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Ahead of the Curve

They’re on their way—the kids with your grandbabies in tow. Wait, when did that happen? Those babies are now toddlers, preschoolers and even pre-teens. You perused your 2008 copy of Gulfshore Life’s Visitors’ Annual and planned a full agenda of activities. But is your home ready? Here are seven great tips to keep roving toddlers safe, impress the bigger kids and save your sanity (and maybe your white carpet, too).

1. INSTANT TOYBOX: Why spend weeks agonizing over which toys and games will be hits and which are painfully not cool? Tiny Tykes Treasures, Marco Island, will assemble a customized goodie pack with gender- and age-specific toys, books and games. Nothing requiring batteries, no crayons to get ground into carpet; no puzzle pieces to lose. The two-child pack has 15–20 items; a large pack (up to four kids) has 20–35 items. Outdoor packs have pool and beach toys, water wings, buckets and shovels. Delivery available. (239) 389-1868.

2. BED IN A BACKPACK: Those wonderful people at AeroBed have outdone themselves with the brand new Overnighter, a standard twin-size, blow-up bed that fits into a way-cool, colorful backpack. Be the first grandparent on the block to have one for each grandchild, from toddler to tweens. $50 at Dick’s Sporting Goods.

3. COLOR-CODE THEM: Want to save hours of dishwasher and laundry duty? Pick a color for each child and assemble a personalized welcome kit. Include a plastic glass, cup and water bottle, a trendy toothbrush, a bath towel, beach towel and washcloth. Get creative and add color-coordinated flip-flops, T-shirts … you get the idea. Stick it all in a colorful, mesh laundry bag and label with the child’s name. Martha Stewart would be so proud.

4. PEACE OF MIND: Your home is designed for your safety; not necessarily theirs. Ace is the Place for all your child-safety needs, from furniture soft-guards, glass door decals, skid-proof rug pads, tot-locks for cabinet doors, electrical-outlet covers, drapery-cord safety tassels and more.

5. GRAND-PARENTAL CONTROLS: You can bet everyone over age four will want computer time for the Disney Connection, Internet games and to check their e-mail from their BFF (best friend forever). Hugely impress their parents by blocking unsuitable Web sites before their arrival. Click "parental controls" on your Internet provider home page and follow the prompts.

6. JOGGING WITH JUNIOR: Don’t sacrifice your morning jog—take ’em along, in an all-terrain stroller. They’re great on jogging paths or hard-packed beach sand. Taylor Rental, (800) 863-RENT.

7. SANITY SAVERS AND COOL STUFF: Everything else you need, from booster seats to bed rails, is rentable, with pickup and delivery. What does baby really want? Why, an Exersaucer and a Bumbo Seat, of course. And what will you thank us for the most? We’re betting on the perpetual wind-up swing. Tired, cranky babies are putty in its hands. Check out the huge menu of goodies at www.babysaway.com. (800) 870-7924.

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