10 essential items and skills you need in your ‘dad tool kit’

Get yourself stocked and you'll make every DIY dad task a little easier.

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You’ve got your essential items for every other aspect of your life, so make sure you are baby-prepped as well. Treat it like going fishing or fixing up your car. Actually, treat it much more seriously than that, but the concept remains the same: be prepared. Equip yourself with these 11 “tools” – a few items you’ll use every day and some skills that will come in handy as well – and your #dadlyfe will be so much easier. How many of these can you tick off?

1. Kid meals you can whip up from nothing (the answer is pasta)

On days when you’re looking after the baby, you ARE going to forget to do one of the several thousand required things, and quite often the thing you forget is having something for them to eat. You’ll need the ability to conjure a meal that the child will actually like from whatever is in the fridge and cupboard. The magic element? Pasta. Carb load that kid into the stone age – and pasta can be combined with just about anything to add taste and token “nutritional value”.

2. Baby paracetamol

The thought of drugging my helpless little infant initially didn’t sit well with me, but nowadays I get anxious if there isn’t any baby paracetamol or ibruprofen in the house. Any fears she might turn into the narcotics-addled baby version of Charlie Sheen or 2007 Britney Spears are allayed whenever I talk to a doctor or chemist: first advice is to crack open the Panadol. It really does save everyone’s ass when the kid has a fever, teething pain or any other kind of pain that is making her miserable.

3. Three nursery rhymes in your back pocket

I kind of just assumed I’d remember all the nursery rhymes from my own childhood, but nup. Often get caught out at about line three. It’s worth refreshing your memory of at least three or four that you can pull out during times of despair, boredom and anguish.

4. Pretend cures for head bumps and other knocks

More often than not there’s nothing much you can do when the little one stacks it and takes a whack. So in the same way footy trainers will poor water over a player’s injured ankle or thigh – which obviously does absolutely nothing – you need a few fake cures to stop the crying. My favourite is to wet a cloth and dab it on the sore area, which usually makes it ALL BETTER. *winks*

5. A wet wipes dispenser

I’m going to assume you’re already across the magic of wet wipes. Because, quite frankly, if you’re not, you’re a bad parent and a terrible person. You are likely also familiar with the comic/tragic scenario that regularly plays out when you’re trying to clean up a disgusting poo; you’ve got one hand on the kid and another trying to pull baby wipes out of the packet – they either come out in clumps of 10 or get stuck and the whole thing falls on the ground, while bits of sh*t are all the while getting spread onto the baby, the change table, and you. It took me 15 months to figure it out – but this horror show can be avoided if you pick up a wet wipe dispenser. Not only will this tool save you from shrieking for help from the change table in an undignified and unmanly manner, it will save you money, as the refills are cheap.

6. A go-to snack that stops crying

Your baby is going to have a favourite snack – something that she will ravenously eat at any time of the day, whether she’s hungry or not. In our house it’s blueberries. That’s the one you need to pull out when nothing else will stop the tears, so make sure it’s always on hand. I’m sure parenting books will tell you bribery is not the best solution to a problem, but they are filthy liars. In all seriousness, the key is not to overuse this mythical weapon – save it for when you’re desperado.

7. A go-to toy

Same idea. You need one special toy that’s particularly adored, or that your child finds funny for some reason, that you keep out of regular circulation until it’s tantrum time. And if she rejects that, go directly to number 6.

8. A knowledge of animal sounds

And particularly a knowledge of ‘universally accepted animal sounds for children’. Because it’s very hard to un-teach these, and if your kid does them wrong she will be shunned at day care and probably develop a severe personality disorder later in life as a result. And it’s not always obvious, either. You know dogs go woof and cats go meow, but as the song says, what sound does a fox make? And what about a giraffe? Hmm?

9. Swaddles

We stumbled around for a while trying to get the sleeping thing right, but soon discovered that swaddles were the secret to a successful night’s sleep. Just think of it as a sleeping bag rather than a straight jacket. For newborns they prevent those jerky hand motions which constantly wake the little one up, and as they get a bit bigger, they continue to keep the baby warm and cosy, as well as being a mental trigger to let her know it’s time for bed.

10. A good podcast

I’ve written about the benefits of listening to podcasts before – but I’m going to say it again. Your worst enemy when you’re in charge of the baby is boredom. Nullify the pain of watching her play with blocks for 45 minutes by whacking on some listening material to prevent yourself from sliding into a coma.

11. Bonus tip … be a swiss army knife

Consider this an extra bit of universal advice. It’s the first thing I tell my mates who have a baby on the way. You will have a whole host of ideas, rules and philosophies in mind when the kid is born. You’ll receive endless advice, including from columns like this. Your ability to let go of things when they don’t work is the best skill you could have. Be adaptable, roll with the punches and don’t expect anything to work the way you had planned. If you try a swaddle and it doesn’t work, find what does work for you and your baby. And direct any hate mail to my editor. The best dads around are the swiss army knife dads, who are able to find the right tool for every situation.

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