You can spot a first-time mom from across the playground… fancy stroller, watching attentively, drink and snack ready in hand, and that huge diaper bag parked on the bench beside her. Then there’s the third-time mom, slouched on the bench, slurping her coffee, book or phone in hand, purse thrown down at her feet. She might still have that similar look of mom exhaustion, but she’s no longer dragging around the change table, snack bar, and small medical response unit.
It can be overwhelming thinking about going outside with young kids. Planning for all their possible needs. Thinking about all the stuff you should bring along for baby’s safety. Predicting everything that could come in handy for the inevitable toddler tantrum on leaving the park. Well, here’s some advice:
Downsize the diaper bag so getting outside is easier (for mom’s sake)
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Stop worrying. Leave that diaper bag at home. Instead, throw the bare minimum into your shoulder bag and go have some fun outside. Get a mom purse.
Seriously, you’ll all be fine.
You’ll want to be prepared for some eventualities, and here’s what I recommend:
Get your mom purse ready for boo-boos and poo-poos:
By baby number three, I realized the worst mishaps I had to manage involved tears over scraped knees, super-snotty sneezes, and dirty bums. So, I got rid of all the extras and down-sized.
With babies and toddlers, it will be expected that you have some diapers, wipes, possibly a change of clothes, and probably a snack or bottle.
For my first baby, I always carried a huge, beautiful diaper bag. I loved it. It was fashionable and had lots of pockets and bling. I stuffed the bag with diapers, a wet sack, a patterned wet wipes travel container, an extra soother, extra breast pads, a baby blanket, sleeper, baby snacks, a snack for me, water bottle, travel sized baby ointments and lotions, and then all my gear like phone, wallet, first aid tin, chap stick, and so forth.
By baby number three, my routine had drastically changed. Now, along with my standard purse items (wallet, phone, chap-stick, Band-Aids, etc) I just stuff a few things into my skinny shoulder bag: two diapers, a few wet wipes in a plastic sandwich bag, some tissues, and a snack. If it is cool, I have an extra blanket and if we are travelling long distances I might carry an extra set of clothing. No more diaper bag.
Only once did we have a problem with my under-packed bag. We were on family vacation and visiting a marine aquarium (Gulf World in Panama City Beach, in fact). And, the baby had a blow-out! You know, where poop just goes everywhere! So, hubby and I both went in the vacant women’s washroom to manage this unbelievable mess with paper towels, toilet paper, the sink, and a change into a fresh diaper. For clothes, we went to the gift shop and bought her a fancy new souvenir t-shirt. Sure, she was only 6 months old and the smallest size they had was 2 year, but it worked. She looked so cute in that huge shirt and it’s a fun memory when she wears the now, properly-fitting, shirt.
Children’s individual needs:
Sure, I know. You’re kids are different and they need special ‘things’: lovies or blankets they can’t live without, particular drinking cups and bibs, or special foods and activities.
I understand, I carried around a lot of baby paraphernalia. With baby number one we used these fantastic silicone suction-cupped place mats when we went to restaurants. They were great! Baby just ate off the mat and we knew it was clean. The mat even had a small catch trough to keep food from falling on the floor. When we were done at the restaurant, we rolled up the mat and brought the mess home with us! I carried small, disposable, change mats so I wouldn’t have to lay baby down on anything dirty during diaper changes. As he got older I stopped using the diaper bag, but still stuffed my purse to capacity. I started carrying his special sippy bottle and pounds of his favorite treats in fancy ‘spill-proof’ treat cups. Then, when he became a toddler, I started lugging around a collapsible toddler toilet seat. What can I say, he was fussy when it came to public washrooms, and I wanted him to be comfortable.
But what about my comfort?
I hated carrying such a big bag. It hurt my shoulders and it made me avoid longer walks.
So, I stopped.
I got anxious thinking about how to be prepared when we played at the park or went for a stroll around the block. I wanted to be able to go for walks in the woods without feeling over-burdened, but I still wanted to make sure I felt well-prepared.
The first change I made was getting rid of my fancy purse. I recommend you go out and find yourself an appropriate mom purse: I love my shoulder bag that crosses over one shoulder and sits against my back. These can be very comfortable to wear. Mine has a pocket for water (or bear spray) and I feel fine wearing it into the woods, to the grocery store, and out for dinner.
Next, put your mom essentials into the shoulder bag, like your wallet, keys, phone, lip stick… you know, that stuff you always keep in your purse.
Lastly, take a good few minutes to look at everything else you’ve been carrying around. When was the last time an item was used? How big or heavy is it? Is it important or necessary?
Your goal is to have your purse ready for play at all times.
Here are some last tips on packing your new mom storage device:
- If you are in the diaper stage, throw 2 diapers into a large Zip-Lock. Tuck a smaller Zip-Lock of wet wipes into that bag. In a pinch, if clothes get soiled, you can bring these home in the larger Zip-Lock. If you’re into having pretty accessories, you could invest in a handmade diaper pouch.
- Pack snacks that won’t get crushed. I like to have Fruit-To-Go in my bag for this reason. They can get bent and squished and sat on and are still perfectly fine to eat. I also like apple sauce in pouches for the same reason.
- An outside drink pocket is super handy for a water bottle or coffee cup (or bear spray).
- Add a package of tissues or just throw in those unused napkins you get from the drive-through.
- Some moms like to keep all their mom-essentials in a separate bag within their bag. You could get another pretty handmade pouch for this.
- Keep an extra menstrual pad in your bag… seriously, you can use them to wipe up the water at the bottom of a wet slide, hold over large wounds, and they also work as a stand-in when you forget your breast pads and you’re leaking all over the place!
- Have a small first aid kit. Fill a small tin or baggie with a few essentials and throw this into the bottom of your bag. I’ve been carrying one for years and it has come in handy on numerous occasions. Here’s what I keep in my little tin: Bandages (picture bandages bring smiles to little peoples), alcohol swabs, safety pin, tweezers (because my kids get a lot of slivers), a children’s antihistamine for allergic reactions, a magic towel which appears when you add some water, and an extra tissue (mostly to fill space). You could also add some acetaminophen, sting relief swabs, and some extra cash or pocket change.
- Some last additions: individually packaged moist insect repellant towelettes, travel-sized sun screen, Epi-pen, small baggie with notepad and crayons, and gum.
Now your mom purse is always ready for adventure. You don’t have that huge diaper bag to lug around nor do you need to spend five minutes before heading to the playground to sort though and decide what you need to bring. Just grab you bag and head out the door… to the park, into the woods, or just to the grocery store. Make your life easier, give your shoulders a break, and go play outside.
P.S. To really be prepared for adventure, you might be interested in reading about how we pack our daypack for short family hikes and you can grab the daypack checklist to make sure you’ve got everything you need every time your family hits the trail.