Mother and Child

There are the big-ticket items almost every parent encounters: crib, stroller… Sophie the giraffe! But sometimes it’s the random little things that save the day. I asked 10 parents (with kids of all ages) to share the surprising items they’ve found most useful, all under $25…

“I always keep a bottle of baby powder in my beach bag because when you put it on sandy feet, the sand instantly melts away! Great for preventing sandy-feet-in-shoes-meltdowns. (It’s a thing.)” — Luisa

“We love this book of drawing prompts. I actually bought two copies — so one adult and one kid can work on the same drawing separately and then exchange books. There are always lots of laughs. It’s awesome for travel or while you’re waiting for dinner or just to amuse yourselves on the subway.” — Abbey

“The most used thing we purchased as parents was this 99-cent ocean waves track. We have it on both our phones, as well as an iPod in my son’s bedroom. No matter where he’s sleeping (a shared hotel room, at the grandparents’ houses, on a plane), his bedtime routine feels familiar and soothing, like an old friend. He’s seven now and we still use it. 99 cents!” — Randi

“My six-year-old twins are obsessed with making art these days, and these magnets make it possible to hang their drawings on just about any flat surface. Bonus: No holes in the wall.” — Holiday

“My family likes this lavender sunscreen. It’s magical: a soft and moisturizing formula that smells so lovely. Nobody objects when I try to slather it on.” — Lauren

“My daughter is a little artist, and these Ikea glass jars work really well for art storage. We have one for pencils, one for markers and one for crayons. They look great on a shelf, keep things organized, and the kids can just go in and get what they need.” — LaTonya

“I swear by this rosemary-scented hair detangler, which also helps to repel lice. It has worked wonders with my daughters.” — Kendra

“You know those silver things they put on runners after marathons? Thermal blankets are crinkly and fun to grab (my baby loves playing with them!), but also light and compact. You can carry them in your bag and put them down on surfaces when you’re out in the world and need to change the baby or have an impromptu picnic.” — Anna

“I started carrying instant cold packs in the trunk of my car after my daughter (then 11) broke her arm playing soccer. They are always ready to go with a wide variety of random sports-related (or playground-related) injuries and bruises.” — Jenny

“We once went to a diner in Baltimore that had an old-school Etch-a-Sketch they handed out to kids. My son loved it so much (and was so preoccupied with it during our meal) that we bought one that same afternoon! It’s perfect for meals out, long car rides or just rainy afternoons at home.” — Diane

What do you think? What would you add to the list?

P.S. What to register for your baby and 15 things I’d tell a new mom. Plus, 21 surprising parenting tips.

(Photo of Mother and Child in Corfu by Linda McCartney)