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Gifts for 2-year-olds

Gifts for 2-year-olds

A 2-year-old is bursting with energy and curiosity, so look for gifts that grab his attention. As a toddler gets more mobile, he'll take an interest in toys to push, pull, and drag around with him. Some great tips from

He'll also get a thrill out of things that challenge his mind, like puzzles and blocks. And his imagination is developing, so toys that encourage make-believe are sure to be a hit. Read on for our list of choice gifts for 2-year-olds.


Large and small colorful balls for kicking and throwing are great for outdoor play, as are oversize T-ball sets made of lightweight plastic. Bowling with soft farm animals or goofy plush toys for "pins" is great indoor fun, too.


Who isn't charmed by a classic red wagon? And when your little one is tired from the park, she can sit back and enjoy the ride home while you know she's safe right behind. At home in the yard, she can push and pull the wagon herself or just pile her toys in it.

Art supplies

Everyone treasures those early scribbles! They go on Grandma's refrigerator and Mom's wall at work. Give your budding artist the tools she needs – markers, crayons, watercolors, and construction paper – and watch her go. Don't forget to check labels to make sure everything is nontoxic and washable.

Play kitchen

Get your child ready to be Rachael Ray, Jacques Pepin, or Emeril with a play kitchen. Toddlers enjoy playing with plastic fruits, vegetables, pots, and spatulas. Food toys let him imitate what grownups do in the kitchen and will hold his interest for years, even as his play gets more sophisticated.

Sand toys

Sandbox time will be more fun with a pail and shovel – she can build a castle or just make piles. For added interest, consider a bright yellow dump truck or front-end loader. She'll have a grand time loading up trucks and dumping her cargo.


A book is a fitting gift at any age, but for a toddler, look for books with more than just a few words on each page and more complex story lines than basic baby books. Try such favorites as Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar or Dr. Seuss's There's a Wocket in My Pocket. Or visit a bookstore and pick out something new that catches your eye.

Bath toys

It's easy to turn bath time into fun time – even zoo time! Beyond the requisite rubber duckies, you'll find bath toys that can help get a child clean. Look for hippo or tiger bath mitts and fish or bear soap.

Make believe toys

Toddlers love to imitate what adults do, whether it's playing dress-up and going to "work" or using kid versions of the tools Mom or Dad have. Look for a toddler-size plastic laptop that lights up and makes music. A tool kit, complete with plastic hammer and nails and a drill with oversize plastic drill bits, will come in handy when a toddler assistant is needed to help fix things around the house.

Large construction blocks

Blocks are perfect for building a toddler's growing skills – grabbing, stacking, and sorting. Avoid a choking hazard by choosing a set with pieces that are too large for a toddler to fit in his mouth. He can experiment with how many blocks he can pile up before his tower topples, or just enjoy sorting by color and shape.

Pull toys

Pull toys have endured as a universal toddler pleaser, and most also have at least one bell or whistle – flapping ears, wagging tails, or slapping feet. It's a good bet that if you find one you like, it will also appeal to the 2-year-old in your life.


Toddlers take great delight in the challenge of puzzles, and learn shapes and colors along the way. Choose one of the many beautiful wooden animal puzzles in your local toy store, or check out puzzle boards that hook, button, buckle, and snap.



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Baby products: Must-haves for the first year

Baby products: Must-haves for the first year

Being an expecting parent can be exciting out of many things, having a good sense of what to have is part of the essesntial preparation process. Here is some top notch advice from

Products you need for your baby

Which baby products are essential for the first year? Here's a list of the main things you'll need to clothe, move, and feed your baby, as well as give him a safe place to sleep and explore.

If you want to go beyond the basics, check out this list of product "extras" that can make the first year easier. You'll find specific information about the supplies you need in the first six weeks and what to put on your baby registry, too. 

Baby clothes

Baby clothes are usually sized as preemie, newborn, 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, and 12 months. Some babies never need newborn sizes (they go straight to 3 months), but that's hard to predict in advance, so you may want to have some on hand. Also, babies grow quickly, so make sure you have the next size up!

For everyday wear, think comfort and ease. Look for soft, roomy, durable clothing that allows your child freedom to move and explore and that can hold up through frequent washings. (Spit-up and grime take their toll.)

Should you buy organic baby clothing? It's made without harsh dyes or potentially harmful chemicals, but it's usually priced at a premium – and few would say it's absolutely necessary. Whatever you choose, use a gentle, baby-friendly detergent to avoid skin irritation.

Here are the basics your baby will need. (Suggested amounts are for a three-month period; replenish as your baby grows.)

One-piece outfits (5 to 7): Some of these are basically spiffed-up jammies appropriate for sleeping and playing – and because babies nap so frequently, especially at first, these are super convenient. Look for one-piece outfits that zip or snap down the front and all the way down the leg; these allow you to change your baby's clothes easily without pulling things over her head. Make sure whatever you buy opens easily at the bottom for diaper changes. 

Shirts (5 to 7): Look for T-shirts and turtlenecks with plenty of room in the neck, or snaps at the neck, so they slip easily over your child's head. Many parents prefer styles that go over the tummy and diaper and snap at the crotch.

Leggings or pull-on pants (5 to 7): Separates allow you to change one piece of dirty clothing without assembling a whole new outfit, so they're useful to have on hand. Look for stretchy waistbands that fit easily over your baby's diaper and belly – and expand as he gains weight.

Outer layers (5): Sweaters, fleece jackets, and sweatshirts that zip up are easy to put on and take off. Many small children don't like pushing their head through a small neck opening.

Buy larger sizes and look for items with loose armholes that won't require tugging and fussing. Hoods are helpful for this age – just slip one over your baby's head when the temperature is chilly.

Avoid clothing that has dangling strings, tassels, and ribbons – these are choking hazards.

Hats and mittens: A broad-brimmed sun hat for the summer and a warm hat that covers the ears in the winter should do the trick. Mittens for babies are shaped like bags with elastic at the wrist, making them easy to get on and off little hands.

Socks or booties: You'll need lots of socks for indoors and some booties for outdoor wear.

Shoes: You may not need to buy real, hard-soled shoes during your baby's first year. Some doctors recommend waiting until your child is a strong walker because shoes can interfere with development. Until your baby's ambling well, cover her feet with socks or booties that have nonskid bottoms.

When it comes time to buy sturdier footwear, go to a store that specializes in children's shoes. A salesperson can advise you on the most comfortable brands and what size to buy to allow for growth, and will measure your child's feet to ensure a comfortable and proper fit.

Pajamas/sleepers (5 to 7): There are three things to think about when dressing your baby for bed: your baby's comfort, his safety, and your ability to get to the inevitable middle-of-the-night dirty diaper. No matter how cute it looks, avoid sleepwear that has complicated snaps or requires lots of effort to get on or off!

Soft, breathable natural fabrics like cotton are comfy, and if they fit snugly they're a good alternative to synthetic, flame-resistant clothing (usually made of polyester). Avoid ribbons, strings, ties, and other decorative items that could get wrapped around your baby and pose a choking hazard.


Diapers: Whether you use cloth or disposable or something in between (some diapers use a reusable cover with a disposable lining), your baby probably will go through ten to 12 diapers a day at first, so plan accordingly.

Wipes: Whether you plan to buy wipes, make your own, or use a washcloth and warm water, you'll want to be prepared.

Changing pad or table: You don't have to buy an official changing table, but you'll probably want to have some designated place for diaper changes. Some parents use a changing pad or just a towel on the floor or bed. (Keep your hand on your baby at all times when changing on an elevated surface!)

Baby gear

Baby carrier: Wearing your baby means your little one gets to snuggle close to you, and you'll have two free hands to tote everything else.

When choosing a carrier, check to make sure all straps and harnesses will support your baby securely and that the carrier can be laundered or cleaned without much work. Note: Although many parents swear by slings, this type of baby carrier has been linked to injuries and suffocation in babies. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has safety tips for parents using slings.

Stroller: You'll need an efficient way to roll your baby around town. Think carefully about your specific needs: Do you want storage space to make shopping with your baby easier? Do you want a seat that reclines for easy napping? Will you be climbing up and down a lot of stairs? See our stroller buying guide for more help.

Car seat: A safe car seat is mandatory. Tempting as it may be, resist buying a used car seat. Safety regulations have changed over the years, and you need to make sure your baby's car seat meets all current guidelines. (They actually have expiration dates, usually within five years of manufacture. Check the seat for a sticker.)

Also, you may not know if a secondhand seat has been in a fender bender, which means it can no longer be used.

Breastfeeding and bottle-feeding

Nursing/feeding pillow: Specially designed to support your baby while you're nursing or bottle-feeding, these can help you avoid straining your shoulders or neck during feeding sessions. They're more convenient – and better at keeping your baby in position – than regular pillows.

Breastfeeding accessories: Lanolin ointment (available in many drugstores) can help relieve sore nipples. And hot/cold gel packs, which fit inside your bra, can soothe swollen or sore breasts. It's normal for your breasts to leak while you're nursing, and disposable breast pads – or reusable, washable ones – will keep you and your shirts nice and dry.

Burp cloths (6 to 12): To catch spit-up and wipe up other baby fluids.

Bottles (6 to 12): Newborns usually start with the 4-ounce size, but you'll need some 8-ounce bottles as your child begins to drink larger amounts. You'll also need at least as many nipples as bottles.

When it comes to what kind of baby bottle to use, some parents insist on ones that don't contain phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA). Debate continues over the harm either chemical may cause humans. If you'd rather err on the side of caution, look for bottles marked BPA- and phthalate-free – or go for glass bottles. Get more information on whether plastic baby bottles are safe.

Formula: If you can't or don't plan to breastfeed, there are numerous infant formula options to choose from – check out our formula primer and talk to your healthcare provider.

Bottle brushes (2): These are handy for thoroughly scrubbing small parts and crevices in bottles, bottle parts, and nipples.

Breast pump: You may want to pump breast milk to feed your baby. Breast pumps can be as simple as a basic hand pump or as efficient as an electric model that allows you to pump from both breasts simultaneously. One of the most popular brands zips everything up in a backpack and comes with a small cooler to store milk. Our breast pump guide can help you decide which type to go with and whether to rent or buy.

Breast milk bags: You can pump milk straight into a bottle, but many women use specially made plastic storage bags, which don't take up much space in the freezer and can be defrosted easily. The number of bags you'll need depends on how often you intend to pump. Start with one box and work from there.


When your baby is ready for solid food, somewhere between 4 and 6 months of age, you'll need a few key supplies.

Highchair: You don't have to buy a freestanding highchair. A seat that hooks onto a counter or table, or a portable highchair that attaches to a regular chair, can work fine as well. But a full-size highchair with a tray can make cleanup easier, and rolling wheels allow you to move the chair from room to room (say, the dining room to the kitchen) without a fuss. Look a model that's easy to clean – you can count on food getting mushed into every crack.

Bowls: Some parents like baby bowls with suction cups on the bottom – these stick to the tray and resist being flung to the floor.

Baby spoons: A rubber-tipped or plastic spoon is easier on your baby's gums and small enough to fit easily into a little mouth.

Sippy cups (3 to 5): These cups come with a lid and a spout for easy drinking. And (the real plus) they don't spill when knocked over. Cups with handles will probably be easiest for your child to manage at first. Avoid cups with attached straws – they're hard to clean and spill easily. If you're concerned about BPA, phthalates, and other chemicals in plastics, alternatives abound, including reusable metal water bottles small enough for a baby's hands.

Bibs (3 to 5): Plenty of styles are available. Waterproof or quick-drying kinds are useful, as are bibs with a pocket at the bottom to catch falling food.

Baby soothers, toys, and entertainment

Pacifiers: Some babies love them, some don't. Pacifiers aren't a necessity by any means, but for some parents and babies, these soothers are an essential item.

Bouncy seat: Also called a bouncer, these baby seats bounce up and down when your little one kicks or moves. It's a handy, safe place to put your baby down (thanks to the attached straps), and many babies love the motion.

Play mat/gym: These are soft mats with baby toys that dangle from overhead. Young babies (who aren't mobile yet) can have a ball staring and batting at the toys. Fancy versions feature lights and sounds, too.

Toys: Your baby doesn't need a lot of fancy playthings, but it's nice to have a few rattles, musical toys, and soft toys at the ready

Books: Chunky board books are a great way to introduce reading to your baby.

Note: For information on other baby toys and soothing devices, including swings, activity centers, mobiles, and jumpers.


Crib and mattress: Many new parents don't need a crib right away, choosing to use a bassinet or play yard with bassinet feature or bring their newborn into their bed instead. But you'll likely want to move your baby into a crib sometime in the first year, so it’s helpful to have it set up.

When buying, look for a sturdy crib with slats that aren't too far apart – no more than 2 3/8 inches (about the size of a soda can). Avoid drop-side cribs, which have caused dozens of baby deaths and were banned in the U.S. in 2010. 

For more details, see our buying guides on cribs and crib mattresses and our article on childproofing the nursery.

Bedding: Though you'll see plenty of fancy bedding sets in baby stores, all you really need are about three to five fitted crib sheets and perhaps a waterproof crib mattress pad. In fact, the bumpers, pillows, quilts, and soft blankets that often come with baby bedding sets shouldn't go in your baby's crib because they increase the risk of SIDS.

Wearable blankets (2 or 3): These fleece or cotton sacks zip over your baby's sleepwear and keep him warm at night. They replace traditional blankets, which aren't safe for sleeping babies because of the risk of SIDS. You may or may not need these, depending on the climate where you live and what season your baby's born in.

Swaddling blankets (3): Many newborns love to be swaddled, and having a few blankets made just for this purpose can make your life much easier. Note: Some wearable blankets are also made for swaddling, with flaps that fold over your baby's arms and secure with Velcro.


You'll need to watch out for the biggest household dangers for newborns and childproof your home as soon as your child is mobile – rolling, crawling, or creeping around.

A few pieces of safety equipment can help protect your baby from many common hazards.

Safety gates: If you have stairs, invest in safety gates for the top and bottom. You can also use a gate to block off areas of the house that might be perilous, such as the bathroom or your office. For more information, see our safety gate buying guide.

Outlet covers: Exposed outlets are an almost irresistible attraction to curious explorers. Bottom line: Keep them covered.

Cupboard and drawer latches: Choose from several types, including ones that latch or twist open and closed. Tug at them to make sure they can withstand numerous tries by a determined toddler.

Toilet seat locks: Babies can drown in as little as 2 inches of water, so keep your baby and his toys out of the toilet with a lock. These fasten on top of a closed seat and require you to press a button or undo a latch to open them.

Baby monitors: These gadgets – which come with a transmitter and at least one receiver – allow you to keep tabs on your baby while you're in another room. The transmitter needs to be close enough to your baby's crib to pick up sounds (within 10 feet) but far enough away to ensure that the cord's out of reach if there is one. You can opt for a traditional audio model or a fancier (and more-expensive) video monitor that lets you see your baby. Get more information on buying a baby monitor.


First-aid kit: See what to keep in your first-aid kit.

Bulb syringe: Use with saline drops to clear your baby's stuffy nose.

Teething toys: Chewing on these can ease your baby's discomfort during teething.

Digital thermometer: This is an important item to have in your medicine chest.

Baby nail scissors or clippers: These help you trim your baby's nails safely.

Baby-friendly laundry detergent: Some brands are specially formulated to be gentle on baby skin, although brands for sensitive skin are fine, too.

A soft-bristled baby brush: This is especially helpful for handling cradle cap.


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How to buy an infant car seat

How to buy an infant car seat

Children and car safety has always been a concern and car seats for infants and toddlers was recently made mandatory by law in Trinidad and Tobago. Making the right choice based on safety, budget and your child's age is important below is a full guide from

The lowdown on infant car seats

You have a choice of two types of car seat for your baby: an infant car seat or a convertible car seat.

A rear-facing infant car seat (suitable for babies up to 22 or 35 pounds and 29 to 32 inches tall) fits babies snugly during the first year or so. A convertible seat – so called because it converts from a rear-facing seat for babies and toddlers to a forward-facing seat – carries children from birth to somewhere between 40 and 80 pounds and up to 50 inches tall, depending on the seat.

Given the option of a convertible car seat, why bother with an infant seat?  

The most important reason is safety. Although most newborns fit in a convertible car seat, experts agree that babies under 20 pounds. are better off in the smaller infant car seats. They're contoured to hold newborns securely and offer good support in all the right places.

Convenience is another big consideration. Infant car seats are smaller and lighter than convertible car seats and usually have a handle for easy carrying. They snap in and out of a base you install in the car, and in and out of your stroller, so you can transfer your baby from place to place without waking him.

In contrast, the larger and heavier convertible car seats must be installed in the car. When you reach your destination you have to unbuckle your baby and transfer him to a stroller or other carrier.

The disadvantage of an infant car seat is financial: When your child outgrows it, you'll have to buy a convertible model. Larger babies may outgrow the seat long before age 1, while smaller babies may fit in the seat until their first birthday or beyond. (Babies tend to exceed the height limit for an infant car seat before the weight limit.)

What to look for when buying

Ease of use: Look for the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration's five-star rating system: The more stars a car seat has, the easier it is to use. The NHTSA ratings take into account how easy it is to install the seat in your car and secure your child in it, as well as the content and clarity of the instruction manual.

A car seat base: Most infant car seats come with a plastic base you install in your car. You snap the car seat into the base and buckle up your child when you're ready to go. When you reach your destination, simply unsnap the car seat from the base and take it with you. Some people buy an extra base to keep in other vehicles. 

A five-point safety harness: The straps – one for each shoulder, one for each thigh, and one between your baby's legs – are more adjustable (and thus safer) than older designs.

Easy adjustments: You'll need to adjust the harness as your child grows, so avoid seats that make this complicated. Better car seats allow you to adjust the straps and harness height easily from the front. A few models even have one-hand belt adjustments with quick-release buckles.

LATCH (lower anchors and tethers for children): Since 2002, all car seats and vehicles have been compatible with the LATCH system. LATCH allows you to attach the car seat directly to your vehicle instead of using the seat belt to secure it. This can make installation safer and easier. Most infant car seats use the lower anchors only, not the tethers.

Easy cleaning: Babies and messes go hand in hand, but a surprising number of car seats come with covers you can't take off. A detachable, machine-washable cover makes cleanup much easier.

Comfort: A well-padded seat with plenty of head support gives your baby a better ride.

Side-impact protection: Some car seats have special energy-absorbing foam and other features designed to better protect your baby's head and chest in a side-impact accident.

Important safety notes

How to install
You might think that anyone who can read an instruction manual and follow directions can install a car seat correctly. In reality, it's not so easy. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3 out of 4 car seats are improperly installed.

For safety's sake, have your car seat and its installation checked by a professional.

For advice on avoiding the most common car seat installation mistakes, see our article on installing a car seat.

Where to install
Car seats must be installed in the backseat. For babies and toddlers under age 2, install the car seat facing the rear of the car. Experts say it's safest to keep your child rear-facing as long as possible, at least until your child is 2 years old or reaches the maximum rear-facing height and weight limit for your car seat. (Most newer convertible seats can handle kids up to 40 pounds or so in a rear-facing position.)

Secondhand seats
We don't recommend buying used car seats. Secondhand seats could be missing important parts, have been involved in an accident (even unseen damage can affect the way a seat functions), fall short of current safety standards, or have been recalled due to faulty design. Moreover, plastic gets brittle as it gets older, so a seat that's too old could break in a crash.

If you use a secondhand seat, make sure it has never been in an accident, is less than five years old, and comes with all parts and instructions.

What it's going to cost you

Infant car seats range in price from about $60 to $250.

If your baby will ride in more than one car, you can buy a car seat and base for each car or – a less expensive option – buy additional bases and move the car seat from car to car.


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Raising a bilingual child: Educational options

Raising a bilingual child: Educational options

You've decided you want to raise your child or children with two languages, but you know that eventually they'll need more exposure and instruction than you can give them at home. Depending on where you live, there may be several bilingual education options to choose from. Learn more with this article from

Language immersion schools

One of the best ways to ensure that your kids grow up both bilingual and bi-literate (that is, speaking and reading in two languages) is by sending them to a dual immersion language school.

Types of dual immersion schools

These are the two main models for these schools:

The 90:10 model. In this type of school, most subjects are taught in the targeted second language from day one, with English introduced gradually as the children get older.

For example, let's say the targeted second language is Spanish. First-grade students would spend 90 percent of their time learning in Spanish and 10 percent learning in English. By the time those students were in fifth grade, they'd spend half their day learning in Spanish and half in English.

The 50:50 model. Here, kids learn equally in both languages from the very beginning.

Schools have different ways of achieving this goal. Some do it by dividing the school day in two, using English for half the day and the second language for half. Others teach certain subjects in English and others in the second language. Still others alternate languages each week.

Elements of a successful dual immersion program

For dual immersion programs to work, two things must be in place:

First, classes must have the right ratio of students who speak English to those who speak the target language.

Roughly 50 percent of the children should speak English and the other 50 percent the target language, such as Spanish. Sometimes, these programs also have their share of children who are already bilingual.

"They're not just hearing the teacher speak the language, but also the other students," explains Christina Allen, coordinator of the Foreign Language Academies in Glendale, California. "They are learning from each other, and that makes all of them feel valuable and capable."

Second, parents must make a commitment to stay with the school for the duration of their children's elementary education.

Otherwise, the program will fail because new students can't be brought into the program at just any grade level unless they're already bilingual. To bring in children who aren't bilingual would create a disadvantage for the new kids as well as those already in the program.

Find out more about language immersion schools.

Structured language classes

The structure provided by attending classes at a language school once or twice a week takes language learning to another level. Depending on the age of your child, your choices will vary.

Some language schools, like the Alliance Française, offer classes to children as young as 1 year. At first, children learn songs and basic vocabulary, like the colors and the parts of the body. As they get older, the classwork becomes more complex. Eventually the curriculum incorporates grammar and reading comprehension, among other skills.

Because the best way for children to learn is through interactive play, many language classes use the arts to introduce or reinforce a second language. Some, like MusicalKids International and Music Lingua, are based solely on music. Not only is music fun, but the repetitiveness of song lyrics is perfect for building vocabulary.

To find structured language classes in your area, try an online search using the phrase Spanish classes for children.

Heritage language schools

Heritage language schools are typically Saturday or Sunday schools created by a community interested in passing its language and culture to the next generation. Children enrolled in this type of program may already be proficient in the minority language, and most have some sort of cultural connection to it through their family.

If you can't find one in your area, you might want to consider starting your own.

Begin by making sure you have enough interested families. Then you'll need to identify qualified teachers willing to dedicate a few hours of their weekend to the project. You'll also need a place and funding for materials. Above all, you and the rest of the parents have to be dedicated.

"Our school would die without parental involvement," says Rey Rodriguez, a longtime member of Grupo Educa, a heritage language school in Pasadena, California. "The organization was founded by parents who were willing to make fantastic sacrifices to make sure that their children didn't lose their connection with their past."

You can find out more about heritage language schools at the Heritage Language in America website.

Private tutors

There are several advantages to hiring a private language tutor for your bilingual child, most notably that it provides one-on-one instruction.

A tutor can assess a child's fluency and design a personalized program. If, for example, your child is learning Spanish and is already fairly fluent but needs additional help with reading skills, a tutor may be a great choice.

Something else to consider: To save on fees, why not split the cost of a tutor with another parent who's also raising a bilingual child? Ideally, both children being tutored would be at the same level of proficiency.

If your child is a bit older, online tutoring with a live tutor is another possibility. All you need is a computer with a webcam and a microphone.

The best part of this scenario is that it doesn't matter where the tutor is located. You can even hire someone in the country in which the target language is most frequently spoken.

Bilingual freelance journalist Roxana A. Soto is the co-founder and co-editor of SpanglishBaby, a website for parents raising bilingual and bicultural children.



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