Baby,  Good design

playground for the one and under set


Two new moms friends have asked me about the delightful topic of toys. Sadly, no matter the toy, it’s only going to occupy them for a few minutes everyday, and only when they are feeling fresh after a rest, or after having been outside. With gusto: if you don’t want toys that make noise or take up space, absolutely don’t keep them in the house (but do eagerly place them within reach when at the library drop-in). 

Incidentally, if dear Matilda drops something from her chair or stroller, and you don’t give it back to her, you’ve introduced an intuitive sign-language for both of you to use from now on: Matilda doesn’t want it anymore, and dropping means it goes away. Easy.

Alma has a little tin of toys that we carry about and offer to her once or twice a day, alongside a few board books for chewing on. The tin is itself a nice toy because it rolls easily and makes a metallic thump if you hit it, or kick it against the wall, which she does. I put the tin out when she was six months and it will stay out until her first birthday and then I’ll hide it again, up with the sweaters and aging humidifier in my closet.

The tin contains a fondly amnesic graveyard of my toy hopes from when I first offered them to Lux: this will be the toy that she loves! A banana chew, a soft mouse, a wooden ring, a leather key chain, a wooden fish rattle. How the drily squeaky Sofia giraffe has made the cut these five years, I have no idea {leaves laptop to pick up Sofia and put it in a giveaway bag}.

In reality, movement is the only engaging challenge that they will throw themselves into, objects just can’t compete.

Here is the playground of the one and under set: reaching for things under the couch, tugging on a rope (that perhaps you’ve tied to the arm of a chair), steadily unpacking a paper shopping bag of objects like a spoon, a tupperware container, a plastic water bottle sealed with a little bit of water in it or maybe something that rattles, like dried chickpeas.

It does build an argument for living room playdates though, particularly in the winter! Build a rotation of friends to trade-off hosting each week, lay a couple blankets on the floor, prop a mirror in the corner, and all three or four babies will tackle your small assortment of toys with delight, then boredom, then the playdate will be over. Next week: new territory.

When Alma turns one I will ask for a wooden pull toy for her to pull around as she walks, it will be adorable and she will love it. As with everything BABY, if you are delighted by something, by all means, own it. Waldorf wooden toys, engaging stuffed animals, rainbow ring stacks, handmade wooden rings…there’s so much to love!


  • Dar

    Movement *is* everything. My twins will be 1 in mid December, both early physical movers who crawled before they sat and climbed before they cruised. Their best toys have been balls, their push cart, and each other, but we have a shelf of board books they pull and throw and a small basket of mostly plush and wooden toys (that includes two of those stupid giraffes) they gnaw on. What are your thoughts on blocks, musical instruments, puzzles, and shape sorter type toys as they get a little more precise and less distracted? We don’t want a house full of toys or bored babes.

    • Rachael

      You can try things like the puzzles, instruments, shape sorters, but if you’re like me, you’ll get them and them get sick of them after a week or two. They don’t really earn their keep. An instrument that looks nice and brings you joy to see, that’s one thing. And duplos are something they will love from age 2 on, maybe even 18 months on.
      I think they will continue to want to put things in their push carts and baskets–what those things are doesn’t really matter! x

    • Rachael

      Yes, we had one of those, and tried a few from the library! I didn’t like how flimsy they were on the bookshelf. Those blocks are so cheerful. Thank you for sharing Susan!

    • Guro

      I have three children aged 10 months-6 years and we have one set of those animal stacking cubes and one set without animals which makes a higher tower. And then the two sets combines. My oldest wore out one such set of stacking boxes, the best toy we ever owned! The girls now build for the baby boy to crash, and when my nephews (13 and 10) come visit, they build too! Apart from that “Empty the cabinet – any cabinet” is the nr. 1 favorite activity for our baby. My mother says that if she had had babies now, she would have had a baby swing in her kitchen! (I would if we had more space!).

  • Kelly Murphy

    Hi rachael, I wholeheartedly agree, my 7 month old baby spends most of her time playing with balled up socks (clean or dirty depending on whether she can get her hands on them) rather than the box of carefully selected toys I have purchased for her! This post has now prompted a cull, no point in them taking up space any longer! Having a four year old girl also I would be really interested to know what toys/entertainment you have for your older daughters? I know they love crafts and dressing up but do you find anything else they really enjoy playing with?also do you have a television set?thanks!kelly, UK

    • Rachael

      I would say: 1/ Duplos, 2/ Play silks (look for the big ones, 35 square inches, totally worth the money) 3/ Baskets for carrying and encapsulating in pretend play and real life. 4/ Little bits collected from nature and life, like beach glass, acorns, rocks, gems.

      We don’t have a television but we allow them to watch shows on an ipad for travel and special occasions (like dinner parties, sick days, etc).

      Thank you Kelly!

  • Blanka

    Dropping objects and observing how they fall, if they roll or stay, make noise or not, etc. is an important part of childs play in this age. You teach her – if I dropp it, it will never come back. Is that right in the world?

    • Rachael

      Good point–it is awfully fun to watch and learn from falling objects. But that can be done with toys, sitting on the floor. An absent-minded circuit of picking up things your baby throws while eating or sitting in the stroller, that’s exhausting the parent for no reason and narrows your chance of learning what the child doesn’t actually want right then.

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