Do you depend too heavily on made for baby/toddler toys? It’s easy to use solely store-bought toys, especially when given to you for free at baby showers, but maybe it’s time to step back, and look in your house and outside for the stimulation your kids need.
You really don’t have to stock up on a ton of baby-deemed toys (other than books) to get your child’s interest, house-ware can be just as stimulating, if not more so. From my many years of experience with infant-3 years I’ve found that they are most stimulated, and interested in real-world, purposeful objects around the house. Bookshelves and the books in them become a mecca for defining fine motor skills, i.e., taking the books out and putting them back.
For infants and toddlers, gaining physical control of their bodies is a huge educational feat, from rolling over and reaching for objects, to fine motor-skills, like holding a crayon, so I try to make sure activities and toys influence them physically. Reaching for a stuffed animal or textured, colorful towel is good for their motor skills. As they get older, and more physically capable, putting objects inside each other serves a similar purpose. You can buy blocked/stackable toys, but you can also use different sized tupperware or boxes to create the same effect.
What I look for in a toy or house-hold made toy is that it serves 1 of the 5 senses, touch, taste, smell, hearing and sight. Most store bought toys easily include touch and sight, when hearing is involved the sounds emanating from said toy are usually arbitrary. Music around your house would be much for influential, for tonal patterns, beats and rhythm, and, lets face it, far more enjoyable for the adults. My point is, infants and toddlers need to be stimulated, consistently with objects, things and people that influence their 5 senses, and most of the time you can find these things in your house.
When we depend solely on store-bought toys we can easily forget about 2 senses which are typically excluded, smell and taste. It also becomes easy to assume that “educational” toys are doing the education, so we don’t have to. But this isn’t true, as parents and caregivers we need to consistently talk about what they are doing, seeing, touching, hearing, smelling and tasting. It’s fun to think about all of the educational resources around us at all times that we, as adults take for granted, but will thoroughly intrigue and stimulate our babies.
Touch/physical: Textured objects, this can be anything, cloth, wood, plants/flowers, rocks, paper, etc. When your baby starts to eat solids this is an amazing time for them to explore textures, and amazingly it includes all 5 senses! Hearing? Yes, if you consider the noise of squishing their food, or smacking a spoon against their plate, and adults talking about the food your baby is eating. Everything I listed can be easily found in house, or outside, i.e, plants, flowers, rocks.
Taste: Taste is something store-bought toys do not have (I don’t think….) As I said above, food is a great educational source, because it stimulates all senses. When your baby is eating, talk about the food, what the food is, the texture and the taste.
Smell: Flowers, soap, food: Smell is also something typically excluded from store-bought toys, so we have to go in house or outside for these resources.
Hearing/Language: Music, books, drumming on objects in the house…really anything, toy or otherwise can stimulate language, all we have to do as adults is talk about what they are seeing, i.e., colors, animals, numbers, etc.
Sight: Everything!! You don’t need to buy colorful toys (you can, but you don’t need to) everything in your house and outside when coupled with some kind dialogue can stimulate sight awareness.
Some store-bought toys I do like: BOOKS!! Puzzles and blocks, and art supplies.
Examples of toys I find useless: Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes, Fisher-Price Go Baby Go! Poppity Pop Musical Dino,