Unexpected Parenting Essentials

I have a number of friends who are having their first child in the near future. This got me thinking about the things I have found useful in parenting my own two children that no parenting book, blog or TV show ever mentioned. These are things that have helped make raising young children just that little bit easier.

### Travel Mug

I remember reading some parenting guide my Pediatrician gave me that made it very clear that drinking hot beverages while around my child was extremely dangerous and strictly forbidden. The concern here is that something will cause the drink to spill, potentially scalding your child. That is an entirely reasonable thing to avoid, but taking away a new parent’s coffee is low blow. Our solution was to get a self sealing, spill-proof travel mug. These eliminate the risk of accidental spills and let you enjoy your preferred hot beverage (ideally coffee) while around your children.

This has also come with the unintended benefit of enjoying our drinks when they are actually hot. Prior to this the common pattern was to make a cup of tea or coffee, then run around after my kids and then discover it again a few hours later, stone cold.

I recommend this Contigo Auto Seal travel mug.


Young children, babies especially, are loud. They also have a tendency to not sleep at times when you desperately need some rest yourself. With our oldest this meant that my wife or I would be miserable, lying awake at night while the other parent was soothing, changing or feeding him. Eventually we saw the foolishness in us both being awake at any one time so sought out a solution. The result was to find the best earplugs that we could and whenever one of us was ‘off duty’ we put them in and get some much needed sleep. The brand we settled on (HEAROS Xtreme protection) provides enough protection from noise that we can sleep but not so much that we can’t be roused if needed.

Extra long headphones

With an infant our evenings are always filled with before-bed feedings, ‘tanking’ up our daughter in the hopes she sleeps longer through the night. This is also the time that we used to enjoy sitting together and watching our favorite shows. The challenge we found is that our daughter doesn’t settle well if there is noise around her so at first we just thought we’d have to give up on this. Eventually we worked out another method. I got an extra long headphone cable and hooked it up to my TV system. Now we can sit comfortably on our couch, put in ear buds to listen to the show, all while not disturbing our daughter as she eats.

The exact specs of this setup will vary with your own home TV system, but for me it was an extra long RCA-3.5mm cable like this, connected to a female-to-female adapter like this. The goal is just to connect to whatever Audio-Out is available and then run it long enough to sit comfortably and enjoy your shows.

I find that in-ear headphones work best for this since they don’t fall out as easily. My favorite ones are the Etymotic HF5.

Video Monitor

While this one is may actually be recommended in parenting books, it was a fairly recent addition to our home that has revolutionized my peace of mind. We got a video monitor to replace our old ‘audio-only’ monitor when it started to die. The difference is dramatic. Being able to see our children without going into their rooms is so much better than simply hearing them. For our toddler it means we can see if he is quietly sleeping or quietly destroying is room. For our newborn it is fantastic to be able to simply check on her and make sure she is doing well. The video is high resolution enough to even watch her breathe.

We have this Motorola Video Monitor, and it’s awesome.


Modern parenting requires a pretty constant use of baby wipes. When I first became a father I thought this would be a simple choice, but it turns out that there is a surprising variation in quality. I’ve probably tried a dozen different brands. The best are the Earth’s Best Chlorine Free Wipes. It isn’t even a close competition. These are by far the best. They clean up all messes more quickly and with fewer wipes than anything else I’ve ever come across.

David Smith