I have a house stuffed full of toys. Many of them are plastic, garish and noisy toys for the under twos. However, three babies in and I’ve reached the unlikely conclusion that these toys are pretty much pointless. Small babies do not play with toys. Older babies and toddlers want to play with Real Stuff and, if they are lucky enough to have access to them, toys belonging to their older siblings.
The toy market for little babies is really aimed at doting parents and grandparents, wanting to give their little one the softest snuggle toy known to man, which is all well and good. Who can resist a fluffy rabbit holding an impossibly soft blanket when a newborn arrives? We had lots of this sort of thing, which were super cute, amazingly fluffy….. and totally ignored.
Then come the plastic monstrosities for older babies. A handful of these are pretty engaging and are played with endlessly, such as a rocket shape sorter we had. It was so well-used that I can sometimes still hear it’s manic tunes buzzing through my brain, despite the fact that it died some months back. However, most are played with briefly then left to gather dust and serve as trip hazards.
As soon as a baby is able to make progress around the room, the last thing on it’s mind is toys. There is a whole world of real – often forbidden – things to explore, after all.
Yes, what babies want is Real Stuff. Their determination to access said Stuff can be bewildering. I am at a loss to understand the fascination in some cases but my three all obsessed about the following random items:
- doors and stairgates
- coasters (a really baffling one. Seriously, what is the appeal of carting a coaster around the house endlessly?)
- remote controls and mobile phones
- plug switches (not helpful when hoovering)
- TV on/off buttons (I think they probably just mess with the TV because of the interesting yelling that ensues)
- wires (good for attempting to garrotte yourself)
- wallets and handbags (good for emptying)
- keys (good for losing)
- tea towels
Many of these items are not exactly suitable for babies and some are downright dangerous but they neither know nor care. They just want them with an steely determination that no number of plastic, singing toys can shake.
There are, however, a few exceptions to the rule on the toy front, and they are rarely the flashing, noisy ones. If I was to look back and advise my baffled new-Mum self about what baby toys I needed in order to keep my mischievous eldest entertained, it would be these universal favourites:
- small cars and a basic garage with whizzy ramps
- a couple of Thomas trains and track (cheaper ones without faces just aren’t the same)
- stacking cups (honestly, the most adored and well used toy ever) and stacking rings
- crayons and an awful lot of paper
- small figures (little palm-sized ones)
- play food
- pretend phones
Yep, I think that is about it. And yet our house is literally full to bursting with ignored baby toys. Baby T is almost at the age when they will be redundant and we can start getting rid of some of these bulky items but, to be honest, we could probably have dumped most of themas soon as the first Hot Wheels car entered the house.
I think it might be time for a clear-out. Anyone need an ABC singing cow with flashing lights?
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