Nik’s Picks from the 2012 ABCKids Expo

This KidsExpo was my first as an “official” representative of the “media” that is DadLabs.com, and not just a volunteer minion. (http://www.dadlabs.com/forum/Lounge/General-Discussion/FanBoy-goes-to-ABC-Kids-Expo-Minion-Perspective.html) Having worked the show floor last year, and working more closely with DadLabs over the past year as community manager, I was prepared to BE DadLabs, but I was still very nervous. But Daddy Clay made me feel as if I had been a part of the team from the beginning and set me loose.

I’m a parent to a 4 year old. Finding, listening to a sales pitch, and writing about something that doesn’t have to do with parenting a 4 year old was going to be a challenge. I figured the best way to handle that challenge was to find a little something for parents of newborns, toddlers, and older kids. Here are a my favorite finds at the 2012 KidsExpo.

Newborn: The variety of baby monitors is immense, from one of our favorites (the Drop Cam – which wasn’t at the show), to the fairly mundane sound and video monitors. The SafeToSleep is a brand new idea just launched at the show, and really the only “tech” item that really caught my eye. This is a flat device that uses fiberoptics to monitor your baby’s breathing patterns. It will alert you with any significant change in the pattern, if there is distress, or when breathing and motion indicate that your baby is awake. While it has not been reviewed by the American Academy of Pediatrics*, it has been tested in hospitals and by pediatricians. (*The AAP recommends nothing in a crib with your baby. Though those recommendations refer to stuffed animals, pillows, and other items that could cause strangulation or suffocation hazards.) The SafeToSleep monitor doesn’t show any possibility of either, and its purpose is to alert you of any distress in breathing in the first place. While it is not required, the SafeToSleep will interface with your iPad or iPhone seamlessly. (A basic remote monitor is included if you don’t have a smart phone.) Set up is quick and easy and you can be monitoring your baby’s next nap within 5 minutes of opening the box. Oh, an added bonus, you can play any audio from your iTunes library directly to the mat. From lullaby mp3s, to your favorite bedtime story. Imagine the possibilities! If Mommy or Daddy is going away from home on a business trip or military deployment, you could record them reading a favorite story and play it for the baby at bedtime directly through the monitor.  At $349, the price is steep when compared to other monitors, but maybe it’s because I’m just a couple of weeks into the smart phone world, I would love to have this to monitor “TheNextOne’s” sleeping habits. You can read more about this new monitor at www.safetosleep.com.

Toddler: We love products that emerge from simple ideas and daily life. One of our biggest transitions was beginning to travel more once TheBoy was a bit older and more mobile. And with that mobility came the nerves and need to “baby proof” our domain. But what do you do when that domain is a hotel room? Or Grandma’s house? A place not accustomed to full time baby occupancy? You could spend about $70 and put together a DIY baby proof travel kit in a ziplock bag, loaded with “a finger pinch guard, electrical outlet plug covers, foam corner guards, door knob cover, cord wind-up, sliding door lock, cabinet lock, multi-purpose straps, water thermometer, bandages, forehead thermometer, and a sleeping baby door hanger,” OR you can spend a fraction of that for the Travel-Tot childproofing kit that includes all of those. The added genius of this kit is the partnering with 3M to provide reusable and non-damaging adhesives so you don’t have to worry about permanently childproofing a hotel room, or ruining Grandmas antique furniture. Everything packs neatly into it’s own box simplifying storage and travel. I will say that my own neurosis would require adding just one more thing… a check list with all the items, so that I didn’t forget any devices I had deployed to save the lil’ rugrat from injury. You can buy the Travel-Tot kit at some hotel gift shops as well as amazon.com. For more information visit www.travel-tot.com.

Preschool and older: This is the category I was REALLY excited about, as my son is 4 years old. So, TheBoy has been through 4 swim class sessions in the past year and is starting his 5th. All of these have been at the lowest skill level, which has been a bit frustrating (for me, not him). Because progression has been elusive, I hope the Konfidence swim vest will change that. With a new session starting only 2 days after the show, this item practically jumped off the rack at me. Konfidence believes in water training and safety for infants as well as toddlers and young kids. Their products run the full age range including baby “nappies” that are going to be warmer and more comfy than disposable swim diapers, all the way up to wet suit like vests for 6-7 year olds. The infant suits are impressive in that everything folds and velcros AROUND the baby, so there is no struggling to put the suit on or take it off. We discussed my son and his lack of progress and they showed me what appeared to be a simple “floaty” type neoprene vest. It will hold the child above water in an safe and upright position, without the fatigue associated with typical “water wings.” But what really makes the Konfidence vest so unique, is that the floatation foam blocks are removable! Pockets on the inside of the vest are clearly marked and as your lil’ swimmer gains confidence in the water, you can remove blocks (in pairs for proper balance) until the floatation of the vest is no longer needed. It surprised me to learn this company had been around for 14 years in the UK. They’ve been in the states for about 3 years, but this was their first KidsExpo. I am truly grateful as they were so kind to give me a vest for TheBoy to try. Watch for our full review in a few weeks. Visit www.konfidence.co.uk for more information.

Bonus item! In the forums, I have reviewed an inflatable travel car seat before. And I have since learned that that seat is no longer considered safe in the UK. This is unfortunate as I truly feel it served us well, and safely, on our trip. But the BubbleBum goes further.

The BubbleBum is and inflatable booster for older children who have graduated from the car seat to a more simple bottom booster. When unrolled, the internal foam practically inflates the seat for you, but you will still need to give it a couple (yes, just two, MAYBE three) breaths to fully inflate the seat. The BubbleBum seat is safer because the straps for your car’s safety belts are not attached directly to the inflatable part. Any stress on the straps does not risk deflating the seat, and the internal foam virtually prevents a complete deflation should a puncture occur. Parents love the black seat, but purple is the color of choice from the kiddos! This seat will absolutely serve you well when traveling or for anyone who doesn’t shuttle kids every day. For a bit of on the road distraction for the wee one, there’s also a BubbleBum app with tic tac toe, bubble wrap popper, roadtrip bingo/scavenger hunt, and a traffic jam puzzle game (that is quite addictive – I’ve solved all but the last mind boggling level). The seat retails for $40. The app is free! You can check out the BubbleBum inflatable travel seat at www.bubblebum.us.

Thanks again to BabyBjorn for hosting DaddyClay and I, and helping with makeup. I had a blast once again as a minion, media man, fan, and as a Dad.