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Home > Christmas > Gifts

My Gift to Babies and Parents

by Nathanael Schildbach

gifts for toddlers © Tomasz Trojanowski - Fotolia.com. All rights reserved.

Family and friends all love to give birthday and Christmas gifts, so I have made a list of the top ten toys that infants love and should have in their first years of life.

Number Ten: Let's start with the classics. If there is one toy that my son plays with more than any other it would be stacking cups and stacking rings. Why kids love them so much I don't know, nor do I know why I'm so interested in them either. Probably all kids who have ever had access to them love to stack them, chew on them, put them in things, put things in them, marvel at their bright colors--and then do it all over again and again. They are well worth the minor investment and great at helping to develop motor skills.

Number Nine: Blocks. If you didn't have these as a child you are probably in counseling because of it. Every kid loves to build something for the sake of knocking it over and starting from scratch. Again we are talking motor skills, as well as some imagination at work. I would recommend wooden blocks with non-toxic paint, and if you're lucky you won't have to take out a mortgage to afford them.

Number Eight: A whisk and other utensils. A quick trip to the local Salvation Army or yard sale can turn up a gold mine of used kitchen utensils that will provide hours of entertainment for your infant at a fraction of the cost of real toys. Children love to play with "adult toys" like whisks, spatulas, and strainers. The perfect complement for these utensils is...

Number Seven: Pots and pans. Why not save time and energy and buy the whole kit? Pick up some pots and pans with the utensils (the noisier the pot the better) and let your little percussionist go wild. If you're frugal and not in love with your pots, pans and utensils you can do what I do: I let my son play with the same ones we cook in and just wash them before using them. Try to keep track of where everything is or you'll end up racking your brain when it comes time to use that tea ball or strainer.

Number Six: Keys. You have to carry them anyway and it's easier than remembering to carry a rattle.

Number Five: Cardboard box. This is an economical, recyclable jungle gym. Kids can crawl over, under and through it, all the while fine-tuning those motor skills. They can store toys in it, drag their stuffed animals around in it, and just put things in it and take them out again. Also, it is well documented throughout history that any child who is given a present will spend more time with the box and wrapping paper than the contents thereof.

Number Four: Flashlight. Any flashlight will do, but I have to recommend the Playskool Flashlight, which retails for around $10. It comes with green and red lenses and an automatic shut off feature to save batteries. Shine it on the wall to make shadow puppets or a cheap laser light show. Shine the green or red light on your face and play monster. Or just let your infant shine it around; it is guaranteed to amaze them.

Number Three: Ball. On a par with stacking cups and rings, balls are versatile indoor/outdoor toys that come in a wide variety of colors, sizes, and bounciness. Catch and most sports can be played with a ball, and spinning, bouncing, tossing, or kicking all seem to amuse an infant. My son particularly enjoys it when we play basketball using a clothes basket. I would recommend getting at least two balls, one small enough to be held in an infant's hand and another larger one for bouncing around the house and bouncing your infant on.

Number Two: Pet. This is no place to go in depth into what pets are best for children, but there are plenty of other articles already written that can help you. Small, easily squished pets (gerbils, mice, hamsters) obviously don't work out well, nor do skittish pets like guinea pigs. I would recommend that predators like boa constrictors not be purchased, unless you aspire to have a home life like the Adam's Family. My son loves our cats, but they don't love him, so I would have to recommend a dog. They come in "baby-friendly" versions like Labradors that can withstand the pulling and squealing of an infant without biting back. Always double check on a breed's temperament, the temperament of its parents, and spend some time with it to be assured of its temperament. If you haven't noticed yet the key word here is "temperament".

Number One: Parent. No matter what you buy your children, nothing compares or matters to them as much as you and your time. My son loves it when I give him a horsy ride (neighing required), a piggy back ride, act like a dog, or just lie on the floor and let him crawl and drool all over me. If you did this without the child you'd be committed so live it up!

Taking kids to the park or on a walk or even for a tour of the grocery store is better than any piece of blinking, beeping plastic. Remember, your baby has never done the things we consider mundane. Anything done with you is an adventure, and no one has spent time with a psychologist complaining about all the attention and time their parents gave them.

Toys for your baby should foster learning, discovery and creativity, rather than entertaining the child as a passive agent. Babies learn by interacting, not by sitting and staring. Never forget that what we call "play" is not just something to kill time, but the way babies develop as human beings.

Now I would like to share my list with my family and friends before their barrage of birthday and Christmas gifts.

Copyright © 1996 N. Schildbach, nate@net2net.com Nathanael Schildbach is a freelance writer living in Maynard, MA with his amazing wife Kimberly and constantly playing son Lucas Pride.

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