Cat food, a glue stick, cereal bowls, and a TV remote

I had the amazing opportunity toth spend the past 72 hours with a one year old again.  Ah the flood of memories: sticky hands, sticky faces, sticky floors, sticky residue on my clothes, the constant vigilance necessary in the constant quest for “toys.”  And that’s when it struck me.  My precious niece was in a room littered with her toys and she found a glue stick to put in her mouth. Surrounded by a plethora of age-appropriate toys, bought with care and love by doting relatives, and she wanted to suck on a glue stick left out by her older sibling?  This is reality. The glue stick made her happy. The glue stick felt good on her new teeth.

Yet parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles all across America scour the toy shelves for the perfect gift for their one year old.  Do you know why they can’t find it?  Because it is in the pet aisle.  My niece was obsessed with the cat’s food.  She could dig in it, scatter it, and eat some of it when she escaped around the corner faster than us.

She also crawled over the Duplo Leggos and expensive baby dolls to open the cabinet with all the plastic cups and bowls stored in it.  Perhaps it’s because they were hidden away and there was adventure in finding them and dragging them all out onto the kitchen floor.  But banging cups and bowls together kept her entertained for 13 minutes, which felt like over an hour in baby-time. In three days, I never saw her play with a single real toy more than a minute or two.

Instead she preferred to crawl and toddle and explore her surroundings.  She enjoyed opening drawers and closing them, and then escaping up the stairs and sliding down again.  Yet toy companies and marketing companies spend billions hoping that we feel otherwise.  Their message to us makes it clear that babies need special toys to stimulate their growing brains. They need red and black toys when they are infants and then toys that flash and make noise to learn cause and effect (or to drive their parents insane.)  They need a $100 special doll or 20 stuffed animals all their own to learn to love and nurture.  They need special board books so that they will develop a love of reading as an adult. And the messages go on and on.

New parents quickly and easily get sucked into the vortex of all that their child “needs.” They throw their credit card down on the counter of Toys are Us to insure their child won’t be left behind.  So I feel the need to make a bold statement: Babies don’t need a mountain of toys, piles of plastic STUFF, or stacks and stacks of books.  The only thing that a one year old needs is someone to meet their basic needs for food, diaper changes, and comfort.  Hold them.  Snuggle them. And don’t yell at them.  Let them explore safely and discover their new world.  Read to them.  Anything.  They really just need you.

So I am not writing this to bring guilt to the parents with over-flowing toy boxes.  (Isn’t that almost all of us anyway?)  I am writing this so that the reality that a child needs love and acceptance more than anything that money can buy really sinks in. I want young parents tight on money to embrace the truth that they are not depriving their child in ANY way by not throwing them a fancy birthday party or buying them all the cool one year old toys.

Recognize too that we condition our children as they grow up to desire those things that we hold as valuable. But at their core, what made them happy at age one was a glue stick, some cat food, a few bowls, and a TV remote control.

***And as a confession: I have wrapped up multiple rolls of scotch tape as a birthday present for a one year old.  It’s perfect for the whole family.


Cat food, a glue stick, cereal bowls, and a TV remote





Speak Your Mind