Packing Your Diaper Bag: Toddler Edition

Back when our kiddos were toddlers, my friends and I used to do regular outings all together. We’d go to various parks, indoor play places, pumpkin patches, strawberry picking, music classes, and pretty much any class or event we could find in our community magazine. The Easter Bunny’s stopping by the park? Sign us up. Fake snow is falling at the outdoor mall? We were there. (Yes, I know it sounds like we were going overboard trying to create millions of magical moments for our kids, but the truth is that we just liked being together. My friends are awesome. The magical moments were a lovely bonus though!)

The activities were always different, but there was one thing that absolutely never changed: my friends would be prepared for whatever could possibly occur, and I would not. Yes, I carried around the cute bag, always had my phone (photos!), and usually had a water bottle. But when my daughter looked at me and said she was hungry, there were one too many occasions that found me staring shamefully into the blank space that filled my empty bag. In the next moment, you may (or may not) have seen me sheepishly pull out a bag of goldfish, smashed beyond an inch of its poor life, then look to my friends with hope-filled eyes.

Without fail, out came the sandwiches, string cheese, strawberries, granola bars—take your pick. They saved me every time. I kid you not, there was one time we showed up for my daughter’s dance class and when I looked in her little bag, I found that her tap shoe had broken. When my friend saw what was going on she said, “I have an extra pair!” I mean, who has an extra pair of tap shoes?! My hero, that’s who.

Now while there’s definitely such a thing as having too little (me), there’s also such a thing as having too much. We’ve all seen those parents in the airport carrying their baby’s entire nursery while running through the terminal, right? Nobody envies them at that moment! And yes, “stuff” can certainly be helpful, but too much can be harmful (to your back and your sanity). So what’s the right way to go?

Clearly, I’m not the best person to ask, so I'll do everyone a favor and share the advice of the experts over at The Bump:


Diapers (one diaper for every couple of hours you plan to be out…plus an extra for good measure)

Wipes (Bets & Emy are the best ones!)

Diaper cream (if you use it)

Hand sanitizer (alcohol-free for little ones who stick their fingers in their mouths, and um, they pretty much all do, right?)

Changing pad (SnoofyBee has the best one!)

Washable placemat (Busy Baby has the best one! )

Sunscreen (chemical-free with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide)

Sippy cup (the spill-proof kind for sure)

Snacks (pack what you think you’ll need and then multiply that by 10…just kidding…sort of)

Toys (like a little doll or sidewalk chalk)

Bib (the easy-clean kind)

Pacifiers (if you use them)

Clean Bees (Ok fine, The Bump didn’t actually say that. They suggested bringing a burp cloth to wipe up spills, but a Clean Bee will do that better in my [completely unbiased, wink, wink] opinion.)

If you’re traveling, they suggest adding the following:

More diapers (5-7 per day)

Basic first aid kit


Travel utensils

Laundry detergent

Socket protectors

Change of clothes

Extra little things to keep your kiddo entertained

While I think this list above is truly excellent and comprehensive (without going overboard), if there's anything I've learned through this journey of motherhood, it's this: one, trust your gut, and two, the other parents in your life often have the greatest advice. So while this list is awesome, why not ask your trusted parent friends their thoughts on the matter? 

Back when I was choosing a preschool for the Little Bee, I consulted my friend (a stellar elementary teacher who lives in my area) where she sent her child. I then set up a tour of that school and went for it. Turned out to be one of the best decisions I've ever made along this parenting adventure. That school was truly stellar.