Above you see a Parking Pal Magnet. There's a handprint in the middle of the magnet. You slap one of these babies on your car in parking lots for your child to put their hand on so they stay safe. Great idea. The first time I saw these online I thought, "Man, what a great idea! I so need one of these! What can I do in the meantime? We have some Julius magnets from a happy meal...I can just stick one of those on the van and NR can put her hand on that."
Well, then we went to the store. When we came out I realized I had forgotten my trusty magnet to stick on the van. It didn't matter because I had my hands full and couldn't have gotten it out anyway. So I pointed to spot on the van and told NR to "touch the van". She did so dutifully! It worked like a charm: I got groceries loaded without wrestling her into the carseat first and she was safely hanging out against the van (within eyeshot, of course. At the time she was only about 18 months old, so she needed a couple reminders to keep touching the van).
On the way home I began reasoning: When I come out of the local grocery store I usually have my hands full of grocery bags and I'm holding NR's hand, so I can't pull out a magnet from wherever I have it stashed. Often on these local trips I don't carry a purse or a diaper bag, just my wallet, so there would be no where to stash a magnet. I would have to unlock the van before putting it on or try to remember to stick it on there before going into the store. Let's be realistic here, how many moms do you know that are going to remember that?
If it was a big grocery trip, I have a cart and typically NR is in the cart, voiding the need for a Parking Pal. At the mall there is usually a stroller involved. So the only times NR is in the parking lot are on those quick runs into the local grocery, Family Dollar, Ben Franklin or somewhere like a thrift store.
So we've stuck with "touch the van" around here. Now she's a little taller and loves to hold the door handle till I'm ready to put her in.
I'm not trying to defame Parking Pal--for some kids it's probably perfect and maybe it works especially well with more than one kid or older kids. I don't have experience in those areas. My little "pleaser" will do just about anything you ask her, so I have it easy.
My real point is there are a blue million products out there to "make it possible" to do things that are just as easily done without them. Most of these products offer visual interest and a specific function, but are absolutely not necessary. Most of the time they can be substituted with a little time teaching our kids or some common sense.
Can you think of something that is supposed to make life easier, but is actually its own burden, or is just not necessary at all? There are a lot in the baby/kids realm especially. I can think of two that I have bought that just didn't turn out to be as helpful as I'd hoped. Check out this podcast from the Playdate Crashers for some of their "Not Must-Haves".