With so many toys out there, it can sometimes feel overwhelming to know what to buy for your child. You can feel like your house is being taken over with mounds of plastic and your bank balance is rapidly being emptied of its content. In this series of posts, I talk about the toys I found had the most ‘play value’ with my own daughter, many of which I selected for her, drawing on my professional experience. Many of the ‘toys’ I talk about are often not shop bought and are open-ended in the way they can be used, meaning they have greater play value.
In this post I look at the toys we used the most once my daughter was sitting, the ones she would return to time and time again and seem to never get bored with. As she got older, she would often remain self-absorbed for baby-appropriate periods of time, allowing me the opportunity to get on with a few jobs or just have a cup of tea. During these times, though I may not have been actively engaging with my daughter for short periods of time, she was always in the same room as me, so that I could ensure her safety and provide a reassuring word or two if she needed.
If your baby is not yet sitting, you may find my post on toys for younger babies interesting.
A treasure basket
My daughter loved this. She would spend significant periods of time, most days, exploring the range of different natural resources in her treasure box. (Yes, it’s a small wooden fruit box from the supermarket). As she played, she developed her sensory understanding of the world, discovered different textures and weights, developed her hand-eye co-ordination as well as her physical development. Even now, as a toddler, she will still become deeply engaged in treasure baskets and heuristic play.
For more information on treasure baskets/heuristic play and to find out about the sets I’m able to offer please follow this link.
Bag of bits
Again, a non-toy toy but a real hit and on a similar theme to treasure baskets.
I would simply fill a bag with a range of resources and my daughter would spend ages taking everything out and then putting everything back in again, before repeating several times. I used a fabric bag with the handles tied up on themselves so they weren’t a risk and I would give her a range of bits inside it – might be items of her clothing, the parts of her no longer used bottles or other day to day objects she was showing interest in.
At Christmas, a paper bag full of small wrapped-up presents kept her amused for days – far more than the gifts inside did once they were actually opened. Obviously I'm not talking tiny gifts and you need to be aware of the risk of soggy wrapping paper if your little one is a chewer. But the principle is a great one.
Once my daughter was confidently sitting and holding her head up, we tried a door bouncer and what a hit! She loved being in there and bouncing and moving around. I can only assume it was the sense of freedom and different perspective on the world. Even once she was able to stand and walk unaided, she would still ask to go in the door bouncer. (We also tried a jumperoo but my daughter never really liked it that much and boy, they take up a lot of space).
Now I know there are differing views on whether door bouncers (and/or jumperroos) should be used or not, but for us the fact that it was such a hit it outweighed any concern about negative impacts. Just remember not to use them to often, or for more than around 20 minuts at a time as advised by the NHS.
Also, please be aware that things like door bouncers, jumperoos or baby walkers DO NOT actually support babies to learn to walk or stand, due to the position babies are held in when using them.
Nine small board books
An accidental real hit, was a set of nine small board books I picked up at a jumble sale. They books were perfect size for my daughter to hold and look at on her own and, with only one image per page, simple enough for her to start to understand from a young age. Small but engaging, I would often put one or two in our change bag to take out with us. They are now very battered and well loved, as even as a toddler she enjoys reading them to me.
Simple wooden stacking toy
A simple toy, with a wooden post down the middle with a number of coloured rings that slot on the post, topped off with a round wooden head. Initially my daughter had fun simply by simply taking the rings off and chewing on them, or banging them on our wooden floors. However, it wasn’t that long before my daughter was developing her hand eye co-ordination and motor skills and working out how to get the rings back on the post again. The rings dropped back into place with a satisfying ‘clack’. She would spend ages repeatedly taking the rings off and putting them back on again, really helping to consolidate her learning and neural pathways.
Milk tins, milk lids and milk powder spoons
Another resource based in heuristic play theory. A few milk tins, lots of milk bottle lids in all colours and some of the spoons from the milk tins and my little one was entertained for ages. The milk lids and spoons were small and light enough for her to hold and manipulate. She would move them between tins, dropping them in with a satisfying noise, before turning the tin upside down to tip everything out. A great activity for hand-to-eye co-ordination, motor skills and some early matching and sorting. The small tin also made a brilliant toy holder when we went out. I would simply fill it with a few bits and bobs - a small book, some bits from her treasure basket, a few milk lids and spoons, a small soft toy – basically anything that would fit inside with the lid still on. Once out I could either give my daughter the whole thing to explore or give her individual items from the tin.
A carboard box
An ordinary cardboard box, big enough for my daughter to sit in, was another good toy. With holes in the sides for her to post items through (we used bits from her treasure basket) and her dolly pegs slotted on to the sides, along with the textures and sounds of the box itself, kept her absorbed and exploring for significant periods of time. In the early days, the box had the added bonus of keeping my daughter contained, as she couldn’t get out over the low side.
(Obviously I never left my daughter in the box once she became unhappy or uninterested!)
Many of the toys discussed above, and those in the pre-sitting article had interest for my daughter over many months and spanned more than one developmental stage – in fact, she is still using for many of the resources in one way or another, even now at the age of almost two.