The Baby Essentials You Need: Outings, Playtime, and Clothing (Pt. Three)

Published on 03/20/2023 · 12 min readBaby & Toddler Expert Robbie M. lists all the must-have items for leaving the house, entertaining, and clothing for your little one!
Robbie M, Baby Expert
By Baby Expert Robbie M

Photo by Lawrence Crayton

With all the options for baby clothing, gear for outings and travel, and entertainment and activity system for babies, it can be hard to know exactly what's worth getting for your little one, and what you can skip! As a father of a two-year-old, I've tried my fair share of baby essentials at this point and have a pretty good idea of what you need, and what you can skip!

Check out the guide below for all the must-haves for outings, activities, and clothing for your baby! And be sure to check out Part One for nursery essentials and Part Two for care, feeding, and cleaning essentials!

What Will I Need for Outings?

Life moves pretty fast and you’ll quickly find you’ll want—or need—to take your baby with you wherever you go. You’ll probably want to pack up the entire house to make sure you’re not missing anything your little one will need while you’re on the go, but there are more efficient (and practical) ways to prepare!

One thing that worked really well for our family was having a checklist of the items we’d need to bring along to make sure our baby was all set for the day. Hopefully sharing that list of items can make getting packed up a much simpler process, and your baby can have a stress-free day exploring the outside world together.

List:

  • Baby Carrier or Wrap
  • Car Seat
  • Stroller
  • Diaper Bag

Should I Buy a Baby Carrier or a Baby Wrap?

One way to get your hands back after carrying your baby everywhere is a baby carrier or baby wrap (also known as a sling). Baby carriers look kind of like a backpack, with two straps and a pouch with holes for your baby’s legs and arms to poke through. Baby wraps consist of a long piece of fabric that can be tied in several different ways to hold your baby close to your chest. There are pros and cons to both, but most carriers will cost more than the more simple wraps. Ergobaby and Baby Bjorn are two of the main baby carrier brands on the market with several different models and varying levels of adaptability and baby positions within the carrier.

Baby Wrap

Photo by Alec Couros

Benefits:

  • Cheaper
  • Softer
  • Easily packable, convenient for travel
  • More breathable
  • Stretchy materials can be more comfortable for wearer
  • Easily washable
  • Better with newborns/young babies
  • More soothing/calming to baby as closer to your chest

Be Aware:

  • Unstructured, not comfortable for all babies
  • Can be difficult to learn how tie or wrap, especially will woven wraps
  • Incorrect tying can increase the risk of baby falling out

Baby Carrier

Photo by Kelly Sikkema

Benefits:

  • Structured seat, straps, and belt make them more secure
  • Less complicated to put on and off than wraps
  • Easier to put baby into
  • Can typically accommodate larger children
  • Many come with pockets for storage of small items

Be Aware:

  • Tend to be more expensive
  • Bulkier
  • Can be less breathable depending on the model
  • Not all models are machine washable

Car Seat

Photo by Sharon Mccutcheon

A car seat is a must-have item (hospitals won’t let you leave without one). There are tons of different options for car seats but two main types: rear-facing infant car seats and convertible car seats. To learn more information about the different types of car seats, check out An Expert Guide to Baby Car Seats. One thing to consider is that all car seats meet the same safety standards set forth by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), so don’t feel you need to go with the most expensive seat on the market to keep your baby safe.

Stroller

Photo by Huanshi

If you plan to take your baby for long walks, to the store, or out and about in general, a stroller is a really nice item that can act as a mobile base when not at home. With several different types of strollers to choose from, it can be tough at first to know which direction to go. Our Expert Guide to Baby Strollers article is a good place to start learning more about the different strollers available to help narrow down your choice. If you’re getting an infant car seat, consider going with a travel system stroller, which typically comes with a car seat and car base adapter for easy transfers.

Diaper Bag

Photo by Reihane Haririzade

No trip outside of the house is complete without a diaper bag. Look for bags that can carry up to a day’s worth of diapers, wipes, snacks, and bottles to ensure you always have what you need. There are more traditional backpack-style diaper bags, purse-style diaper bags, and my personal favorite, “tactical” diaper bags. Dividers, dedicated easy-access wipe holders, and fold-up changing pads are all awesome features to have in a diaper bag.

Features to consider:

  • Size is important. Some smaller diaper bags may be “cute”, but functionality and capacity should be prioritized
  • Compartments, dividers, and side pockets make for more organized storage
  • Dedicated easy-access wipe holders
  • Fold-out changing pads
  • Insulation for a bottle holder or for pockets to keep food warm/cold. Also useful for separating wet clothing
  • Comfort features like padded and adjustable straps

Expert Tip: Spare clothes are a sometimes forgotten item that can lead to a bad day; always have spare outfits in your diaper bag.

How to Choose the Right Diaper Bag for You The most important factor in choosing the best diaper bag for you is ensuring that it matches your lifestyle. If you are big into the outdoors, consider leveraging an existing hiking backpack as a diaper bag, where the traditional contents are spread into a couple of pockets. If you care more about presentation, consider more “designer” diaper bags. If you have multiple kids, choose your diaper bag with the amount of packable space and useful features first and foremost. Remember, you don’t have to limit yourself to just one diaper bag; my wife and I leverage three different bags as diaper bags depending on the outing. A single-shoulder strapped outdoors bag, hiking backpack, and brand-name diaper bag round out our “fleet.” At the DVD of the day, the best diaper bag is the one that best suits your lifestyle.

What Should I Get for Playtime?

Babies are a ton of fun, and some of the best memories I have with my son are of playing with him on the floor. Since they’re relatively immobile, infants don’t require a lot of toys. But, because playtime can be important to their learning, development, and creativity, you’ll still want to get a few. Playtime is also a great way for you to learn more about this new person that has joined your household!

As a general rule, you’ll want to get toys that are compatible with your child’s age and level of development to avoid either under-stimulation or frustration. It’s also important to make sure that the toys are safe and made of non-toxic materials. Above all, toys must be interesting and fun! Here are a few that I’d recommend.

What’s an Activity Mat?

Activity mats are typically made of a soft or mildly-padded fabric base with several bars criss-crossing in arches with toys and rattles hanging from them. They provide a safe place for your baby to lay and observe the motion of the swinging toys above them, and it is also a place to practice reaching and tummy time. Our son spent countless hours with his activity mat and was seemingly never bored of the dangling toys, lights, and sounds from the kickable keyboard. Expect your activity map to be a good play place for your baby up to 18-24 months.

Features to look for in a activity mat:

  • Size of the mat should be based on availability of floor space, should also consider sizing to allow for baby’s growth
  • Soft, padded base
  • Constructed with non-toxic materials
  • Arches with toys, rattles, mirrors, etc. that can be detachable
  • Lights and sound are great stimuli for babies
  • Can be easily cleaned or is machine-washable

Do I Need a Bouncer?

Photo by Rodnae Productions

Babies love movement, and a baby bouncer is a great way to provide your child with a constant rocking motion. Some bouncers have toys dangling in front of your kiddo for extra attention-grabbing stimulation, while others may feature vibration or nature sounds. An added pro of having a bouncer is being able to do things hands-free; many bouncers can be bounced with your feet so you can enjoy a meal with both hands (speaking from experience!).

Benefits:

  • A bouncer can give parents—and their arms—some relief
  • Bouncers may allow you to multitask hands-free for awhile
  • Some are even motorized or automated

Be Aware:

  • Bouncers are not considered “safe sleep” locations for infants
  • Always supervise your little one when using the bouncer

What Other Options Are Available For Play?

Activity Center or Play Table

Photo by Tai Captures

Another good hands-free option for parents, activity centers (also known as play tables) have a baby-shaped sling in the middle of a table surrounded by toys for your baby to play with and explore. Not only are they good for building hand-eye coordination, but they also assist in building leg and core muscles as your baby stands assisted by the table’s seat. Most activity centers have a seat with height adjustability built in, supporting your child when they are unable to stand and allowing them to stand on their own when strong enough. Our son really liked his play table and even after outgrowing it, he used it to take some of his first steps while holding on to the side of the table.

What Baby Clothes Will I Need?

Last but not least, you will definitely need clothes for your new baby. You will want to buy newborn-sized clothing, but it’s also good to have the next several months of sizes lined up too because all babies grow at different rates. Look for clothes made from cotton, muslin, or wool as these tend to have the least amount of synthetic chemicals in them and tend to be gentler on your baby’s skin. You should also plan to have at least a week’s worth of clothes and know that accidents can and will happen. There are endless options for baby clothes, but here’s a quick rundown of the essentials.

Onesies

Photo by Henley Design Studio

Plain white onesies were one of the most-worn items by our son. Easy to put on, change diapers, and take off, they’re a simple solution. Generally most onesies feature two to three snaps at the bottom of the onesie for easy on and off. Beware of onesies with multiple snaps down the length of the onesie; these can be quite difficult to undo with a squirming child. If a full length closure is required for a onesie, I tend to prefer zippers. Despite being “noisier,” they are so much more easy to operate in the middle of the night. There are long, short, and no sleeve options along with more designs available than you’d ever imagine—and yes, they’re all absolutely adorable. Layer them with t-shirts or sweaters to help balance your baby’s warmth and coolness.

Pants

Most onesies are legless, meaning there is no material covering your baby’s legs, so you’ll definitely want pants (or shorts depending on the temperatures where you live) for your kiddo. Baby pants are just like adult pants but smaller. And, like adult pants, they come in various sizes based on weight and length. Sizing typically starts at Premie and Newborn, then follows monthly milestones (3M, 6M, 9M, 12M, 18M, 24M). After month sizes are toddler sizes (2T-5T). Opt for pants that are easy to get on and off to make diaper changes as stress-free as possible.

Socks

Photo by Taisiia Shestopal

Baby’s feet get cold too! As they get older, look for socks with grippers on the bottom to give your baby more confidence when they begin to take their own steps. Socks are sized similarly to other baby clothes, but tend to have ranges instead (3-6M or 6-12M, etc). Booties can be a nice complement to socks for extra warmth when needed. Pro tip; wash all your baby’s socks together in a small laundry bag to prevent losing them in the wash or other clothes.

Pajamas

Footie pajamas are a great play as no socks are necessary. Along with not needing to put them on in the first place (which provides its own fair share of challenges), footies also prevent the need to hunt for lost socks caused by your child kicking them off at night. Depending on the weather and climate, fleece jammies can be a good option to keep your baby plenty warm. As mentioned above, keep in mind the sleep sacks or swaddles you plan to use with your baby’s pajamas to ensure they’re not too cold or warm.

Outdoor Wear

Jackets, sweaters, winter hats, and gloves are all necessary items for babies living in colder climates. My personal favorite were hoodies with ears built into the hood for irresistible photo opportunities with our winter baby! Pro tip: don’t be afraid to size up as your kiddo will continue to grow and being slightly big is always more comfortable and warm than too small.

Just a Start

Photo by Jonathan Borba

This list of essentials can act as a baby checklist for your baby is a good start for any parent looking to make sure they have what they need to keep their baby happy and healthy. A little research can go a long way, so be sure to look into the various types of offerings on the market for each of the categories. If you have any questions on the gear listed in this article or as you research more, be sure to reach out to a Curated Baby & Toddler Expert to help get your family the best baby products for your new addition; we’d love to help you out! And if you enjoyed this article, don't miss Part One for nursery necessities or Part Two for care and cleaning!

This content is meant to be informative and add to your understanding of this subject, but it is not definitive nor a replacement for your own sensibility. Neither Curated nor any Curated Expert is responsible for any liability resulting from information or advice shared here. Please consult with a medical professional for any health concerns.

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