Sometimes Free Toys Don’t Cut It

It’s that time of year! Toys, toys everywhere. Also, lousy lousy weather that has me doing things like revisiting books on child rearing and how to entertain a toddler.

My nature is to want to not want my kid to have garish plastic toys. And the books and websites I read all swear that you don’t need toys when you have a bounty of FREE toys in your very own kitchen.

The reality is this: Give my kid a cereal box or paper towel tube and it’s dissolving in his mouth in 5 seconds. Give him a saucepan lid and he’s going to have a crescent-shaped bruise on his forehead. A wooden spoon? Just might get jammed down his throat when he trips chasing the dog. So there comes a point when I’m perfectly willing to fork out some cash for a chance to prepare a meal or run an errand in peace.

Here are some of our favorite toys that we (or someone we care about) actually paid money for. Perhaps useful information this holiday season?

Travelable Toys

Bits of cardboard lodged in the roof of your child’s mouth are extra-hard to reach from the front seat. We love our Lamaze toys:

  • Captain Calamari The kiddo has gnawed off all of his tentacles, and I find his eye patch especially endearing.
  • Freddie the Firefly While far from the cutest of the Lamaze toys, this guy has a nice variety of “advanced” motor skill features for the slightly older baby.

And sometimes it’s nice to have something that packs easily into a suitcase.

Bigger-boy Toys

Then there’s the garish plastic stuff that it turns out I can’t live without, because I’m not into extracting splinters from baby gums.

  • V-Tech Pull ‘n Learn Car Carrier Animals! Little cars! Big truck! Buttons! Music! Numbers! It just keeps on keepin’ on.
  • LeapFrog Learn ‘n Groove Music Table Now that he thinks his britches are too big for the jumperoo, this is the next best thing. Lots of activities, educational stuff and just plain fun music, the kiddo has dug this for months. I may change my mind when he starts climbing it regularly, but for now, it’s magic.
I do have an eco-friendly option, though.
  • Plan Toys Dancing Alligator Seeing a little boy toddle across a room with a cute alligator in tow is JUST the most precious thing. Even better that it’s made out of rubberwood.


Maybe I could just give him a leather belt to gnaw on. But to address the issue of every. single. thing. being devoured, I have tried out the world’s share of teethers. And Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature Easy Reach Teethers are the best. The stage 2 and stage 3 teethers are essential to survival.

And the Rest

When I’m desperate, it helps to have a totally baby-proofed area that I know can be explored without restraint, with a few safe non-toy items in baby’s reach. So what if my shoe ends up in the recycling bin as long as the dishes get put away?

In Fairness to New Moms

You don’t have to break the bank. Just don’t poo-poo second hand plastic stuff. It’s easy to clean and you’ll get a thumbs up from Mother Earth.


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