So you’re going to be a father. Congrats! You’re about to enter the most awesome and most terrifying stage of your life! Starting today, your life is going to get complicated; there’s so much to think about, so many things to buy, and so many things you’re going to need to baby-proof.
But enough of that baby talk. You need some gear – that is, non-baby gear – to make fatherhood easier. And while we can tell you about the coolest crib sheets, best baby monitors, or the bottles that won’t give your kid gas, we’d rather have a man-to-man about all the things you haven’t yet considered
Want to know about all the gear us 8BitDads use to transform themselves into superheroes? Then read on.
Here are the items that our team of writers at 8BitDad says you’ve got to own before the baby comes. We focused mainly on the stuff you’ll want for yourself – and the stuff that has worked best for us! We split it into a couple of categories for you, so if you’re ready to cry foul that your pick isn’t on our list, hang in until the end.
Bed Rest Pillow (Zach Rosenberg):
You’re going to spend a lot of time on the floor once you’ve got a tiny human in your house. Whether you’re down there for “tummy time” or just to play with or feed your baby, it’s going to get tiring leaning against the side of the couch. A good body pillow can be a great accessory for anyone, really, but for fathers, it’s a back-saving bag of awesome. I spent the first year on the floor, playing with my son. Then I spent the second year letting him crawl and walk all over me. And now that my son’s three years old, I still use the body pillow when I’m down on the floor building things with blocks or playing cars. And the kid likes it too – since it’s bigger than his body, it’s like he’s able to use it while he’s vegging out with television or playing cars on the floor. Bed rest pillows seem like such a minor thing to remember to buy before a baby arrives, but your back will thank you. And if you get a sports or super hero themed one, you can pass it down to your kid (provided it survives, which it won’t).
A Well-Made Rocking Chair (Nicholaus Noles):
Let’s be honest. We’ll do anything to get the baby to sleep. Bouncing, walking, driving, ANYTHING! Unfortunately, you can only bounce, walk, or drive for so long before you start feeling the strain on your body or your finances. Instead of going with one of these intensive options, buy a comfortable, high quality rocking chair or glider, and start rocking. I prefer a smaller-sized La-Z-Boy recliner myself. The big ones are cushiony, but they are also more work to rock. Most people can rock indefinitely in a small chair, and if you get stuck under a sleeping baby, you can just lean back for a nice co-nap.
A Small Food Processor (Nicholaus Noles):
If you’re one of those homemade baby food types (my wife and I were), then you’ll want to skip over the packaged baby food production sets and go straight for a small but powerful food processor (Editor’s Note: check out 8BitDad’s demo of the Baby Brezza). Even if you buy prepared baby food, a small food processor can be handy for chopping up “people food” for your child. Until kids have a full set of molars, you’re going to see pristine corn, beans, and nuts in their diapers, and if it’s identifiable, then you child didn’t get any calories or vitamins from eating it. A few turns in a processor means that your child is going to get more nutrition from their food, and processors can chop hard-to-eat (pieces of meat) or messy food (like spaghetti) into a more manageable shape and size. An inexpensive 3-cup food processor is a good addition to any kitchen.
A Deep Freezer (Justin Aion):
Buy it, put it in the basement, fill it with pre-made meals. Do it. Do it now! In the months before the kid arrives, you should be making at least two meals a week with the sole purpose of putting them in the freezer for when you don’t/can’t cook. Fill it with ice cream, ice pops, tater tots, steaks, and whatever happens to be in the other food groups (Beans? Chili? I don’t know! I’m not Jillian Micheals!).
A Library of More Than Just Baby Books (Tom Burns):
If you’re expecting a baby, chances are, someone you know right now is buying you a copy of Goodnight Moon or The Runaway Bunny. It’s a scientific fact. For every family with 2.5 children in the United States, there are probably 7.5 copies of Goodnight Moon or The Runaway Bunny cluttering up their closets. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I think it’s incredibly important to expose your kids to all different kinds of books at a young age and that means more than just stocking their bedroom shelves with board books and picture books. For example, before your kid arrives, buy a world atlas. A big one. With TONS of pictures. Because, at some point, your child is going to start asking you about the great big outside world and being able to pull an Atlas off the shelf and show them exactly where Zanzibar is will make you look like a wise old wizard. Buy big coffee table books full of panoramic views of ocean life, architecture, deserts, machinery, old cars, new cars, technology, nature – whatever you think could possibly interest your child one day. Buy beautiful reference books like The Way Things Work by David Macaulay or illustrated anatomy books that break down the various systems of the human body. And just leave these books lying around your house, waiting for your kid to discover them. Granted, I know all of this information is now available to you at a touch on your iPad, but buying books like this – books that aren’t necessarily designed for kids, but that definitely speak to things that kids are interested in – is a fantastic way to teach kids about the joys of reading and about the power of discovering and browsing through the details of the wide, wild world all on their own. A young mind can’t develop on bedtime and bunny books alone.
Keys to ALL of the Doors in Your House (Justin Aion):
“These doors don’t lock!” Yes they do, dummy! Your kids will figure out how to lock them, so you’d better know how to unlock them, from both sides! Doors in rooms that your kids will never visit? Find the keys! A closet in the basement that’s hidden behind some drywall? FIND THE KEY!
Multi-tool (Zach Rosenberg):
As part of your new role as super hero, you need to be able to solve any problem life throws at you. Need to open a FedEx envelope? Need to replace AAA batteries in a kid’s toy? Need to pull a wedding ring out of the garbage disposal? Open a beer? Gut a fish? Start a fire? Open a beer? Cut down a branch? Did we say open a beer? Well…a multi-tool can do all of those things, and it can also open a beer. Oh wait, we already said…anyway. You don’t have to be an outdoorsman to need a multi-tool. For the indoorsman, a tool like this is just as important for the reasons mentioned above, as well as your average day-to-day stuff. Some people carry pocket knives on them daily “just in case”. Well, you can one-up them. Check out our review of the Gerber Bear Grylls survival tools that we just posted this week and see why you might need one of these bad boys in your life.
Diaper Bag / “Dad-Pack” (Zach Rosenberg):
Well, obviously you’re going to need a place to carry some of this stuff, but you also need a bag where you can carry a couple of diapers, wipes, snacks, water and toys. Diaper bag companies are starting to address the fatherhood market, and not just by making mom’s diaper bag black or blue. Diaper Dude makes a couple of cool-looking bags, and are burly enough to continue using on business or fishing trips after potty training’s come and gone. And sure, you could pick up a cheap messenger bag or duffel, but diaper bags usually include a changing mat, and a lot of compartments. Those compartments come in huge when you take a business trip and want to stack your carry-on luggage with your phone, portable gaming system (like the Nintendo 3DS or Sony PSVita), chargers, iPad and other tech stuff (or your above-mentioned multi-tool, which you’re going to not want to bring to an airport). Think of the more cool, dad-minded diaper bags as a laptop sling with more function…that you also get to use for outings with your baby. Or the other way around, whichever sounds more awesome to you.
Water/Slobber-Resistant Phone Cover (Justin Westbrook):
If there is one thing that babies and younger children are curious about, it’s that shiny glowing block of light and sound that you keep in your pocket – your phone! Babies think they are delicious, and toddlers love button-mashing just as much as you do. Younger children enjoy talking to their grandparents on your phone, and, if you have a smartphone, probably enjoy playing games on them, even though your phone was designed to be held by adult hands. So with all the drool, and spills, and drops, and smashing that your phone is about to endure as a parent, it would be wise to invest in a protective cover for your phone. I like the rubbery ones that help resist moisture, protect your phone, and reduce the inevitable cracking noise that occurs when your phone gets dropped.
Noise-Canceling Headphones (Justin Westbrook):
Whether you’re a hippie, a soldier in Afghanistan, a teacher, a graphics/video guy, a writer, or a dude that built stuff for the FBI, you’re probably going to require the use of some headphones, especially if you’re trying to keep the house quiet during naptime, so you can continue PWN-ing n00bz in Quake II (people still play Quake II online, right? RIGHT??). Noise-canceling headphones help by serving a dual-purpose. They keep the house quiet while you’re fooling around trying to learn the tabs to every Weezer song ever made, but they also keep your brain quiet while you’re trying to catch up on some work you brought home, and your kids are trying to get 100% in every song on Rock Band: Weezer Edition.
A Point-and-Shoot Camera (Huck Starnes):
As someone who grew up with a dark room in his house and has always loved photography I am constantly stunned when I see people taking, what to me look like, amazingly important photos of their kids using a cell phone. Now don’t get me wrong, I use my cell phone camera all the time, but like every tool it has it’s place. For example, if I’m in the world and I need to tighten a screw then it’s a no brainier that I’m using my Gerber multi-tool. But if I’m in my garage working on the motorcycle then I’m going to use my Snap-on screwdriver. You can buy a decent point and shoot camera for $99 or a really nice one for $299. I carry a Panasonic DMC-ZS7 with me at all times, which is a little bulkier then some cameras (about the size of 1.5 cassette cases) but it shoots HD video with a stereo mic and has an AMAZING lens, which is the real key. I also have an Extreme III SD card that lets me shoot rapid fire with no lag between shots. Finally, share your images. I post a few pictures on Facebook for our widest group of friends, but I also have a private Flickr page that I post 1-15 pictures everyday for our closest friends and family. At first I thought it was going to take too long, but I do it in the mornings while drinking my coffee and reading 8BitDad, and it only takes 5 minutes. I also make it a point to print nice quality images and mail them to people every month. It’s the best $1 you can spend on making someones day, and if you go to a nice shop (like Wolf or Ritz) you can get matte prints with white borders that are amazing at about $0.14 each, (and beat the Walmart/Target/Drug stores that use compact Fuji or Kodak machines).
(Editor’s Note: for the next step up from point-and-shoot, check out our review of the Olympus PEN E-PM1)
Emergency “Parent and Kid” Kits for Your Car (Tom Burns):
Part of being a successful parent is developing the ability to anticipate problems. Any good parent has an innate Spidey sense. They can look at where a situation is heading, extrapolate an outcome, and develop a plan or preventative measure on the fly and as fast as possible. To that end, it helps to be prepared. That’s why I always enjoyed putting together very specific emergency kits for our cars in an effort to anticipate any parental situation that I might not be planning for. And I’m not talking about road flares or jumper cables. I’d actually pack a bag or Tupperware tub with a wide variety of items to leave in our car indefinitely, just in case an unanticipated problem arose. How obsessive was I? Well, a common kit might include – extra diapers and/or underwear, a change of clothes (total set for the baby, extra t-shirts for the parents), a sweater, non-perishable snacks, Band-aids, antibacterial hand wash, bottled water, a towel, swimsuits (pool parties occur at the drop of a hat), sunscreen, stickers and lollipops (treat incentives), some cash and a roll of quarters, toothbrush and toothpaste, shampoo, baby wipes, a first-aid kit, disposable sippy cups, plates, and silverware, extra house keys, AA batteries (why not), crayons, deodorant, breath mints, emergency phone numbers (in case your cell dies), pens, a hairbrush, Ziploc bags in multiple sizes (SO useful)… the list could go on and on. And take note that some of that stuff is kid-specific and some is very parent-specific. Because you have to factor yourself into the equation. Yes, it’s great that you packed extra binkies and pajamas, but what if someone throws up on you? Or you lose your house keys? Or don’t have any change for the parking meter at the children’s museum? Anticipating your child’s problems is a big part of being a parent, but you’ve also got to remember that YOU are going to have a ton of your own problems, so any pre-work you can do to make your life easier down the road will be greatly appreciated.