Must-Haves: The Alternative List

I have previously written (here) about some of our best baby buys such as favourite toys and time-saving gadgets and distractions. The following list demonstrates that even if you have £0 to spend and an empty toybox, your baby will STILL manage to amuse themselves. In fact, if you have spent a lot of money on expensive toys, your baby will most likely be unappreciative and spend most of his time playing with the following:

  1. Cardboard boxes

A classic ‘toy’, favoured by many children over the gift contained within. The more expensive and lovingly-selected the gift, the less interest baby will take in it and the more he will revel in the packaging. If in doubt, stick them in a box.

2. Paper

Now, as the son of a teacher my boy is of course a particularly scholarly seven-month-old, but in my experience most babies are delighted to be given some paper or a leaflet to flap about, tear, chew, and destroy in various ways. The Law of Babies dictates that the more important and irreplaceable the paper (phone number, directions, code of some kind…) the more delight your baby will take in swallowing small wet pieces of this information, or spitting them out again in mushy form just to spite you. I’m pretty sure that babies channel a LOT of spite and forethought…

3. Household Items

Random objects from around your home will fascinate and attract your baby. He will spurn colourful toys for the chance to throw some kitchen towel around. He will ignore horrendous musical gizmos for one grab at anything electrical, germ-ridden or generally unsafe or inappropriate.

In the spirit of not looking like a terrible mother, I feel I must include the following:

SAFETY NOTE #1: I confiscated the remote control from my son shortly after the photo was taken, as it contains batteries. So panic not.

SAFETY NOTE #2: The TP was brand new out of the packet and not pulled from the bathroom wall.

4. Open and Shut

As the saying goes: give a child a drawer and he will open it. Then shut it. Then open it again. And shut it. Ad infinitum. Any opportunity to open or close something, or generally manhandle something is catnip to babies. They wish to demonstrate their omnipotence and we wish to observe and praise them repeatedly, so it works for everyone.

5. Pets

All of the above photos were taken BEFORE we found out our boy is allergic to the cats. *Sigh*

So assuming your child is not allergic to animals, pets make an AMAZING amusement. The cats and baby mutually ignored each other for a few months at first, then something clicked and the cats began to gravitate towards him – despite the loving ear-grabbing – and he began to laugh at the very sight of them and reach out desperately to ‘stroke’ them. I have developed a technique whereby I put my finger in baby’s outstretched hand so when he goes to close his fist around their fur, my finger is already there to foil his plans.

Even when allergies appeared, we were advised by the allergy nurse that getting rid of the cats was not necessary. She said that they provide so many other important benefits that as long as we don’t let him roll around in their beds and sleep cuddled up to them it should be fine. In fact, people are usually not as allergic to their own pets as they are to other people’s pets, so having the cats around should help his tolerance.

6. Fancy Dress

Technically, fancy dress is neither an amusement for your baby nor ‘alternative’ in the sense of being free or unexpected. However, dressing your baby in hilarious costumes is both a joy and a right. It’s your payment for sleepless nights, tedium and anxiety. Just do it, you will NOT regret it.

7. Toes

Yours or his. Both are hilarious and good clean fun. Well, as clean as your toes are and I wouldn’t dream of commenting on that…

8. Wipe-clean Whiteboard

A colleague of my husband’s bought him a brilliant kit for setting up our baby in various ways. The props were great fun, but the best bit was the inclusion of a whiteboard, with which you can make your baby admit to ANYTHING. It’s been great for baby confessions as well as birthday messages and a record of the passing months.

I hope you’ve found some inspiration from this alternative list of ‘essential’ baby kit. It should serve to prove that babies and children will amuse themselves regardless of the amount of toys available. In fact, a cynic  might observe that babies prefer anything other than the gifts so carefully and expensively selected by their doting parents…



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