One of my post-baby projects (the first time around) was designing a playroom in what used to be our "office" (a room with a desk piled with unopened mail). I spent hours finding the perfect furniture and accent items at Ikea, and even more time putting everything together. It was colorful, bright and organized. The closet was filled with craft supplies and games. It was going to be a wonderful oasis of fun.
Today, the baby naps in the playroom because it has turned out to be the least-used room in the house. It's more like a giant toy closet than a room for play. If the toys are used, my toddler drags them all into the kitchen or living room so I can trip over them while carrying hot coffee.
Like most kids, what my son really enjoys are non-toy objects. Preferably things that have an element of danger or the potential to cause mayhem. I could donate all the toys in the playroom, replace them with these five things, and there is a 90 percent chance my toddler wouldn't even notice.
- Spray bottle filled with water: My husband emptied out an old spray bottle that used to be filled with bathroom cleaner, tore off the label and filled it with water. I kid you not, this spray bottle occupies my son for HOURS each day. Just yesterday he spent a good portion of the afternoon trying to drown bugs with it. Many days, this toy is confiscated (usually for spraying it inside the house or at me) by 10 a.m.; the true test of whether a toy is fun.
- Safety scissors: I curse the day I ordered my toddler safety scissors on a whim from Amazon. It seemed like a skill he should start working on. Not only does my son love cutting paper (especially important bills), he also spends a good portion of each day outside killing all of our landscaping by "trimming" the plants for me. He also likes to threaten to cut the couch fabric if I'm on the phone, and recently cut his own hair. His scissors are also very likely to be taken away before we even leave the house for the day.
- Hand-held vacuum: This wonderful "toy" is not only loud, but I'm also pretty sure its not safe. My toddler routinely makes a huge mess because he knows that I will be forced to pull the vacuum out from its secret hiding place. He will then spend the next 3 hours vacuuming every rug in our home while somehow managing to make them dirtier.
- Barbecue tongs: In theory this should be a great tool for developing fine motor skills. In a perfect world I would create some sort of educational game with them that involves picking things up with the tongs and sorting them by color. Or maybe he could use them in his pretend kitchen. In reality, he uses the tongs to pinch me really hard in the butt when I'm trying to make dinner, or for non-consentual sword fights.
- Sticks that resemble automatic weapons: My toddler has an uncanny ability to find sticks that look exactly like machine guns, even though I am pretty sure he has never actually seen one. I'm not sure he even truly knows what guns are used for, but somehow he knows exactly what sound they make. I really hope Daniel Tiger addresses this issue soon.
While I wish my toddler played more with all of the educational (and safe toys) we provide for him, I'm also glad he likes to play creatively. So for now I'll just try to remember that plants can be replaced, hair grows back and butt bruises heal with time.