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Gizmos To Help Parents Of Babies And Tots

With so many gadgets out there designed to help folks care for the little ones, it's tough to know which really do the job.

Which are the must-haves? The should-haves?

On The Saturday Early Show, an expert pointed to a bunch she suggests. They're aimed at parents of babies and toddlers.

And The Saturday Early Show put them to the test with a panel of moms.

Heather Maclean and Hollie Schultz wrote "The Baby Gizmo Buying Guide: From Pacifiers to Potties...Why, When, and What to Buy for Pregnancy Through Preschool."

Maclean, a mother of three who founded Little Laureate, a media company featuring educational items for kids, visited the show and had these words of wisdom for her fellow moms:

Video Monitor

Your own mom says it's too expensive and unnecessary. You've got other concerns, and it's pricey, so you leave it off your registry. Reconsider!

Everyone knows audio monitors are an essential, but they can cause, rather than relieve panic by broadcasting all those rustles and whimpers.

Video monitors even have night vision! They enable you to peek in on your sleeping baby without a squeaky door giving you away; they enable you to determine that the crying you hear is due to tantrum and not injury and, with the magic of mute, they can actually help you get a better night's sleep while still monitoring your baby. Well, well worth the price. Especially considering their future uses: front door home monitoring systems, nanny cams, even a way to spy on pre-teens.

(Summer Infant has a new video monitor that comes with a Crib Soother that can be operated remotely and features lullabies, nature sounds and a nightlight)

Follow Me Fred

Launched at Toy Fair 2008 last week, Follow Me Fred is a self-rolling little puppy used to encourage babies to crawl. He barks, pants, and plays music. He's bright and colorful (and only $19.95).

Baby Care Timer

It's ironic that, at the very time new parents are given a tiny newborn to care for, they're the most sleep-deprived they've ever been. The new parent-invented ItzBeen Baby Care Timer is the answer to our "We're so tired, we're hallucinating" prayers.

Those first few weeks, we might not remember our name, but we can now easily tell you when our baby was fed last, on which breast, and how long "itzbeen" since their last diaper change.

The ItzBeen TZBEEN timer is really four timers in-one, with a clock, alarm, and even a handy nightlight. You can carry just one or up to five, filling them with powdered formula or infant cereal, snacks, feeding accessories, even pacifiers. ($25)

Soft, But Waterproof Blanket

Everyone knows about the need for dozens of baby blankets. And waterproof, outdoor play mats are essential for springtime outings. But it took the genius of a mom to combine the two and give us a blanket that's soft and snuggly on one sidem, but completely water-repellant on the other.

The Rainkie Blankie is not only great for all the damp spots you wish to lay a blanket over, but for protecting a stroller or car seat-bound baby from the wet and windy elements. Genius! ($40)

Travel Snack/Formula Keeper

Why moms still travel with full cans of formula in their diaper bag is beyond me. Perhaps because the alternatives are lacking. Individual-serve packages are very expensive, and the traditional round formula containers only hold three servings, and leak.

The Innobaby Packin' Smart is an ingenious answer to a diaper bag full of Ziploc bags. Sleek, modern and space-saving, the Packing' Smart has five separate compartments. ($20)

Shopping Cart Cover

An oft-neglected purchase, as soon as baby can sit up, this is a MUST HAVE. Shopping carts are veritable germ breeding grounds, and most babies don't just touch the handle in front of them, they suck it clean (well, not clean…!). In the past, only really bulky, garish options were available, but shopping cart covers have evolved and now fold compactly for easy travel and include dozens of gorgeous patterns and fabrics, from Hawaiian prints to "minky."

My favorite is Cuter Than a Duck's Butt. It covers the whole shopping cart area, even the bigger Target carts, and doubles as a restaurant high chair cover as well. ($65)

Travel High Chair

When you leave the house with baby (which these days, is quite often!), you can't always count on a clean or safe high chair. Many restaurant chairs have broken straps and are rarely cleaned. I leave nothing to chance and bring my travel high chair with me everywhere: to restaurants, Grandma's, friends' houses, etc. Most travel high chairs can be used from the time a baby can sit up right through the booster years.

The very best is the Fisher-Price Deluxe Learning Booster, because it comes with an ingenious tray of toys (that pops off for eating) that will entertain even the fussiest baby until the food arrives. ($35)

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