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Mother Essentials: Karen Chan, Author Of “What’s That?”

Written by Katie Hintz-Zambrano

New year, new Mother Essentials roundup! We’re kicking off January 2022 with a list of must-haves from Karen Chan, founder of Gloo Books and mother to two sons, Jaxon (3) and Kai (4 months). The L.A.-based creative launched her indie publishing house with a mission to feature subjects and voices that have traditionally been unrepresented in children’s book. The first title from Gloo Books is What’s That?, which Karen wrote herself. It tells the story of a child who brings a lunchbox filled with his favorite Chinese dishes from home to the school cafeteria, only to discover his lunch looks very different from his classmates’, an experience that Karen says is common for Asian American children. “Our goal is to publish children’s books that are not only inclusive, but expose children to today’s important issues,” she says of Gloo‘s north star. “We believe books are transformative tools that can empower children and create change.” Check out Karen’s toddler/baby mama must-haves below, her debut book included!

Signet Necklace. “This was a splurge present to myself after I had my second child three months ago. I have both their names on it and it’s one of those pieces that I never take off.” Medallion Signet Necklace, $2,100, Ariel Gordon Jewelry.

Lovevery Play Gym. “This play gym is so versatile. It comes with different toy attachments and visual cards so you can switch things up.” The Play Gym, $140, Lovevery.

Comotomo Bottles. “I love these bottles because they’re made from silicone, shaped to mimic a breast, and have a wide neck so it’s easy to clean with a regular sponge—no special bottle brushes required!” Comotomo Natural Feel Baby Bottle, $12.99, Amazon.

Ilia Multi-Stick. “The faster I can get ready in the morning the better, so I love Ilia’s multi-stick. I smear a little on my cheeks, lips, eyelids—done!” Multi-Stick, $34, Ilia.

Rainbow Flatware. “This is a great trick for getting my kid to eat with his utensils instead of his hands since he always wants to use his rainbow spoons and forks.” 9-Piece Rainbow Stainless Steel Flatware, $13.99, Amazon.

What’s That? “A little shameless plug of my children’s book What’s That?! This book is all about food and the connections we make to each other and our families through food. I’ve always wanted to write a children’s book and it’s been such a joy seeing other parents and kiddos reading the book!” What’s That?, written by Karen Chan and illustrated by Basia Tran, $19.95, Gloo Books.

Dyper. “We’ve made a lot of consumer changes to help better the planet and switching to bamboo diapers is one of them. The bonus is that Dyper also provides home pick-up and composting!” Dyper Diapers, $80/month, Dyper

Maternity Bra. “This was my favorite bra through pregnancy and nursing. So comfortable!” The Invisible Bra, $35, Everlane.

Aquaphor. “I joke this is the only ointment/salve for babies you’ll ever need, but it’s true. Diaper rash? Dry patches? Unidentifiable skin irritation? Just put some Aquaphor on it.” Aquaphor Healing Ointment, $9.58, Amazon.

Pop & Bottle Oat Milk Latte. “I usually drink black coffee, but I’ll treat myself to a Pop & Bottle’s Oat Milk Latte once in a while. It’s made with oat milk and dates instead of refined sugar and it’s so so addictive!” Oat Milk Latte, $45 (for 12-Pack), Pop & Bottle.

DIY Playdough. “I’ve discovered making foods from playdough to be a great stress relief activity I do with my son. Commis Kids makes the cutest set of food playdough kits complete with directions and factoids about the food.” Pie Play Dough Kit, $39, Commis Kids.

Jordans. “I haven’t worn most of the shoes I have in months because (a) I’m always home (thanks COVID) and (b) kids. I’m pretty much always wearing these Jordans.” Jordan 4 Retro, $400, StockX.

Nugget. “Talk about a multi-purpose toy! Our son gets so creative with building forts, jungles, spaceships, etc., or using it as a mat to tumble and jump around on. When we’re not playing with it, it doubles as a mini sofa.” Nugget Play Couch, $229, Nugget.

Montessori Tower. “One of the best gifts we got came from my sister-in-law, who is a big Montessori advocate. It’s become one of the most used items in our kitchen. My son can be part of the conversation, watch what’s happening, and help with food prep or just snack. I recommend this to every parent I know!” Montessori Helper Tower, $140, Etsy.

AirPods. “This has become my work-from-home must. I always have them in. Truly a Mother Essential.” AirPods, $129, Apple.

Float Therapy. “Chasing around a toddler while pregnant in your third trimester is no joke. I was perpetually achy and sore. Float therapy suspends you in saltwater without any effort and being free from all that weight in my third trimester was pure bliss.” Float Therapy, prices vary, Pause Studio.

For more Mother Essentials, peep our recent past columns with kid-lit author Suzanne Greenlaw, the founders of EADEM, Minimalista author Shira Gill, Domino’s Chief Content Officer Kate Berry, the two-mom duo behind Morrow Soft Goods, mega-influencer Nabela NoorAngela O’Brien of Cleobella, Nikki Osei-Barrett of District Motherhued, Blair Paysinger of Post 21, Idia Lanlokun of Ola & Mide, Karam Kim of Bluecut aprons, children’s authors Evan Sargent and Joanna HoEli Yonas of Toki Mats, Shaina Kerrigan of Molly J., Jenna Levine of LINNÉ botanicals, Eunice Byun of Material, and Sandra Lin of Kiwi Co.

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