Most parents would probably agree that meals, naps, and baths can be a struggle with any baby or toddler — so when you have a naturally fussy child, these times of day can be especially challenging. The great news is that a lot of little ones are easily distracted and with the right distractions and entertainment, you can help lighten and change the mood during these times of day.
Instead of associating naps with boredom or dinner with "yucky," a smart product like a multitasking sound machine and projector or a board game dinner plate can help you figure out the trick to getting your baby to nap and will make mealtimes more pleasurable experiences. Check out these 20 weird, genius products that even the fussiest can't resist.
Babies who are difficult to please tend to be especially difficult during nap time, but this lullaby sound machine and projector gives little ones a few big reasons to stay where they are: it plays three soothing sounds (rain, ocean, and heartbeat), three popular lullabies, and comes with three image disks that project sweet rotating images on the ceiling. You can choose sounds, projection, or a combination of both and set the timer to turn off the machine.
"We travel with it and use it for naps," says one mom reviewer who purchased it for her baby when she was an infant. "She can fall asleep anywhere as long as her sound is on. And she stays asleep!!!"
Instead of making your picky eater an entirely different meal from the rest of the family, save yourself time and frustration and serve the same dinner on a different plate. This board game dinner tray features winding squares in a board game pattern where you can place various foods. At the end of the game, if they eat all of their dinner, they get a "reward" treat of your choosing. You can select among five dinner plate themes that include Enchanted Forest, Dino Time, Dinner Winner, Pirate, and Supper Hero.
"I have trouble getting my three year old child to eat her dinner," one reviewer says. "I was skeptical at first that she would just go for the prize at the end, but I explained the game to her, cheered her on the first few times and amazingly she eats everything and asks to play again and again. Asparagus, peas, broccoli — things she would normally leave untouched she is eating with enthusiasm!"
We're constantly told it's not ideal to hold and rock our babies to sleep — but this vibrating mattress pad lets parents cheat just a bit. With two vibration speeds and a gradual shut off function, infants and toddlers will feel soothed by gentle vibrations coming from under their mattresses, but they won't wake up startled when it shuts off. It's battery operated and cord-free, so you can feel better about using it under a crib mattress or bassinet.
One mom writes: "When my baby just can't soothe himself to sleep or is overly tired or just refuses to calm down, I pop him in his crib and turn this bad boy on and with in 5 minutes BAM night night baby!!"
This cuddly and sweet stuffed sheep will become your baby's new BFF, but it also has a hidden function: it can help get fussy little ones to sleep. The Sleep Sheep boasts a removable sound machine that produces calming nature sounds that you can set to turn off after 23 or 45 minutes. But that's not all — if your baby wakes up in the middle of the night, this toy's sleep sensor feels their movement and automatically turns on again to help them return to sleep.
You can program it to play one of eight sounds: mother's heartbeat/twinkle twinkle, rain/rockabye baby, surf/classical lullaby, and whale song/tranquil melody. And since you should never place items like stuffed animals inside of a crib, especially if you have an infant (it's a choking hazard), this toy features a velcro tab you can use to secure it to the outside of the crib.
Offer your toddler a bathtub distraction that doubles as an educational toy. Your child can fill this rain cloud tub toy with water, watch it rain, and then stop the action by placing a finger on the top hole. It's a simple, but effective toy that teaches cause and effect and provides a hands-on experiment that shows children how the water cycle works. A mechanism in the toy allows you to open it up and air it out so that it doesn't get mold or mildew and it's made from high-quality ABS that is BPA-free. It's safe for children ages 2 years old and up.
There have been numerous times when my fussy toddler calmed himself down during bath time by placing cups and toys (filled with water) on the bath ledge. The problem with this is, of course, it almost always leads to spilled water on the floor and a screaming toddler. This ledge water table offers the perfect solution: it folds open to create even more play space in the tub without the risk of a mess, the bottom piece features drain holes to create a rain effect, and you can store bath toys in it when bath time is over. Most parents are impressed by this toy, but many advise that you measure your bath tub ledge first to ensure it's the perfect fit.
You'll never hear the words "are we there yet?" when you give your toddler this kids play tray for car, train, and plane trips. This tray can be used to hold everything from paper and crayon to building blocks, board games, and puzzles — and it comes with two storage areas that can hold items like markers and small toys. It folds up flat for easy storage and comes with a travel bag. Reviewers say it fits in car seats and that even their older children love this tray — it's a product that will grow with kids and keep fussy travelers busy and entertained for hours.
Every meal will be a pleasure with your fussy toddler when you let them eat with this brick figure training utensil set, which includes a spoon, fork, chopsticks, and a case set to keep everything together for travel. The set is compatible with LEGO toys and includes random figures they'll love to plop right on top of their utensils. These items are perfectly shaped for a toddler's hand and they'll be able to grip them easily as they practice eating independently.
One parent says these help keep children busy during meals: "The playing keeps them having fun through mealtime and keeps them from not procrastinating eating as much as our little toddlers had been. So far it's a win!"
It's bright, cute, fun, and teaches fussy sleepers to take responsibility for their bedtime and wake time. This spotlight sleep enhancing alarm clock makes naps and bedtime less of a struggle by giving toddlers a sense of control over their sleep. Program the clock for the ideal wake time and the green light will go on at that time, letting little ones know they're free to get up. If they wake and see a red light, that's their cue to stay in bed.
One parent says this clock solved their early morning wake-ups from their toddlers in less than two weeks. "Easy to set up and use and easy for the children to understand," she writes. "Now they are so happy and proud when they wait for the green light and mommy and daddy are soooo happy to not be waking up at 5 a.m.! Worth the money."
High needs babies and toddlers can become frustrated trying to figure out how to play with toys that prove just a little too challenging. These sensory press and stay blocks are a hit among parents because they connect and stack without much effort, but also teach colors and feature interesting textures that feel soothing to the touch. Babies ages 6 months and older will be too busy creating to throw tantrums over toys that aren't quite right for their developmental stage.
It's surprising how far a cute mealtime accessory can go toward encouraging a picky, fussy eater to finish their (puréed) carrots. These BPA-free animal reusable food pouches were actually designed by a father-daughter team who wanted to wanted to design a baby meal product that's better for the environment. Just fill up a pouch with puréed or softened food and let your baby or toddler enjoy with or without a spoon. There's no cap, which can be a choking hazard, and the transparent design allows you to easily see how much your baby is eating. When the pouch is ready to be cleaned, you can toss it in the top rack of your dishwasher.
One parent reviewer said she has found myriad ways to use these pouches and no longer wages battles with her picky eaters: "I hide veggies they won't normally eat in the mix and get no complaining...Great for car trips, camping, snacks after school..... They clean up easily, if washed soon after emptied. Makes parenting easier. Makes life easier."
This vibrating toy and teether provides instant relief and distraction from the discomfort of teething. This battery-operated toy's cheeks light up when your baby presses a button and it plays classical music by Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. A mirror provides a fun way to engage in self-discovery, and the textured ears are the perfect teether. It even has an auto shut-off feature to conserve battery power.
One mom says this toy is one of the best toys she has ever used: "It keeps them interested, occupied and happy while changing diapers or changing their clothing."
This educational toy for picky eaters was developed with a pediatric feeding therapist, and it's a great mealtime companion that actually encourages babies and toddlers to try new foods. Parents say they show their children how to "feed" Milton a few bites of their meal before squeezing its cheeks to demonstrate how he chews. Watching Milton take a chance on green veggies prompts them to be brave and eat more, according to parents. This 100 percent food-grade silicone can be washed in the top rack of the dishwasher and, for every Milton made, $1 is donated to Feed My Starving Children. Each Milton comes with a book about eating and foods.
"Our young one loved his new blue friend and we loved what Milton taught our picky eater!" one parent reviewer writes. "The quality of the actual product was great, very durable and easy to clean in the dishwasher."
Keep your baby from (literally) crying over spilled milk by applying this baby bottle learning tool, which doubles as a texturized "leaf" teether, over their baby bottles. The tool teaches them to hold their own bottle and doesn't require bottle propping. This is dishwasher safe, fits most bottles, and as one parent says: "This is my favorite baby 'gadget' to date! As a busy mom of a toddler and 4 month old, propping a bottle is sometimes necessary. Not only does it free up my hands on occasion, my little one is already starting to hold it herself."
Who can blame a baby for not wanting us to pour water on their heads during bath time? However, this whale-shaped waterfall rinser makes little ones as excited about washing their hair as possible. This BPA-, PVC-, and phthalate-free rinser has a soft lip that cushions your baby's head as you rinse off soap and shampoo — and it's more gentle than your average shower head. Your baby will love playing with it when you're finished using it, and the whale can be stored standing up along your bath ledge.
One mom says this is a smart invention that works for her daughter, who hates having her hair rinsed: "With this clever 'waterfall' rinser, you just fill with warm water, have your little squirmer lean back a bit, and place the flexible yellow lip just under the hairline. Incredibly, the water stays out of your child's face. This product is pure genius for little ones who object to having their hair rinsed in the bathtub."
Sometimes the best preventative measure or cure for a baby's crankiness is exercise and stimulation — two things this kick and play piano gym certainly provides. This toy mat is perfect for tummy time, sit and play, or lay and play, and features five activity toys (including a rollerball frog and hippo teether), a mirror, and a piano so big your baby can kick it and enjoy the sounds they create. This also plays music — for up to 15 minutes — and can easily be folded and transported to grandma's house.
One parent says this play mat really helps when her daughter is upset. "When she cries sometimes we'll place her on the mat, and when she kicks the music soothes her," the mom writes. "Now that she's growing she can start to reach the attached toys. This was one of the best things we invested in."
This toy replica of a vacuum cleaner looks and sounds so real you might even confuse it for your vacuum. It's perfect for imaginative play and even boasts a real suction feature, simulated cyclone, and colorful spinning balls — but the real reason it's great for fussy babies and toddlers is that it emits a real vacuum sound, which can be soothing for little ears. This mini Dyson gives children an activity to keep them busy (and prevent tantrums, which is especially helpful if you have to get some actual cleaning done) and the comforting noise makes everyone happy.
Young children and picky eaters will feel more comfortable sitting for dinner when you provide a comforting, familiar mealtime set like this one, which features images from the classic Margaret Wise Brown book Goodnight Moon. This set comes with a bowl, plate, sippy cup, fork, and spoon and is top rack, dishwasher safe. Even if this cute set doesn't get your baby to eat broccoli without complaining just a little, it can be used to help transition to the next activity: reading a bedtime story.
This BPA-free silicone orthodontic pacifier is a favorite among fussy babies for a few major reasons: it was designed for sensitive skin, has an open shield to provide more air flow, and it glows in the dark. The design closely resembles the feel of a mother's nipple, which is very comforting for babies, the hold button can be used to attach this pacifier to a clip for safekeeping, and it comes with a reusable storage case.
One mom reviewer calls this a lifesaver: "We literally have stopped at the store if we accidentally leave the house without a paci. MAM is essential to us."
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