This diaper bag checklist will help guide you in deciding what to bring when you go out with your child. For dads, they often underestimate what’s required. But basically, you need to take a diaper changing kit, food, clothing, entertainment, and care.
I used to go on walks with my baby almost everyday for the first year and now that he’s a toddler we go to the playground almost as often. Having a well-organized diaper bag that only has the things that I need has been invaluable for all the surprises that come up.
Whatever type of diaper bag you have, the key is to develop a system that works for you so that you can access things quickly if needed. It’s like a camera bag for a photographer, where there are many compartments to store all the different types of equipment.
For a diaper bag, I would recommend packing the items together based on their categories in their own compartments. You can even go as far as color coding everything if you wanted.
Here is our guide to what items you’ll want to consider for your diaper bag.
The Absolute Minimum: Diaper Changing Kit
Sometimes it’s not convenient to lug a bulky bag around. If you want to carry light, need to be mobile, or are in a hurry out the door, you might want to bring the bare minimum only. This is what most dads would prefer to carry with them. And the only thing that you actually need is a portable version of your diaper changing station at home.
It’s a good idea to have a small diaper changing kit already set up so it’s ready to go at any time. It’s more of a bare minimum kit than a diaper bag, which you can slip into any bag as you bolt out. Also, try to get into a habit of restocking this kit every time you return home so you don’t have to worry about it when you’re trying to leave next time.
Of course, if you’re with an infant, you will probably want to have the essentials with you as well. But for toddlers, grab these must haves and you’re good to go.
Diaper Changing Kit
- Diapers – 1 for every 2 hours you plan to be out plus at least 1 extra for safety.
- Wipes – 1 travel pack size plus 1 extra pack if it’s less than half full. Another option is to keep a stack of wipes moist in a plastic sandwich bag. Wipes are multifunctional in addition to wiping bums. You can clean their hands before eating, wipe down surfaces before they sit, and also clean any dirt off clothes.
- Changing pad – You’ll never know when or where you’ll need to change diapers. So having a changing pad with you will make it more comfortable for your child in any situation. Most diaper bags come with one, but if not, find one that folds up nice and slim.
- Rash Cream or oil – Get whatever you normally use in a small travel size.
- Small plastic bags – A roll of disposable doggie bags work the best. These are good for keeping odors out from dirty diapers and makes it more pleasant if you need to carry it around longer than expected. They can also be used to store any dirty clothes, toys or used pacifiers. We use a small dispenser container with these, which makes them easier to get at.
- Change of clothes – It’s smart to have backup clothing with you all the time because spit ups and spill overs happen. Your toddler probably also really likes playing in the mud. Choose something that is easy and comfortable like a onesie.
Extra Must Haves
- Snack – You should always have something with you that your child can eat. It’s easy to just leave a couple of fruit squeezies/pouches or granola bars in the diaper bag and replenish them when they’re gone. They may not get eaten or you might end up buying snacks from somewhere but you never know when you’ll get stuck with no options.
- Drink – Bring their favorite sippy cup filled with water because they will get thirsty at the playground. Make sure it’s closed tightly and try to stand it upright to prevent any spillage in case there are leaks. You can also put it in a sealed plastic bag as well because it can accidentally open up sometimes.
The Essentials: Food, Clothing, Entertainment and Care
Once you have your bare minimum kit, it’s time to put together all the essentials. You basically want to think of all the possible scenarios you may encounter or problems that you’ll need to solve and work backwards from there.
Are we going out during meal time? Will the weather change? How do I keep them occupied in the car? What if they hurt themselves on the playground? These are just some of the typical questions you may ask yourself, so it’s better to be prepared.
Obviously, you don’t want to over pack. Most moms are used to having a purse with them that carries their necessities and most dads usually just carry whatever fits in their pockets. In a diaper bag, we’re interested in just the essentials that your child will need. Some of these things will need to be decided on when you’re about to leave, but it’s good to keep the majority of these stocked up in your bag.
For infants, these items added to your diaper changing kit becomes your absolute minimum. And for toddlers, this fills out what you should ideally have in your standard diaper bag.
Mealtime for Infants
- Milk – How much you bring depends on your infant’s eating schedule. It’s smart to pre-portion each bottle based on how much they eat. This goes for both pumped milk and formula. If you’re bringing a thermos with hot water, bring the right amount of water or include a small syringe or measuring tool for mixing with the formula. You’ll need to evaluate what to bring each time.
- Nursing supplies – These are useful for dads to have in there as well, in case you meet up with mom and she needs to nurse. This may include a nursing cover, nipple guards, portable pump, or whatever the mom normally uses.
- Burp cloth – Just like at home, your baby can spit up.
Mealtime for Toddlers
- Food – Bring more snacks if you’re going out for a longer period. If this coincides with a meal, then bring extras. We usually like to fill up a container with prewashed blueberries or grapes just in case they don’t want to eat anything from the restaurant.
- Eating utensils – Have a small eating kit setup with their own fork and spoon.
- Bibs – If you’re toddler wears them, make sure to have at least 2 lightweight ones available.
- Placemats – They can be disposable or reusable, but they work great as plates for their food or just something to give a clean surface at the table. We use a roll up placement with a road design on it, which doubles as an entertainment surface as well.
Clothing for Infants
- Swaddle or blanket – Something lightweight to keep your baby warm while sleeping or from an unexpected breeze. It can also be used for shade from sun.
- Hat – Again for warmth or to protect from the sun.
Clothing for Toddlers
- Socks – It’s always good to have an extra pair of socks when the puddle that they’ve been playing in seeps through into their shoes.
- Extra clothing – Depending on weather and how volatile it can be, it might be useful to have a pair of gloves, scarf and hat. Maybe even a hoodie.
Entertainment for Infants
- Pacifiers and soothers – If you use them, stored in a clean bag or container. Have at least 2 on you, in case they drop one on the ground which will happen almost immediately.
- Toys – Keep your baby entertained with rattles, teethers, or whatever they find fascinating. Just have smaller versions of these in the diaper bag. But don’t forget the toy straps to keep them from falling on the floor.
Entertainment for Toddlers
- Toys – Have a few smaller versions of what your child normally plays with at home and switch these out often to keep it fresh for them. If they have a security stuffed animal, then buy a second one to keep in the diaper bag.
- Books – One or two small books are always useful to have on hand. Sticker books are also good for killing an hour or sometimes five minutes.
Care for Both Infants and Toddlers
- Small first aid kit – You don’t need to get too fancy here. All you need are a couple band-aids and maybe a small tube of disinfectant.
- Hand sanitizer – Great to have in general to clean your child’s hands as well as yours before feeding or after changing.
- Emergency contact info – Write down your emergency contact info on a card or a small piece of paper. This will include the child’s name, parent’s names and contact, and contact info for other support such as family, babysitter, doctor etc.
- Extra money – It’s a good idea to have some extra cash in the bag. You might thank yourself one day for that $10 or $20 bill that’s been stashed away for months.
Not Essential but Useful
At this point, you have everything you need in your diaper bag. But what if there is still more space available? Or maybe you’re planning to go out for an extended period of time. You can consider bringing more stuff.
Before this, we’ve focused strictly on your child’s needs. But there are also your needs. How can you use the diaper to your advantage as well? Moms have to be careful here and not end up using this as their purse as well. Unless you keep your items to a minimum. It’s a good idea to pack your things in a separate compartment, like the front pocket. So if you can fit everything in there, go for it.
These additional items may come in handy depending on the situation.
Useful Items for the Child
- Extra toys – Your kid can sometimes get bored of a something quickly so it’s never a bad idea to bring more toys for them to choose from.
- Arts and crafts – This is more for older toddlers, but something simple like a piece of paper and some crayons can do wonders sometimes. A small container of playdough could keep them entertained for a while too.
- Wet bags – These are sealable bags that can come in handy when you have wet clothes or a dirty burp cloth.
- Insulated cooler bags – This will depend on what foods you bring.
- Carabiner clips – These are useful for hooking onto your straps that you’ve got attached to their pacifiers or their toys.
- Portable sling/carrier – Whatever you’re comfortable using.
- Sunscreen – You never know when the sun will be strong.
- Nasal aspirator – Even though they hate it, your child will thank you for clearing out their nose.
- Baby safe pain reliever – Small travel size version.
Useful Items for the Parent
- Personal items – Putting your keys, wallet, and other personal things can relieve you from bringing another bag. But keep this to your own essentials.
- Extra shirt – You’ll need a change of clothing for yourself with you more often than you think.
- Entertainment for you – When your baby is asleep and you’re waiting around, you’ll wish you had a set of headphones or a book to read.
- Phone charger – The number of times you fall asleep at night and forget to charge your phone is countless.
- Notebook and pen – To write down that important idea you came up with your child so you don’t forget.
Once You’re Packed
Now that you know how to pack your diaper bag, I would highly recommend keeping it organized and ready to go all the time. I usually top up everything essential when I get home.
I hope this checklist and guide helps you so that you can enjoy your outdoor time with your child.