Baby toys seem to fall into one or more of several categories.
Baby toys can be:
a) handmade by fifth-generation artisans, crafted of sustainable oak in Denmark, photographed in chic modern flats, and sold to you for the cost of a Vespa.
b) mass-produced in China, photographed in the Sears portrait studio, and sold to you for the bargain cost of 40% off the retail price, all the time.
c) guaranteed to make your baby smarter.
d) guaranteed to make your baby hit milestones faster.
e) suspiciously absent of any guarantees whatsoever.
f) homemade and a little ghetto.
I like a little of column a, a lot of column f, and a little more of columns b thru e. As with anything in life, balance is key in the world of baby toys.
Let me tell you, I have a lot of friends with way better taste than I, and maybe they started with those posh neutral toys, but everybody eventually bows down to Fisher Price.
It's just that those heinously primary-colored toys are so damned appealing to babies! You surround him with hand-crafted environmentally responsible to-scale models of schooners and railway cars, and he will find the one fucking giggling Elmo ball that you hated your cousin for buying you. But cousin Francy is wise. So wise. That Elmo ball will buy you a shit AND a shower. Plus, when you're tied up in the bathroom, you can tell that the baby is still safely posted up, just by listening for the insane chuckles that the Elmo ball makes every time baby smacks it in the face.
Anywho, here's a few of our tried-and-true baby toys, both Chicken and Buster-approved.
$14.16 on Amazon
Starting as soon as baby wants to reach for shit.
Buster and Chicken both chewed the shit out of these stacking cups. Just tonight in the bath Buster gnawed on the blue cup and Chicken used the yellow cap piece to scoop water into his "rain bowl" (the inside of a salad spinner. We are super cheap with bath toys.) They are perfectly contoured to chubby baby hands. Also dishwasher safe, and made in 'Merica out of recycled milk jugs.
$19.70 on Amazon
Starting as soon as baby wants to reach for shit.
Sorry guys. I know non-parents are always like "what's the deal with the fucking giraffe? Why is it so special?" Well obviously it's because she's French and babies are all born French until we bastardize them with our chicken tenders and constant snacking.
Actually, I think it's for a few simple reasons:
In one form she sports a multitude of chewing options. You can hold her legs and chew her head or butt. You can hold her head and chew her legs. You can hold her head and legs and chew her butt. There's really no wrong way to make that giraffe squeal.
And speaking of the squeal, babies love that shit. At least mine did. I know everybody has one, but you wanted to know what the deal was with the fucking giraffe and that's what the deal is with the fucking giraffe.
$30+ on Amazon
Starting as soon as baby exists
This is one toy that packs a big bang for your buck, especially for those first few months. Want to cook, eat, poop, shower, read, watch TV, just be the sole occupant in your personal bubble for a minute or two? Bouncy chair. They have all kinds of bells and whistles, vibrating mechanisms, toy arches that dangle excited monkeys or sleepy elephants in front of baby's face, flashing lights, lullabies, the whole nine yards.
I know, again, not a shocker that a bouncy chair would appear on a toy list for babies, but I feel like I'm hearing a lot of soon-to-be moms eschew the bouncy chair since babies outgrow it so quickly, and the world has provided a safe place for baby to hang in the event of a pooping emergency (it's called "the floor.") True. All good points. But please allow me to retort.
- Babies hate hate hate being flat on their backs. I mean, not all babies maybe, but every baby I know really did not care for that shit. It triggers their startle reflex and freaks them the fuck out. You know those nights when you're falling asleep and you suddenly feel like you're falling through the void? And you jerk your arms up to protect yourself, but then you realize you were just falling asleep, and you wait for your heart to stop pounding so hard, and you tell yourself that you're so silly? It's that. Except you're a baby so instead of being like, "oh, man, that was weird. Good thing my body is safe on this hard surface," you're like, "I FEEL LIKE I AM FALLING THEREFORE I AM FALLING HOLY SHIT I JUST GOT HERE AND NOW I AM PLUMMETING TO MY--" until mommy picks you up again and then you're like, "oh hey. I'm hungry." So big people might not see the difference between putting a baby on the ground and a baby in a hammock at an angle, but the little ones, they see it.
- Sure babies grow fast, but your baby won't grow out of that chair (and by that we mean "roll out of that chair") for at least a few months. If you buy a $40 chair and the baby uses it for 3 months, that's 120 days. That's 33 cents a day. Not too high a price to pay for a little bit of freedom.
$13.71 on Amazon
Starting as soon as you bring baby home and you're like what have we done
When baby comes home from the hospital, survival is the name of the game. Figuring out the logistics of this new world is a full-time job, so it's a good thing that little babies sleep all the fucking time, at least until you get your feet underneath you. The baby is only awake long enough to eat, burp, shit, and start yawning again.
But at some point, after you're good with breastfeeding or baby's figured out the bottle, after you've become a swaddle ninja and been pissed on at least once, after all that, a few weeks in, or months, the baby will want to actually be awake for a little bit of time during the day. And that's when you have to start playing with it.
That's where this book comes in. It's legit awesome. It's divided up by trimesters of the baby's first year of life - 0-3 months and so on. And within those chapters, the book tells you a little bit about what the baby is capable of, developmentally, and the best way to engage with the baby at that age. Early on it's all "stroke the baby with soft blankets and sing lullabies," and then it graduates up to lap rides, flashlights, noisemakers, and other pulse-pounding baby hi-jinx. I just loved it because I didn't have to, like, come up with something to do when Chicken was awake and wanting to play. I went to the book, opened it up, and BOOM, it's "Itsy Bitsy Spider" time y'all.
$10.99 on Amazon
Starting, I don't know, I'm not a doctor, 6 months? The bag says ages 1-5, but Chicken got his first set as a gift when he was 6 months old and he has loved them ever since.
Bright, colorful, great for teething babies because they have those baby mouth-sized plastic nubs, and your kid's appreciation for Mega Bloks will grow as he or she gets older. First they're teethers, then they're things you can bang together, then they're things you can put in a metal bowl and shake around and make a tremendous racket, then they're things you can throw, and then, like five years later, the kids are like oh shit, I can build with these! Anyway, I'm a sucker for a toy with staying power. Which is why I hate buying puzzles... I wish there were a toddler puzzle library. With free babysitting. Next to a wine bar. Am I reaching for the stars here?
Here are a few that just speak for themselves. Not every baby toy needs a novel extolling its virtues. OK, novella.
There are tons more options, of course, and every kid is a riddle wrapped in Huggies, but these are a good place to start.
Stand by for a Top Homemade Toys post... the pictures will be craigslist-quality. That's a promise.