Do you still have last minute shopping to do for that new baby of yours?
Before you head out to that mainstream toy store, may I offer a helpful word? (Or maybe a few)
I’ll keep it short and sweet…it is 2 days before Christmas. None of us has time.
WHAT EARLY INTERVENTION THERAPISTS WANT YOU TO KNOW ABOUT BUYING YOUR BABY TOYS:
1. PLEASE consider your child’s developmental level before purchasing that toy. This may seem easier than it actually is. I know what you are thinking – “Oh I do that. The age is on the box.” But consider this. Those big toy stores also sell this to parents of new babies.
Even if you have no familiarity with child development, I’m sure any adult (when they step back from the marketing trance) inherently KNOWS – this is not developmentally appropriate. So don’t trust that the age on that box matches with your child’s age. Educate yourself on REAL development before you head out. There are lots of ways to do this. We think we have one of the easiest for parents (info on your child’s age paired with practical play suggestions will even fit in your bag – click here if interested), but whether you choose our product to educate yourself or some other way – just choose something!
2. WHY DOES IT MATTER you ask? Here’s why. Babies learn through PLAY. Purposeful play that matches their current developmental level matters more than you think. This type of play develops the brain in ways that will be essential for function later in life. YES, I mean it. BLOCK PLAY helps the brain in many way – but most importantly with spatial reasoning – used for everything from putting leftovers away in the correct sized container to geometry. Play that encourages language prepares your child for their future relationships with peers, family, and co-workers. Motor based play makes sure their bone density develops so they don’t get stress fractures during the first year of soccer. I could go on for hours. TRUST ME. It matters.
3. If it matters, why don’t the stores tell me? Or why don’t they sell things that are more appropriate for my baby? Simple. You will buy that plastic laptop, handheld game player, cell phone, play table, cube – whatever – that counts, and sings the alphabet in 4 languages. And they know you will. And so will your neighbor. And your sister. And your cousin. And the MAJORITY of new parents. Why? Because the people selling those products are also sharing the message (even if it is not directly marketed that way) that your 18 month old needs to know her ABC’s. And you are hearing it (even if you don’t realize you do) and you are also hearing society’s pressure with that little voice in your head that whispers “If she can’t count to 10 in the next few months like Smarty Pants down the street, she’ll never get in to Harvard, and she’ll never be happy.” (OK – maybe an exaggeration- but you get the point). So without even consciously thinking – you go. You become the ant in the marching line buying the light up toy so your baby will be happy and smart. AND NOT LEFT BEHIND. Only wait – what REALLY will make your baby smart is not those toys, but your pots and pans. Or a wooden ring stacker or shape sorter, or some home made toys like those found HERE. But…guess what? Those don’t cost nearly as much. Or anything. Pause for a second and think about WHO is telling you WHAT to buy and WHY.
Do they have your child’s best interest at heart? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends NO SCREEN TIME (that’s right zero TV, DVDS, Any Media devices with screens) before 2 years of age. Why do a large portion of “baby toys” involve this type of media? Empower yourself to become the deciding factor in what your child learns and plays with.
4. Ok I’m on board. I’m ready to help my baby be happy. And smart. And healthy. And I’m ready to spend less money. But where do I find these toys? It’s not easy. This I know. Our first suggestion is make them. There are lots of suggestions on our PINTEREST PAGE for DIY PLAY that are cheap and pretty easy (neither of us is overly crafty – promise). And yes, you can make your baby a toy and wrap it. He/She doesn’t know the difference. We also offer a board with toys for each age and continuously add new favorites. 1-2-3 Just Play With Me includes a reference section that shares toy suggestions by age and type of play. Next, think local. Google “developmental toy store” and look for shops in your area. In November of 2013, we started selling 1-2-3 Just Play With Me to store like this. Check our retail link for the growing number of these types of shops. Many sell online as well. When in doubt – search online for the brand. We like and trust names like HABA, Melissa & Doug, Manhattan Toys to name a few. Sill in doubt? Check out our BLACK FRIDAY shopping post or ask us on FACEBOOK – we love to help shop!
5. What else do I need to know?
Less is more. Too many toys are overwhelming and confusing. Keep it simple. Set limits. Show your love with your time – not your wallet.
The best way to play is WITH YOU. We all learn through examples. Your presence (not presents!) and your child’s imagination are the secret ingredients for successful learning through play!
I had a conversation with an old friend who is a new dad yesterday. He asked for my advice on toys and I shared most of what I wrote here (thanks for inspiring this post D!). He agreed and was excited about what we discussed but joked, “OK, I guess we are taking everything back!” Sorry to him (and to you) if I just created some extra errands for you, but TRUST US…when you pair your child’s developmental level (interests and abilities) with purposeful play – you will see (and enjoy) the magic of PLAY – not just on Christmas morning!
Interested in the concept of pairing development with play – more tips for toy shopping can be found HERE, including questions to ask yourself before checking out with that toy.