Let's all agree that baby's first Christmas was completely stupid and we bought too much shit. And if it wasn't you, it was the grandparents, aunts/uncles or…you know, you. Because we all do it. Bursting with the momentousness of firsts, we wax lyrical about the wonder of viewing Christmas through the eyes of a child once again and in the end, baby eats the wrapping paper then falls asleep, and you're left trying to find a home for 1000 new toys that you rationalised buying because they were "so adorable!" " so educational!" or "such a bargain!"
Luca's first Christmas ended with presents left unwrapped under the tree for the simple fact that we ran out of time to open them all. And we were surprised to learn how many of them were not necessarily age appropriate. In fact, a book about foxes inscribed "To our Luca Boo, Christmas 2007" has only just been added to bedtime story rotation now. Because apparently, four-month-olds don't go for non-fiction so much – or maybe it's that they prefer the pictures to be of fox and bunny making friends, not fox tearing bunny's larynx out.
What can I say? First time parents; we had so much to learn. Not least of which was not inscribing things with "Luca Boo"…
I believed we had learned our lesson. And with three kids, it's no longer possible to buy so much crap, even if we wanted to. Financially prohibitive, yes, but also, all parents know toys multiply and I am jealously guarding any clear floor space we have left.
So it was time to get creative. To think about presents that were going to be practical AND fun. And by that I mean, keep the kids so intensely occupied as to render interaction with them unnecessary.
Recently, we invested in some toys oft lauded as stalwarts in the kid realm, tried and true champions of childhood. And now, I want to share my take on these perennial faves and why I believe we've been sold a lie.
1. The Sandpit
What kid doesn't love a sandpit? Excellent tactile play that has the added bonus of taking place in the backyard and not directly under your feet in the kitchen (which is apparently the ONLY fun place for my sons to play cars). Digging and building and throwing it directly into a sibling's face – good, outdoorsy fun!
But the thing about sand is that it's microscopically small and sticks to EVERYTHING. So unless you set up a system whereby child is fire-hosed clean at the back door directly post-sandpit, that sand is coming into your house. And it's then you'll realise it's just like living in a beach shack for the summer – without benefit of the actual beach.
Also – cat owners; BEWARE. Apparently sand feels just like kitty litter.
Verdict: a sandy hell.
*Incidently, I have a brand new in its box sandpit for sale on Ebay. Hahaha. I'm not kidding.
The Danes sure know how to innovate and 50 years after the first two bricks were snapped together, Lego is still going strong. A fine motor workout that requires imagination and problem solving in equal measure, Lego is a rite of passage, an institution of childhood.
It also has the distinction of being the smallest and most excruciating thing a human foot could ever step on.
And there's the rub – all the pieces, the tiny, tiny agony-inducing pieces. Just like sand, they get into everything. And worse still for my OCD self, losing a single, miniscule piece can fuck with the entire construction. And my day.
Also, parents of crawling infants: BEWARE. Choking anxiety up the yin yang.
Verdict: Lego will take over your entire home – no surface will be spared.
There is nothing sadder than the kid on the unpushed swing…
Who amongst us has not enjoyed the gay abandon of the humble swing, weightless bodies flying through space, wind streaming through hair? It's kick up your heels joy mixed with metronome-zen motion.
But this unmitigated delight is reserved for the person ON the swing. And you, dear parent, are not that person. No, you are the person who must push and push and push – you are the repetitive motion to your child's zen. And to be speak plainly, it sucks balls.
My Ziggy becomes almost comatose on the swing, his catatonic state broken only by the banshee shriek he emits should I attempt to bring an end to the swinging.
Luca likes to be pushed higher and higher but point blank refuses to use his own legs to assist in the process. Refuses.
And though Brendon taunts me mercilessly about it, I stand by my assertion that pushing two kids on the swing at once gives me vertigo. Or something. I don't know, I just get really dizzy and have to lie down. It's real, I tell you. Thinking about it now is making me anxious. Fuck.
Verdict: Swingsets will push you to your limits.
4. Board Bored Games
If you remember your own childhood, you will probably remember playing board games with your family. I can't speak for your family but I can tell you that my family never got through a game of Monopoly without somebody crying.
So why I thought buying Trouble for Luca would be a good idea, I can not truly say. The name should have sounded alarm bells. But I was genuinely looking forward to reaching this milestone, sitting around the kitchen table playing a good, old-fashioned roll the dice, move your piece board game with the boys.
Within minutes of our first game beginning, Luca became inconsolable because he hadn't rolled a six and Ziggy had lost one of his game pieces under the fridge. The next 20 minutes were spent letting Ziggy take my turn as well as his own and turning a blind eye to Luca's blatant cheating because I just needed someone, anyone, to win.
The times someone wasn't fighting or crying? You roll the dice, you move your piece. Boring.as.tits.
Family bonding over board games still remains a dream I hope to realise some day. Maybe we're just not ready.
Verdict: Life is not a Milton Bradley commercial.
I trust this handy guide will help you to avoid rookie mistakes.
But if you're still set on buying Lego, and I can sense that you are, I just discovered a nifty storage solution.
The boys both got Lego for Christmas and I've been spreading out a towel each for them to play on so they don't lose bits. It wasn't ideal. And I was terrified of Harlow choking on an adorable little steering wheel or Lego man's cap.
So I hit up Google and found Brikbag. I emailed them with a request to check out their product. Turns out they're a small business started in Melbourne. You know how I love to support a small Aussie biz.
There are a couple of similar products on the market but I liked Brikbag best because it just looked better than the others. Made from pre-shrunk denim, it has a 1.5m diameter which makes it the biggest play mat of its kind, too. Luca and Zig can both sit and play with plenty of room.
And even Harlow, if she so fancies…
We don't have a lot of Lego (yet). But if you have a shitload and are looking for a storage solution, Brikbag has a drawstring function that means you can close up the bag with all the blocks inside.
But my favourite thing about Brikbag was how it concentrates play in one single area. This is especially important with Lego which is so bit-sy and chokey. Where usually the boys run all over the house playing in every single room at the same time (how this is possible, I can't say, but it happens!), the mat gave them a focus and they sat down and made stuff for ages. It was actually incredibly cool. And then, once they were done, all the pieces were still on the mat which I pulled up into a bag. Voila. Dishes are done, man!
Now I want you to win one!
In fact, the lovelies at Brikbag told me I can give away two. So I have two Brikbags to give away.
To enter, leave a comment below telling me about a toy you either love or one you really, really hate. I'll be choosing my favourite response and the good people at Brikbag will be choosing theirs.
The competition will run until midnight (AEDST) Friday 1st February. Winners will be announced on the blog on Monday 4th February.
This is not a game of chance. Winners will be chosen based on the creativeness of their responses.
Giveaway open within Australia only.
Disclaimer: After contacting the company myself, I was supplied with one Brikbag for the purpose of review. It was understood that I would only write about the product if I genuinely loved it.
Congratulations to Bilby and Mummalove – you have each won a Brikbag! Shoot me an email thelittlemumma[at]gmail[dot]com with your mailing details and your colour preference (red or green trim) and I'll pass on your deets to the good people at Brikbag.
I hate all the noisy toys. I didn’t realise how many different sound/noises/music childrens toys can make and obviously the more noise a toy makes the more they play with it!! It drives me insane sometimes when it’s the same button on the same toy over and over again and then when the batteries start dying, that droning sad sound that replaces the music is even worse…
Oh god yes, that dying toy sound is the worst! xx
^^^my comment^^^stupid tiredness!! Off to bed for me
Yes it is Angie! My son has a seahorse he sleeps with that plays music and it sounds horrid when the batteries are running out..
Ha so thats how you directly reply xx lol kinda new to posting on blogs and im getting sidetracked from sleep time. Night!
Yep. Reply to the reply. Nifty, huh? xx
My goodness, how many kinds of cute can Ziggy be in that photo with Luca?
Now, you really have missed something vital. MUSICAL TOYS. Xylophones, triangles, tambourines, drums and did I mention xylophones?! There’s just something about that clanging noise that makes me want to climb the walls. Or more to the point, put myself in time out – outside of the house perhaps – anywhere away from the “music” (and I use that term loosely). If I’ve tried once, I’ve tried a thousand times to teach “Hot Cross Buns” but had no success – because I tell myself, if my kids could belt out a tune, perhaps I’d cope…..
So… here I am with baby #3, and I can tell you that the musical toys will NOT be making an appearance.
Oh, and I concur with your findings in all other areas but have a few little tid-bits to add:
1. A heads up for dog owners – dogs also like sand pits, just like cats.
2. You can sprain your ankle by treading on lego, and it can draw blood.
3.Swingsets can cause injury – specifically, RSI.
4. Board games are best accumulated, and stored neatly on the shelf so that others think you are being a very sociable family playing games together, but really aren’t. If you can’t cope with Hungry Hippos or Whack-A-Mole, I’d strongly suggest you don’t try Monopoly.
5. Musical toys = all kinds of wrong.
6. Toys that require batteries will see you at the supermarket acquiring said batteries with such frequency that the checkout operator may just wonder what a lonely housewife does with her time…and they will also send you broke.
What a great idea – I’m dreading the lego invasion. The memory never fades from those sharp plasticy corners between your toes.
Our 12 week old one was given a Witchetty Grub Toy with Removable Rings from Oxfam recently – they’re hand made in Sri Lanka. So lo-fi and colourful – it’s already a favourite in our household.
Oh, and thanks for reminding me why the sandpit is only a wizard idea in my mind!!!
1.The trundle play table. WHY did I ever think this would be a great idea for keeping mess ‘tucled away’. I was so kidding myself! It collects all kinds of crap, it takes up waaay too much room and is NEVER under the bed, but always out. Ours ended up in the corner of the lounge. The ‘handy’ drawer NEVER sat properly from construction so is completely useless to store things in, so the crap on the table just multiples and breeds while we are asleep…and we were FOREVER telling the little bloke NOT to climb/walk/jump like a monkey on the bloody thing for fear he’d go thru the ‘sturdy construction’ of paper weight ply wood. I hated that thing so hard. I insisted on coming when we took it to the tip. I wish we could have had a ceremonial burning of it. Fire bans.
2. Etch a sketch. ‘Mummy! Draw me a ‘. The idea of the rotten thing was that you would entertain yourself by drawing things and leave me the hell alone so I can drink/knit/scoff chocolate and watch True Blood in peace. Uh, no. “Daddy draws lovely , he’d love to draw you a ….’ *back to True Blood*
3. Puzzles: Do I really have to explain this one? The bits get EVERYWHERE and one knock and the bastard falls apart with kid’s puzzles…and you have to put the bits back AGAIN. My OCD can’t handle the little farm aninals, letters and numbers being thrown all over the place – because that is SO very obviously more fun than completing the puzzle. Puzzles have gone to the TOP shelf in the toy cupboard. …and the top shelf in the toy cupboard is not like the top shelf in a bar…it is NOT where I keep the ‘good stuff’. It’s more like ‘if you can reach it, you can play with it, and let’s hope you forget it by then’.
I know you asked for one, but I REALLY needed a good ‘toys can be mongrels’ vent. Even if I don’t win, this has been cathartic and brilliant. Thanks!
The current toys on my hate list are: Trash Packs.
Tiny, squishy, rubbery figurines that represent different rotting food/garbage items. Real appealing.
Ella became obsessed because they became the latest school ‘swap’ at the end of last year. Tia became obsessed because as much as i scream at her to stop, she continues to pretend that they are ‘chewy’ (gum). Yes, a choking incident waiting to happen…
The ONLY good place for these things is literally in the trash. Seriously.
I am loving the good old fashion sorting boxes. Cheap plastic containers sectioned out and then when you go to the beach and collect shells and rocks your child can come and sort them out into sections. They will be there for a half hour re sorting, taking them out and putting them back in. We just purchased the small plastic colorful animals for her to sort in the same colours. Best thing I’ve bought yet! And we are the family that went crazy at the first Christmas buying all toys and the best present was the paper it was wrapped in and the box :0(
This year was the sand pit and swing set and as you said above all of that us happening at our place!!
We had one of those. Freaky when the battery is running low. It ‘left home’ some time ago…
We had a little dog once, that used to say ‘Hug me’ at random times when the battery was going flat. Once it started doing it in the middle of the night, it got binned. There was no way I was gonna ‘wait and see’ if it was channeling Chucky! LOL
Great piece! Since meeting you I am hooked on your blog! Glad it’s not just me suffering the sandpit! And the brikbag looks like an excellent idea! Only one small thing, the Danish might be a bit miffed to think the Swiss are getting the credit for inventing Lego…altho I expect its probably made in China like everything else these days!
PS Anyone else with small children looking longingly at the Roomba…
I absolutely loath Barbie and have done so since I was a little girl, my daughter just loves her to annoy me I think :). In my opinion she is a hideous unrealistic and immoral role model for little girls and I’d prefer cute and cuddly or realistic. She recently got a Barbie microphone – now that thing will be the death of me, or at least mine and the neighbours ears! Anyone who knows my beatiful little princess knows she has a big and VERY LOUD mouth already and under no circumstances should she be given anything to accentuate it 🙂
I hate any toys with any more than two or three “pieces”. Lego, play food, puzzles, wooden building blocks or ball pit. They always end up all over the house, they never seems to get stored back together and you will forever be finding them. Then when you do decide to try and play lego/ puzzles/ wooden building blocks with the kids and you want to use them, you can never find them. Annoying!
However i do love cabbage patch dolls, both my 2yo and 1yo girls have their own, and are forever putting them to bed, wrapping their babies, they can do it for hours and its cute. They carry them everywhere and its the best toys we have got them by far. Plus they got all my old cabbage patch doll clothes so i saved money there and it helps heaps when introducing a new baby.
Hi Cate! And oh shit! I chucked in ‘Swiss’ while writing up the draft with the intention of going back and fact checking later….FAIL. Sorry Ole Kirk Christiansen, born April 7, 1891 in western DENMARK.
Oh yes, the Roomba! Do we hear good things??
Hahaha! We had a “police siren” go off in the night. Not cool, Duplo. Not cool AT ALL.
Really with the dogs? That surprises me. Man’s best friend perhaps but kid’s? Not so much.
Lonely housewives buying bulk batteries? Stop it!
Ooooh, I LOVE buying from Oxfam. I’m definitely going to look for that toy. How gorgeous!
Hahaha, Ange! Pleased to be of service, love.
Puzzles are the devil’s work. You’re so right about that.
Incidentally, we could smell smoke last night and when we went outside, it was quite thick in the air meaning someone was burning something very close by in the ‘burbs. Seemed curious but now I’m thinking, “Trundle table?”
Ewww! That sounds revolting. And bound to be a kid’s favourite toy.
And naturally I am killing myself at the image of Miss T-Rose with her “chewy” – love that girl!
Oooh, that does sound cool! Although my boys would be unlikely to neatly sort. Perhaps I’ll save that for when Harlow is a bit older. 😉
Hahaha! The microphone! I actually considered getting the boys microphones at some stage but forgot. Thank you for reminding me it was another of my insane ideas. 🙂
And yes, not sure what to feel about Barbie. I LOVED her as a girl (can still sing Barbie and the Rockers note for note) but I am certain it helped form my unrealistic ideas about what a female body should look like….
Yes, pieces will be the death of me!
I just gave Ziggy my old cabbage patch doll. He loves her, too!
My pet hate……Barbies/Strawberry Shortcake/Baby Born….you name it. Very cute, pretty dolls, yes. But how many times a day do they really need their clothes changed. Well, if you live in my house that answer can run up to 50 times a day (times two children). And because of how intricate their clothes/shoes/ski boots are guess who has to assist in every fashion change. And don’t even start me on them requiring numerous baths a day (using up every clean hand towel I own) and then of course they need their clothes washed????? What??? I am flat out having a shower and finding clean clothes to put on myself. Oh, to be a doll in my house.
Two words Angie: sleep deprivation. Frankly I am in awe how you can string two words together let alone such entertaining ones! X
What gets up my nose is the toys with dying batteries – they’ll occasionally give a half dying drone from the bottom of the toy box.. And why is it that all the battery operated toys run out of ‘juice’ all at the same time!!!
It sounds like its being drowned or something!
Yes! Exactly! LOL
I so hope it was a trundle table. They are the debil!
Kylie…I am currently waiting to have this baby, to see if it is a girl or boy. When discussing totally superficial pros and cons of either sex, I said to my husband: “…but if it’s a girl, there will be that pink, Barbie, cluttery shit all OVER my house. I don’t think I can cope.” Hate it.
The firetruck, I HATE it with a passion. No matter where we hide it, it always gets found & played with right on top of us, with sirens blazing. It’s the most irritatingly loud noise that grates on my nerves, yet my 2 year old son loves it.
The toy I’m loving most is the drum set I gave my gorgeous nephew for Christmas. I love that he loves it, and treasure each and every second of irritation it brings to my sisters de-facto (the poor childs father!).
I love my Cabbage Patch doll. It was the closest thing to having my own sister since I was an only child for a long time!
I asked for forgiveness for every ill thought toy I had ever given as my son of 18 months opened his gift, a standy-up, walk behind, balls pop up and down and make a tremendous noise toy, you are a Mum, you know the kind. What was worse, is that the lady who gave it to him was a granmother, she had done her time and now it was payback time!
My most fleetingly favourite toy as a kid was Operation, a boardgame(ish) which claims to be a “battery-operated game of physical skill that tests players’ hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills” but which is actually a fantastic exercise in how much noise you can make at 5am in the morning before your father finally loses it and throws it in the bin pleading insanity from sleep-deprivation.
I say fleeting because it made it from Christmas Day until December 28th. The sad loss of Operation did teach me one thing – never, ever buy small children a noise-making game for Christmas, unless you don’t live with them and don’t like the people that they do live with.
LEGO…AWESOME THINGS!!! My grandson is in love with the few he got from his cousin and at 5 1/2…To see him stay still for more then a min. at a time is AMAZING…The only time he does is when he has those Lego in his hands and he is trying to figure out what to build next…I am so glad to see him injoy something that is not t.v.or game system like his brother…it is Wonderful to watch a child use their mind again not to be hooked on all the other crap toys out there for them…AND THE LEGO ARE A NICE QUIET TOY!!! No waking up dad when he is napping…lol I miss the days when the kids had to use their mind to figure out the toys…I HATE SEEING THEM VEGGIE OUT IN FRONT OF THE T.T. Game systems were said to be good for eye to hand codnation but they didn’t say it would be the entire focus of the last 2 generations …My son in law is just as bad…I LOVE LEGO’S …lol
I’d had to say that the worst toy would be the noisy lawn mower that SIL (who had no children at the time) gave DS1 for Christmas. DS2 is enjoying it at the moment….luckily at 17 months he is yet to figure out the button at the bottom that will turn the talking on.
PS Having just read through other answers, would also agree that trash packs are the trashiest thing.
I love Lego. My son and I have great fun building together. I hate any toy that makes noise that cannot “run out of battery”
I hate toys that have rolling balls or fast cars because my toddler is FOREVER rolling them under the furniture! I guess it give my body excerise – bending, squatting and stretching to get the darn balls/cars!!
We had a toy monkey that would go off in the middle of the noise. It would scare the cr*p out of me when I was going to the loo in the pitch black middle of the night.. Its eyes would light up and it would say ” play with me, play with me”.. holy batman it was creepy, I had to get hubby to piff it, I was too scared it would come back and get me :/ lol!
How has playdoh escaped this list?! Horrid stuff, mashes into the most amazing (and annoying) places, including little mouths when mummy turns away for a split second, is boring as batshit, seriously there are only so many times you can cut out the seahorse shape and my son flat out refuses to play with it alone (which I dare not allow him to do anyway considering the mess factor). Having said all that it is so far one of my sons favourite activities so it has survived various toy cullings to be dragged out again another day. *sigh*
While Lego is definately at the top of Angus’ list, my favourite and one that is loved by all is the humble balloon! So many games and activities and sure to distract any boy in my house mid tantrum! A few of our favourites are tapping, drawing on, putting things inside and popping, or just popping, blowing up and letting it fly around the room. My favourite would have to be a bit of Romper Room action with an elastic band attached and a bit of “punch, punch, punch the ball!!!” The one I usually have in my handbag has saved the day more than once!
Had a good chuckle about the toys u mentioned previously. Having 8 kids, six of them boys, we have every toy imaginable including mountains of lego. This in itself is not a problem, apart from the ambulance trip to hospital when our 11 month old swallowed a lego block, but my 5 year old pulls the lego men apart. so not only do we have the odd hat lying around but we have dismembered hands and arms and heads as well. love it. We also had a sand pit but had to lock it away in the pool yard as my then 2 year old eats everything, dirt, plaster, powder and of course sand. Makes nappy changes very uncomfortable. We solved the swing problem though. My parents bought me a swing chair a couple of years back and we have it hanging on the back verandah. The little ones swing on this and push themselves off the wall. usually have to carry one or the other off to bed when they fall asleep in it. Going to buy a couple more for their rooms. Apart from these toys i really don’t like push along plastic lawnmowers.Love the blog. Always cheers me up.
oh the list of hated toys is endless – but the ones that do my head in most are the squirty type bath toys. Mould grows in there you know, I can smell it, I can see it through the tiny hole – squirting boiling water or disinfectant into that little hole with an eye dropper doesn’t work – the only way to clean them is to cut them open with scissors and give them a good scrub…. they’re not so squirty after that.
Oooh, love the Brikbag concept. We’re newbies on the Lego front, so looks very handy to keep those trecherous little blocks at bay!
My husband has had a longstanding ban on toys requiring batteries and those with non-pneumatic tyres, since a bad experience in the days before he became a parent. Our nephews rode plastic-wheeled scooters noisily around and around and around a paved courtyard while the ‘big boys’ were having a drinking session… scarred him for life. Not sure if he’d actually send gifts with batteries and plastic wheels back, but he’d sure threaten to 😉
PS. I did laugh out loud at the fact you’d put the sandpit on Ebay 😉 Our sandpit is 2.5 x 2.5m and has been like gold in keeping the boys entertained, but I think our (horrendously old)house full of (horrendously old) carpet hides the beach feeling well… I may not be feeling the same way once we renovate and have floorboards!