Sure, Oliver loves cuddling his stuffed Doggy and Bunny. He’ll happily pass 15 or 20 minutes careening around the apartment and ramming his Vilac push-cart into walls, doors, furniture, and the legs of any unsuspecting adults who happen to be in his path. He brings us the same half a dozen picture books to be read ad nauseum.
But aside from a select few treasured toys, the rest of Oliver’s favourite play things are rather… unconventional. Here’s what is currently giving Oliver the best bang for his proverbial buck:
I bought these from a dollar store ages ago. I used to use them to transport salad dressing to work so that my lettuce wouldn’t get soggy. I recently gave them to Oliver because they are the perfect size for tiny hands to practice manipulating screw caps. He loves to try to remove and replace the lids, even though he’s not very good at it yet.
Mostly they cause him immense frustration, and he throws them down on the floor or brings them to Mom and Dad for assistance… then he tries again. And again. And again. Without fail, they are the first things he pulls out of the bin at playtime, one of the last things to be put away before meals or bedtime, and he continuously returns to them in between playing with other toys.
It’s fun to draw and finger-paint while sitting at your own little table, but apparently not nearly as much fun as pushing this lightweight wooden chair across the living room’s smooth laminate flooring, over doorway thresholds, and even onto the carpet (very unsuccessfully, I might add). The chair gets almost as much push time as his push-cart does!
Because this chair is so light, Oliver can lift and carry it, which brings him much joy. He also likes to practice climbing on and off the seat. The chair can frequently be found firmly wedged somewhere that requires parental help to extricate it, but fortunately there’s a second one, so it’s never a problem.
These felt pineapple slices are a legitimate toy, but are such an odd choice of “favourite” that I felt they deserved inclusion in this list. I once bought Oliver a box of felt food pieces, which has been largely ignored with the exception of the pineapple slices.
What is it that Oliver likes so much about these? Well, we’re not sure. He doesn’t even really do anything with them, other than carry them around his bedroom and repeatedly say, “ap-pole.” Occasionally he will surreptitiously toss one into his laundry hamper, which explains how the one on the left came to be smaller and fuzzier than its mate. These are usually the second toy pulled out of the bin, after the tiny jars.
One of Oliver’s greatest delights is the act of throwing things into receptacles: laundry into hampers, tissue into toilets, paper into recycling bins, garbage into trash cans…
Oliver uses the word “potty” as his generic term for any receptacle, but he understands which is which, and which items belong where. For example, if I ask him to put his socks in the laundry, he will do just that; he will not throw them into the toilet or the garbage.
This game of “throw the ______ in the ______” has come in handy in coffee shops, where I can sit and enjoy my still-warm coffee by repeatedly handing him little scraps of paper napkin to throw in the garbage bin (much to the amusement of other patrons). I also entertain Oliver at home by pointing out bits of lint or cat hair on the floor, which he promptly picks up and throws out, then comes back to look for more :).
Actually, any coasters at all, but we confiscated the wooden ones due to Oliver’s propensity for banging their sharp corners on the coffee table. What does he do with coasters? Why, he walks around the apartment with them and deposits them in random places. Then he finds them and puts them back on the coffee table. Sometimes he likes to chew them. He also likes to toss them in the air, with a dramatic exclamation of, “Oh noooooooooo,” as they fall to the floor.
Last week, Gawker reported that an Ohio preschool ditched conventional toys in favour of raw materials such as cardboard boxes and styrofoam. Perhaps they are on to something? Perhaps we go to altogether too much trouble and expense to buy our children toys that we think they will find interesting — toys that beep and flash and sing and talk — when most often, it’s the simplest things that delight them most.
What are your child’s favourite non-toy items to play with?