A reader recently reached out and asked for a post on our favorite baby/kids’ products for city life, so here we are!
Before I share my list, I should note that Mitch and I subscribe to the belief that when it comes to gear, less is more in the city. This admittedly took us a while to figure this out because the baby industry wants us to think the opposite. “Life will be better and easier and happier if you have all the gear,” they’ll tell you. But this simply isn’t true. In reality, life will likely be better and easier and happier in the city (and elsewhere!) when the minimalist route is taken. Very few people want to be drowning in kids’ stuff, after all, and let’s face it: it’s expensive!
Over the years, we’ve learned to delineate between what’s a must-have and what’s clutter… and we try to be really good about re-homing things when it becomes unused. That said, we have our fair share of baby/kids’ gear here in Chicago!
Here are our favorites for city life:
- Baby Jogger City Mini GT2 Strollers: #1 product for the Larkin Family. I’m a broken record here, but the GT2 strollers are the best in the market, hands down. The suspension and all-terrain wheels allow me to navigate bumpy city sidewalks like a rockstar, and the slim profile helps me get in and out of store and restaurant doorways with ease. GT2 strollers are also basically push themselves! With other strollers—especially double tandem strollers—I struggled. The Gt2 strollers, however, require next to no effort. Oh, and Baby Jogger is SO much less expensive than most other designer brands. (Proof that $$$ doesn’t always = The best.) You can find them via Amazon, Nordstrom and the Baby Jogger website (single/double).
- BabyJogger Tour Strollers: These are even smaller than the G2s. They fold up into a tiny rectangle—even the doubles!—and they fit in the above-head storage compartments on planes. I would never replace our G2 with a Tour, as the Tour is not the best everyday stroller. But the Tour comes in extremely handy when we are going somewhere in which space will be tight. (The Tour comes with us to museums, for example!)
- Universal Parent Console for Single Stroller and for Double Stroller: This thing means I don’t have to carry a crossbody bag or dig around under the stroller in the baby bag whenever we need something—like keys, wallet, phone, bottles, snacks, etc. I tried a bunch, and the two I’ve linked here have been my favorites. But the Skip Hop & Go one looks amazing, too.
- Baby Carrier: Baby carriers can give parents a whole lot of freedom depending on what they’re doing and where they’re going! When we didn’t want or need to bring a stroller along—for example, when we went to Cubs games!—we used a carrier. A fan favorite is the BabyBjorn one. But if I were doing it all again, I would consider the Cybex version.
- Baby Jogger Glider Board: We recently got this for Emma so we don’t have to bring the double stroller everywhere all the time. We kept seeing it around town, and friends who have it rave about it. It simply clips on to the back of the stroller, and folds up when the bigger kid isn’t with you. (Just keep in mind that for safety reasons, it’s obviously only meant for older kids. Emma turns five in a couple of weeks.)
- Thule Bike Seat: WOW! A couple of weeks ago, we invested in the top-rated Thule Bike seat (designed for kids 9 months – 40 pounds) and it’s changed our lives. We bought a $20 bike trailer for the kids last year on Craigslist, and it was good. But bike seats are where it’s at. They take up way less room and are just simpler and easier. We can be out the door, on our bikes, and cruising around Chicago within five minutes! Amazing. The girls squeal with delight because they love going fast—and seeing so much more of the city. Mitch and I can’t stop talking about how good it’s been for our personal happiness, too. (We have this simple one for Emma, btw! Again, a product that is meant only for older children.)
- Inglesina Clip-On High Chair: #2 baby/kids’ product for us. Our neighbor graciously handed down her old one to us, and WHOA. First of all, it meant no more tripping over a giant high chair in our narrow home. Second, it meant that Lucy could actually be involved during mealtimes and activities. In the past, she
- Collapsible Bathtub: I’ll preface this with the fact that we did not own this because we didn’t know about it. But our giant baby tub was always in the way in our small bathroom in our first home, and gosh what a difference this would have made! It folds up and fits in a DRAWER. It’s also fantastic for travel.
- Baby Bjorn Travel Crib/Pack ‘n Play Light: Our friends Bradley and Peter have this top-rated pack ‘n play, and I can’t believe how small its footprint is when in the carrying case, and how easy it is to pop up or fold down. Definitely wish we had gone this route… but we’re near the finish line with playards, so probably doesn’t make much sense at this point. ;) Certainly the best I’ve ever used, though!
- MZ Wallace Backpack: This the baby bag I use the most these days. It’s great because it allows me to be hands-free, and since it’s squishy, it can be easily shoved under the stroller. And since it’s unisex, Mitch doesn’t mind wearing it either. (He wears it when we go biking!) It also comes in a smaller size, though I only use that one when we’re really packing light.
- Skip Hop Changing Pad: There are lots of these out there, but I like this one because it holds both a diaper and small pack of wipes. I simply grab the baby and the changing pad, and head to the restroom!
- Pacifier Clips: We try really hard to not use pacifiers at home unless it’s bedtime, but we do still bring them along for outings since their presence can either make or break an experience—especially when we’re a long walk from home. We use these clips so we don’t lose each and every one to the streets. ;)
- Munchkin Snack Packs: These are the only ones we own! They go everywhere with us. And we only buy this exact type, that way all the bottoms and tops always match.
- Nalgene Grip-and-Gulp Water Bottles: Similarly, the only water bottles we own. They withstand the worst drops, and not a single one has ever malfunctioned or broken on us. Love that everyone knows our hot pink water bottles, too. Whenever friends find one, they know it’s ours!
- (Winter) 7am Stroller Foot Muff: I invested in this top-rated stroller foot muff for Lucy this past winter, and it was such the change-changer. Chicago winters are extremely cold, and Lucy was constantly pulling her mittens off. I’d often only get a couple of blocks from the house only to turn back because I was too nervous that she was freezing! Once I got her in this thing, though, she was snug as a bug and didn’t complain. She liked it. Warmth and coziness for my little girl, and peace of mind for me.
Park and beach
- Little Nomad Portable Beach and Picnic Mats: Love this thing so much. We bring this everywhere with us—to the park, to the beach, up on the deck, to the lake house; wherever we go, it goes. It folds up so nicely and fits right under the stroller, and you can wipe it down.
- Scout Squishy Cooler: Yes, I love this brand because their logo is a dachshund. ;) But I also love Scout because their insulated bags are squishy, and can fit under strollers. We pack lunch or dinner in ours and then head out, and have meals in some of the city’s coolest spots! The cooler is awesome for road trips, too.
- Mesh Toy Tote: I forgot to include this in the visual above, is a must for park and beach toys. I used to just throw them in my regular tote, but that was a dirty/sandy disaster. With a the mesh tote, the crap falls right out and allows everything to dry, thus avoiding mold issues.
- Crate & Barrel Table in a Bag: This is not a necessity, but our friends brought this to the beach one night in Ocean City, and now it’s on our wishlist because of how wonderful it made the experience both for the kids and parents. (Lucy stood around it all night, playing with the light-up toys and eating all the snacks!) It totally comes apart—and sets up—in like 30 seconds!
- Lightweight Foldable Chairs: Again, something we could do without. (The playmat works just fine when we want to travel light!) But we love them and use them all the time because they have a very small footprint and they fold up and fit in a little bag. They’re also perfect for toddlers as they can safely climb in and out without assistance. Before we had these, I was constantly helping Lucy up onto her chair and then off again, sometimes 30+ times in 15 minutes, haha. These chairs solve that problem and are also so much easier to transport! Totally fit under the stroller, or we can carry them in their carrying cases.
Toys and fun
- Micro Kickboard Scooters: YAY! Scooting is our #1 family activity here in Chicago, and no one beats Micro Kickboard in terms of quality and design. The general consensus with parents around here is that if you buy another scooter, you’ll have to replace it soon. Buy a Micro Kickboard, though, and you’ll only have to buy once! We’re such big fans that even Mitch and I own (adult) scooters! My best tip would be to buy a foldable Micro Kickboard if you can find one because you can throw them under the stroller.
- Waterproof Basket for Outdoor Toys: We keep this in our front hall closet, and it’s filled with toys that we bring out onto the sidewalk every evening. And no big deal if it accidentally gets left out since it’s waterproof. I rotate the toys, and the girls are always busy! They play with the other kids on the block, and we get to catch up with our friends. Wouldn’t be possible without that thing!
- JBL Portable Waterproof Speaker: You can read my full review of the JBL Clip 3 Speaker here, but I’m a fangirl. Hook it to a stroller or bike, and your kid will be occupied for long walks/bikes. (I turn it on whenever Lucy gets fussy, and she instantly perks up and starts singing!) The speaker links up with your Spotify account on your phone, and operating it is so simple that even Kelly Larkin can do it. ;)
Mom and Dad
- Rothy’s Washable Sneakers: Mitch and I got these this year and love them. They’re totally washable, which means that we can run around the city with our kids and not have to worry about spills or mud or anything. They’re also out-of-this-world comfy. Definitely my footwear of choice when I’m momming hard!
- Hydro Flask Water Bottle with Straw Cap: Up until a couple of years ago, I long struggled with drinking enough water every day as a parent. I was just always so busy, and it would be the last thing on my mind! I now carry this water bottle around with me, and I always drink more than 64 oz in a day! I have way more energy and I feel better in general!
- (Winter) Fleece-Lined Pants: My long city walks would not be possible in the winter without these leggings. Tip: Cut out the elastic band in the waist and they’ll become ridiculously comfy!
- (Winter) 7AM Stroller Gloves: Something else that makes winter walks nicer. While I almost always have ski mittens on during the winter, these are very useful for Mitch—or for when I’m in a rush and don’t have time to locate my missing ski mittens. ;)