How many times did you see your kids play with household
items and having so much fun that it made you wonder why you spend money on
toys? In my case, the answer is: MANY TIMES! Everything can easily become a
toy: a blanket, an empty box, a comb, etc. The
recycling bin is a treasure for my kids and I let them dig in whenever they
feel like. After all using their imagination will help them later in life.
Children are fascinated by the grown-up world, they want to do whatever they see their parents do. One of my son's first grown-up thing he showed interest in was the phone. What did his mom do right away? Looked online for a cool phone toy and got him one. It made sounds when dialing, it was ringing, it was small and cute - for me it looked like a perfect replacement for the "real" phone. My son liked it but he would still prefer the phone mommy was using. Now, 3 years into motherhood, I know better, I wouldn't spend money on a phone toy but give him an old and "real" one that we don't use anymore. We have a box in our storage labeled "old/broken electronics" which I'm sure the boys will enjoy some day.
Here are 4 toys I would advise parents not to get for their kids as they can let them use the real things. I came to this conclusion after observing my own kids and spending money on some of these toys myself. We all learn from our mistakes after all.
The vacuum cleaner toys are really impressive: they look like real vacuums, make real vacuum sounds, have working lights and real suction. Your child's will enjoy them and have fun playing with them but boy, some of these toys cost more than $40. For this price you can get a real cordless vacuum cleaner.
My youngest went through a vacuum cleaner phase for a few
weeks. He was so fascinated by it that each time I wanted to vacuum he asked to
hand it to him and I was left with no choice but let him use it. Otherwise he
would stand in front of me and I couldn't take a step. I was about to call a friend of mine, whose kids have a vacuum cleaner toy, and ask for if she could lend it to me for a couple of days as I was in no mood of spending money on another toy. But then I remembered my old Eureka. It was a hit for both my kids!
Pots and pans
My boys love to watch me cook and bake and help in any way they can: crack the eggs, taste the sugar to check if it's sweet, cover their faces in flour ...When they're done helping they move on to "cooking" on their own. They open the cabinets, take out spatulas and spoons, pots and pans. Their cooking usually ends in a music session. What else can one do with a spatula in one hand and a pan in the other?
We also have kitchen toys and they are great for babies: small, easy to handle, colorful but when your baby steps into toddlerhood, real kitchen tools become more interesting. Obviously you need to keep an eye on your kids and not let them handle sharp and dangerous kitchen tools (I keep them all in one place and though my oldest made easily the difference between safe tools and others that he's not allowed to play with, my youngest is testing the limits each time he opens that drawer) but other than that, I would say not spend money on plastic toys when kids enjoy more the real thing.
Pour water bath toys
When my oldest was a baby he received a pour and float boat toy. He fell in love with it immediately. He still wants it now and then but when his little brother was old enough to join him in the big tub, they both wanted to play with it. A friend was telling me his strategy for preventing his 2 close in age boys from fighting over toys: buy 2 identical toys. Though this seemed to work perfectly well in his case, I'm more of a if-you-don't-find-a-way-to-get-along-I'll-take-the-toy-away mom so it never crossed my mind to buy another boat. Instead when the bubble bath bottle got empty, I gave it to my boys to play with. Since then 2 more bubble bath bottles made it in our tub because we discovered that a plastic container (any size or shape plastic container ) is more fun than any pour water bath toy.
Toy CD players
Kids fascination with CDs! Who can't understand it? You insert them in a small machine and they turn into music or stories. That's pure magic! My son used to gather all the CDs he could lay his hands on. The downside was that he was doing the same at the library.
We expected him to be interested in playing with the CD player/radio so we were proactive and gave him an old CD player alarm clock we didn't use anymore. No worries in case he breaks it. Each night before going to bed he turns on the radio (fascination with CDs has phased out by now) and dances with his little brother. It's a delight for my hubby and me, two tired parents, sitting on the bed and watching the dancers having so much fun.
A real small CD player can cost as much as a toy one, sometimes even less and if you have one already and don't use it anymore, even better. Otherwise I would advise you to look for one at a garage sale and definitely not spend money on a toy CD player.
On the other hand, if you're looking for gifts that are worth every single penny, take a look at this list we put together.