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The Best of the ABC Kids Expo 2017

The baby and I went to the ABC Kids Expo! I didn’t get to go last year because I was insanely pregnant but the year before that I went with Kate and we were overwhelmed by all the baby stuff. It was a crazy and unmanageable jumble of the fanciest baby gear you’ve ever seen in your life and by the end of it we couldn’t even remember what we’d seen.

This year was definitely different. For one, traveling with a baby means you get to immediately test out whatever you’re looking at and it turns out that a lot of that baby gear falls short when you hand it to a real baby. Also, now that I’m a year into having our third kid, I’ve gotten a lot pickier about which pieces of gear I think are actually worth the investment.

I’ve brought you the new gear from some old favorite brands, some new brands that have smart solutions to problems I need solving, and then a handful of things that are just so darn pretty they might make parenthood a little easier (or at least give you something fun to unwrap around the holidays).

{FYI – some of the links that follow are Amazon affiliate links but don’t let that trick you into thinking I don’t stand behind them 110%.}

Cetaphil had their baby line available. There’s nothing new this year but I wanted to push them because their eczema line is impressive and it’s the best one we’ve seen that’s designed specifically for babies. It’s nice that it’s widely available at most big box stores, too, since some of the smaller brands have some good skincare products but it’s not always worth having to track them down at boutique baby shops. That being said – check the labels because some of the products are made with almond and sunflower oils and I don’t recommend those until you’re sure your kid doesn’t have allergies.

I’m excited about the laundry products from Nellie’s All-Natural since they’ve had good reports from people who have eczema and skin issues like Eva’s. I’ll have to report back once we’ve actually used them, but in the meantime you have to admit that the packaging here is a big fat win. Also, the fact that they scent the dryer balls with essential oils is pretty exciting.

Speaking of essential oils, I like these kid sets from Spa Room. They feature blends and some pure scents but mostly I’m a sucker for the packaging and the fact that these would be such cute sets when paired with one of those diffusers with the color-change tops.

If we’re really going to get into exciting baby gifts, the new Winnie the Pooh Disney collaborations with Petunia Pickle Bottom is the winner. I shared a sneak peek of one of these on Instagram and got the same OMG reaction that I had so I know I’m not alone here. I don’t even need a new diaper bag and I’m seriously considering getting the bucket tote when it comes out this Spring. (They have other Disney prints available right now on their site.)

Another favorite brand that I stalked at ABC Expo is Sago Mini, kind of kid apps and new adorable toy designer. Calvin is the one who got us really hooked because he has the little house and rocket ship and he adores them. These characters from the apps have become as loved (if not more) as any Disney character and I was excited to see them in new forms. Also, that’s a hot dog car and these puzzle pieces float in the bathtub.

Sago Mini put a fun quilt out last year and now they have this fantasy bedding that lets kids tuck the stuffed characters in for the night in these pockets that make it look like they’re hanging out in castles and dump trucks. I haven’t shown Calvin yet because I just bought him dinosaur bedding and I’m not ready for the conversation in which he has to have the construction Sago Mini bedding or he’ll never be happy again.

Crayola does bedding too and I thought about it for Eva since she has her art streak. You have to admit the crayon throw pillows are something you’d have to squish if you saw them in person. I hugged one while talking to a rep and pretending that I wasn’t a grown woman hugging a giant orange crayon.

The last bedding that caught my eye was Learning Linens, which has bedding sets that feature things like sight words, rhyming words, and the alphabet. The sets also come with a guidebook for the kids and a little flashlight that recharages when you squeeze him so kids can snuggle down in bed and study while they drift off to sleep. I’m hoping for more color combinations and something a little less bright but I’d also be the first to admit that both of the older kids would have been obsessed with these when they were learning to read.

Green Toys is another brand that I was excited to visit since we’ve never been disappointed with their toys. Among their new products was this cute mouse house with a lot of San Francisco flair made out of the same soy-dyed recycled milk jug plastic that doesn’t fade and is practically indestructible.

They also have cooking sets (totally food safe and easy to wash) that have measuring cups in different shapes. The sets come with recipes that include both the measurement of the ingredient and how many of those shapes you would need to scoop it out, giving pre-readers a fun way to participate in the baking.

The big holiday news from Green Toys is their new play dough sets that come with organic dough, recycled plastic tools, and a variety of creative themes.

Babyletto is a relatively new brand for me and I’m not even sure I spent a lot of time in their booth last time because the products are really upscale. However, we have one of the mini-cribs for Felix and it is hands-down one of the best things we’ve ever spent our money on for the kids. They’re coming out in some new colors (as you can see below) and then there was this beautiful brass-colored crib that was so gorgeous I couldn’t even imagine putting a baby in it so even though I think it’s too gorgeous for babies I had to share the photo.

We used a BOB Rambler jogging stroller at the show and were very happy about it so I’ll be posting that full review later. However, the full-size Revolution Flex jogging stroller has this exclusive print that I wanted to share separately because it’s highly reflective (think light up the night) so it’s a great safety option for late night and early morning runners. There’s a lot of competition out there for strollers and car seats but I have to say that the commitment to safety that this brand has is what keeps us buying their products.

Replay didn’t have much that was new besides two new colors (teal and dark purple) but I just love seeing all of their products all lined up like this. It makes me want to buy three of everything and just fill up some vintage metal cabinet in my kitchen so people can come in and drool over our kids’ tableware. I keep waiting for the stuff we have to wear out so I can buy more colors but it doesn’t scratch or fade or warp or anything so I’ll be waiting a while.

The toy tester wasn’t as excited as I was about plates and cribs and bedding but he did enjoy exploring all of the toys. He’s playing with a Hape activity cube here and only made them a little nervous when he tried to put each individual block in his mouth. He was quite the fan of the bright colors and little holes in this one, enough so that it was the only activity cube from the show I added his Christmas wish list.

I love these Little Patients from Sigikid. They have removable organs that connect to each other to reinforce how body systems work and there’s a guide that gives a brief kid-appropriate description of what each does. Obviously it’s a great pick for any kid that’s going to have surgery but I think the older kids would enjoy the general inside-outness of unzipping a doll and having the guts come out in a non-gross way. Also, they’re pretty cute, right?

Far and away I prefer toys that don’t beep, light up, and turn on since I feel like they encourage more creative play and also all those lights and sounds and nonsense really build up when you’ve been hearing them nonstop for a couple of years. For this reason, I really love this set of mixed wood blocks from Clover and Birch. Soft edges and with all that eco-conscious goodness that makes for a good baby gift.

I also love these handmade Montessori styled baby rattles from Homi Baby, sealed with organic coconut oil and created with wood harvested in the USA. I mean, c’mon. These are gorgeous. They’re like everything sweet about having a baby on Instagram. And, in full disclosure, I should admit that they were nice enough to let Felix keep the one he grabbed and immediately jammed in his mouth.

And speaking of things that are everything gorgeous about having babies in your life, this rabbit rocker from Hallmark makes me want to have a fourth kid just so I can do a rabbit themed nursery. And yes, there was a quilt to match.

Woodland creatures and the general wildlife of North America was the big theme for this expo. We saw bears and deer everywhere and there were tons of pine-ish trees decorating everything from bibs and onesies to stacking blocks and diaper bags. I kind of feel like the fox trend just came and went not too long ago so I don’t generally fall over with forest animals but some of the gear stood out as being exceptionally cute. This blanket from Wee Gallery featuring some of the art from their best-selling art cards is one – so cute I think I’d have to hang it on the wall! Plus, they have nesting dolls to match.

And they have the art cards, of course, with all the variations and themes and such. I love them. Art cards forever.

Lolli Living also did some woodland critters but my personal favorite was this friendly elephant activity gym. I will give them extra credit for keeping the fox trend fresh by adding in all those geometric patterns. I kind of love.

Randomly, one of Felix’s favorite things (based on testing everything with his mouth) was this little grapes teether from the Smoothie Soothers by Baby Banana (the banana toothbrush company). He hung on to it for the whole expo and is currently crawling around with it in his mouth like a dog toy.

My favorite teethers were these handmade natural rubber geometric figures from Oli and Carol, free from holes (no mold!) and totally non-toxic. The company is young, fresh, and run by two sisters who have incredible design instincts. They have all sorts of designs but the simplicity of this one just knocks me out. It reminds me of vintage Sesame Street shorts for some reason. I want to watch these shapes scoot around by themselves to toy piano music.

The last teether I want to share is the lamb and goat teethers from CaaOcho. Not as unexpected as the geometric shapes and probably not as fun to roll around in your mouth as that bunch of grapes but, again, they are absolutely everything sweet about having a baby in your life. I love the idea of seeing one of these tied with a pastel satin ribbon on the top of some ridiculously impractical baby gift.

And, not teethers, but in the same vein: drool bibs. This is the world that Felix is soundly in right now because he’s cutting teeth like crazy and constantly soaked. I liked these ones from Chewbeads because it’s a good size and both sides of the chewing part have texture. Plus, that bubbly edge is so cute and, although Felix didn’t get to actually chew on this one, he was quite interested in trying.

He did get to try out the Buddy Bib from Malarkey Kids, the people that made the Munch Mitt. This bib is fluffier than the other drool bibs we’ve used but it has a silicone teething ring and a small plush friend (upside down so that when the baby flips it up they’re face-to-face). The friend is removeable and the whole thing is washable as we found out when Felix introduced his friend to his peas and quinoa puree.

Speaking of washing, Felix liked this little gator from SoapSox. The idea behind these is that they’re bath buddies that you can “feed” soap to and then they bubble up and become a fun way to lather kids up in the tub. All of this was lost on Felix who mostly just wanted to have his fingers nibbled by the soft jaws.

I’m only going to feature two other soft friends and they’re both from Cloub b, the company that makes the famous sleep sheep. Their little alien friend is named Beebop and he’s a bluetooth speaker you can control from your phone so you can play sleep sounds or a playlist of kids’ music, etc. Plus, he’s super cute.

The rep at the booth also totally sold me on this chameleon named Charley because he has all these soothing lights and sounds. He’s a good size too so this would be a great option for older kids who are still having a rough time getting used to the dark. I wish he photographed better because there’s no way to communicate how mesmerizing it is to watch the lights slowly change on this guy.

An old favorite brand: Tea Company. They’re following the North America trend and while they had many cute options featuring things like Native American designs and forest-y trees, this whale print just knocked me out. Perfection. Makes me glad I have a baby boy.

New clothing company with smart ideas: Magnetic Me. All of the clothing has magnetic closures so they open easily with one hand and there’s no fussing with snaps, zippers, or velcro. Lots of cute prints and a few extras (like this lovey) – I have some safety questions but I’d predict this company growing by leaps and bounds in the next year.

Finally, Kyle wasn’t with me but his pick would have been the licensed bibs and character plates from Bumkins. They’ve paired up with a ton of geek-friendly brands including DC characters, Nintendo, and Disney. I mean, this bib has abs. ABS.

They have a ton of things but one of the things I haven’t seen before are these placemats with washable markers that feature licensed characters. Happy holidays to all!

 

All in all, it was a huge show, we walked a half-marathon every day, and it was great to see everyone I only see at events like this. The best part of all was the company I kept – this little man is such a good traveler and how I got blessed with a selfie-ready happy baby who doesn’t mind coming with me on whatever work errand I need to run. Even if he has to take an occasional nap on the expo floor.

All the heart eyes for this one. All of ’em.

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