I’ve been on a mission to pare down our toys to things that really benefit my children, and contribute to the learning atmosphere. I recently wrote about active and passive toys– active toys light up and entertain, while passive toys require the child to think and really engage. Passive toys don’t do anything!
Magda Gerber, early childhood learning guru said of passive toys:
They will only respond when the infant activates them. In other words our active infant manipulates passive objects. In contrast, entertaining kinds of toys, such as mobiles or later on, windup toys, cause a passive infant to watch an active toy. This trains the child to expect to be amused and entertained, and sets the scene for later TV watching.
We haven’t completely banned these entertaining active toys from our home, but here are some alternatives to toys that we like.
Passive Toys for Infants and Toddlers
We have this lion walker. E loves pushing it around, but it doesn’t offer a lot more than that. He presses the song buttons, and they make Mama want to pull out her hair. If I had to do it all over again, I would have gotten him a wooden push toy, like this one from Alex. I love that it has gears, and a mix-and-match giraffe.
This is our beloved Kick and Play Piano mat. We call it the “Kicky piano” and I even sang a special song when I put my babies down to play (that’s embarrassing). It was basically a babysitter because my babies played with it for a long time. Even though a baby won’t play imaginatively with a passive toy, the Skip Hop play mat would be a lovelier addition to the home atmosphere!
Music and Activity Tables
I have to confess that this Fisher Price music table is a huge hit in our house. Miss H still plays with it, although it’s much more appropriate for Baby E now! Even though it’s an active toy, we have found many different ways to play with it. It is often a cash register, a library desk, and sometimes even aids in fort building. But if you’re looking for a passive, prettier alternative, wooden activity cubes are a good choice! We don’t have this B Zany Wooden Activity cube, but my kids have played with it, and it is really cute. The only downside is that it doesn’t have many opportunities for open-ended play, but it is appropriate for young toddlers. *Note* This toy is less expensive at Target, but I needed to use the pretty picture from Amazon 🙂
This is the Laugh and Learn puppy that randomly started talking when I was home alone. Miss H had fun with it for awhile, but I realized that it was very closed ended. Maybe it helped her learn her colors, but it’s overall added value to our home was very low. A good, old-fashioned stuffed animal has lots of opportunities for open-ended play. Miss H has this yellow lab, named Spot, and he is a main character in a lot of her make-believe games.
Passive Toys for Preschoolers
We have an old Kindle Fire that we tried to give to Miss H for a long car trip. As much as we love the Kindle Fire for an eReader, it wasn’t great for a learning tablet. She had trouble navigating the games, and it often got stuck, causing drama on the road. Plus, we didn’t want to get into a screen time habit by offering her the tablet to entertain herself. Fortunately, she loves this drawing board even more than screens. For awhile, she called her iPad! She practices counting, writes letters, and draws pictures. She also uses her Imagination Magnets to make shapes on her drawing board.
I’m not sure how many times we have given this as a gift, because it is so cute! Now that I’m aware of how active toys affect our home atmosphere, I apologize if we gave this to your child! It’s so fun, but so noisy! The alternative toy is just a cute, simple guitar that a child can actually make their own music with. We love the Hape brand, but this guitar isn’t one we own.
Step 2 workbench because it was a little more closed ended. Also, the tools are battery operated, which I foresaw as a problem! Instead, we chose the Hape workbench, which also happens to be pretty cute to look at!
I hope this gives you some fun alternatives to think about when buying toys for your children!