Thursday, December 17, 2009

Toys That Make Your Baby Stupider

My husband would disagree with me and tell me to lighten up, but I truly believe some toys make your baby smarter, and some make them stupider. (And you should know, I am certified to teach K-8, so you should trust me at least a little. Just ignore my husband.)

Here's one I think makes a kid smarter: Plan Toys Punch and Drop. My 8 month old learned how to put the ball in the hole, then bop it through with his hand. It was hard at first, but then he developed the coordination to hold the ball long enough to get it to the hole, then place it on the hole without it falling off the box, and finally to easily bop the ball through in one slap. (It comes with a hammer to punch them through, but we're saving that for later and just using our hands right now.)

Contrast this with many toys we are given that just make a bunch of electronic noises and spit out words he doesn't know when he presses a meaningless button. I'm not going to name any toys because I sound bitchy enough without offending any specific people who gave us gifts.

These pointless toys might keep the baby busy for a few minutes, but they are not teaching him any skills, besides maybe holding another plastic toy in his hand. He doesn't return to those toys like he returns to the toys he can do something understandable with.

Also, I'm a really anti-clutter kind of person, so it's important to me that the stuff we DO have is valuable in some way. Either it's pretty, or funny, or useful, or educational. I'm constantly culling items and evaluating whether or not we need or want them. I don't feel bad about trashing toys that no longer seem useful to me, even ones that I've bought. Of course, I keep stuff for him if I think he'll like it when he's older, and I keep stuff for the next baby.

I'm the same way with my classroom. I don't keep anything extra in there. With 25 kids and me, there is enough going on without extra stuff. I'm constantly trashing my papers, books, and supplies that I no longer need. If I come across something I probably won't ever use again, or can find online, TRASH. BYE BYE. The room has to have flow to work. Every minute at work is precious. I need a clear, uncluttered space to get work quickly so I can get home to my baby. It's incredible how much you can accumulate in ten years of teaching. If you don't unclutter, you end up with binders of lessons you will never use again- and often, multiple copies of those lessons.

I'm starting to feel the same way about my house. We have SO- MUCH- CRAP. I can't really throw away my husband's computer wires, or my favorite books, or boxes of pasta. We might need those. Crappy baby toys are an easy area for me to pare down, so I do. I can see those with a utilitarian purpose. If he doesn't play with the toy now, and I don't see it as having future value, I get rid of it. I refuse to feel bad about that. In this modern world, you have to protect yourself against the influx of stuff, whether it be bad toys or junk mail (or your own tendancy to buy books- me).

I'm just saying. There are enough crappy electronic toys at my baby's daycare. At home, we need to have good toys so he doesn't get stupid. (Plus, why would I want to listen to these talking toys?)

Note: If you like stupid electronic toys, I'm not saying your baby is stupid. I'm saying he's missing learning opportunities, and maybe will be .005% less smart than he should be. Also, maybe toddlers benefit more from these toys. I'm just talking babies here.

Other note: Not all talking toys are bad. My parents are getting the baby that talking Leapfrog Table for Christmas. I'm OK with that because it helps him to stand and there are activities on the top of the table that I think he'll understand how to do.

Also, a toy doesn't have to be quiet to be a good toy. We liked our Kaleidodisk (on right) from our dear friends Wendy and Christoper, and we like the silly singing Snoopy my parents got us.

As with all parenting decisions, each baby is different, each parent is different, and each home is different. This is how I feel about the baby toys for our home! I understand that with older kids, more than one kid, etc, there are different factors in what makes a toy valuable.

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