18 months in and all the ideas of an orderly, tidy, nicely decorated home are well and truly broken, shattered and stomped on by a curious toddler.
Once upon a time I foolishly thought we could still have a home right out of Country Living… tastefully decorated in a neutral palette with not an ornament out of place. Our lounge currently looks like an overstocked branch of Toys-R-Us with brightly coloured plastic competing with the muted tones of the Farrow and Ball in every corner. Put simply, children = a houseful of toys. So I thought it might be useful to look at the top toys – from both ends of the price scale – that Freddie (and every baby we know) has loved over the last year and a half.
We’ve mentioned it from time to time in these blogs, but some of the most wonderful toys a baby – and now a toddler – can play with come with no price tag. Time and time again, we’ve seen how Fred can entertain himself by getting tangled up in a roll of wrapping paper or by sitting in a washing basket and being dragged around.
A little imagination takes you a long way! When Steve was young he loved making dens and it seems he’s transferring that love onto Freddie. I often find them hiding away under the duvet or playing under a blanket that’s been draped over our dining chairs. It’s a little old school I guess, but it’s how we used to play before smart phones and millions of TV channels showing cartoons on demand! I know he’s got grand plans for the creation of a cardboard box fort!
This one is a rite of passage. Go to any cafe frequented by mums on maternity leave and every baby in there will come with a Sophie Giraffe attached. As soon as their pudgy little hands can grip, every baby is keen to shove one of these plastic safari favourites into their mouth. As they begin teething Sophie is the perfect thing to chew on to relieve sore gums (much better than mummy’s hands!). Just be prepared to keep picking it up off the floor EVERY FIVE MINUTES.
Ewan the Dream Sheep
This is your basic baby starter toy. You may have been given one at your baby shower or discovered it while Googling ‘how to make babies sleep’ at 3am. However you are introduced to Ewan, just know that every parent has one. It’s another rite of passage. You attach this cuddly sheep to your baby’s cot and by pressing its feet you are provided with a range of soothing womb like sounds and a soft red glowing light to gently lull your little one off to sleep. Who knows if it actually works but we, like many, don’t want to risk finding out! So every night Freddie drifts off listening to Ewan’s gentle ‘wooshing’ noise (front left foot for those in the know!)
This is another one that has some sort of magical quality that means every child within a 10 metre radius is drawn to its little plastic doors and steering wheel. They will fight over who gets to open and shut the door and will try and squeeze two of them to sit inside. Fred has so far only worked out how to push himself backwards in his but he mostly uses it as an unconventional seat for watching TV. This one comes with another warning attached – don’t be labouring under the misapprehension it will come in a couple of easy plastic lumps to clip together. You need to set yourself a good 3-4 hours aside to assemble it and make sure baby isn’t nearby while you sweat profusely and turn the air blue trying to screw it together.
The blurb from the manufacturer tells you how good a Jumperoo is for baby’s sensory and motor-skills. That’s all well and good but there’s no doubt what the big bonus is – five minutes of peace for mum and dad! Every baby I know loves to bounce around in one of these as soon as they’re big enough and they stay safely entertained, exactly where you left them. We started Freddie in his at about four months and if you’re lucky like us, your little one will love it so much he won’t want to come out. That means you get a good half an hour of ‘bouncing time’ without having to carry a baby around everywhere and can get on with jobs/sit down with a cup of tea and look at Facebook in peace. A godsend.
Sadly the halcyon days of the Jumperoo do not last forever. As your little baby gets more mobile and begins to cruise and walk then they don’t want to be hemmed in and kept in one spot anymore. So once they’re standing and walking, the next addiction we discovered is a play-kitchen. I was a bit Victorian about betting a play kitchen for a boy but quickly realised they have some sort of magic attraction for toddlers who flock around them like bees to a honey pot… opening and closing all the kitchen unit doors and bashing each other over the head with mini saucepans. Just one word of warning, don’t go as crazy with buying all the accessories as I did (who knew buying wooden food and mini plastic cutlery could be so compulsive) because you will spend the rest of your days on your hands and knees collecting them up from under the sofa only for them to be hurled across the lounge again precisely five seconds after you’ve put them away.
So there you go. There are a million baby and toddler toys available but these have definitely been the top six for us so far!