Monday, 22 June 2009

Toys and games - What do you buy?

Ah yes, the minefield of baby and toddler toys. We have a 3 year old niece so were fortunate to get a bit of an insight into what was available well before Baby D arrived. What struck me was the huge amount of electronic toys you can get these days. There were a few times where I’d be sitting in a room with our niece and several of her toys would be going off at the same time – total sensory overload, a bit like walking down the Las Vegas strip with all the flashing lights and noises!

I can appreciate that, from early on, these electronic toys can be educational and help teach the concept of reward, i.e. baby presses a button and a light flashes or a song plays. My only concern was that if she was constantly surrounded by these things that she’d eventually start pressing inanimate objects expecting some sort of reaction (our niece did this a few times). I thought that some of the toys were just over-complicated too, for example, the VTech "First steps" baby walker. The walker itself is excellent and very well balanced, however, the activity centre part is pretty annoying, it had too many buttons and flashing lights for Baby D to really get any enjoyment out of playing with it and seemed to have a mind of its own anyway, regardless of what buttons were pressed. AND it doesn’t shut off automatically so carries on beeping and flashing until somebody gets up, walks over to it and turns it off by hand…

Sometimes I wonder if these companies really think about the little person that will playing with their toy when they’re sitting around having a sales meeting and designing their new product line which will no doubt be “even more educational” and “packed with more exciting features” than before… I’m sure Baby D gets just as much fun and enjoyment out of playing with her Early Learning Centre music set and her Fisher Price stacking rings than she would from “My First Laptop” or whatever the latest range of uber-educational electronic toys is. Surely at this early age the fun aspect is paramount?

Another thing I wanted to be careful of was buying too many things. It’s all too easy to see baby enjoying different toys at playgroup or at friends houses and thinking “I must get one of those” and before you know it you’ve got a house full of toys, most of which just end up gathering dust! Inevitably though, we’ve ended up with quite a number so I try to keep out a select few of her favourites and rotate them every now and again so that she doesn’t get the opportunity to get bored.

We’ve tried to keep a balance between new toys and old favourites, the wooden blocks, stacking rings, jigsaws, etc.. One of my better purchases was an old 1970’s Fisher Price Activity Centre for £1.00 in a charity shop! I took it home, gave it a very thorough clean and Baby D loved it, even our 3 year old niece thought it was great – sometimes the old toys are the best eh?
Baby D’s now discovered her Duplo bricks, something we all enjoy, building towers and knocking them down, simple stuff but a lot of fun. I like the fact that she can use her imagination with the blocks too, she can build whatever she likes and it can be whatever she wants it to be – a car, a boat, a house, endless possibilities!

Ending on the theme of “the old toys are the best”, when she’s a little older I’m really looking forward to dusting off my old Atari 2600 console, another toy we can all play with!

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