Cots: If your grandchild is going to be a frequent visitor and stay overnight, you’ll probably end up needing more than a simple travel cot. These collapsible mesh and plastic designs are brilliant for the early days but the children grow out of them as soon as they can climb! So my tip would be to hunt down a wooden collapsible cot. These look like any other cot when erected but concertina down for easy storage…and this is a great boon as anyone who’s had to continually put up and take down a standard cot will testify. So, if space is tight and you don’t have room to keep a wooden cot up all the time, a collapsible one that you can store in a cupboard is your answer.
Most cots today don’t come with mattress included…so be aware that you’ll usually incur an extra cost here.
Sleeping bags: today’s babies mostly seem to sleep in ‘bags’ …so no need for expensive bedding, cot sheets are all that’s required.
A towel spread on a spare bed makes a great changing mat.
Black-out fabric: some of today’s ‘gurus’ insist that babies rooms must be pitch black. So in summer you may find you’ll need either additional black-out fabric linings for your curtains or blackout blinds for your grandchild’s room. It’s possible to buy plastic online which does the job really well. You buy it by the roll and cut it to fit your window size then just place it on the glass where it sticks. It’s expensive but probably a good investment in the long run as it can be used in different rooms and means you can return your spare room/child’s sleeping place to normal in no time at all.
Baby Monitor: I wasn’t convinced I needed one of these as I was sure I’d hear our first grandson’s cries but daughter-in-law wanted me to have one, so I did and I used it until I felt confident enough to rely on my ears alone.
Out and about
Push-chairs/buggies/strollers – whatever you call them they can be a big investment and a big bug-bear! Bear in mind that many of today’s collapsible push-chairs are designed like umbrellas: they fold up length-wise for easy access to public transport. But if you don’t need to take your grand-children on buses and trains, you may find it simpler to find one that simply folds in half….ie collapses downwards. These seem to be far, far easier to operate and this is helpful for our age group. Struggling with arthritic fingers, or an arthritic brain that won’t recollect from one use to another just how the thing collapses can be a real nightmare with a screaming child desperate to get indoors into the warm or out of the rain!
I felt I needed a degree in how to operate my grandson’s first stroller and felt so foolish when I couldn’t get it up or down! I was mightily relieved when I learned that the other set of grandparents experienced exactly the same difficulty which proved it wasn’t just us being thick!
Eating and drinking
It seems to me you can never have too many feeding bowls and cutlery nor bibs. Babies soon demand a spoon for themselves which means you need two for every meal, but then of course they get launched over the side of the high-chair again and again….so fresh, clean ones are required. Also, in our house, there are always left-overs, which I tend to keep ‘just in case’, so new bowls are needed at the next meal. The delightfully decorated tin plates are lovely for babies but once they start cutting up their own food, they scratch and mark. So plastic is better every time. And the spoons which change colour to indicate that food’s too hot are great.
The Ikea high chair is cheap and simple and dismantles for storage BUT I find the legs annoying as they stick out at an angle and constantly trip me up. So another time I’d choose one which collapses flat like an ironing board and can be stored away in a cupboard or against the wall.
I didn’t want to compromise on safety so I took my daughter-in-law’s advice here and settled for a reasonably cheap and cheerful one from a high street chain which conformed to all the safety standards. If you need to keep taking it in and out of the car, be sure it’s easy to fit.
We felt we really needed one of these for our steep set of stairs even though our son and daughter-in-law managed perfectly well without. Ours needs two hands to operate it, which makes it pretty well child proof, and it stays attached almost permanently which makes it quite awkward to squeeze through but it saves the fiddle of moving it. However, I also have a fabric one for our holiday home which is much less permanent, though equally safe, and would probably do just as well.
Not popular with young parents, but an asset for grandparents. We take our grandchildren to the river to feed the ducks and have always insisted that they wear reins for this. They think they have freedom to move about – which they appreciate – while we know that our light touch on the reins behind them are keeping them safe.
Charity shops are a treasure trove for toys. I was lucky enough to have one nearby which seemed to be constantly fed with a stream of toys perfectly suitable for the different stages of my first grandson’s development. We saved a fortune.
Now that both boys can sleep in a 'big bed', I've put the cot away – until the next time! I was sure I'd have to buy a pair of bed-guards for the little one as it was his first time in a bed but I didn't get round to it and he now sleeps very happily and has never fallen out! So a good lesson in how not to spend money unnecessarily!