I guess I should balance all this negativity out by talking about something that I’ve found was worth it.
We’ve bought our children a lot of toys – too many toys! And most of them have been pretty much damp squibs. Opened up, scrutinised, shook, then quickly discarded. And now taking up room and gathering dust. But not all.
One toy which has been a winner is Fisher-Price’s Baby’s First Blocks. An amazingly, excruciatingly simple box, a removable lid with six varying shaped slots and two corresponding plastic blocks for each slot. Not very exciting, is it? No batteries, no buzzes, no beeps. But we’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of it.
First, there’s twelve teething toys! Twelve! For the price of one! Or twenty-four for the price of one Sophie! Your little one is on a one-baby quest for novelty and having twelve different things to suck on, bite and explore may help with this. Also, like Sophie they are non-toxic – but why this is considered a sales point for a kid’s toy is beyond me.
Secondly, I’ve had the pleasure of watching my children, as toddlers, sit and slowly put a block in the lidless box (lid-based fun still a way away!), pause, look inside and check it’s still there, pause, pick it out, pause, put it back in, pause, peer inside again, still there, take it out once more, repeat, repeat, pause, repeat. It was a real delight watching this fascinating, hilarious external expression of internal synaptic firing and rewiring as memory, touch and vision lock together*. Not a major milestone, maybe, but one of those small moments between them. Time was not sped up, nor shrunk, nor abbreviated, but with my Zen-like baby’s help, just enjoyed. Moments which make all the other crap and hassle worthwhile, and moments I often find myself thinking about.
Apart from developing motor skills and spatial awareness and all that stuff they advertise with, it’s great for starter vocabulary (shapes, colours, numbers 1-12, prepositions, etc.) which you can introduce as your baby goes from simply dropping a block into the box to being a little genius at putting all of them into the correct slots. Sometimes, simple really is best.
I love my (Yes! It’s mine!) Fisher Price Baby’s First Blocks. It’ll be sad to see it outgrown and put away, gathering dust with the crap toys that died way before their time. Maybe I’ll use it as a pen holder. Or plant some flowers in it. But until that day, thank you Mr Fisher and Mr Price – sometimes you get it right!
* Lise Eliot’s book – “What’s Going On in There?” – is an excellent introduction to the science behind these developments and helps you enjoy these moments even more. A cracking book! In fact, I might talk about it one day because it’s that cracking.