Must-Have Stuff for Babies & Toddlers

With hundreds of new products on the baby market every year, it’s hard for expectant parents to know what’s worth the money and what isn’t. To make it easier on you, we got the lowdown on some of the best new stuff. Here’s what we think you’ll really love:

Made from impossibly supple leather, Robeez soft-soled footwear snuggles and protects little piggies in style. In an astonishing array of colors and styles, these adorable shoes will delight pretty much everyone who sees them. Check out those sharks and flowers. Have you ever seen anything cuter? Available locally at Nordstrom and Stride Rite, and at several independent stores and boutiques. Visit to find the retailer nearest you. Approximately $25; ages newborn-4 years.

“I love what you are. I love what you do. Fuzzy little Snuggle Puppy, I love you.” From the supremely readable rhyming text to the cuddly stuffed animal tucked inside the box, this toy and book set is undeniably Boynton. The Snuggle Puppy set, from Workman Publishing, makes a great addition to every toddler’s nighttime ritual. All ages. All ages. $16.95 for the set; book alone, $6.95. Available wherever books are sold.

The Baby Einstein Discover Pack ‘n Play from Graco is a busy parent’s best friend. Part crib, part activity center, the Pack ‘n Play keeps your child safe and entertained in a multi-sensory stimulating environment. Our favorite features include a removable bassinette for naptime and a play mat perfect for on-the-go fun. Ages newborn-toddler. $99.99.

It’s impossible to resist the cute, clever designs of Hatley kids’ clothes and accessories. With a corporate philosophy that pairs quality materials with a playful sense of humor, this company delivers great products that parents and children adore. From rompers to raingear, the Hatley lineup is fresh and fun. Ages newborn-size 6X/7.

Christmas is over, the sleeping is done, his belly is full, Bear’s ready for fun. Bear and his merry band of forest friends are back in a delightful new tale. They’ve discovered that there’s a new creature in their midst. Is it friend or is it foe? Karma Wilson’s newest storybook — Bear’s New Friend — picks up where the other three left off. With fast-paced rhymes and gorgeous, colorful illustrations by Jane Chapman, Bear’s New Friend joins Bear Snores On as one of our all-time favorite storybooks. Ages 3-7. $16.95.

If Picasso had made stuffed animals, they might have looked like this. Vibrant colors, bold shapes, minimalist design. We love Manhattan Toy’s new Zooya animals because they’re funky and cuddly and different from anything we’ve ever seen. Spice up the nursery with these soft, four-legged friends. Available in cow, zebra, bear and dog. Ages 3 and up. $16.

Perhaps the most surprising must-have on our list, the new Vicks Baby Rectal Thermometer earns big points for making a tough job easier on moms, dads and, most importantly, babies. With a short probe tip, a safety-inspired insertion guard and an easy-to-read digital display, this thermometer promises accurate readings in approximately 10-11 seconds. Without the cold glass. Ages newborn-3. $12.99.

If ever there was a baby activity mat that could be called “paradise,” this one is it. The Zolo shangrila is a multi-sensory play mat, with plenty of tactile, visual and auditory treats to delight and stimulate growing babies. Developed by the folks at Kushies, who make “baby toys for big imaginations,” the shangrila encourages babies to learn through exploration and play. And boy is it fun to look at! Ages newborn and up. $120.

Nothing calms and soothes baby like looking into the eyes of Mommy or Daddy. Designers at The First Years used this information to make bath time happier for everyone involved. The new See Me Tub is a unique infant tub that faces forward — not sideways — in the sink, allowing parents to make eye contact while they’re washing and rinsing the baby. Users list increased accessibility and reduced back strain as additional benefits. Ages 0-6 months. Available at Target; $12.99.