I recall my son’s first birthday when my husband and I handed him his toys.
He especially liked the box and wrapping paper.
This was a surprise to me. With my other four children, later, I learned it wasn’t at all unusual.
Toddlers all love cardboard boxes, wrapping paper and ribbon. If the box is big enough to climb into, so much the better.
Sooner or later they will notice the toys. But first there’s a lot of exploring to do inside a cardboard box.
Despite this intriguing universal childhood tendency, you, as parents or grandparents or doting aunts and uncles, might give in to your own universal tendency, and insist on some toys for your child.
For an infant, toys to look at work pretty well. A nice mobile above the crib, especially one that makes music, will keep a baby transfixed at least long enough to change a diaper.
Plastic toys for chewing appeal to the teething infant. At this age they learn a great deal through their mouths, everything goes in there. Everything must be chewed, gnawed and gummed. Squeaky toys, rattles, stuffed animals, all get popped into the mouth.
For the toddler, building blocks, Lego, and stacking rings will mesmerize for hours. They’ll learn how things go together, how small stacks inside big, how Lego bricks snap together and snap apart. And they will learn – eventually, or at least in theory – how to handle the frustration when their toys just won’t do what the child wants.
For the slightly older child, puzzles come in child-friendly shapes and materials. The pieces are bigger, fewer and more colorful than an adult’s puzzle. Wooden puzzles with little handles on the pieces are easier for a chubby hand to grip.
For a sure hit, provide paper. Any kind will do. Plain white, construction paper, bristol board, as long as a child can make marks on it you are a winner. Paints or coloring pencils, crayons, or marking pens (preferably washable) will bring delight to the child turned loose in this setting. You might want to provide an old shirt as a cover-all for the sake of your laundry.
Miniature tool-belts with plastic construction tools, little dumptrucks and police cars, make a small child feel like he is part of the big world. And a wooden or plastic hammer is a great frustration-reliever when applied to a board of plastic or wooden nails. Very satisfying.
Dolls and doll’s clothes are perennial favorites. Paper or cardboard cutouts that can be dressed, undressed and re-dressed, are always popular as well. A doll house is a terrific addition, letting the child move the furniture around, arranging their own space, and then using their dolls in the house to act out their personal observations about life.
Children are busy rehearsing with their toys for the day when they will be all grown up with children of their own. When you get right down to it, that’s ultimately what child’s play is all about.