I need a crash course in living with a baby.
June 13, 2013 7:33 AM   Subscribe

We just took in an 11 month old foster baby. People want to give us things but we have no idea what we really need. What do you (and your one year old) love to use and consider essential?

His mom sent: formula, bottles, pacifiers, diapers, clothes, a car seat.

We have a pack 'n play that he's currently sleeping in and a few toys I've borrowed from the preschool where I work. Everyone in our network wants to help out, buy things, etc. but we have no idea what we even need. Also, because our age range is 0 - 14 years we haven't been reading books and doing research about babies so we feel like we lack basic knowledge.

He is right on track developmentally, he points, babbles, walks very well, is eating table food (and bottles still) and sleeps pretty well.

Here are the main problems we probably need material solutions for:

Baths - the first night I put on a swimsuit (foster care weirdness!) and get in the tub with him. He was kind of okay with it but it was uncomfortable. The next night we tried the sink and he was not having it. What does one wash a baby in?

Outings - stroller? wearing him? my husband and I are both probably fit enough to wear him even though he's fairly heavy. He loves to walk but in the store this is not feasible.

Entertainment - I'm pretty anti noise making (electronic noise making), light up toys but if you think they're great can you recommend some? What other amusements did/does your baby enjoy? So far his favorite things to play with are the broom and our basset hound (not usually at the same time).

Night time - bed time is hard. I'm fairly certain this is mostly due to the fact that his whole life has been upended and everything is wrong. However, once he gives up and sleeps (around 7:30) he sleeps until about 4 am, wakes up and we change diaper and give him a bottle and he sleeps until we have to wake him at 6:30. Any recommendations about nighttime routines, items to ease bedtime would be helpful. He also needs a crib and mattress and the variety in price and features of crib mattresses is stunning.

Possible complicating factors:
- budget (since we're going to have to buy most of this all at once.).
- space. We like to be wise about how easy things will be to store since our next placement may or may not be a baby.
- speed. We'd like to buy most of the stuff this weekend so brick and mortar might be easiest for expediency's sake.

I know that's a lot but we are panicking about baby!
posted by Saminal to Shopping (39 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Bath - a baby bathtub that fits in your tub. But the cheapest/plainest - you don't need anything fancy.
posted by googly at 7:42 AM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]

Baths - the first night I put on a swimsuit (foster care weirdness!) and get in the tub with him. He was kind of okay with it but it was uncomfortable. The next night we tried the sink and he was not having it. What does one wash a baby in?

At that age we were using the regular bath, with 3-5 inches of water (enough to cover his legs when he's sitting down). Put fun stuff in there - bath toys, bubbles, plastic cups, etc. Use a plastic cup/beaker to pour water over him. Sometimes we'll lay him back which makes washing/rinsing hair a little easier, but our guy loves playing with bath toys so we usually leave him sitting. Encourage splashy funtimes :)

Outings - stroller? wearing him? my husband and I are both probably fit enough to wear him even though he's fairly heavy. He loves to walk but in the store this is not feasible.

Either is fine, just do whatever's most convenient for you. We have both but only use the carrier for walking in the countryside as however light he is it can get tiring after a while.

What other amusements did/does your baby enjoy? So far his favorite things to play with are the broom and our basset hound (not usually at the same time).

Wooden blocks, which were used for (in this order), chewing, banging together, knocking down parent-built towers, and then constructing baby-built towers (and then knocking those down). Also Duplo Lego for the same uses (and also a bit of hand-eye coordination trying to connect them together). Our kid has also become fascinated with cleaning devices and we got him (at 13 months) a toy vacuum cleaner which he loves (but still prefers the full-size version!).


From pretty early we established a routine: dinner, bath, get into PJs, read a story (or not if too tired/not interested) while drinking bottle of milk, fall asleep on parent, bed. This was later modified (around 12-13 months) to putting him down while still half-awake to encourage self-settling (there were a few days of "controlled crying" there but it was surprisingly quick to go from 10 minutes of crying before falling asleep to going straight into the cot while not-quite-asleep and not stirring at all - YMMV).


Get as many second-hand/hand-me-downs as you can. Ask friends/relatives with older kids if they have anything spare, and check eBay etc (especially for local auctions with "pick-up only" in Delivery Options).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:45 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Wonderful of you to do this!

Quick things:

1. You don't need much! A stroller is probably best for outings, and a plastic baby tub (that you'll use set inside your main tub) is what you want. Second-hand stores are great for these kinds of things if you don't mind buying used stuff.

2. Blocks, giant plastic animals, bubbles are all good for these ages. Plastic stuff in your kitchen might work just fine for a lot of amusement -- stacking rubbermaid containers, measuring spoons and cups,, etc.

3. The sleeping schedule you describe isn't bad at all for an 11-month old who's just been through an upheaval. It'll probably get better.
posted by pantarei70 at 7:47 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Just stick the 11 month old in the bath and sit outside the tub and let him play. He'll be fine if you a) don't fill the tub up much beyond his belly button and b) if you don't leave him alone.

An inexpensive umbrella stroller will do you for now. It'll actually be cheaper than anything you could wear an 11 month old in, anyway. And it won't take up any space when folded up.

Books. Light up toys. Toys that make noise. Blocks of any kind. Stuffed animals. Basically, anything he can't choke on.

Night time routine ---- do what works. Really. Just do one routine for two weeks to let him get used to it. Don't change it. And hopefully he'll adjust. If after a week and a half, he hasn't adjusted that well, then look into changing up the routine. But it honestly sounds like you're doing fine.

No, really.

posted by zizzle at 7:49 AM on June 13, 2013 [19 favorites]

Baths: By that age our baby was just sitting in the tub for baths and we'd either join her or sit/kneel just outside the tub. Our plastic baby tub was not useful at that age.

Outings: If you want to try babywearing, maybe check out an Ergo. There are myriad other options, but people generally like the Ergo and it's sturdy enough to hold a toddler. Is there a local babywearing support group where you live? You might be able to borrow something.

Toy ideas: Board books, small kitchen utensils, bowls, percussion instruments (maracas and tambourine), these cars

Watch your Craigslist for stuff!

And yeah, sounds like you're doing great.
posted by thirteenkiller at 7:53 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Wow, this is awesome!

It sounds like you've got it under control. His sleep schedule is pretty good.

The regular tub is fine, with just a few inches of water. Get him some bath toys and you both can be in there for an hour. Duckies, sponges, boats. He'll love it.

Does he have a stuftie, lovie, blankie? Poor thing probably needs a comforting item.

Wooden blocks are good, and they don't make noise. I'm not a fan of screen time for little kids, but there are some shows on Sprout that little ones will quiet down and watch if you need some time to cook dinner or pay bills.

The cheapo umbrella stroller is fine for outings.

You can buy all the toys in the world, and your baby will most enjoy a wooden spoon and a toilet paper roll. Paper and crayons are good, encourage him to color and draw. If he likes a superhero, some age appropriate toys are fun.

Playskool and Fisher-Price have fun things. The popcorn vacuum cleaner and telephone are things I had when I was a kid 48 years ago!

Congratulations! It sounds like you got an awesome little dude there!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:02 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

An 11mo still doesn't need much more than food and clothes. And lots of positive attention. If he is already pulling up to standing, it won't be long before he's walking (I don't know about foster care rules, but it would be a kindness to the parents and child if you could take some videos as he's developing and drop them onto a dvd. Missing first steps can be a heart-breaker). When he starts walking he will start exploring. Picking up objects, opening cabinets, etc. You don't need fancy cabinet locks - if your cabinets have knobs, you can wrap a hairband or rubber band around the two knobs to keep them from opening.

Baths - at that age we sat in the bath with our LO, no need for a fancy bath seat. He was probably uncomfortable just because it was an unfamiliar situation/person. He'll get used to it within a week.

Outings - we encourage walking as much as our LO wants to, otherwise stroller (or at the grocery store, he can sit up in the cart). You need a stroller that is suited to your height, so you don't strain your back. There are a million recommendations, so it ends up being a personal choice. If you want a more expensive one, go the craigslist route, or consignment stores. In the meantime you can get an umbrella stroller at Toys R Us / Babies R Us for like $10. Try to join some mommy groups on facebook, people are always selling gently used items in good condition for good prices.

Entertainment - our LO is 2 now; we don't really let him look at tv, unless we are exhausted and we have the news on - no Dora, no Disney channel, etc. I am not ready to start listening to that crap all day. We also don't do electronic toys. Lots of balls in the house, cars, books. At that age, my LO loved to look at a book that had baby faces . We go outside for walks a lot.

Bedtime: The toughest question for all of my new(ish) parent friends. Seems like what you are doing is working. Sorry, having a baby means 4am feedings. Mine didn't give his up until about 18mos. Not sure you necessarily need to do the diaper change; mine never cried for a wet diaper, day or night, only for hunger. With a little more time you will learn what this baby needs.

Crib: We got an IKEA crib (converts to toddler bed) for about $150 (new) and a mattress from Amazon (bonus - free delivery) for about $90 (new). Do you have any idea of how long the child will be with you? If it's just a few weeks, you may not need to spring for a crib/toddler bed, especially if you anticipate that you could also have a child up to 14, for which you would need room for a single bed maybe? If you think it will be longterm, or you anticipate having a lot of younger children over time, then yes, maybe spring for a crib. But you have time, you don't have to decide today.

Amazon really is your friend here. In order to maximize the baby's getting comfortable with you, try to stay home and have downtime, don't drag him all over town. He is still on two naps a day, right? So he will get tired, fast. You've really only got about 2 good hours of outing time before you need to get home. Sign up for Amazon Mom for free delivery of items, you should be able to get a 3-month trial for free (just don't forget to deactivate your account at 3mos, or they will charge!)

We like Costco for diapers and wipes (Costco generic brand), probably formula too, although we didn't go the formula route. If he's on solids, at that age we offered lots of different steamed or roasted veggies, and just a little bit of protein (egg yolk, not egg white, a potential allergen; soft chicken, tofu - a good source of protein but also soy so watch for allergies there).

You may want to have some children's tylenol and children's motrin on-hand. The Target generic brand is just fine.

I can totally understand that your household is topsy-turvy right now. Like I said, try to keep everything slo-mo and relaxed so he gets comfortable. Usually this means one parent primarily devoted to childcare, and the other handling household duties - shopping, meals, etc. Don't be afraid to get a housekeeper a couple of times a month until you get a routine established.

Good for you for helping this child and his family!
posted by vignettist at 8:05 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Our 11-month old LOVES anything plastic that makes noise, like this guitar. Fisher Price and LeapFrog truly are your friend, they have some great stuff.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:11 AM on June 13, 2013

Bath: We were washing in the big tub, occasionally doing a shower. When doing a bath, we rarely joined him. Try varying the temperature and putting some fun things in there, until you find the right combination. Things my son found fun included plastic cups, rubber critters that would squirt water, and balls that couldn't get waterlogged, which are all things that can do double-duty outside of the tub. At that age he didn't need a bath every night.

Outings: This age was right when we were moving between carrying and stroller-ing and letting him walk. If I were to buy one thing at that age, I'd get a stroller. We've got an older model of this, it's basically one step above the bare minimum umbrella-type stroller, and we've been fine with it.

Entertainment: The balls and cups that you bought for the bath. Big chunky plastic blocks, for banging, chewing, and eventually building with. A baby doll and light blanket. Something like this that can be ridden or pushed around. Board books; my son was a danger to books with pages until about 16 months. Any old cell phone or remote control, cleaned and with the batteries removed. A stuffed squishy creature of some sort, in case he desires a lovey. My son loved pushing an upended laundry basket around at that age.

(These are things that the folks around you would LOVE to buy; he'll be fine with the broom and dog and maybe some measuring cups for a week or two. Many of these things can "age up"; our toddler now plays games with the balls he chewed on at a year, and builds towers and wraps up babies himself. )

Night time: He is doing considerably better than my son at that age, so keep doing whatever you're doing.

You probably don't desperately need any of this stuff this weekend, if it feels like too much. The main thing I'd probably need to do with a sudden 11-month-old in the house would be to babyproof. Remove tippy things, keep the dog food in a hard-to-access place, covers on all the outlets, latches on dangerous cabinets, moving all the plastic containers to lower cabinets and ceramics to upper. I'd also probably spending a lot of time touching or holding him to provide some physical reassurance about his new space.
posted by tchemgrrl at 8:20 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Re budget: You could post a request at your local freecycle group. I often see people placing requests just to borrow kid's stuff - could work for bigger items like a stroller / bigger toys.
posted by travelwithcats at 8:22 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Bedtime routine: rock solid consistency is key. My kiddo wasn't starting bedtime routine until 7pm, is it possible that a (very slightly) later bedtime could help?

Our routine was:
- Bath (she sat in the regular bath with a few inches of water and lots of toys, with not too bright lights on)
- Diaper change & Jammies on- I sang rainbow connection during this time every night for 2.5 years.
- Kid in my lap for a book, followed by a feed, while I sang You Are my Sunshine (same song every night for 4.5 years, and going strong!)
- Stand up, walk to light switch, say "night night light. Night night baby" and turn off lights.
- Slowly walk to crib, gently rocking baby. Set baby in crib and give kisses.
- Go to door, say "good night, sleep tight, and I will see you in the morning. I love you". Same phrase going strong every night for 4.5 years.

I wrote that all out to show how detailed our consistency was. Especially for a kiddo who's confused and doesn't recognize his new routine yet - the more he knows to expect, the quicker he can feel comfortable with the adjustment.

And hey, THANK YOU for fostering. You're doing a great job already!
posted by waterisfinite at 8:25 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


At 11 months, a baby bathtub is too small; just put a few inches and a bunch of plastic toys in the regular bathtub and hang out in the bathroom with him (you don't have to get in the tub). Also, then you don't have to buy a baby bathtub and have it cluttering up your space.


We gave up on both strollers and wearing when our kid was that age and just let him walk everywhere, and put him in the shopping cart when we were in stores (but if you're in an urban-market type situation, of course this isn't feasible, and I would probably babywear in that situation, I liked the Ergo). If you can go no-stroller, it's one less thing to buy and doesn't clutter your space.


We are anti-noise too, and anti-battery, we didn't get any battery-powered plastic crap for our kid. Any noisemaking was from instrument-type things (maracas made from cans with beans in them, pots used as drums, etc.) BOARD BOOKS -- get some!! Balls to roll around. Blocks to start learning to stack and knock down. Cardboard tubes. A shape-sorter. Music!! Your library can provide books and music so you don't have to buy that stuff, and you can return it rather than having it around when you don't need it.

Night time

This sounds fine. Our kid slept in a pack n play every night for a few months, so if this is going to be relatively short-term I would just stick with that, rather than buying a crib. Just so long as you have a routine. Ours is really simple, just change into pjs, brush teeth, read 2-3 books, hug and kiss, good night. But whatever you do, just do the same thing every night and he'll learn to be comforted by it.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:27 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Our son bathed in this baby tub until he was ~13 months. That was probably longer than we needed to do it. He now bathes in the tub by himself with ~4 inches of water as we sit on the side of the tub -- we got a rubber mat to make it safer. If your baby is fairly mobile, he'll probably do fine in the tub. Just watch him carefully, of course.

Agree that an umbrella stroller is a good idea. You can get them for a lot cheaper than the one we have, but we really like ours.

A new favorite for our son is Green Toy trucks like these two: 1 2
posted by Betelgeuse at 8:27 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Regarding bedtime: if he's fighting sleep it might be that he is overtired. Try an extra nap in the daytime or an earlier bedtime. If that doesn't do the trick, start with some kind of super soothing bedtime ritual. Lavendar lotion, a song (though not always the exact same song, because otherwise some kids get addicted...)

Regarding stuff: First socket covers. Your agency probably already made you babyproof the home. But if you haven't put a cover on every socket, do it now. Second, books. Read to this baby. Read anything at all to this baby. He's young enough that you can read him Game of Thrones in a gentle soothing voice and he won't care. But being read to is important. Get some of those plastic bath books, and some board books and let him beat them up. And keep reading to him.

One of my best friends is a baker and a great cook, so I gave her a neat rubber collapsible funnel for her birthday when her kiddo was one. The funnel hasn't left the bathtub since, and he's three now! He still loves to watch the water fall out the bottom. So, my advice is plastic stuff from the kitchen for the tub. Colander, big slotted spoon, measuring cup. No official bath toys needed. Ok, maybe a standard rubber duck.

The pack and play is honestly fine until he gets too big for it. I'd wait and see how long term the placement looks. (I know, you really can't tell with these things, even if your case manager/social worker has some ideas....) You have probably heard all about the scary drop side crib deaths. People are still trying to sell those on craigslist, so beware. And of course, they will say "but this one is perfectly safe!" And I know this makes me sound paranoid, but your agency may even forbid that type of crib.

Clothes: hie thee to Goodwill or whatever is equivalent near you. Babies grow so fast. Just pick things that you would be comfortable having his mom and/or social worker see him in. Also, let your friends give you baby clothes. Some will want to. Toys, slightly harder to find in good used condition, but not actually hard. Goodwill, baby consignment stores, craigslist. You can even post an ad that you are looking for something in CL, instead of only combing the listings. (And there might even be a way to automate searching of the listings...)

For a blanket, look into Project Linus. They provide handmade blankets for kids in foster care. Hand. Made.
posted by bilabial at 8:28 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh! And get him this great boat for the bath!
posted by Betelgeuse at 8:28 AM on June 13, 2013

He does not necessarily need a bath every day as long as you keep diaper area, hands, and face clean. Give him a chance to play with water, maybe pouring water from container to container and into the tub. Get a small kiddie pool and let him play in that outside, assuming it's summer where you are. If indeed it is summer you really need very little in terms of clothes, diapers, tee shirts, shorts, and a couple of sweatshirts for cooler nights.

Books, books, books. If your friends/family want to buy anything books is it; better yet, ask for gift certificates to local independent bookseller, or wherever you choose. Also check and see if your local public library has toddler story times!
posted by mareli at 8:34 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

You're doing amazing!

So, one source of advice/instruction you may not realize you have available to you, is his pediatrician. (Does he have one? If not, you might need to check whether your insurance covers him and choose one that way, or do whatever the foster org says.) In any case, a pediatrician will be able to guide you on what's normal re the sleep stuff (what you've described sounds pretty damn good all things considered) and what the safest bath setup is, etc. The Internet can be too cacophonous for this sort of thing.

In general, as long as he's safe and you're doing ok, everything's fine. Just don't leave him in the bathtub.

I wouldn't try to wear a one-year-old. Any kind of stroller is fine, even a cheap umbrella one. If you want to be extra considerate, try to find one that has somewhere for him to rest his feet.

Toys are easy and cheap. If you really want to get him stuff, take him to Ross and see what he goes for. (I say Ross because somewhere like ToysRUs is too much for a child that age.)

Good luck and thank you for doing this for him!
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:37 AM on June 13, 2013

At that age, our daughter loved this Rainforest Soother. She could turn it on herself and used it both to fall asleep and when she woke up in the morning. It was great and she used it from the time she could turn it on herself until well after she turned three.
posted by dpx.mfx at 8:38 AM on June 13, 2013

If putting him by himself in the big tub makes you nervous, try using a laundry basket.

For bedtime, the biggest thing is to just create a routine. Maybe it's dinner, play, bath, story, rocking, bed. Maybe it's bath, play, rocking, bed. Just pick something (relatively short!) and do the same thing every night. I bet the little guy will welcome the stability. (8 straight hours of sleep for an 11 month old is pretty great.)

For outings, you could wear him if he likes it. You will probably want an ergonomic carrier for a bigger kid, and they can be expensive--try Craigslist. Try Craigslist for everything, come to that. And you can unload any stuff there when it's no longer needed as well. You could also just grab a cheap umbrella stroller. They're awesomely portable. In the store, stick him in the grocery cart seat and go about your business.

Is he eating any crackers or soft foods yet? You might invest in a high chair. You can find the kind that attach to a regular dining room chair for like $30, maybe cheaper on Craigslist.

Good luck -- you are awesome to be doing this.
posted by woodvine at 8:38 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Bath: we use an inflatable ducky tub inside the regular bath tub. I think it cost around $15. It saves water, is less slippery, and I think the baby feels safer in it. You can also put a plastic laundry basket in the tub - it gives them something to grip, again helps them feel a little more secure, plus it prevents toys from floating away. Or just put him in the regular bath, with you sitting next to it.

Outings: I love, love, love the Ergo. If I wear my 25 pound 9 month old on my back, it's very comfortable and not especially tiring. A stroller would be fine too. The large ones are difficult to navigate in stores, so a cheap umbrella stroller might be a good idea.

Entertainment: plastic bowls and lids. Measuring cups. Balls and blocks. Board books!

Nighttime: I agree, this sleeping schedule sounds pretty decent. What we do is dinner, bath, pajamas, reading in his room with low lights, then feed him in a rocking chair in his very dark room with a white noise CD playing. Love the white noise! If your little guy isn't tired yet when you try to put him down, maybe move his bedtime later, or afternoon nap earlier (I have to wake my son up if he's still asleep by 4 p.m. in order to have him asleep at 7:15). If he's tired but won't settle, just keep working on a soothing and consistent bedtime routine, and it will get easier. If he's not completely soaked, you might be able to skip the 4 a.m. changing if you think that will help him get back to sleep faster. I don't change the baby at night anymore, and while his diaper is pretty heavy in the morning, it usually doesn't leak and he hasn't gotten a rash.

I think any crib mattress should be okay, and more comfortable than the pack 'n play. They're supposed to be quite firm. Cribs can often be had on Craigslist. We have a crib that converts into a toddler bed, then a headboard for a regular bed, so that might be useful for you.

If you have any kids consignment stores nearby, they are a goldmine for cheap clothes, toys, and other supplies!

You are amazing for doing this!
posted by Safiya at 8:38 AM on June 13, 2013

Since he's walking-- I don't know anything about how your house/apartment is set up, but you might like to get a baby gate. We had one that divided our (one-story) house in half, so we could always keep an eye on the little guy. He had room to explore but not to get out of sight.

Everybody's right on track with using plastic cups, leftover tupperware, etc. for toys. If you have the room, you could designate one low cabinet as "his" and keep the toys in there. He'll have lots of fun opening and closing the cabinet, pulling out his toys, etc. You can try teaching him to put them back too! (Note-- probably over-optimistic at this age.)

Another thing to consider if you have budget and space is some sort of small toy that he can ride on. (You can probably find at a children's consignment shop.) Lots of exercise-- always helps with bedtime.
posted by tuesdayschild at 8:40 AM on June 13, 2013

Oh, I forgot to mention fosterhood. Rebecca blogs about the babies she has fostered. She doesn't currently have a one year old in tow, but in the archives you'll find information about some of them (most recently, a little girl nicknamed Jacket).
posted by bilabial at 8:46 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

Even friends who love the newest fashion trends for themselves are fine with hand-me-downs for their kids, including books, toys and gadgets.

Ask your network of friends, neighbors, family and Craigslist, yard sale, thrift stores, neighborhood moms groups.
posted by MichelleinMD at 8:47 AM on June 13, 2013

I don't have any advice but I want to say that I admire you for taking in a baby who needs a home. :)
posted by luckynerd at 8:52 AM on June 13, 2013

For baths we had a small-ish plastic tub we put into the bathtub. We filled the tub and washed the baby in it.

For outings, I used a baby backpack and a front-carry thingy, but strollers can be more convenient. The thing I don't like about strollers is a) not as much interaction between parent and child and b) you're pushing it in front of you which means you can't always see if it's safe to cross the street.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:57 AM on June 13, 2013

If you have thrift shops in your area, check them before you buy stuff new. Our local Good Will has tons of things like baby baths, strollers, etc, at a fraction of what they cost new (I got a baby hiking backpack for $12 that normally costs $200).

My son loved being in a carrier, we have a Becco, but the Ergo is more popular. One of the things I prefer about the Becco is that it's relatively easy to get the baby strapped in and then flip around onto your back. Carrying them on your back is so much easier, and it allows you to do things like grocery shopping. When my oldest was 1 year old I had him on my back for about 3 hours at a folk music festival, and he was loving it. We'd regularly go for 3 mile walks with friends until he was about 2, and it was great, much better than a stroller. That being said, you'll definitely want to have a stroller available, sometimes it is really the best option. You don't need anything fancy if you don't plan to go jogging or on long walks, a cheap umbrella stroller is fine.

I think the number one thing you should get a lot of is books. This could be as easy as going to the library every week to get a new stack of them. Read to them as much as you can every day, at that age they are really learning language, and reading is one of the best ways for them to start to understand the flow of language.
posted by markblasco at 9:11 AM on June 13, 2013

Best answer: All of this is for minimalist, budget-minded parenting
1) Regular bath with rubber mat if you have a tub.
2) For outings, an umbrella stroller is fine and will give you a lot of bang for very few bucks. I also got a lot of mileage out of frame-style baby backpacks for the late infant/early toddler years. If you envisage walking places that are very crowded, or with bad or no sidewalks, a frame backpack carrier is great.
3) Convertible crib/toddler beds would be the way to go if you think you may be fostering kids of differing ages in the future, as they can cover the range from birth to about 5 years of age. Mattress doesn't need to be anything fancy.
4) Dining: a booster seat with a removable tray is, IMHO, a good compact, versatile choice in that age range. I never had a proper high chair with my kids, just a dealy similar to that one.
5) Thrift stores and garage sales will have much of what you need.
6) Stuff from your own kitchen makes great toys for that age--plastic measuring cups and bowls, spoons, sturdy pots and lids.
7) If you want to invest a little money and space in one oversized hunk of plastic, at that age I would suggest a multifunctional push/ride-on toy like this or this, with a storage compartment.
posted by drlith at 9:23 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Put a full size laundry basket in the tub, fill the tub with a few inches of water, float the toys in the laundry basket and invite child to sit in basket.

Don't wear him, he is too large for that. Stroller with some moments out for walking. Holding hands is a must while walking. Keep treats on hand to bribe him back into the stroller.

Kids can turn anything into a toy. Pull out a few large, cardboard boxes (check for staples) and let him explore. Anything with wheels is also good for a boy. Your measuring cups will be a real treat for him, specially if you put them in the bath with him.

The pack and play is fine for sleeping. If you will have him for more than a few months then look for a portable crib that will fold up. If you are keeping him, look for a toddler bed with sides and start transitioning him into that.

A nighttime routine is a good idea. Choose something that he can do for himself, since you won't always be with him. Rub his ear every night or pat his arm. Brush his eyebrows with your fingertips. Find what spot works best for him and then do it lovingly every night. It will get to a point where he will fall asleep the moment you touch that spot and then, when he is without you, he will be able to do that for himself.

Don't worry too much about space or money- all kids really need is someone to love them.
posted by myselfasme at 9:35 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

You can put a little towel in the bottom of the bathtub for the baby to sit on and not slip around.
posted by artychoke at 9:39 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

You've gotten great advice here. Our baby is 11 months old, so here are a few age-specific things that might help you.

While our son is a good sleeper, he has been having trouble going to be lately because he is SO EXCITED to move and crawl and stand and wiggle and dance that he just doesn't want to stop. Straightjacket-like bear hugs help, once he literally can't move he passes out from exhaustion. From your description, it sounds like he's sleeping really well so that's great.

Is cosleeping an option for you? I don't know if it's against foster care rules. It might help him feel reassured and safe to have someone nearby.

Our son takes baths in the regular tub. If that worked for you there's no reason not to stick with it.

For toys, right now our son really wants to be doing what we're doing. So he loves to play with household objects so he can be like us and help. If your foster son likes the broom he might like other things like tupperware, pots and pans, cups, bottles (our son loves to hold the sunscreen bottle), clothes (laundry pile!), etc. We had to replace a shower hose and the old one is now a favorite toy. Our son also really loves music/noisemaking options, could be as simple as a rattle or a pot with a wooden spoon to bang on. Listening to music and dancing and singing along is popular.

You might want to think about trying to teach him some basic baby sign language. Our son just really exploded with the signs and it makes him so happy to be able to ask for milk or something to eat or a nap.
posted by medusa at 11:05 AM on June 13, 2013

Lots of great advice here; just a few things to add (brief because I'm on my phone):

Our 13 month old is long past being worn -- she wants to go up and down too much. But about 11 months was about when she started riding in the grocery cart.

Toys -- a deck of cards was a huge hit the other day. It's hard to know what a baby will fall in love with. But a music play table by Fisher Price has been a big hit since around 6 months. It's music, yeah, but nowhere near as annoying as the few other loud toys she has.
posted by kestrel251 at 11:34 AM on June 13, 2013

Poor little guy! (But very lucky to have you.)

For bedtime, I would suggest buying some stuff that makes his bedroom a nice place for you and he to be. That will help a lot in creating restful and nurturing nighttime routines. It helps the parents as well as the baby to have a special cozy spot! So at a minimum, get a crib and a mattress and a comfy chair for snuggling. We use the ubiquitous and cheap Ikea Poang chair, and we also have a cheap Ikea crib.

But it seems like he actually has a pretty good sleep schedule. That's right about what our 11 month old does if he is not sick/teething. (Bedtime at 7:30, one early AM wakeup to eat, then back to sleep until 6 or 7.)
posted by yarly at 11:40 AM on June 13, 2013

I wouldn't bother with a crib, honestly. I kept my kiddo in the pack and play til he started climbing out, and then I just put a futon mattress on the floor for him, with about a foot of it up and against the wall so he could cuddle against it. That's my one tip, too, for helping them sleep; roll up a pillow in half the long way and gently tuck it against their back; it will help them feel held and secure.

And I would recommend getting books! Lots of board books so you can read them together and he can "read" on his own. Sandra Boynton books, and the raffi books of his songs are so much fun, but there are so many others. We used the goodnight moon board book for a long, long time. :)

We were lucky enough to have a nearby library with a young children's playroom, too; lots of books and puzzles and all kinds of stuff, it was a great place to go and spend a couple of hours, especially if we couldn't play outside that day, so you might want to see if there's something like that near you.
posted by lemniskate at 11:48 AM on June 13, 2013

One thing about baby-wearing is, it's easier to do if you've got used to it as the baby grows. So I would think it would be quite difficult to start wearing a little person who is almost a year old. Back, shoulders, hips - they may not like it. So get a stroller.

So much good advice above! But one more thing, if you have anything with sharp corners at about the level of the baby's head, like say a coffee table; or anything sharp a child could fall on and bang their head, like say a fireplace surround, invest in some corner cushions. Yeah, and a safety gate or two.

And as tchemgrrl said above, "You probably don't desperately need any of this stuff this weekend, if it feels like too much. The main thing I'd probably need to do with a sudden 11-month-old in the house would be to babyproof. Remove tippy things, keep the dog food in a hard-to-access place, covers on all the outlets, latches on dangerous cabinets, moving all the plastic containers to lower cabinets and ceramics to upper. I'd also probably spending a lot of time touching or holding him to provide some physical reassurance about his new space." (Quoting because she's right.)
posted by glasseyes at 11:54 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

Kids go through clothes and laundry pretty fast; friends could give clothes. Ask people to give you diapers - the cost mounts up fast. The other gift I'd recommend is books and music. Reading to kids of any age is a wonderful way to snuggle and teach and have fun all at once. It's really fun to have kid-friendly music, as well as lullaby music.
posted by theora55 at 6:46 PM on June 13, 2013

Thank you for giving this little guy the stability and consistency which will carry him through a tough time without allowing fear and confusion to damage him, and a big, warm hug and THANK YOU for caring and loving him. You are a treasure.
posted by aryma at 8:32 PM on June 13, 2013

Our little 15 month old loves the poppin play piano. I wish I would have gotten it earlier. Wood blocks, and squishy balls are also great. Be very careful with noisy toys. They are incredibly annoying. I have several I wish I would have returned as soon as they were gifted.

Board books are great and friends don't have to worry about sizing and if they fit. Dr Suess board books have been particularly well received in our house.

Talk, sing, and whisper to him. Tell him what your doing while you cook, clean or whatever. Sing silly songs, lullabies, rock music whatever. Dance with him. My son now starts dancing when he hears music and its suuuuuper cute.

In the bath, we had an inflatable mini tub (duck shaped and about $7) until he was stable enough to sit up. We have a couple toys and a bath book. We usually fill it up 3 inches or so. We have a bath mat on the bottom to help prevent slipping. Drip dry between baths to prevent mildew. Never leave kid unattended in bath. We use a mild baby wash once a week, the rest of the time, just plaim water. Once I dyed iced cubes with food coloring and he enjoyed trying to catch them before they melted. We have a washcloth puppet to clean and he has a funny frog voice which makes my son giggle and when we wash a body part we say what that body part is to help learn names. Arms, hands, elbows armpits, neck, butt, feet legs, tummy etc.

Afterwards we wrap him in a big fluffy towel and sit and brush teeth (at first with water, now with flavored gel for babies).

If you have an ikea around their cribs are great and pretty cheap.
posted by HMSSM at 9:51 PM on June 13, 2013

Just seconding the suggestion above to get lots of photos and even video for his parents. I love it when foster parents keep a notebook that they send to visits, where they write notes about what the child has accomplished, funny events, etc. if you aren't in direct communication with the parents, it's a way to ask questions of each other. Find out if he had a favorite story, for instance. If you're anti-tv but he always watched Barney with his brother, watch Barney. Smells are really important for non verbal kids-if you can use the same detergent as his mom did, for instance, that can be really comforting.
posted by purenitrous at 7:36 AM on June 15, 2013

Response by poster: Our baby came and went in a matter of days but some of the suggestions here were an absolute revelation to me.

As an aside: this was absolutely the most enthusiasm I received about this exciting thing happening in my life and I appreciate all of you. My husband and I just submitted our home study for an amazing 16 year old girl so I hope I'll be back here in a few months asking for a crash course in taming a teenager.
posted by Saminal at 8:12 AM on July 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

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