I remember the day when I finally realized that the two poop-machines in the house need entertainment too. The first three months had pretty much passed with a couple of knitted rattles, and a lot of music and singing my childhood’s pop songs to their faces. But now they’d started moving and we wanted to encourage that (basically, by that point, Alex and I wanted to do everything we could to accelerate their departure for college!) – and ‘oh my G-d; they don’t have any toys,’ I thought. ‘I have failed as a father.’
That day I skipped a couple of hours of work and went down to the nearest Babies ‘R’ Us, bought every toy that looked cute (and safe), and came home with a car full of them – just so that my kids ‘will have something to play with.’
Boy, what a waste of money. They didn’t touch half of these toys for a year.
Close to that time, both Alex and I were worried about Ben’s development compared to Adam’s. Our beloved doctor kept yelling at us for being over-worried parents, but still gave us a number of an amazing Pediatric Physical Therapist who taught me everything I know about baby toys, and consequently about baby stimulation. We all know that a stimulated baby is a better-sleeping baby, and that’s what we wanted (though what we actually wanted was a well-sleeping parent, but a good sleep for the baby is very healthy.)
What you need to think about when purchasing a toy for babies is first and foremost “high toys.” This means toys that cause the baby to, when lying on his or her tummy, to want to lift his head to look at and play with it. We want them to practice lifting their heads, to build the neck and back muscles, on their way to crawling.
Second thing to think about is a simple action and consequence. When I click or press or move something on the toy – it causes reaction in the toy.
Here are some of the toys that I’ve purchased as a result of my meetings with the PT and became a great success among the babies:
1. Little Tikes Tap-a-Tune Piano
Even though it doesn’t do much, my kids still like it a year later. It has four keyboards, it’s colorful, and every time you click one of them it makes a sound.
2. Activity ball
The good thing about this is that in addition to having so many features there and things that you can touch and slide throughout the ball, it also rolls, so if the baby doesn’t grab it and it rolls, it encourages crawling. Also the fact that it’s relatively big means that when you put it in front of the baby’s face while on his tummy, he has to look up.
3. International Playthings ELC Music Garden
This is also a fan-favorite ☺ Not only does each flower light up when you press it, you can press a button that plays a song and the flowers light up in sequence which is very exciting for the baby (one note: Alex reviewed this post and disagrees on this one – he claims that this toy never drove any excitement on the kids’ part. So, 1 dissent.)
One last thing I have to recommend – another toy that is so adorable and has not only been popular among the kids in the house, but among the dads: Sesame Street ‘Pop Up Pals’. This is a talking toy featuring Ernie, Elmo, Oscar and Cookie Monster that is already out of production, but you can find it on e-Bay. I bought it for the kids at 7 months old, and it was a massive success. It’s interesting, and it’s fun, and we can talk about it with them even when the toy is not there because they memorize what the characters are saying. They fall in love with the characters and it’s great! ☺
Alex insists that I add one more piece of advice about toys. He’s right – so right about this, but I’d forgotten to mention it: In the name of all that is holy, if an electronic toy makes sound, make SURE it has a simple and immediate OFF SWITCH. All of ours did except one. We started referring to it as the “Nuclear Piano.” Once touched by a kid (or a parent tripping over it in the dead of night), it started playing and didn’t finish until a) The song ended b) The parent killed self.