With the benefit of hindsight, I think parenting books have it all wrong. The focus is too narrow. It is all about the 'first year' and conquering all things rash, tooth, and wind related, and all the paraphernalia that goes with that.
But in the end, that first year goes past, you have no control over how it unfolds and each little person breaks at least one of the 'rules'. The first year is about survival. No amount of gear will make it better.
I reckon the real essential equipment list should be for toddler wrangling. My list is a whole lot different than the ones you read about in a book. These are the tools that make parenthood a little bit sweeter and a little bit easier in my experience. I don't claim to be a guru and this list is anything but 'green' but for me, I cannot live without...
1. Paper towel - I go through at least one roll of the stuff per week. It is great for spills, hands, and noses (if you are desperate). I am beside myself if I run out of it!
2. Baby wipes - Apart from their obvious job, wipes are the best cleaner-uper-ers around. They fix up clothes, couches, and can even polish a school shoe (if you are desperate). You need to keep them away from toddlers though because they simply LOVE to take each one out of the packet and throw it on the floor. Such a great game! Not!
3. DVD player - Oh. I know I am not being at all PC here, but the DVD player is a must. Pop on a bit of Wiggles for 15 minutes for your two year olds and you are guaranteed the best giggle ever. They dance, they sing and they stare with an amazing amount of concentration.
4. Kids scissors - Hand a child a piece of paper and a pair of kids scissors (the almost blunt kind if we are sticking with the toddler age group) and you have guaranteed hours of entertainment. I am not claiming a tidy home at the end of it, but they will be occupied/stimulated and building their fine motor skills at the same time. Win:win.
5. Storage containers - When you have a lot of kids you end up with a LOT of stuff, so storage becomes a real issue. Storage boxes are awesome. They keep toys orderly, contain the endless hand-me-downs, house left-overs and snacks in children's lunch boxes, enable kids to do the whole stacking/stashing thing as they pull out ALL the contents and stash it back in (if you are lucky) and make a fantastic 'boat' or 'car' for pretend play. Storage boxes of all shapes and sizes are a must.
6. Bubble mixture - Forget the fancy toys that make noises (No. Really. FORGET the noisy toys. Kids make ENOUGH noise all by themselves) and grab some bubbles. Kids LOVE bubbles. They will keep kids happy for hours and are so portable and easy to use (even better when they can blow their own bubbles). Bubbles are the bomb.
7. Packet of balloons - Kid + balloon = squeals of laughter + chasing balloon all over the place. Sheer delight for about 50c. I can't live without them.
8. Sense of humour - Children equate to sleep deprivation, well, at least where I come from. Sleep deprivation can result in some very cranky moments so I reckon being mindful of the 'funnier' sides of situations is extremely important. Keeping things light helps keep the mood of the household more upbeat and reduces the overall stress of multiple child wrangling. I don't go anywhere without mine.
So there you have it. What items would you add to the list?