It all starts with a flashback: I’m seven years old and it’s the day after my birthday. My mom somehow got suckered into is taking me to an earthly heaven – a pure, magical experience where I’m surrounded by every brand of toy, art kits, dress-up clothes, and photos of giant playhouses. I’m greeted by a giant giraffe, bright lights, and what seems like infinite options. I’m giddy, and I’m totally overwhelmed by the $20 birthday bill that is sizzling and burning a hole in my pocket. I’m going to pick out something AWESOME. I walk what seems like miles of aisles to my short legs, carefully inspecting each potential purchase, asking pint-sized questions to the sales associates, walking back over an aisle I’ve been through already to be totally sure I didn’t miss “the one”. The toy store practically glittered and the angels sang the moment I walked through the doors.
Present day: Now, I’m all grown up. As a mother of three daughters, ironically taking my kids to any toy store on earth is my number two worst nightmare (number one being that rodent themed restaurant that shall not be named). It’s funny how your perspective changes! Since my career is so baby-focused, my new toy store experience now is an amazing trade show called ABC Kids. Attending takes a lot more planning than a trip to Toys R’ Us, but the anticipation I experienced in my childhood is pretty much the same. I can’t sleep the night before. I have a minute by minute schedule planned for the entire trip– quite literally.
So I land. Instead of being greeted by a giant long-necked animal, I’m greeted by the glowing Las Vegas Strip. Sure, there will be parties to attend, people to see, and dancing to be had; but this year, I’m focused. My goal is to find cool, innovative, useful, creative, and new baby products to recommend to parents. I brought a pile of Band-Aids in my purse for the inevitable blisters I knew I would get because I decided to wear cute shoes instead of comfortable ones. My hair is done; I have my big girl wardrobe on to boost my confidence. I walk through the front doors. I take a deep breath, hug my best friend (yay, #babypeople), grab my badge, and head to the floor. The lights are so bright. Every booth is bustling with activity. There are tons of amazing people to say hi to, friends to connect with, and new relationships to build, and I’m ready to hit the miles of show floor ahead.
Here are a few of my favorite finds at ABC Kids 2016!
Most importantly, lunch. In previous years, I was so busy that I didn’t have time to eat. This year, I forced myself to take lunch breaks and scarf something down. David at Thirsties recommended sushi –at first I was skeptical because trade-show-floor-sushi doesn’t really sound like a great idea. I trusted him and went over to the sushi stand. Every. Single. Day. It was that good. Thanks, David!
Moving on. Cool baby stuff. Let’s go!
- Smart Bottoms. One of the first booths I stop at, of course! I won’t go into their rad diaper line right now, because I fell in love with their Haversack. It has interior pockets to fit cloth diapers, the shoulder strap can be tied to fit your shape and size perfectly. I’m short, so if a bag isn’t adjustable, it bangs on my knees and that doesn’t work for me – 2 points for Smart Bottoms! It includes a matching changing pad too. This particular print (Swiss Cross), fits so well with my personal style, so even though I don’t have kiddos in diapers anymore, I’d carry this bag anyway. www.smartbottoms.com
- Cosatto. Even the name sounds beautiful! This cool UK-based gear company had the cutest booth, when I walked by I just HAD to stop. Every baby would have fun hitching a ride on a flamingo stroller! Heck, I want to be pushed in it myself, holding a fruity drink with an umbrella. I’d list all the cool features of their many strollers, car seats, and highchairs, (take a peek at their Wow Travel System in Spectroluxe… I’m totally drooling) but really I just want you to go to their website and be inspired by all of their on-point colorways and design elements. They are truly one of a kind – they have the style and functionality that I wanted when I had my first baby. (You know, back when a certain yellow bear with a red t-shirt was on every gear item imaginable.) I can’t wait to see more from them! www.cosatto.co.uk
- Ju-Ju-Be. JJB is a fan favorite, and for those loyal fans, you might have already seen this. Let me tell you, it is even cuter in person. I am giddy with excitement to share the Itty Bitty Be with you! Now your little one can have their own mini-sized Be Classy bag. It comes in two prints, The Duchess and Unikiki 2.0, it has beautiful lining inside just like the grown-up version, and if your kids like to carry a bag like my daughters do, this is just the right size. It also has a mini changing pad that is cuter than a kitten, and it is available on November 15th. Don’t tell my kids what they are getting for Hanukkah this year! www.jujube.com
- XOXO Baby Carrier. There has been a lot of buzz about this carrier and I think it’s rightfully deserved. They have collaborated with Tekhni Wovens on the fabric, and the design is unlike anything else available. Made for a caregiver who loves the way a wrap feels but desires simplicity, the XOXO Buckle Wrap has very little learning curve and a whole lot of snuggle. xoxobaby.co
- Little Unicorn. Okay, let me breathe for a second. Fairy Garden print. Watercolor flowers. Gold Foil. Little Unicorn quality and luxurious softness. Quick, someone hand me a baby to snuggle up in this – because it’s coming soon! www.littleunicorn.com
- Bonnsu was started by two parents who were trying to find an alternative to melamine and plastic for feeding and tableware. Check out these fantastic sandwich plates and bowls, which now have removable dividers for separation and dipping. They are made out of bamboo, starch, and an emulsion – and they showed me the raw materials when I stopped by to check them out! I was surprised at the weight and quality of the dishes but even more so that when you are done using them, they are safe to burn and they break down in soil like plants do. www.bonnsu.com
- Mila Christina. Normally I’m not drawn to clothing at ABC – it just is a category that I really have never focused much on. Then I walked past Mila Christina. The real Mila’s mama makes delectable cashmere clothing for babies. Yes, CASHMERE. With perfect necklines that are so classy that it makes your little one irresistibly cute. And soft. And snuggly. And oh my gosh. What isn’t pictured here is the most stunning V-neck cashmere onesie for babies, so you’ll have to go to her site to see it for yourself. www.milachristina.us
- Taking the US by storm, Dockatot is a great option for caregivers who want to keep their babies close by at sleepy time. I love hot air balloons and couldn’t help but stare at this gorgeous cover. www.dockatot.com
- Moby Wrap. New Ring Sling. Do I have to say much more? At an awesome and surprisingly low price point, these lovely slings are perfect for both new and experienced wearers. www.mobywrap.com
- Yoee Baby. Yoee Baby is a developmental baby’s first toy that was inspired by the texture of a feather, when founder Jillian was trying to find ways to play with her new baby. Each one has a different interesting tactile experience, a cute character to look at, and will inspire your baby to start learning to interact. Yoee Baby is in their Kickstarter phase right now – but it won’t be long before this toy will become one of those give-at-every-baby-shower gifts! www.yoeebaby.com
- Brooklyn Owl. An ABC recap wouldn’t be complete without something totally random and fun. Brooklyn Owl makes sparkly unicorn horns for dress up, photo-ops, and basically to just put a smile on your face. I stopped by their booth with a friend, we threw celebratory confetti in the air, snapchatted and instagrammed, and we were both transported back to that time when we were seven, hunting for that perfect item in the many aisles of Toys R’ Us, and we FOUND THE ONE. Jackpot. www.brooklynowl.com