I don’t watch a lot of “regular” television so I don’t know what commercials you’re seeing there, but I do watch some internet TV and let me tell you… ’Tis the season for Fisher-Price commercials! These commercials feature happy, smiling nine month olds chasing a brightly colored, flashing, noisy, plastic toy. The baby is happy, the parents are happy, and the announcer is telling us how much our baby will learn from this toy. AND it grows with them! The flashy, noisy, plastic thing that is sedentary can magically transform into a flashy, noisy, plastic thing WITH WHEELS that Baby can push as he/she begins walking!
I’m no licensed child development expert, but I’ve managed to survive the baby/ toddler years with two kids and here’s what I’ve learned: Babies don’t need these toys!
It’s not even that they don’t need them, they usually don’t want them either. My babies were either scared or completely disinterested in almost all flashy, noisy, plastic toys. My baby never smiled and cooed over their latest noise maker, and I certainly never looked well-rested and happy that my baby was learning when I put him on the floor and handed him the damn thing.
We’re all guilty of buying into the hype. We want our baby to be smart and happy! If Fisher-Price or LeapFrog or Mattel can give that to them, who are we to stand in the way?! And if we are smart enough to realize that we shouldn’t bring noisy things into our house (buy plenty of batteries and Excederin, people), a well-meaning or revenge-seeking grandparent, friend, or uncle will absolutely gift them to us. They WILL find their way into our homes, if we don’t do something to stop it!
So what DO babies really want?
Babies want one thing: something they can stick in their mouth. That’s IT. Buy a $2 teether and be done with it.
If you want to get fancy, buy one of those cute little Sophie things. Man those are cute. And NOT LOUD! And your baby will still be happy and smart!
If your baby is past the sticking everything in their mouth stage, let’s say they’re at the “turn it into a flashy, noisy thing with wheels” stage, they might be more ready to engage in active play. DO NOT GIVE IN TO COMMERCIALS. What do kids at this age want? Things to stack: stacking cups or blocks. Personally I prefer wooden blocks to foam ones, because my little biters would eat the foam ones, but with foam you don’t have to worry about them beating you with it. Either way, just give them something they can stack up and knock down.
In the toddler years there are many wonderful options for your child’s expanding motor skills and brain function. Wooden train sets, puppets, and puzzles are great options. My kids loved their Bilibo from toddlerhood on (they still play with it sometimes, at 7 and 9). And of course, you can never go wrong with books, clothes, or a contribution to college savings.
My children both want video game systems for Christmas this year. Yes, they are asking for flashy, noisy, plastic things that are a waste of money. You will hit a point where you cannot avoid them any longer. So please, for the love of all that is good in the world, save yourself the headaches and money and avoid them while you still can!
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