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Toddler Gear: The Only 5 Items You Need

A while back I wrote about the only five baby items a new mom needs. Now that my daughter is nearly two, I'm ready to update my list for a toddler's needs. First time parents may be surprised by the items I can live without. And the money I save.

I came up with my baby list when I was forced to temporarily move out of my apartment when my younger daughter was just three months old. I had to pack up in a hurry and only took the bare essentials. I discovered that I never missed all the other gear that littered my living room and kitchen.

Once again, a temporary move has inspired me to live with as little child related stuff as possible. And like the first experience, I don't miss the plastic toys and other gear at all. So what can't I live without? Here are the only five items the toddler set needs:

1. Car Seat
Unless you plan to stay home all summer, you'll need a car seat. If you haven't already done so, you'll also need to upgrade your infant seat to a larger one to safely accommodate your growing child. And don't forget, experts recommend you buy a new car seat rather than borrow a used one since safety standards are constantly changing.

2. Crib
Even though my toddler manages to nap on a cot at day care, she still needs a crib at night. My pediatrician recently reminded me that parents need to shift their kids to a toddler bed or purchase a crib tent once their youngsters start climbing out of their cribs.

3. Stroller
Personally, I find a stroller indispensable because I live in New York City and walk everywhere. Once I move to the suburbs, I may feel differently. But I imagine a set of wheels are helpful no matter where you live since little feet tire easily.

3. Sippy Cups
Drinking from an open cup can be tricky for young toddlers. Many can do it, but not without frequent spills. So unless you like cleaning up after your child, some form of sippy or straw cup is quite helpful.

4. Potty
When a toddler starts showing signs she's ready to get rid of her diapers, you'll want a potty to help make the process move along more smoothly.

5. Crayons
Hands down, my favorite toddler toy is a simple box of crayons. Steal some paper from your printer and you can transform your little mess maker in a regular Picasso. You can also ditch the flashcards and use the crayons to illustrate your own alphabet and set of numbers.

Of course, you'll also need clothing and diapers. But I didn't include these on the list since I don't consider them toddler gear.

You're also probably thinking I forgot about the high chair, changing table and even the toddler utensils. Nope. I let my daughter sit on a regular chair at the dining room table. I change her diapers on a towel on the bed. (Sometimes I just do it while she's standing up in the bathroom.) And she's quite happy using our regular silverware, provided she gets a salad fork and tea spoon.

Finally, I'll admit that toddlers need books too. But that's what the library is for.

What toddler items can't you live without?

Stacey Bradford is the author of The Wall Street Journal Financial Guidebook for New Parents.
Crayon Tips image courtesy of Flickr, CC 2.0.
More on CBS MoneyWatch:
Toddler Gear: When to Skimp and When to Splurge
Baby Gear: The Only 5 Items You Need
Your Baby Registry: When to Skimp and When to Splurge
Infant Gear: The 10 Items You Don't Need

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