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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Hand-Me-Down Toys

It is not until recently that I started wondering about the advantage of hand-me-downs in the development of the younger child who acquires these.

Me being a younger sibling and getting mostly hand-me-downs possibly gave me an imperceptible edge over first-borns my age... Will have to explore that topic in another post... Actually, maybe not. There are experts who have fine things to say about it, with research to back them up. So, I guess I'll stick to just my limited experiences in motherhood :)

With Ana, everything was new for me, every toy was a gamble, every experience seemed to come with the price of doubt. As is expected with the first-born. But now with Og, it seems to get a little easier, as is normal, I guess...

While it is true that their personalities are different and I am constantly learning and tailoring them to Oggie's needs, some of the staple activities for toddler development are universal enough that they have become a hit with Og.

  1. Coloring seems to have a universal appeal, and so far this seems to be Oggie's favorite activity, next only to reading books.

    Crayons and washable markers are a staple. And thanks to Crayola™ there are so many other wonderful products to try.

    Crayola Beginnings Tadoodles First Marks is fun, especially for Oggie's insistent hammering technique for covering the page with bright dots while repeating "Daats! Daats!"... and so is Tadoodles Easy Stampers.

    Crayola Beginnings Triangular Paintbrush seems to be frustrating for him, at least the ones we have, as the flow is not smooth and continuous, but, it is good to take out the frustration by jabbing the paper.
  2. Peg Puzzles & Jigsaw Puzzles: Melissa & Doug™'s wooden peg puzzles, with or without sound, is another favorite.

    Just as with Ana, it is fun to watch Og place the pieces in their slots, dump them out and do it all over again. And again. For about half a dozen times at a stretch somedays...

    Of course, whereas Ana's favorite was the animals puzzle, Oggie's seems to be the vehicles one.

    In addition to peg puzzles, the wooden 12-piece Jigsaw Puzzles seem to be getting Og's attention - especially the hand-me-downs from my soon-to-be-4 year old nephew - viz., the construction vehicles, locomotives and dinosaurs.
  3. Foam Shapes Puzzles and Letters:

    Ana favors the Loctagon pieces for building structures even now at 4¾, while Og loves the Circular Foam Pieces with geometric shape cutouts.

    The shapes are interesting, even if a bit challenging for the wee hands to put back together. And the cutout sewing activity promises to be useful as well.

  4. Mister Potato Head: D being a Transformers fan, (collected them as a kid and went to Botcon2007 before the movie was released), the first Mister Potato Head set that Ana got a couple of years ago was naturally the Transformers promo one called Opti-Mash Prime.

    mister potato head toys opti-mash primeAnd, of course, now that I let Ana watch the Transformers movie recently, it turns out her favorite is Bumblebee and not Optimus Prime :)

    Anyway, I like this toy as we can keep adding different accessories. Ana likes the Princess Potato Head with pink shoes and crown and scepter and such. Plus the Pirate, Halloween Ghost, in addition to numerous animal-ish accessories like ape, elephant etc.

    It is fun to add eyes, nose, mouth, ears, hat, shoes and such, even winter accessories like scarf... sometimes in the wrong places - just switch around the eyes and mouth and see how funny the face looks...
  5. Melissa & Doug Alphabet Stacking Blocks: At 1¾, Og likes to knock them down more than stack them, naturally, but, since Ana loves to stack them and simulate her Pink Tower experience from school, it works out fine these days.

    The pictures and the letters are a bonus - and they are fairly sturdy.

    Plus Og likes to nest the blocks, which is sort of appropriate for his developmental age... and Ana willingly handed it over to Og explaining that it is a "baby toy" and she is done with it, naturally reserving her claim to it at all times :)
  6. Little Touch Leap Pad System: Ana got this for her first birthday from her Nana. At about 2 is when she really got into it. It was always in the car, entertaining her and interacting with her during those awfully long commutes to and from daycare.

    At a few months away from turning two, Oggie is beginning to like this. The letters of the alphabet is his favorite now - he gets a response for his action right away when he pushes on the page - animal sounds, words, letter sounds...

    Between 2½ and 3½ this book was one of Ana's constant companions. We bought more books for this as she mastered each. Her favorite (and mine) was the Stella Songbird book - it introduced her to music from around the world - Irish, Indian, Chinese, Nigerian, Mexican, and American (mostly Jazz). Optional activity was to identify the musical instruments and their sounds. Each page had recognizable landmarks from that part of the world. She learnt about Tabla and Dragon Drums, Taj Mahal and The Great Wall of China, Dragon Puppet and Iguana through this.

    Lulu the Letter-spinning Spider, One Bear in the Bedroom, Rainbow Fish were some of her other favorites.

    Oggie so far favors the Pooh Loves You! book for this Leap Pad system.

    I have some reservations and opinions about electronics for kids - especially those claiming to educate or jump-start and all that... but, as far as this Little Touch Leap Pad, I have nothing much to complain. It serves its purpose and serves it well.
  7. Blocks, blocks, blocks: Be it Lego™ Duplo or Mega Blocks or Bristle Blocks, these are quite handy toys to have around the house. Robot, doggie, airplane, car... Appa is the guy to amaze the kids with these. I can stack them up and build castles at the most :)

Toddler Fire truck, tricycle/rocking horse, hopping ball, easel/chalkboard... they all have their appeal thankfully.

As with Ana, I set out only 3 or 4 toys/activities handy and then switch them out every other week or so for Og. After a couple of months in hiding, when an old toy comes out, it gets discovered in whole new ways not thought of before...

Whereas Ana didn't spend too much time on Dropping-Things-In-A-Box (Fill-and-Spill) then dumping them out and dropping them in again, Oggie has spent a lot of time between 12 months and 18 months doing this activity.

To keep it fresh and a bit challenging, I started improvising on the home-made toy: Empty baby wipes containers seemed to work well.

Little animal toys, crayons, baby spoons/forks - anything small enough to fit and big enough to not be easily swallowed worked fine for this activity.

It was nice to park him on the kitchen floor while I cooked, let him drop the little toys into the box through the slot, one by one, and then bring it to me asking me to dump them all out so he can start over again :)

As Oggie gets older, it might not be easy to automatically hand down Ana's toys as she seems into dollies and costumes and artsy stuff... but, what are nephews for? Og has been wearing my nephew's (Oggie's maternal cousin) hand-me-down clothes right from birth and I wouldn't have it any other way. And, almost all the boy toys so far for Og are the ones my nephew got tired of...

Hand-me-downs make the world go around!

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At 3:58 AM, Blogger Kristine said...

Hi Sheela,
This was a very interesting post as I approach my younger daughter's first birthday and the giving of gifts.

I have read that even went parents encourage play with gender neutral toys that by the age of three most children are showing a preference for toys for their gender. This was/ is definately the case for my oldest but even as a younger girl she played with 'male' toys in a feminine way. For eg she played with diggers but it was really about the people inside the diggers.
Now with subsequent children... If they have same sex sibling they tend to show a preference for their own gender toys much sooner. This is the definately the case for my little girl. In hind sight she has had very little exposure to the trucks and trains and the play she has had with these toys has been dominated and modelled by her big sister. As a result i think some of her play is more sophisticated then her big sisters was. Like she loves playing with the dolls house - putting the dolls in the bath or to bed...
Many of my oldest favourites are loved by my little one too - particularly percussion instruments and toys that involve packing and unpacking (jigsaw, shape sorters, rings on poles).

At 10:56 AM, Blogger Sheela said...

So good to read your observations, Kristine!

Very true about the younger sibling's play being more sophisticated (love the term you used, I so dislike using the term "advanced") - somehow the little one manages to keep up with his sister despite the 3-yr age gap!

And so true about the differences in how they play with the same toys, thanks to their gender wiring!

Very glad that you took the time to share your thoughts, thank, Kristine!

At 5:21 AM, Blogger Gayatri said...

Hello Sheela,

Thank you for sharing such valuable information. Its of great help to me to decide what to buy next or what to introduce to my child.
I have a question. Could you tell me if you know of an UK equivalent of the leapfrog little touch leappad? I could not find it on the amazonUK site, so I thought I'll ask you if know of any alternative.
Thank you once again.


At 11:03 AM, Blogger Sheela said...

::Gayatri:: Hope this helps:
Little Touch Leap Pad at Amazon (UK)... It comes with one book, and we have to buy other books (plus cartridges) separately.

At 4:18 AM, Blogger Gayatri said...

Hello Sheela,

Thank you. I could not find it initially and was led to the US site but later found the UK link. I was a little worried as the site showed that it cost around $200. I was not sure why it should cost so much/what components come with it.
I'm hoping to have a look at it in Toymaster and then buy the books from amazon (specially the animal dance one!).
Thank you once again.



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