Last week, hundreds of companies that make baby and kids gear descended on the Anaheim Convention Center for the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) Baby Show. It’s a basically a sprawling showcase of future kids stuff. And, much like the competing ABC Kids Expo in the fall, the goal was simple: Show off thousands of new products from around the world aimed at making parenting easier. Things like car seats with built-in strollers, sound machine audio monitors, and vibrating sleep devices that put kids to bed for you. Not to mention all the basics like bottles, breast pumps, and those tiny little toothbrushes.
And while the sheer number of gadgets and gizmos can be overwhelming, JPMA is a great chance to score a sneak peak at all the new baby swag likely to grace store shelves this holiday season. After two days spent walking the showroom floor, we found eight pieces of gear that deserve a spot on your radar.
Kioma Car Seat
If NASA astronauts celebrated ‘Take Your Infant to Space Day’, this is the car seat that they’d strap into the rocket. Designed for “frustration-free fatherhood” by a Dallas-based father of three, Kioma is a futuristic, rear-facing carbon-fiber pod (for newborns to 18 months) that weighs only 5.5 pounds. Not only that, but it will reportedly be the “first and only” car seat on the market with zero moving parts and an integrated roll bar/handle that works like a helmet to protect the baby from accidental drops. Kioma boasts a non-skid/rocking-chair bottom, can be sprayed clean with a garden hose in the yard, and will come in either raw carbon or automotive white. When it’s released this fall, expect a price just north of $1,000.
(Available September 2017)
Mifold Grab-and-Go Car Booster Seat
Winner of JPMA’s “Best in Show” innovation award, the Mifold Grab-and-Go is a foldable 10-inch by 5-inch booster seat that fits in a kid’s backpack. Cooler still is how it works: Rather than raising a child up so that the seatbelt fits properly at an adult height, the foam seat uses two side extenders to lock the belt down to fit the kid ⏤ ensuring the shoulder strap is off the neck and the lap belt lies on the hips and not the stomach. It’s designed for ages four to 12 (40 to 100 lbs., 40 to 57 in.) and comes in six colors.
Developed by the dude behind the Happiest Baby On The Block book, Dr. Harvey Karp, the Snoo Smart Sleeper uses three integrated microphones to monitor your baby’s (but thankfully not your) crying and soothe them back to sleep with an optimal mix of white noise and vibration. It automatically selects the type of noise (soft rain, heartbeats, etc.) and volume level, as well as type of motion (slower swing, “faster jiggles”) and speed, based entirely on how agitated or relaxed your child sounds. And to make sure they sleep safe, the Snoo also comes with three organic cotton “five-second swaddles” (in sizes from five to 26 lbs.) that attach to clips in the sleeper to ensure the baby can’t roll over onto their belly.
MECHA Autobot Robot Rider
The MECHA Autobot rider is exactly what it looks like: An armored ride-on scooter built for the robot armageddon. Previously available only in Asia (here’s a great video of it in action), it features a 6-volt battery, two motors, and can move in all directions using a pair of joysticks. It also lights up, has a horn, and talks: “Danger ahead, watch out.” Obviously, it looks like a Transformer, just not an official Transformer, because … licensing. Expect one-hour battles before the batteries die and Junior has to jump off and engage in hand-to-hand combat. It costs $399 and to order, you have to email the distributor, WonderTech, directly here.
DadWare Bondaroo Infant-Bonding Shirt
After frantically ripping off his shirt in the delivery room to do skin-to-skin time with his newborn daughter, the guy behind DadWare realized there had to be an easier (and less costly) way. He came up with the Bondaroo: A soft, short-sleeve tee (made of bamboo, spandex, and cotton) with a patent-pending flap across the front to make skin-to-skin bonding time a snap ⏤ or actually, a Velcro, since that’s what keeps it closed. It comes in one of four colors (stone green, midnight blue, pearl white, jet black) and is handsome enough closed to still wear to the store, assuming you don’t mind people asking why you need easy access to your pecks.
Tranquilo Soothing Mat
Assuming the Snoo is a little too pricey for the baby registry, the portable (and significantly less expensive) Tranquilo Soothing Mat is also based on Dr. Karp’s five Ss. Created by a maternity nurse and certified Happiest Baby Educator from Boston, the rollup mat (which was featured on Shark Tank) calms babies using three levels of vibration and two heartbeat modes. It can run for an hour at a time using the built-in timer, and the batteries reportedly last up to 60 hours before needing to be replaced. Tranquilo’s washable, water-resistant, and comes in two sizes ⏤ one for the crib, and one for the stroller, carrier, or car seat.
Lassig Cork Messenger Diaper Bag
The key to a good diaper tote is versatility: And the easier it transitions from baby to laptop bag the better. Lassig’s latest messenger was made (of recycled materials) to pull double duty. Not only does it come loaded with a water-repellent changing mat, removable baby food jar and insulated bottle holders, and wet compartment, but the handsome exterior flap is also made of cork and is certain to draw accolades at the office. Just make sure nobody accidentally pins anything to it.
(Available June 2017)
Real Shades Switch
The cool thing about Real Shades new ‘Switch’ suncheaters is that they change color in UV light. And not the lenses ⏤ the actual frames. So not only do kids love them, but they remind parents on gray days that UV light is still getting through the clouds. Better apply that sunscreen. They come in one style (an iconic Wayfarer), three sizes (for ages 2, 4, and 7), and four colors ⏤ gray to purple, green to blue, yellow to orange, and pink to dark pink. As they are for kids, the lenses are shatterproof polycarbonate and rock 100 percent UVA/UVB protection.