Google+ Authentic Parenting: The Need For Toys

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Need For Toys

Written by Sarah Christensen at Becoming

A couple weeks ago, we invited a few friends over for dinner.  And as they walked in the door, our breastfeeding, co-sleeping, baby-wearing, cloth-diapering, sustainable gardening, worldschooling, peaceful parenting friends?

Asked: “But where are your daughter’s toys?”

My daughter, Charlotte, is ten months old and the fact of the matter is that we have purchased exactly one toy for her.  One.  We bought a wood alphabet puzzle.

Which, for the record, she does not give a rat’s ass about.  Why play with a wood alphabet puzzle when you could gnaw on your father’s face?  Or blow raspberries on your mother’s belly?  Or lick the floor?

We have other toys, of course.  My husband sanded and dyed (using food coloring) a small set of wood blocks.  Friends and family alike have given her several adorable plush animals.  Upon her birth, my daughter was given a couple rattles and a few baby-size plastic playthings.  We keep a bowl filled with two sets of foam letters.  Her grandparents keep an entire box of toys from my childhood for her to play with at their house.  But that’s about it.

The rest of the toys?  The “congratulations on your child’s birth, here, HAVE A DOLL” and the “happy holidays, here, HAVE A NOISE-MAKER” toys?  Well.  We donated them to Goodwill.  In total, my husband and I have donated more of Charlotte’s toys than we’ve kept.

It’s not that we’re ungrateful.  It’s not that we hold a grudge against corporate mass-production or that we are exceedingly concerned about plastic toys.  It’s just, how to put this, SHE IS TEN MONTHS OLD.  She wants to bang the pots she sees us cook with.  She wants to explore the spoons she sees us eat with.  She wants to “help” us load the dishwasher and unload the laundry.  She wants to duck behind furniture and pop out, playing peek-a-boo.  She wants to crawl around the house as we threaten to catch her and make great thudding sounds in the hallway behind her.

Or with our pots and tupperware

So I explained that to our friends.  Um, I told them, this is all she has.  Because she likes to play with us, to watch our facial expressions, to tug our hair, to pinch our arms, to explore the tools we use in her presence every day, to laugh as we tirelessly interact with her.

“Does it seem cruel,” I asked, feeling slightly inadequate, “that WE ARE HER TOYS?”

I guess not.  Two days ago, our friends called us up.  Where is the nearest Goodwill?, they asked.  They have a few dozen boxes of toys to donate.



  1. I wholeheartedly agree! I've got a box full of toys that my baby hardly ever plays with. She's happiest with a wooden spoon and a saucepan, or bouncing on my tummy. My real pet hate is 'educational' toys. Communicating with real people and playing with useful objects are surely better for a developing child.

  2. Great post and advice. We generally try to keep our daughter's toys to a minimum, although, honestly, it's not as minimum as I would like it to be. Her room is upstairs and her play area downstairs so she has a set of playthings in either room. Mostly wooden blocks or stacking toys (I too have an aversion to plastic). She has a home made (not by us) xylophone, and I bought her a little drum which she loves. Her plush toys did not get thrown out because she actually loves to hug and cuddle them. And she has some wooden puzzles, books, lots of books which she likes us to hold as she pages through them, or read alone, or let us read to her... She has finally started getting into books and I can't give her enough. Why? Because I am a book nerd and I love to see how she cuddles up next to me to read her book while I read mine. And sometimes we get to swop.

  3. I totally agree. My daughter would rather play with us then anything in the world.
    Great post.

  4. I agree. My daughter does have toys, though probably far less than most children her age (26 months). The only toys I've purchased, and the toys I'm grateful thoughtful relatives have bought for her, are toys that foster imaginative play. When she's not reading, chasing, gardening, & helping me with all of my chores, she is playing with her babies, cutting up her Melissa & Doug fruits & veggies, & playing in her kitchen.

  5. I see nothing wrong with either extreme. The need for toys will come with time and she will lead you in the direction that she is interested in. My difficulty right now is that we receive SO MUCH from well-intentioned people that it is hard to shuffle through what they really play with and what is a waste of our limited space. I do think it is more difficult to have no toys when you have a baby and a toddler at the same time. But right now? Being toyless sounds wonderful to me!

  6. I realized that I love the thought that my baby reaches for her books (16 mth old) first at the moment. How am I to keep that momentum going with all the distraction of toys. If she wants toys, I simply clean out a milk carton, fill with beans, super glue the lid on, and bam, she has a drum or shaker. Or, I make toilet paper roll puppets. Or some felt hand puppets. (Up until this post, Yes, I did buy toys but not that many. Today, I am ridding myself of all the burden of the sometimes played with, never played with, and needless ones).

    yep, she likes her stuffies, looks like a few extra of those will be hanging around.


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