Oh, how I love spring cleaning!

No, I’m not joking: I actually look forward to, and even revel in, decluttering and organizing my house each spring. I’m certainly not a super-organized person; one look inside any of my closets would make that perfectly clear, but even with my very concerted efforts to avoid the avalanche of “stuff” that comes with raising kids, we need to do some purging in our house. I’ve written before about how much I love the annual “swap meets” our town’s mothers’ group hosts, and I am really looking forward to our spring swap and tag sale event. It’s satisfying to see used items make their way into happy homes where they will continue to be used and appreciated for years to come. I love the feeling of not contributing to our earth’s overflowing landfills, and I love avoiding using more of our planet’s precious resources to make more plastic junk we just don’t need. And of course, I love saving money– both my own and that of my fellow parents!

This year, spring cleaning feels somewhat different: my “young child” years are coming to a close. It’s bittersweet for sure, but we need significantly less gear these days, with an almost 4 and 6 year old, than we have in years. No high chairs, pack and plays, playpens, nursing pillows, bottles, sippy cups, diapering accoutrement, dull plastic cutlery, gates, etc. Granted lots of it has slowly trickled out to friends who had babies soon after I did, but I’ve suddenly realized even the “babyish toys” in our playroom are accumulating a thick layer of dust these days. Sad but true…we are moving on, folks.

So, in light of the fact that the “Baby Through Preschool Years” are ending, here are the items that were really worth owning…the things I will actually have a harder time parting with (or maybe keep for nieces, nephews, or grandkids).  Looking for a gift for the 0-3 year old set? Winners, right here!

I am not endorsing any specific brands in this list. I highly recommend trying out multiple versions of each items to find the best one for your own needs! 🙂

*A great baby carrier. Especially with kid #2, when I needed my hands free to wrangle a 2 year old while also caring for a baby, this was essential. If you’re shopping for a shower gift, go with a gift card to a store that sells many brands of baby carriers, and offer to go with your mom-to-be to help pick it out after baby arrives. I had the one I thought I wanted, then found I hated it once an actual baby was in it. Try before you buy!

*A jogging stroller. I am no great runner. But I do appreciate quality engineering when out for a walk, at a fair, etc. Cheap strollers are horrible to push for any length of time other than 10 minutes. And forget it if you’re going over any terrain other than smooth asphalt. I found a great jogging stroller, used, on good old Craigslist!

*Blocks, and lots of them! Blocks are the go-to toy in our house. They build homes for stuffed animals, they’re part of “cities” with our train set, clear ones have been used as lanterns with battery-operated tea lights inside. We love many varieties, from the basic wooden ones to the magnetic ones to the giant Lego-style ones for little hands.

*Carefully chosen books. I love all books, mostly, but I can’t even bring myself to part with carefully chosen books from friends. My six year old still has a few “little kid” books that he likes to read. If you see a great children’s book, it’s always a good gift choice for the kid in your life!

*Homemade blankets. I’ve heard some people scoff at blankets as shower gifts, but I am here to say I love every single homemade blanket I received for my kids. Not only do I remember exactly who made each one for us, but my boys still sleep with their favorite ones! This kind is the favorite with my kids, and it doesn’t even require sewing.

*Tote bags, preferable with zip tops. I am forever packing up something for someone in this family. In the early years, I would use canvas zip-top totes to carry extra diapers and clothes in the trunk of the car. Then, it transitioned to holding a stash of baby and toddler snacks. Now, I have one in the trunk filled with snacks, hand wipes, and paper towels. This summer, we will use them for bathing suits and towels. Always a great gift that can be useful for years to come!

What would you add to this list? Any “essentials” that you found especially useful? Share them below!