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Pack the Perfect Toddler Diaper Bag

Photo by: iStock

Pull out the burp cloths and make way for pull-ups. If you’re going to keep up with your toddler, your diaper bag needs to keep up with you and be stocked for any adventure. We talked to moms about what they and their tots can’t live without.

Rethink Your Bag
The diaper bag you’ve carried since your baby shower may be ready for retirement by now, especially if it’s fraying at the seams or smells permanently of spit-up.

Dr. Alison Mitzner, a pediatrician and mom of two, recommends making the backpack that your child takes to daycare or preschool double as a diaper bag. “It will probably already have diapers, change of clothes, water bottle, etc. from the week, and makes the weekend outings that much easier to get out the door,” she says. “It is also easier to put right on your back while you are out and about with your active toddler.”

Before you do anything else, stash zipping plastic bags in all the pockets. Dr. Mitzner swears by them because they’re transparent and help her stay organized — and if anything leaks inside a plastic bag, the mess is contained.

Update the Basics
If your diaper bag is full of onesies, it’s time for a change. Fill it with a few changes of clothing in different sizes and weights. The 2T shorts that you stuff into the bag now may be too small and too cold by the time you pull them out in two months.

Keep extra clothing in a self-contained bag inside the diaper bag, so you don’t have to dig through the whole thing when you need to do a quick change. “I used to keep a string backpack with an outfit change (shirt, pants, diaper/underwear/socks) in my diaper bag,” says Jennifer Bright Reich, mom of two sons and coauthor of “The Mommy MD Guides” books. “Now even though my boys are much older I still keep one in the car!”

Pack a bunch of diapers and all-purpose wipes in the bag too, along with sunblock, sunglasses, a water bottle, a bib and a changing pad.

Add Snacks and Games
Your little spitfire probably isn’t quite as easy to keep entertained now as when he was an infant. Keep him happy and fed by stashing plenty of snacks in your diaper bag. Stick with crushproof non-perishables: cereal bars, dried fruit and nuts won’t liquify or turn to crumbs in the bottom of your bag.

Stick a few different types of small toys in there too. A board book, magnet blocks and action figures or toy vehicles are small and portable.

Prepare for Emergencies
A basic first aid kit is a smart addition to any diaper bag. But not all emergencies are medical. Think about the last screaming fit your toddler had, and what you could pack in your diaper bag that might have prevented it.

For Reich, the little thing that makes a big difference? Utensils. “One unusual thing I kept in my toddlers’ diaper bag, which helped often, was a zipper lock baggie filled with plastic spoons, knives, forks, and straws. This came in handy so often, such as when we were at a restaurant and the waiter forgot to bring a spoon.” Sometimes, a handy spoon is all it takes to head off a toddler meltdown.

Kathryn Walsh is a freelance writer specializing in parenting and travel topics. Her work has appeared on,, and

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