Friday, October 15, 2010

"Paper Versus Plastic," or Pre-Motherhood Presumptions Versus Motherhood Reality, Infant Toy Edition

WinkelBefore I had my kid, I was positive that my little darling would only play with wooden toys that had been lovingly whittled by Alpine dwarves.

Then I actually had a kid, and discovered, when they are very young, babies do much better with plastic toys made from petroleum products that club baby seals and contribute to the Great Pacific Trash Patch.

Of course, the paper/wood versus plastic debate is much more complicated than "natural" versus "unnatural," so guilt isn't necessarily required, but in case a rationalization of plastic is necessary, here are my pragmatic reasons for preferring plastic toys in many cases, and why I haven't looked back.

SkwishPlastic toys are both lighter and less dangerous. Very small babies can't really hoist any kind of substantial wood rattle, and it's hard to find ones that are even small enough for baby hands. Plus, as my mother so wisely pointed out, when they're young, babies hit themselves in the face with everything. They just don't know any better.

So as much as I love Manhattan Toy's Skwish in theory--it's a beautiful, entertaining, intelligently designed open-ended toy--it wasn't the right purchase for our baby at three months. For a new baby, Manhattan Toy's Winkle is a much better choice!

Fisher-Price Rock-A-Stack
Melissa & Doug Rainbow StackerAnother example of where organic wooden toys lose out to good ol' American plastic, at least when it comes to entertaining the littlest patriots, is the plastic Fisher-Price Rock-a-Stack versus the wooden Melissa & Doug's Rainbow Stacker. Back before I actually had a kid, when I was insisting on natural materials only, I ordered the Melissa & Doug Rainbow Stacker, even though I'm not a fan of M&D toys as a rule (I find many of them to be cheaply made).

We got the classic Fisher-Price Rock-a-Stack as a gift when Jackson was born, and I remember scoffing a little. "Plastic! Look at this silly thing with the ridiculous foil shiny thing inside the top ring. They couldn't even make it a real rainbow, they ruined it putting those dumb little balls in the top half of the red ring. And why does it rock?! What kind of ridiculous popcorn-button-on-the-microwave unnecessary extra feature is that?" 

Of course, six months later, the Rock-a-Stack is the undefeated champion of playtime, and the Rainbow Stacker sits unused in the closet. Jackson loves the balls in the red ring, he likes to make it rock, he can actually get the rings off and play with them, and I don't worry one bit when he teethes on the fat, squat, yellow ring-holder-thingy in the middle. The rings on the M&D stacker, on the other hand, are heavy and hard for him to lift and manipulate, the red ball rolls away (and reminds me of a scary clown nose), and I'm always worried he's going to gag himself when he tries to chew on the tall, skinny wooden stick in the middle. The Rainbow Stacker might be a great toy for a three-year-old, but it's not a good fit for my baby at this stage. 

Plastic wins again!

Sassy Simple Fascination Station
Once I accepted that plastic is not just OK for the baby, but very possibly better in some cases, I found that I was particularly enamored of a lot of pieces from Sassy Toys. They're seemingly well-made, and if nothing else, they're very well marketed to the high-strung mama who wants her kiddo to have the most highly developmental toys. (Not that mama doesn't know perfectly that her kid, and most kids, would have just as much fun playing with an old toilet paper roll.) 

Our favorites items so far from Sassy are the Ring O' Links (I'm also thinking of getting the Bright Starts links, to see how they compare), the so-called Fascination Station, which keeps Jackson busy in his high chair for long stretches, and their penguin-fugu-whale-Nemo-mysterycreature baby bath toys. (On the other hand, Jackson is largely uninterested in the Sassy Ring Rattle and the Sassy Spin Shine Rattle. He's just never liked holding them or inspecting them.)

Sassy Ring O' Links Rattle Developmental ToyThe links (more on those later, because they are excellent) and the high-chair toy, on the other hand, positively fascinate him.

What are your favorite plastic baby toys? And/or your favorite demolished pre-mother assumptions?

1 comment:

Cupcake Mama said...

I fell victim to the same illusions of wood and would only buy wood toys for other children before I had a baby. I should apologize to all those folks.