By Matthew Sherman
There are many things in the baby industry that are complete and total rackets. At some point I will compile a comprehensive list of them. And somewhere near the top of that list will be baby toys. You’ve got your stuffed animals, your rattles, your flashing toys, your squeaking toys, your moving toys, your talking toys, your singing toys, your creepy toys, trains, trucks, balls and dolls. All of which retail for about $12 a piece.
If your baby is anything like mine, a toy has about a 48-hour lifespan before it becomes old news and is then simply a minor obstacle between him and the corner of the coffee table. (Occasionally we can revive a toy from the dead by hiding it for a week and then reintroducing it.)
Nevertheless, there is always a constant need for new toys. Your baby can track things now so he needs these. These are good to cuddle with, these are good for teething and this one plays “Are You Sleeping?” maddeningly over and over and is completely impossible to deactivate for half an hour. You’ll love it. Of course the stores are brilliant at placing toys right at stroller level so that each baby who passes can reach out and grab anything he or she wants, thus convincing me that this will be a new favorite toy when really the only object that can consistently fascinate my son is our dog’s disgusting food and water dishes.
I have come to realize that many of the most effective “toys” (i.e. anything that keeps Elliott from climbing the bookshelves) are normal household objects. So here is a convenient consumer report on the top five extremely viable “toys” that, had I discovered them earlier, would have saved me at least $50.
Pros: They are light, durable and usually don’t contain sharp edges. And everyone has at least half a dozen pairs of shoes lying around that they never wear anymore. For me it’s a pair of Vans that were always one size too small. Plus I’m not a skateboarder.
Cons: Once a baby has developed a taste for shoes, he or she will seek out all shoes, including those that are worn often and are laden with dirt and sometimes gum.
4. Tupperware of any kind:
Pros: Don’t ask me why but if you put a small tupperware container on an 8-month old’s head, you’ve suddenly become Richard Pryor in your kids’ eyes. To Elliott there has never been nor could there ever be anything funnier than having a clear plastic rectangle fall off his head into his lap.
Cons: Easily blends into the floor and are thus forgotten about quickly.
Pros: After Elliott is done eating in his high chair, he has no interest in Cheerios or anything else edible that can be put in front of him to distract him. Give him an ordinary spoon and he’ll happily hit himself in the eye repeatedly for the next 20 minutes.
Cons: The eye poking.
2. Crispy Chow Mein Noodles container (unopened or 1/2 full):
Pros: They’re like $3 at Safeway and one can is good for 2 years and about 20 meals. The lid is fun to chew on, the container is brightly colored and it rolls awkwardly on the floor but is easy to grab.
Cons: If your kid has an inordinate number of teeth at an early age like mine does, the label has a tendency to peel when bitten and exposed to a metric ton of saliva making for the always fun question: “What did he eat that was blue?”
1. Gatorade bottle (sans label) 1/8 full.
Pros: I’m telling you Elliott can be calmed from a full-fledged meltdown or sent into a state of utter, chest-beating and squealing euphoria at the site of this. It’s fun to chew on, is virtually indestructible and, with the right amount of liquid left in it, it’s almost a perpetual motion machine and is, apparently, insanely fun to chase while crawling.
Cons: I never get to finish my Gatorade.