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Every year, a ton of baby and kids’ brands converge for a huge convention called the ABC Kids’ Expo. It’s a huge, multi-day event where companies showcase their star products and introduce the industry to their up-and-coming offerings — the next big thing. So as you can imagine, there are lots of big-name brands at the expo. And we love the big brands! They’re obviously good; they wouldn’t have made it to “household name” status if they made crappy products. But you know what we also love? Supporting small businesses, and discovering cool things that may not be on the average consumer’s radar — yet.
I was privileged to attend this year’s ABC Kids’ Expo, and saw a ton of stuff that nearly made my head spin. However, beyond flashy top-dollar displays and recognizable names, I was looking for passion: companies that believe in their products, that work hard to bring families like yours and mine the best of the best. And to be honest, I saw no greater passion than the folks at the small business booths. They’re the ones who don’t yet have the high level of visibility and marketing clout that their bigger competitors enjoy. They’re the ones who are pouring their blood, sweat, and tears into a dream, the ones who are doing the work of entire teams by themselves in order to design and manufacture and ship and get the word out.
In the coming days, we’ll be sharing a lot of cool things that I saw at the ABC Kids’ Expo — but I wanted to begin with my favorite: the small businesses that stood out from the crowd.
The adorable kids’ washcloths from SoapSox make bathtime a breeze! They have a patented soap pocket (just squeeze in your baby wash of choice, or even insert a whole bar!) that creates mounds of suds. They can be played with in or out of the bath, are machine-washable and dryer safe, and can even be used as the perfect water-safe beach toy. And with a variety of colorful and familiar characters, from Paw Patrol friends to Baby Shark, there’s something every kid will love — like this cute little Chase!
There’s soooo much to say about Bellabu Bear — like how their eco-friendly, organic, sustainably-produced bamboo pajamas have been awarded the Seal of Acceptance from The National Eczema Association (a perfect solution for sensitive, eczema-prone skin!). Or how a portion of their proceeds are donated to charities that care for the environment. Or how they have not only buttery-soft bamboo PJs for kids, but matching ones for adults too. My favorite part, though? THE PRINTS. From milk and cookies to lighthouses to this eye-catching comic print, they’re all hand-drawn!
Kids for Culture
“Celebrating diversity and inclusion through play” is the motto of Kids for Culture, founded by sisters Lamia and Kristen. This Black-owned, female-owned small business makes the most adorable board books, memory-matching games, dolls, and flash cards — all with the mission of introducing kids to differences and diversity from a young age. I seriously loved every single product I saw in their booth at the ABC Kids’ Expo, especially these emotional literacy flashcards.
This one’s for the pregnant folks — or their kiddos, because these products are safe for both! I have to admit that I practically fangirled when I met the owners of Three Lollies at their expo booth, because I was introduced to their fantastic company way back when I was pregnant with my now-15-year-old and their Preggie Pops morning sickness suckers saved my life. They were the absolute best way to quell my near-constant nausea, and I probably supported their business near-singlehandedly at the time considering how many I ate.
So as a longtime fan (and chronic under-hydrator), I was excited to see a new product in their lineup: the doctor-developed Preggie Hydration. These tasty berry-flavored packets can be mixed with water on-the-go, and contain a plethora of nutrients that help replenish electrolytes, restore trace minerals, and recharge energy levels. Good for moms-to-be and those of us who have trouble staying adequately hydrated!
The Tooth Brigade
There’s really no good place to put a lost tooth, is there? Consider the following example: recently, my youngest lost a tooth — which he put in a plastic baggie on our kitchen counter. My husband, not seeing the tooth, used that same baggie to store a block of cheese. You can imagine the grotesque surprise one of my other kids got when he went for a snack.
For scenarios like this (and, OK, the less-weird scenarios too), there’s The Tooth Brigade: an adorable band of Tooth Fairy “helpers.” They’re huggable plushes with mouths designed to hold lost teeth (and make it easy to get them out!). Their flat bodies are smartly designed to fit under pillows without bulk, and they even include a cute “Lost Tooth Token” for when a lost tooth gets … well, even more lost. With several adorable designs, it’s easy to find a Tooth Brigade pal for any kid — but this one, which comes with a hardcover storybook, is my personal favorite.
OK, where was the GoBe Kids Snack Spinner when my kids were small?! This genius little gadget makes snack time not only less messy, but more fun. Available in three colors — teal, coral, and gray — this no-spill, dishwasher-safe container is sectioned into different compartments that hold 1/4 cup each. Your kiddo pushes the button to spin to the desired compartment, opens the door, and gains easy access to their favorite snack! It’s BPA and PVC free and leak-resistant, and each one contains a sheet of dishwasher-safe stickers to personalize your Snack Spinner just the way you want it.
Designed by a mom looking for ways to keep her baby busy at a restaurant, Baby Paper is the epitome of simple genius. Every parent knows how much their kid loves to play with paper — and Baby Paper, in a variety of cute and colorful prints, gives them a way to (safely) do just that. It’s satisfyingly crinkly, designed to be chewed on as well as crumpled, and is fully CPSIA tested to ensure baby’s safety. It’s BPA-free, non-toxic, and super easy to stash in whatever kind of purse or diaper bag you’re schlepping around.
Everly Grey features the snuggly-softest clothes around, from loungewear to maternity and postpartum to baby and kids wear. It’s a known favorite of celebrities including Jessica Alba, Megan Fox, January Jones, and Alyssa Milano, to name a few. With nothing in the product lineup over $100, their motto is “accessible style, enviable designs.” But you wanna know what really caught my attention? The mommy-and-me styles.
As a mom of all boys, there were a bazillion opportunities for them to match with my husband, but hardly ever with their mama. (Boooo!) What I appreciated about Everly Grey was that the brand offers the cutest matching styles that aren’t just for moms and daughters (but of course, they have those too!).
The Table Tyke
In yet another moment of “this is brilliant — why didn’t I think of it?” I discovered The Table Tyke. Available in five different colors, t’s a portable place mat made of 100% medical grade silicone (non-toxic, eco-friendly, BPA free, reusable, and both dishwasher and microwave safe). It not only helps keep Baby’s place at the table easy to clean, it’s perfect for restaurants too. After all, who hasn’t repeatedly stopped their teething baby from gnawing on the side of a germy public tabletop? It’s non-slip so it stays put, and its raised edges help keep the mess where it belongs. And it’s great for arts and crafts too!
This family-owned business was started by a husband and wife team who were frustrated with a lack of safe, reliable, and easy-to-use products for babies and toddlers. They have an entire lineup of amazing products for potty-training, bathing, and baby-proofing — but the product I was most drawn to was their brand new Nova Swing, which they were demo’ing during the expo. It’s got a sleek, trendy profile that blends in with any decor. It has all the bells and whistles: 10 preset lullabies, connectivity options via Bluetooth and USB, an auto-off timer, an advanced touch panel and remote control, a nice cushy (washable!) seat, an advanced 5-point harness for safety, and even a protective mosquito net for use outdoors.
If all that wasn’t enough to love, Jool Baby donates a portion of its proceeds to charity, and provides items to those in need.
Not gonna lie — Oilo Studio‘s booth at the ABC Kids’ Expo made me want to stop and sit and absorb. The company is known for its nursery bedding and decor, and its prints are so calming, most of them subtle and watercolor-ish, and so unique; you can’t find design like this elsewhere. If it makes any sense, Oilo’s decor is kid-friendly but also something adults like to look at; so basically, art that appeals to every age, with a dreamy and ethereal quality.
I love the Elefant line, and these luxurious and soft 300-thread count sheets are made of 100% Jersey cotton.
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