Thursday, November 17, 2011

A little rant about toys

We recently achieved a new level of parenthood: We aquired a set of blocks. I LOVE THESE MOTHERFUCKING BLOCKS. My father in law gave us the uppercase set, and we dug them so much we checked to see what else they had, and discovered they have a lowercase set, and the animals on the lowercase set are BABY VERSIONS of the uppercase set, and they did it up RIGHT, so that frog --> tadpole (and not some "baby frog" bullshit) and butterfly --> caterpillar, and...

If you're insane, you can buy the periodic table set and start your baby nice and early. Me, I plan to get the Russian ones next.

The texturey faces are perfect for chewing on, and Bun Bun can play with them forever.

Which is helpful, because Bun Bun's world is a bit toy-deprived. I mean, she has a whole basket of toys, but a lot of them are wooden, and only a few make noise. Every two weeks or so, I freak out about this, fearful that not surrounding her with blinking, squeaking, talking plastic objects will means she'll never learn to solve differential equations. And then I watch her play with the grain of the wood floor for an hour and feel better.

Maybe it's because I grew up playing with rocks and sticks, or because I read the Little House books too many times, or because I'm fearful of what we're doing to our children with that there modern' livin', but I keep gravitating towards boring wooden toys and not too many of them, at that.

Save me from the boring wooden toys, internet people.

I remind myself that people grew up smart before Fisher Price, and that she's fine, and then a few weeks later it happens again.

And then it slowly began to dawn on me... There are people making a living by creating and then profiting from this kind of insecurity. There are people trying to convince me that my child needs this or that, and if I don't buy it for her, she will be stupid or unprepared or somehow at a disadvantage. Don't get me wrong--I'm not normally a crazy tinfoil hat person who sees conspiracies everywhere, and I am certainly not suggesting that I am somehow GOOD for not buying the latest gadget and anyone else is BAD for buying it. But it seems to me like you should buy a toy because you find it cool and fun and believe it will lead to endless hours of enjoyable interaction (or endless hours of your baby out of your hair so you can bathe), not because the box tells you your baby won't learn to walk or count or whatever without it.

So here's my plan. The next time I find myself feeling bad because Bun Bun doesn't have a Fisher Price TeethingMathCrawlSortTieShoes MegaPlayCastle, I'll just quietly mutter: FUCK YOU, capitalism.


  1. I'm in the minority who doesn't like "learning" toys. When I bought toys for Isaac recently, I gravitated toward the wooden ones as well, but also brought him along and let him show me which ones got him excited. He liked a lot of ones that were too "advanced" for his age - like the wooden (Melissa & Doug) animal puzzle for 3+ yr olds. He can't grasp the pegs to take the pieces out, but he LOVES the pictures of the animals and loves when you make the accompanying sounds. I do make an exception for musical toys (unless they are super annoying), because you should see that boy's face light up when he hears music! We have a hand-me-down Leapfrog caterpillar thingy that plays classical music, and he can't get enough. Still, his favorites are wooden sorting blocks (he loves dumping them all out of the box over and over), a vintage pounding bench that my mom bought him (he needs some help with that one), and anything with a tag on it :). Oh, and anything that's not actually a toy - like tupperware or a cardboard box...or the crinkly bag of wipes.
    Don't worry, Bun Bun will be fine. She'll be more than fine - she'll probably be calmer and have a bigger attention span because of the lack of flashy toys :).
    By the way, LOVE that pic. She is absolutely gorgeous :).

  2. Actually, the flip theory is that all the plastic lights and sounds toys are bad for your child, because they're too distracting.

    Ideally, each toy should have only one feature, (so technically, even your blocks with their letters and colours and stacking ability are too much, damnit!) so that the child can focus and learn that one skill without getting distracted by anything else.

    Of course, that means the wooden toymakers are profiting just as much. I shudder to think how much money we've sunk into Melissa and Doug products...

  3. I think that's how the occupy movement started, Bunny. Or at least, how it's going to be maintained.
    Bun Bun is looking mighty happy on that photo. AND I <3 those blocks. How cool.

  4. All advertising exists to make you unhappy. That's how the game works. In matters of products for children, I find a healthy sense of superiority very helpful.

    (full disclosure, I had always thought I'd be one of those wooden-only parents, too, at least until the child hits the age I was when my mother took my begging for a cabbage patch kid as impetus to make a doll that looked like me -- I always loathed the brown haired/eyed ones she took care to buy. I called them Ugly Dolls. I squinted through the crack in the door and saw her sewing it, my heart filled with disappointment and guilt. Ah well. Her values did take, eventually.)

    And now, thanks to this post, I MUST have those blocks, and will be unhappy until I do. Way to be evil, bunny. Sheesh.

  5. Argh, not good at the typings. Meant to say that I thought I would be like that but that actually there is a hefty helping of plastic wiz dings round these parts. Also wooden ones, but yeah. Toys are just so darn cheap at stoop sales.

  6. Look at her hair! And those blue eyes! She is mighty adorable!

    My 70 something Mother has been trying to tell me from day one that I don't have enough toys for Bee. When she has been out to visit I find every single toy he does have attached to him or his surrounding area. This over stimulates him. My Mom raised us with a doll to share among four girls and whatever else our brothers were done playing with and we are fine. In fact five of us hold doctoral degrees. No fancy lights and sounds here. We turned out okay.

    Maybe I should ask my Mom to buy Bee some of those blocks for Christmas. I wonder if she'd try to attach lights and crinkle paper to them.

  7. PS. We bought a periodic table poster and put it up in the play area two months ago. I think he's already got it down.

  8. I don't actually believe the theory that playing with any particular toy(s) will increase (or decrease) a child's intelligence. Bun Bun is going to be a genius because her parents are a couple of smarties, or at the very least, smart-asses.
    I do agree with the anti mega-corporation stance and the fact that nobody needs hundreds of bright-colored pieces of plastic cluttering their living space. Not only is it a horribly polluting enterprise, it is also aesthetically unappealing.
    Still, although I have purchased very few toys for g and I am inclined to buy nice natural product toys produced by small makers, I have NOT avoided the toys-r-us multi-colored, plastic toy invasion. When you factor in gifts, second-hand, etc., you have to be pretty hard-core to win the fight.

  9. We have those same blocks!! I love them, too, and am also drawn to classic wooden toys. Sofia has a pretty well solidified take-it-or-leave-it attitude about all toys but her dad and I certainly like stacking the blocks and then knocking down each other's stacks. So far Sofia's favoriate toys are wrapping paper and her fists. Fun times.

  10. BunBun is SOFA KING ADORABLE. OMG, how do you get anything done, ever? I want to play with her!

    Sometimes I worry that BabyBoy's small stash of toys isn't enough. That he's tired of looking at the same thing.

    Right. A 3-month old. Bored of a toy. (sigh)

  11. Wow, purdy! (the blocks and your child and your insight)

  12. Oh MAN is she cute. Seriously, I want to just scoop her right up (in a nice, non threatening, no I am not going to steal your baby way).
    We just introduced our first big plastic toy object with lights and music. (No, I am not counting the jumperoo because that was for *exercise*) And you know what, turns out he really likes it. But he also really likes the box. I think the next toy will be a box.

  13. I'm 100% with you on the wooden toy thing. One-hundred-percent!

  14. First of all, Bun Bun has some SERIOUS cute going on.

    I think you're on the right track with the wooden alphabet blocks *and* with the Fuck You to capitalism. (She typed, on her Dell computer...)

  15. Oh, Bun Bun, are you delightfully adorable, or what? :)

    Want to know what my kid is playing with right now? The long wool sash to one of my sweaters. He's running back and forth, dragging and flipping it around like he's trying out for some kind of ribbon gymnastics team. All the while, there is a basket of toys not five feet from him that has sat largely untouched all evening. 95% of those toys are hand-me-downs or gifts, mostly not our style, and, apparently, mostly not Arlo's style. All that to say that I have found it difficult to know what exactly he will enjoy playing with. Wooden fruit and little wooden peg children have been a hit, but a think that's because they're a perfect fit for his little paws.

    There is a basket of books right next to that basket of toys, and I love when I check on him and find that the basket of books is dumped out and books are open all over the floor and he's all engrossed in a book he's holding upside down. It melts my heart into a big ol' gooey thing.

    One thing I did that was a huge success was to make him his own cabinet in the kitchen. I filled it with an empty cardboard egg carton filled with plastic eggs (leftover from Easter), empty spice jars filled with food-colored rice, empty herbal tea boxes, some of his baby spoons, some of his empty bottles, books, etc, etc. Lots of fun, man. And it kept him content and in sight while I did kitchen chores. And it was completely free, all stuff I already had on hand and would have probably ended up in the recycling bin otherwise. (All the cabinets in our new place were already baby-proofed when we got here, so no new cabinet for Arlo, boooo.)

  16. So very awesome. Leap Frog can take a flying leap. My child has the rest of her life to be ruled by technology.

    When did the Bun get so very big?? Great photo, it has been too long since we got to see her sweet face.

  17. Dear Bunny,

    Funny timing this question, but I need you to consider submitting to the capitalism wave of new babies please?

    I remember reading a post from you about a new gadgety swaddler device? I am a little worried it was a summertime specialty though... might not be applicable to my cold weather babe.

    I couldnt find your email so I hope you dont mind me outing you as a product pusher right here in your comments

  18. We've got the humming/flashing/ADHD-inducing toys, mostly as gifts from family members and friends. The only feature Jackson cares about is the music. So we just put on the stereo and let him dance his sweet toddler moves and those plasticky toys don't see much action. His current favorite plaything? Mommy's empty Starbucks cup. He walks around pretending to drink out of it. Oh, and he likes to play with the tube of diaper cream. Kid has exquisite taste.

  19. She's gorgeous!

    And, hey, didn't the Baby Albert E company(you know which one I mean) just lose a big lawsuit about their overblown claims? Your rational, good-at-math, pretty girl will be JUST FINE.

  20. Thanks for the tip on these cool blocks. We got Bee a hebrew set as a hanukkah gift and it came today. Love them. They are great.