It was our daughters first Christmas this year. We were into this parenting thing by four months at the time. In that short time my husband and I easily came to an important conclusion: There are TONS of unnecessary things that are marketed as baby toys and learning tools for a baby. For Christmas this year, our daughter received over a dozen toys with lights, noises and random things that the makers want you to believe are “necessary” for your child’s healthy development. We are grateful for our friend’s kindness, but our small home and minimalist desires don’t mesh with the onslaught of Christmas goodies. We felt good giving some of it to the local womens shelter and then putting the rest of it away so it isn’t all out at once.
While we were opening gifts, my husband’s dad gave Amelia an awesome present. It was a wine cork in a plastic vitamin bottle with all of the labels removed. Apparently this was a favorite toy of my husbands as he was growing up. Boy was he right – our daughter loves that thing.
This got me thinking – what else can we simplify in the development realm to help our kids thrive without spending potential college savings and employing every light up gadget there is?
For now, we are focused on the 4-6 month age-range. Our daughter is starting to scoot around and push herself up on her hands and knees, so we are cognizant of the safety hazards of some of these items. Here is what we came up with:
- Mobiles / Pictures on ceiling: Since she is moving around so much, we won’t have a mobile directly over her crib, but we have placed one high above her changing table so she has something interesting to look at when we are changing her diaper. We also put some pictures on the ceiling in the bath so she has something fun to look at when she is practicing her back float. DIY idea: Make a paper crane mobile by attaching some hand folded cranes and string to an embroidery hoop. A simpler version would be to securely tie a bunch of ribbons to the hoop and set them near a fan or air vent!
- Bottles filled with stuff: We have begun experimenting with different objects floating in small water bottles to stimulate the sensory synapses. Glitter jars and other sensory bottles have been a hit with both our daughter and us!
- Activity board: We are planning on doing a couple of these. One for now which has lots of different colored fabric tabs and noise makers and then another in a couple of months much like the one depicted in this Art Of Manliness article. I am also working on a sewing project for a small activity mat with buckles and toys to play with on an upcoming plane trip.
- Bubbles: At this age, several people tell us that bubbles are where its at. Here is a recipe and, for those on the go, an Amazon link for a pack of 12. We do the bubble thing a couple times per week at home or at story time at the library. It is really fun to watch my daughters face as she tracks the little bubbles down to the ground. Note – lots of bubbles have proven to be a little overwhelming for us – so start with a few if your kiddo is young. We use an old metal hanger as the wand.
- Noisemakers: We have attached some large bells to an old Livestrong bracelet. BAM! Another idea: line up a few more vitamin bottles and fill them up with different objects such as pony beads, rice and a bell. Make sure to glue the lids on so the contents don’t escape and become a choking hazard.
In the next few months as we shift through development phases, I also plan to make these cool velcro sticks as well as assemble an age-appropriate, special play time treasure basket (because I love to make stuff, but sometimes I need a DIY break). The internet seems to be filled with great ideas for toys that don’t cost a fortune.
What are some other ways you have simplified the toy scene in your home? What are some unique toys you have introduced to help infant development?