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Adoption Gift Registry

Gift Registry for a Toddler

By Amalah

Dear Amy,

All your little boys are preshus! Nom!  After several adoption losses and struggling with infertility for years, it’s finally going to happen for my husband and I.  We are adopting a boy from China. (Interesting side note:  He doesn’t have a belly button because of surgery scars…we’re going to have great fun with making up stories about that one!) 

Advice Smackdown ArchivesIt’s our first child and he’ll be somewhere between 20 and 24 months when we bring him home.  So, since you’re so learned about boys and toddlers and what they need and what is the crap that everyone thinks we need but we don’t, could you pretty please help us by giving us a guide to what we should register for?

I know how to prepare for an infant, and we even have all of that stuff from our first adoption, which was disrupted. But…um, what in holy frijoles do we need for a 2 year old that only speaks Mandarin Chinese?  Any guidance you could provide would be so super awesome.  Also, as far as we know there aren’t any special needs or developmental delays to consider, if that informs any of your advice!


Well, my goodness, congratulations!! That’s just all-around awesome news, and deserving of extra exclamation points. Here –> !!!!!!!

And then: OOOF. Registering for a two-year-old little boy. The problem with two-year-old little boys is that they are all wildly, wildly different. Noah sat in a high chair or booster seat until he was two-and-a-half. Ezra refused to sit in either by 18 months. Noah was all trains, trains and more trains; Ezra preferred imitative play like toy food and doctor sets. Noah hated toddler ride-on toys; Ezra loved them. Noah loved his little push-walker toy that looked like a lawnmower; Ezra only wanted to push doll strollers or toy grocery carts around. Noah never cared for stuffed animals or loveys; Ezra still cannot go to sleep without a strict line-up of specific toys and blankies. They never wore the same size clothing or shoes at the same age. Even their favorite books were different.

But still, you’ll probably want a good assortment of toys with wheels and things that go (trains, cars, airplanes). A lot of simple picture books. BALLS. Bubbles. Puzzles. Blocks and things that stack and nest and are fun to knock over. Bath toys!  Some kind of ride-on toy he can scoot around on, or push around if he’s not a fan of riding. And everything on this list. And I’m sure there are specific-to-adoption books and gift ideas that our intrepid commenters can chime in with.

As for big-ticket gear and other essentials, here are things we used well into the older-toddler years, more or less:

Stroller: What type of stroller is totally a personal choice, and dependent on your lifestyle. We use a Maclaren Triumph from 6+ months old for short trips around the suburbs (like shopping), or when I’m out solo and don’t want anything heavy or hard to fold up. For trips to downtown DC or the zoo or any place that requires a lot of walking on uneven terrain, we have a Phil & Teds (technically ours is the double stroller). If you put a gun to my head and made me chose one stroller type or the other, I’d MAYBE give the Maclaren the barest edge for being lighter and easier, but then I’d cry for the Phil & Teds and ask you why you’re being all psychopathic over a stroller, I LIKE HAVING BOTH.

Carrier: I’d suggest the Ergo or the Babyhawk. Personally we have an Ergo and while it’s certainly not the prettiest carrier in the world, it’s by far my favorite one for carrying a heavier, older child. Plus, it’s super-adjustable so Jason and I can both use the same one, and while it is fairly structured and padded, you can still wad it up and shove it in a bag or under a car seat. (Unlike some of the other, more hardcore backpack-style carriers.) I love love loved carrying Ezra around on my back from about eight months old until…well, whenever he’ll still let me. Which isn’t much at almost-three, but sometimes I can still coax him.

Toddler bibs: Look for fuller-coverage styles with POCKETS to catch drips and dropped food. I like the molded ones by Baby Bjorn, but fabric styles are better for shoving in a diaper bag.

Toddler utensils: He may prefer to eat mostly with his hands, but it’s still a good idea to always have a small fork or spoon (or training chopsticks) available to work on those motor skills. And sippy cups with straws are better for oral motor and speech development than the ones with spouts.

High chair or booster seat: Depending on your son’s exact age, you might not end up using a high chair for that long, but if he’s used to being strapped in at mealtimes, it’s probably best to continue that at home. Just don’t spend a ton of money on one, unless it’s one of those fancy convertible types (like Stokke) and someone else is buying it for you. Heh. We use a simple, no-frills high chair from Ikea, then graduate the boys to a folding travel booster seat that straps to a chair. (Splash mats for the floor are also a very good idea for toddlers.)

Pack-n-Play: MAYBE. Depends. Are you planning to travel with him to meet family? Go on vacation? Will he sleep in a crib at home for awhile longer? How heavy is he? We’ve used the CRAP out of our Pack-n-Play, but of course, in the end, it’s a small crib with a 30-pound weight limit. I don’t know if you’d personally find it as useful as we have. Maybe something to score secondhand on Craigslist. (Though Ezra has been sleeping in a bed since around 27 months old, he’s still several pounds away from 30, so we could still technically use this in a pinch.)

Personal care: A combination shampoo/body wash for sensitive skin, free of fragrance or parabens or all that sketchy stuff. Same for a body lotion. Toothbrush and toddler toothpaste. Diaper rash creams. Nail clippers. A good digital thermometer. (I like the in-ear type, but a rectal thermometer is good to have to double-check for accuracy in case the numbers seem scary-high.) Tylenol, Motrin, earache drops. A room humidifier and those plug-in vapor things for colds. Band-Aids, Neosporin and ice packs for the many, many falls and bonks and boo-boos.

Baby Sign Language Books/DVDs: Since communication might be an issue for your guys, sign language might be a good way to bridge the language gap. I don’t know if there are any sign language resources in Mandarin Chinese, but the set we use (Signing Time) gives the English word (like “drink”)  followed by lots and lots of examples of children demonstrating the word/action/feeling that your son would probably still get the idea. (Plus the words are relatively simple vocab words that should be easy for you to look up and learn the Chinese equivalent for him.)

Fellow parents of current and former two-year-olds? What am I forgetting here? What can’t-live-without gear or gadget got you through the toddler years?

Photo credit: Thinkstock

Published August 15, 2011. Last updated December 14, 2017.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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