Euphoria’s Blog for Green Mamas

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Choosing the Best Toys for Babies & Toddlers June 27, 2009

Filed under: Baby & Toddler — Rachel @ 8:14 pm
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If you are pregnant with your first child, be warned that a mass of toys are soon to invade your life.  It starts off as a trickle, but by your child’s first birthday (let alone Christmas), you may be seeing stars (and flashing lights and garish colors and more plastic than you’ve ever owned).  Before you start investigating elaborate storage and rotation schemes… STOP!

The truth is children do not need a playroom full of toys.  In fact, a shopping spree at Toys R’ Us is not even in your child’s best interests.  Why does the average American house overflow with toys?  Because (a) Parents/Grandparents enjoy buying them (b) Stores profit by selling them and (c) Our culture insists that MORE is always better!  The toys we give our children create their world.  They send quite tangible messages regarding value, possessions, beauty, and possibility.  Is the point to be entertained?  To have the best?  To know the most?  Or, is it for the child to grow by creating, imagining and discovering?

Last fall my family underwent a A Waldorf Toy Revolution – a process that both simplified and enriched our play life.  If you’re looking to simplify your child’s playthings or hoping to choose the best toys for your baby or toddler the first time around, here are some general suggestions organized by age.  The idea is to avoid going overboard (you don’t need 5 rattles) and to have a wide variety of toys that gently stimulate all of your child’s senses.  The more simple and open-ended the toy, the greater possibility for creative use now and when he or she is older!

 Babies Newborn to 6 Months

  • 1-2 Cloth teethers (organic cotton would be ideal; definitely washable)
  • 1-2 Wooden teethers (one very simple, one with manipulative parts such as rings)
  • A bell (enclosed in a ball or teether)
  • A rattle
  • A crinkle toy (something with crinkle foil in it – could be a soft teether, book, or other toy)
  • 1-2 Cloth baby books with simple pictures or textures

Babies 6 Months to 12 Months

  • A few balls for rolling
  • A simple soft doll (small, without detachable clothes, gentle expression)
  • A stacking ring
  • A nesting toy
  • A wobbling toy
  • A squeaking toy (push button or squeeze)
  • A set of rainbow silks
  • 5 or so of your favorite board books.  For more variety, start visiting the library!

Toddlers 12 Months to 18 Months

  • A simple musical instrument such as maracas or a jingle bell stick (not battery operated)
  • A push toy that encourages a walker or helps a child that’s still learning
  • 2-3 wooden cars, trucks, buses and such
  • A wooden boat for the bath
  • A small set of wooden blocks with interesting shapes and surfaces

Toddlers 18 Months to 24 Months

  • Block crayons or crayon rocks
  • Eco-dough or homemade modeling play dough
  • A pull toy
  • A ride-on toy
  • A new musical instrument, such as a drum or tambourine
  • 5 or so beautiful picture books.  For more variety, keep visiting the library!

2 Years Old

  • Tempera paint, quality paper & a painting smock
  • Play food, pots and utensils
  • A child-sized broom and dust pan
  • A soft baby doll with more details
  • A large set of blocks (consider irregular shapes, such as tree blocks or extra large cardboard blocks)
  • Animal or people figures (natural brands such as Animalz, Plan dollhouse, etc)
  • A new musical instrument such as a harmonica or banjo
  • 2 or so manipulative toys such as Lacing beads and Plan’s Nuts & Bolts
  • A sturdy scooter (trikes are actually more challenging for most children)

In many cases, a child will still enjoy toys for younger children, if their playthings are carefully chosen.  The rainbow playsilks that baby simply loved to touch become rivers and meadows for the toddler’s toy animals.  The nesting blocks become homes and caves.  Granted, the infant teethers and such have a very limited use.  But, do NOT get a lot of those.  Infants are more comforted by familiarity than anything else.  Find something that works and stick with it.

Please notice what’s NOT suggested

  • Avoid electronic toys that flash, play canned music (that you will grow to hate), move by themselves, etc.  These toys encourage passive, entertainment-oriented play.  They also require batteries which are dangerous and expensive.  Think that plastic flashing toy is cheaper than the wooden alternative?  In some cases, it’s the batteries that cost the most!
  • Avoid buying lots of options for the 0-12 months stage.  At this age, your child needs so little in the way of stimulation over and above interaction with YOU and daily living.  If you wear your child while you cook, shop, etc. her mind will be fed with the stuff of real life. 
  • Avoid educational toys.  Your toddler does not desperately need to learn colors, numbers and letters from his toys.  These abstract concepts are simply not developmentally meaningful to a toddler.  And, they WILL come naturally without any special toys that can only be played in one correct way.  Your own words are more powerful than any Leapfrog Learning Toy.  The experience of painting is a truer introduction to color than a push-button teaching toy.  Educational toys limit play possibilities and set up standards of “correct” play that don’t encourage creativity or imagination.
  • Avoid toys you find unnattractive. Seriously.  A child’s toys do not (and should not) remain stuffed away in a playroom.  They become part of your home and your life.  Beautiful toys can actually add to your home environment.  Selecting toys made with natural materials, such as wood and cloth, brings the natural beauty and textures of the world right into your home.