truly amazing. And delightful. And addictive. And somewhat annoying to listen to. Says editor Melanie Monroe Rosen, "my kids like to pop this FOREVER."
iPods, iPhones and iPads
The portable gadget family has been a godsend for parents, whether it's because of useful apps, boredom-busting games, access to music and TV, scheduling made easy, GPS in the palm of your hand or the ability to communicate via e-mail and phone. We know that one day, there will be something cooler. But right now, it's hard to imagine.
Consider it your virtual desktop. Your unorganized, colorful virtual desktop, covered with schedules, artwork, math tests, invites, and photos. If not for—let's rename it, shall we? The community organization board—where would all that stuff go? The bottom of your purse? Good luck finding anything there! And oh yea, there's leftovers in that fridge, too. Sweet!
It's very romantic to say, "We don't use a microwave," but let's just all admit it right now: "We use a microwave." And it saves us. For a snack in a flash, warming up baby food, or getting the world's fastest baked potato, thanks to the microwave, making dinner is a little more possible and a little less "ugh."
The person who invented mini plastic zip-up bags probably wasn't doing it for solely for parents, but we're likely the number one consumers. Packing snacks would be just about impossible without the little disposable baggies that come in perfect sizes for Cheerios, sandwiches, and even toys.
- Brian Hagiwara
Before digital cameras, it's not like we had to make our babies stand still for hours to pose for family pics ala the 1800s, but now that digital photos are the norm, taking a roll of film and waiting for it to develop seems crazy. The best part about this new photo age: sharing online brag books is a snap, and since it's so easy, we brag more than moms in the olden days ever did. Now everyone can see just how cute our baby looks with spaghetti all over his face.
When we say "mac and cheese", we don't just mean mac and cheese. We mean pickles, potatoes, alfredo sauce, donuts—whatever that food was that you just had to have when you were expecting. You may see someone eating a huge plate of the orange macaroni now and think, "eww, disgusting!" But don't deny it—when you were pregnant, that stuff was your best friend. And come to think of it, it’s actually still our best friend in toddler-run households…
Spill-free sippy cups and juice-box holders let young kids handle their own drinks, and bring leak-free peace of mind to backseats, living rooms, and dinner tables everywhere. Drink holders are also a boon for time-pressed families. No more waiting for your toddler to finish his apple juice before heading out. Have sippy, will travel.
Baby Food Maker
All-in-one machines—they cook, puree, and even reheat—make it simple to ditch processed baby food and go the DIY route. A must-have appliance for families with allergy-prone or food-sensitive kids.
Brutal honesty + Wi-Fi = instant support group. This tool inspired the virtual parenting village many of us live in today. Parenting blogs help isolated moms and dads connect with each other, and can be superb sources of advice, encouragement, and information. It's no surprise that more than half of all bloggers are parents, and moms are 27 percent more likely than the average American to visit a blog.
BPA-free Baby Bottles
It makes sense for baby bottles and sippy cups to be made from clear, shatter-resistant plastic, right? The problem is that bisphenol-A (BPA) was a common ingredient. BPA has been linked to “hormonally disruptive” health problems in animals, and over time it can leach from containers into milk and food. Last summer the Food and Drug Administration banned BPA from these products.
- Kate Spade/Amazon.com
Diaper Bags That Don't Look Like Diaper Bags
A utilitarian product that revolves around something kinda uncool (aka poop) finally gets a makeover. Today's great-looking bags (fashionable ones for moms, masculine ones for dads) offer more than style; they offer staying power. Many parents use them as handbags or laptop bags after giving diapers the heave-ho.
Digital Car Seat
Is the strap tight enough? Did you hear it click? These are the questions parents ask themselves when they install this cumbersome chunk of plastic. Their anxiety is warranted: Seven out of ten install the car seat incorrectly. Now you can get instant reassurance with products like Summer Infant's Prodigy infant car seat, which features a digital guidance system and a green light that illuminates when it's installed correctly.
Electric Breast Pump
When new moms latched on to these modern milkers, they finally got the best of both worlds: They could exclusively breastfeed their babies and return to work. (Hand pumps were available for years, but too exhausting to use day after day.) Just as crucial: A supply of pre-pumped breast milk gives dads the chance to feed baby and share in the bonding.
Regular diapers are packing landfills. Cloth diapers can be cumbersome and time-consuming. Hybrids strike an environmentally sensitive balance, combining waterproof outer liners (less washing) with smaller, disposable inserts (less waste).
- Kim Kuhn
The age-old practice of calming babies with snug wraps scores a modern safety upgrade. Made with breathable, lightweight muslin fabric, these wraps keep baby cool and won't compromise her breathing if they slip over her face.
This crescent-shaped cushion fulfills the age-old product mantra: Find a need and fill it. Consider the rise of the Boppy. Like Kleenex and the Q-Tip before it, the Boppy was such a niche hit when it arrived that other pillows are often called by this brand name.
- Jon Whittle
Training for a 10K? Use the jogger. A day at the theme park? Pack the umbrella. Got multiples? Buy the double. Forget the glorified wheelbarrows of generations past. Today's buggies are every-size-fits-all.
- Kim Kuhn
Is he sleeping on his back? Crawling out of the crib? Adding a screen to these safety devices was the parenting equivalent of switching from radio to TV in the 1930s. And it keeps getting better: A number of new monitors allow working or traveling parents to tune in to their baby via a password-protected smartphone app.
- Robert Dant/Alamy
This groundbreaking, sweat-inducing, first-of-its-kind console is a godsend for a nation where one in three kids is overweight or obese. Thanks to the Wii, and other game systems like it, kids can box, dance, or hit home runs to their heart's content—right in the family room.