17 Daycare Essentials for Your Little One

By Published On: August 18th, 2022
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Everything you need to pack on the first day of school (and every day after).

By Rebecca Rakowitz

There’s a lot to keep track of when getting your child ready for daycare. You’ll want to pack extra clothes, breast milk, formula, or baby food, and any medications your child might need, as well as some standard “others” to keep them happy and healthy while away from home. We’ve compiled a list to get you started and keep you organized, but it’s always a good idea to ask your daycare provider if they have any additional requests.

After unpacking and cleaning out their daycare bag at the end of the day, restock and gather items in a centralized location (back in the bag if possible), so you don’t forget anything the next morning. It’s also a good idea to get in the habit of packing items in the same part of their bag each day. This way you can easily double-check things on the way out the door. Happy packing!

Backpack

This 12-inch pack is the perfect size for toddlers who insist on wearing it “like a big kid.” We love that it is made with non-toxic, 100 percent recycled textiles that are comfy to wear and easy to wipe clean. The main pocket can fit their lunch box, a change of clothes, and other daycare supplies (more on those below!), and the exterior pockets are perfect for bottles or sippy cups. It’s such a winner, you may see other families with the same one. Be sure to write your child’s name on the interior name tag, or opt to use a name label (below), so the right bag is sent home with the right kiddo.

Try it: Ten Little Recycled Backpack 12″

BUY NOW | $36

Lunchbox

You probably know that Bento boxes are all the rage. The Bentgo Kids has four compartments for separating snacks and packing appropriate portions. The removable ice pack keeps perishables cold, and the box is dishwasher- and freezer-safe. Plus, Bentgo purchases support Feed the Children, a nonprofit that provides food and resources to hungry children and families across the country.

Try it: Bentgo Kids Chill Lunch Box

BUY NOW | $30

Cup

This non-toxic, silicone cup helps transition kids from a traditional sippy cup to something a little more advanced, and can be easily adjusted to their drinking preferences; they can take a sip from the spout or straw, or the removable cap allows for drinking like a big kid. The handles are easy to hold, and although your little one might not be able to remove the cap on their own (probably a good thing!), putting the straw in place is great practice for their fine motor skills.

Try it: Lalo Little Cup

BUY NOW | $13

Bottle

Of course, you’ll probably want to pack your child’s bottle of choice to keep things consistent. If you use glass bottles at home, the Chicco Duo is a good option for daycare. The inside glass is bonded to an exterior, shatterproof plastic. That way, you don’t have to worry about broken glass if their backpack gets jostled around. Plus, it’s safe for the dishwasher, bottle warmer, and electric sterilizer.

Try it: Chicco Duo Hybrid Baby Bottle

BUY NOW | FROM $12

Pacifier

If your baby is prone to teary drop-offs at the daycare center or midday crankiness, you’ll want to add pacifiers to your packing list. They may already be partial to a certain paci, but if you have a noncommittal newborn, you can take these NUKs for a test drive. We love the orthodontic line because it’s designed to fit your child’s palate and promote proper oral development.

Try it: NUK Comfy Orthodontic Pacifiers

BUY NOW | $10

Teether

Your early morning brain fog will thank you for choosing to pack this 2-in-1 teether and toy. It’s easy to hold, and in between chomps your child can entertain themselves with the rattle. It may seem too simple to hold their interest, but rattles engage baby’s eyes and ears while giving them a chance to practice fine motor skills. And hey, if they’re unimpressed, at least they can get some relief from those incoming teeth.

Try it: Itzy Ritzy Rattle with Teething Ring

BUY NOW | $10

Spare Clothes

Sure, you can pack what you already have, but we especially love this set. The soft, stretchy, organic, cotton fabric, extra long cuffs, and two rows of diaper area fasteners mean your young fashionista will get more wear out of this outfit. As long as they don’t need a change during the day (fingers crossed for no blowouts!), you can pack this set and forget about it for a while. No need to constantly pack new clothes as your little one gets, well, less little.

Try it: H&M Adjustable Fit Set

BUY NOW | $20

Wet Bag

Accidents are inevitable. Keep a reusable wet bag in their backpack or diaper bag, so their dirty clothes aren’t sent home loose or in a single-use plastic bag. The polyester fabric is waterproof, but there’s no need to limit yourself. The multipurpose bag is also a perfect organizer for other baby items (wet or dry) and it’ll fit perfectly in your little one’s cubby. Grab another one for teethers, pacifiers, toys, and more. After it’s been used, small messes can be wiped away or hand-washed, or the bag can be thrown in the washing machine, and then hung up to dry.

Try it: Bumpkins Wet Bag

BUY NOW | $19

Diapers and Wipes

Your child’s daycare teachers will likely ask you to pack a daily supply of diapers and wipes. Keep a stack from this bundle of 150 diapers and over 330 wipes near their backpack so you don’t forget to restock. Childcare providers probably don’t have a brand preference, but we love that Pampers is the top pick of pediatricians. Plus, their Pure line products are fragrance-free, the diapers have plant-based, shea butter-infused liners, and the wipes are 99 percent water, which makes these a great choice for even the most sensitive skin.

Try it: Pampers Pure Protection Baby Diapers and Water Baby Wipes

BUY NOW | $64

Diaper Rash Cream

Honestly, this is a must-have at home, too. This diaper rash spray eliminates the mess and is a hands-off product for caregivers. With a few spritzes—and no rubbing necessary—your babe will get the relief their diaper area needs. Plus, each 1.7-ounce bottle of this soothing solution is good for 200 sprays. Grab it in a three-pack and be set for the year.

Try it: Boogie Bottoms Diaper Rash Spray

BUY NOW | $30

Sunscreen

Easily overlooked but absolutely necessary, sunscreen is a common request for outdoor adventures. Earth Mama products are a fan favorite, and we love that this set includes a stick for your baby’s face and a lotion for everywhere else. The SPF 40 formula is pediatrician and dermatologist tested, water-resistant, protects against both UVA and UVB rays, and is reef-safe. And with ingredients like cocoa butter and organic aloe, it’s sure to also moisturize your kiddo’s skin as they are out in the sun.

Try it: Earth Mama Mineral Sunscreen Lotion and Stick Set

BUY NOW | $25

Burp Cloths

You have one less thing to pack when you go for this bib-and-burp-cloth combo! We loved it for your registry, and we love it for daycare, too. Your daycare provider can throw one over their shoulder as a burp cloth or snap it around your baby’s shoulders as a bib. The hypoallergenic fabrics are machine-washable, and the new Mother Earth line uses organic, sustainable materials. We love a 2-in-1 that works overtime and keeps the planet in mind!

Try it: Aden + Anais Mother Earth Organic Cotton Burpy Bibs

BUY NOW | $25

Lovey

We can’t get over how sweet these little blanket loveys are! There are more than 15 animal sets to choose from, and they are all machine-washable (are you noticing a trend?). The real genius behind the three-piece set is that you can keep one at home, send one to school, and have a spare for whichever one goes missing or gets gross first.

Try it: Angel Dear Pair and a Spare 3 Piece Blanket Set

BUY NOW | $38

Sheets

Burt’s Bees isn’t just for mamas! Their children’s line includes these organic cotton crib sheets that more than 11,000 Amazon reviewers are in love with. Shoppers say the sheets are just as soft as they were when they were purchased years ago, and the extra fabric and elastic along the bottom keep the sheet in place. “I will not use any other sheets but these,” said one happy customer—well there you have it!

Try it: Burt’s Bees Baby Fitted Crib Sheet

BUY NOW | $20

Sleep Sack

Sleep sacks are another nap-time comfort that should be rolled up in your child’s backpack. We love the dreamy designs, the breathable cotton fabric that keeps your little one cool, and that they come in a pack of three. (Yes, we are obsessed with multiples!) If you dread the thought of daily laundry, first, we feel the same way and second, you’ll be glad to have clean ones for the next day.

Try it: Simple Joys by Carter’s Cotton Sleeveless Wearable Blanket

BUY NOW | $30

Bottle Cooler

Your child’s daycare probably has a fridge, but if you’re sending breast milk to daycare with your babe, make sure your liquid gold arrives safely. These bags are perfect for storing premade bottles of breast milk, so you know exactly how much your little one will be eating that day. What’s more, it’s insulated and keeps bottles warm or cold for hours.

Try it: Skip Hop Baby Bottle Bag

BUY NOW | $18

Nap Mat

If your toddler has outgrown the cribs in the infant room, chances are they’re sleeping on tiny cots and absolutely need one of these for nap-time! This easy-to-roll mat comes in nine adorable patterns. With a cushy pillow and breathable blanket, your wee one can cuddle up as they doze off.

Try it: Hi Sprout Kids Nap Mat

BUY NOW | $52