Parents of today will tell you that there’s a ton of kid gear out there that you’ll just never use. But, by the same token, a few carefully picked gadgets can end up making our days–and those of our little ones–infinitely better. And we’re not just talking about high tech strollers or breast pumps here. We’ve found that low tech, inexpensive gadgets as simple as bib clips can also make parents’ days that much easier. Red Tricycle readers flooded us with their recommendations for gadgets (what a savvy lot). Here are our picks of the best of the best, from the baby years through to the walking and talking days.

Mighty Tite Car Seat Tightener, $18

Available at www.amazon.com; also Target and One Step Ahead

We all know just how important it is to have a securely-fitted car seat to transport our little bundles of joy–but what if your steely resolve isn’t  matched by arms of steel? That’s where the Mighty Tite comes in. Working on a lever basis, the Mighty Tite is a simple piece of gear that ensures your car seat won’t budge an inch, even on the hairiest of hairpin bends. Particularly handy for rental cars and plane travel, where the attachment specs might be different than at home.

Bonus: If you want an expert’s opinion, contact the safety restraint coalition (1-800/BUCK-L-UP or www.800bucklup.org) for details about their free car seat check clinics.

Avent Isis IQ Duo , About $350; check Avent website for retailers

www.aventamerica.com

There’s a new breast pump in town, and it’s fabulous! This dual electric pump lets you start the pumping manually then learns from you and, at the press of a button, takes over for you. A must for any regularly pumping mother; readers tell us they pump more milk, more quickly with the Avent Isis IQ Duo. What’s more, its streamlined white base is also easy on the eye–always a benefit for those style mavens amongst us.

Bonus: The pump expresses straight into Avent 4oz bottles, so you’re all set with your baby’s next feed–no messy decanting necessary.

Kipiis Bib Clips, $11

This reader recommendation is a diaper bag must that will put an end to carrying around food-splattered bibs and will make meals-on-the-go a snap–literally. The brightly-colored antennae-like ends (pictured) will intrigue your little one, and make any handy piece of cloth (napkin; paper towel, diaper) into a bib. Simply snap the cloth onto the ends and you’re set.

Bonus: The bib clips come in a variety of colors so your fashion-conscious kiddies can coordinate to their hearts’ content.

Snack Trap, $4.99; about $14 for a pack of three

http://www.snacktrap.com

Available in packs of three from www.amazon.com; also available at www.onestepahead.com

Make snacking a hassle-free experience for both you and your hungry charges. A plastic cup with helpful handles for little fingers to grab on to, the Snack Trap comes with a vented clear plastic lid so that your child can see what’s inside–and access it easily. When they’ve finished helping themselves, the lid self-seals, preventing spills and keeping the snacks safe for the next handful. Ideal for the 12-month to 5-year set, this canny gadget advocates self-feeding without any of the spills and messes normally associated with it.

Bonus: The award-winning Snack Trap manufacturers have come up with even more ingenious ideas for your little gourmets–check out their website for the Sprout Spout and their super-cute infant tableware.

Easy Expressions Hands Free Bustier, $30

www.easyexpressionproducts.com

A “perfect partner” for any pumping mother, this ingenious invention holds horns and bottles in place whilst you pump, allowing you to express milk “hands free.” The bustier is essentially a wide strip of cotton/lycra material with two strategically-placed holes and a zipper for easy wearing. There’s no need to get fully undressed–just slip this on and zip it off again when you’re done. At the very least, you’re better placed now to read a book and relax somewhat during your pumping time. At the other end of the multi-tasking scale, mothers have been known to check email, entertain toddlers and even unload the dishwasher whilst pumping with the bustier in place.

Bonus: Eastside mothers can try on a range of sizes at the Evergreen Hospital Baby and Family boutique:

www.evergreenhealthcare.org

Juice Box Buddies, About $3

Through www.babycenter.com and www.onestepahead.com

Every toddler loves a squeezy juice box. Trouble is, all too often the “squeezy” aspect of things takes over and before you know it there’s juice all over the car, the stroller, the toddler…and none left for thirsty mouths. The Juice Box Buddy puts an end to all that. A mini plastic cup, it fits most juice box sizes, adding instant handles for your toddler to squeeze, ensuring that (most) of the juice goes to its intended recipient.

Fisher Price Healthy Care booster seat, $25

www.fisherprice.com and all major retailers

This seat attaches to a chair rather than the table, giving it some versatility. The compact fold and carry strap makes it super easy to tote to lunch, and the tray comes with a handy snap-on lid to keep it clean between uses.

Honorable Mentions

Do you prefer your child to be attached right up to the table rather than on a booster chair? Try the Regalo Easy Diner hook-on high chair ($19.95) or the Me Too! hook-on high chair ($49.95). Their canvas parts make them super-small when not in use. Available through Target and Amazon.com.

Need a “spare” high chair for Grandma’s house, or could you do with some extra room at home? Our readers love the Fisher Price Space Saver high chair, a full-sized high chair that attaches to an existing dining chair. When your little one becomes a slightly-bigger one, the back will come off the high chair to convert to a toddler booster seat. $50; www.fisherprice.com and all major retailers.

Did you like babywearing, but now you have a toddler and your old devices just don’t cut it any more?  For your kangaroo kids of 18 months and up, Red Tricycle readers recommend the Patapum baby carrier: www.sobebabies.com, $82. We also love the Ellaroo Mei hip carrier (up to 35lbs): www.ellaroo.com

Here are two great gadgets that can only have been designed by the mother of a little boy: the Wee Block and the Pee Pee Teepee. Both serve a key purpose; to save you from an inadvertent shower next time your little guy is getting a diaper change. About $15, these make great shower gifts (pun intended) for anyone expecting a boy baby. Wee Block available through www.onestepahead.com. Teepee through Target or Amazon.com.

Any Mac users out there whose budding software engineers keep renaming your hard drive and locking you out of your Powerbook? Check out AlphaBaby, free software that turns your computer, as one Red Tricycle reader puts it, into a “baby’s paradise.” The keys are disabled so when Junior hits a key, letters, numbers and shapes appear. Satisfying for your wee one, and way less frustrating for you: www.kldickey.addr.com

—Sarah Franklin