Plastic Crap For Babies

Before NDB was born, I really detested all of the brightly colored plastic junk that is so widely available and marketed for babies. Toys that sing, light up, and purport to “teach” anything just irk the ever-livin’ daylights out of me. As a former pre-K teacher, I am a little offended by the idea that the work I did could be replaced by a hunk of plastic from Fisher-Price. Plus, I saw so many kids who had been surrounded by all these so-called “learning toys” but were unable to carry on a conversation and just didn’t display healthy social adjustment. I made my opinion on this known, loudly and widely, while I was pregnant. Thankfully, most people listened and we didn’t get many hideous toys for NDB as gifts.

Now, I should clarify – I’m not opposed to all plastic. I think it’s wonderful that NDB has a few plastic teethers, and we use plastic food storage containers, and I have a plastic toy bin to store things in his room. Plastic toys can be great for fostering imagination, great for pre-math and pre-reading skills, great manipulatives for building fine motor skills.

My big objection is to plastic stuff that either works to babysit your kid (exersaucers come to mind) or sings and dances and talks and lights up. I mean, seriously, what is the point of this?

This is the “Laugh & Learn Learning Birdbath.” According to the manufacturer, it is

“…a unique, yet recognizable learning toy themed as a realistic garden. The
Learning Birdbath exposes baby to numbers and counting when “splashing” the water in the birdbath. Baby will learn colors and shapes through shape sorting
plants in the ground. The garden is home to 2 birds who teach opposites and sing
along to the learning fun. A friendly bat-at buzzing bee flies around while buzzing his own fun tunes. Lights in the “water” and around the birdbath rim encourage and entertain baby during play.”

Babies don’t need plastic birds to teach them opposites. They need real, live, human beings – preferably parents – on their level, singing and talking and working with them to demonstrate opposites. (It’s sort of like that preposterous notion so widely espoused, that teachers can “teach” character traits in a once-weekly, 20-minute “character lesson.” People, kids don’t learn honesty by watching a video and hearing a lecture every seven days. They learn honesty by seeing the grownups around them model honesty. Okay?)

For some reason, my own mother seems the most committed to persuading me to change
my mind. She bought NDB the Fisher-Price Little People Nativity, which lights up and plays “Away In A Manger.” Now, it’s an adorable set, and I think it’s important for kids to have their own nativity set as they play out and understand the Christmas story. So I just didn’t put batteries in it – voila! No singing and dancing and lights.

But when I went to visit her a few weeks ago, she had a Fisher-Price catalog, and she wanted me to pick something from it for a Christmas present for NDB. I showed her the most innocuous item I could find – the alphabet set of Peek-A-Blocks. They are clear blocks, and inside each
one contains a letter of the alphabet and a small item or animal that starts with the letter (the “C” block has a little cat, the “W” block has a slice of watermelon). Yes, they are brightly colored plastic – but they would make for nice, open-ended building play, or fun question-and-answer play as we name the items in the blocks, other items that start with those letters, or spell our

Instead of agreeing with me that it would make a great gift, she decided that NDB “really” needed something like this:

I didn’t want to be rude, but inside I was thinking, “Oh my God, are you kidding me? I refuse to have this monstrosity in my living room! Or anywhere in my house for that matter! It’s gross! What does it do? What does it accomplish? No, no, no, no, no thank you!” What I really said was, “Hmmm. It looks very big.” When we got to the store, and she saw it on the shelf, she agreed with me that it was big. Unfortunately, the store we were in didn’t have any of the alphabet block sets, or I would’ve pushed for those again. I suggested that if she really wanted to get him something from this particular line of toys, the pull-toy caterpillar might be a good choice. (At least it’s a pull toy, which is a nice gross-motor activity. He is standing up independently now, so it’s feasible that he’ll be walking by Christmas – or shortly thereafter. And even though it is brightly colored plastic, it doesn’t light up or make any noises. So it’s a compromise piece!)I just hate that she is choosing to spend her money on this stuff. There are so many websites with absolutely gorgeous, well-made, natural material toys. I’ve done all I can do – I made a list, I gave her websites and phone numbers, and I have dropped plenty of hints. The rest is up to her. For our part, we are getting NDB two wooden toys for Christmas (a walking pushcart, and a toolbench truck) along with one plastic toy (an activity table that has a reversible top – one side is a piano keyboard, the other side is a pegboard for large Duplo-type building blocks). I’m not trying to make it difficult for our family members, but I don’t want to surround my son with junk just because it’s popular either. I want him to have a lot of great playthings to choose from that will help him learn in a natural way, give him open-ended discoveries and imaginary scenarios, and encourage him to trust his instincts. I just don’t think that the majority of the plastic baby crap out there, can do all that.

These are a few of the stores I’ve suggested to our extended
family members, and where we have purchased a few of NDB’s Christmas gifts.


7 Responses to Plastic Crap For Babies

  1. Snoskred says:

    You know, I’ve just spent a weekend from hell with my sister who brought her kids down to visit their Grandma, and then spent most of the weekend not allowing Grandma to buy them stuff, not even a lolly. So don’t hold what I am about to say against me. She’s the Grandma. Encourage all you want, point her in the direction of stuff you would prefer, give her a “wish list” of the things you would prefer she buy your child. But at the end of the day, it’s her cash, she gets to spend it on what she wants to spend it on.

    If you don’t like what she buys, you can put it away in a cupboard, and only get it out when she visits.

    And you know, nobody is saying this plastic junk has to replace human contact or pre-k teachers. There’s no harm in them spending a small amount of time with it, is there? You’re the parent, you can control how much time the kid spends playing with the plastic stuff – and if it’s 10 minutes while you empty the dishwasher and refill it, that can be a useful thing.

    At least your kid has grandparents and extended family who want to buy them presents. A lot of kids don’t have that. So overlook the plastic stuff, and be grateful that your family care and love you and your kid, mmkay? 😉

    I’m trying to visit as many of the NaBloPoMo blogs as I can and I thought I’d say hi, I liked your blog.. 🙂

  2. Sean Carter says:

    I completely agree on your idea..even I’m not against plastic toys but can never treat them to be replacements for natural way of grooming and learning…Thankx a lot for all the links!!If you are looking out for cool and out of the box ideas you can jus peep into my Holiday Blog….

  3. The NewDotFamily says:

    Snoskred – Of course I don’t hold it against you! You have a great point; of course it is her money, and yeah, I’m very glad that NDB has grandparents who love him and want to give him things. And 🙂 your point about stashing it and getting it out when she visits, I’m not above that!!! I guess that my post didn’t adequately express my thoughts, because I don’t believe that the stuff in itself is evil. Like I said, we *do* have a number of plastic toys – and we even have a baby swing and a bouncer, which I’ve heard others denounce as tools for benign neglect. I just think that being surrounded by plastic stuff that always *does* something can become overstimulating for these small people. In addition, having a ton of this stuff around makes it too easy for parents to justify NOT interacting with their child (or interacting with their child and the toy; or their child and the DVD; or whatever). I’m all for strategies to find 10 minutes for yourself – lord knows, moms need that – I just think that there are plenty of toys made of natural materials, which are more open-ended and engaging, that would give moms a good 10 or 15 minutes without blinking, jittering, squawking, beeping, or playing a jingle.

    Sean, thanks for coming by! I like your phrase there – I’m not against plastic toys, I just don’t see them as great replacements for toys of more natural materials.

  4. Mrs. Chicken says:

    Hmmm. We had the birdbath and it managed to maim The Poo when I was out one day and her daddy was in charge.

    But, I have to say this. She really loves her musical plastic toys that make noise and stuff. This is not to say that she also doesn’t love her wooden drum or her soccer balls. But a few mixed in isn’t going to hurt. You just have to look for good ones that actually do help them learn skills.

  5. The NewDotFamily says:

    Oh, the poor Poo!!! Fisher-Price does not mention maiming in the press release, does it?!

    I agree that balance is the key – having a mixture of toys is great – I just prefer my plastic to be quiet. :0)

  6. Mamacita! says:

    I just posted about this. Can’t keep the first time grandparents away from Toys’R’Us.

  7. podweb says:

    I was looking for an occupational therapy toy for my son and my OT recommended the CLICS learning toy, Educational toys to help children with learning disabilities preschool kids age 3 and up. My kid plays with it every waking hour of the day because it is easy to construct and with just a few pieces you can make a huge construction.

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