In their book, Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath comment on how the Aesop fable of the fox and the sour grapes has lasted over 2,500 years.
The fox repeatedly jumps to reach the grapes but they’re too high. They must be sour, he thinks, as he slinks away.
The story was referenced this week by Australian soccer head Frank Lowry commenting on the 2022 soccer world cup in Qatar. “Australia has been careful not to let its misgivings about the process be interpreted as sour grapes,” he said.
My son is now around 9 months old and he loves playing with his toys. We have been delighted to receive so many lovely gifts from friends and family but most of what he loves is stuff that we had around the house already. Some of it we’re happy to give him, some of it we’re not. Before he was born we read in several places that babies will make do with anything you give them and it’s all true. You just have to remember this when you’re living in a consumer society and it’s easy to start coveting all sorts of things you don’t really need.
Here’s his top 10 list of ‘toys’ that come with many households or can be freely or cheaply obtained.
1. Spotty Otter clothes tags
Yes, our baby’s most enduring toy over the past 3 months has been a set of Spotty Otter clothes tags. We bought our baby some Spotty Otter clothes in the sale from Little Trekkers, with a bit of money that great-grandmother had given us. The clothes are nice bright shirts and shorts and a pair of trousers that look just like my hiking trousers, but much smaller.
These tags are amazing. They’re so good that when we went on holiday to south-west France we took a set with us. They’re particularly good when he’s having his nappy changed as they help us to keep him relatively still. There’s some high contrast black/white colour scheme and some bright colours too.
2. Shuttlecock and biscuit tin
The shuttlecock became a toy after baby started cruising and could reach our games shelf. Not long after he started chucking everything from the shelf onto the floor, we put his books there instead and moved his games into a carrier bag out of his reach, for now. The shuttlecock is light and has two different textures.
Recently, baby has started using the shuttlecock with the biscuit tin – his new percussion instrument. It makes a nice soft noise. The biscuit tin doubles up as a store for smaller toys – like a shuttlecock!
3. The whisk
The whisk is a great toy and takes one hell of a beating! When he’s in the kitchen he can wave it around and we can imagine that he’ll enjoy cooking some day. It is light and generally gets tugged along as the kid crawls about. It has no value to us and isn’t used very much so we don’t mind that he’s dragging it around on the floor.
4. Pine cone
This pine cone came from the Bangor University halls of residence, which are opposite a nice B&B we stayed in recently. Baby got his first pine cone when we were on holiday in France. It’s an unusual object and before it dries out too much doesn’t tend to break off parts, though that tends to change.
We discovered sticks as toys when we were on a hike up a mountain in France. We didn’t want to get anything more valuable out of the bag as we were walking up the steep edge of a cliff and baby was on my front in his sling. We found that he could happily wave around a stick for several minutes and pass it between his hands. When he dropped it we simply found another one because sticks are (almost) everywhere. We do have to watch to make sure that he doesn’t eat this toy and sometimes he pokes us with them, but otherwise it is a brilliant toy.
Another kitchen item this one, providing hours of fun. Usually given to baby when he’s in the kitchen but it has been known to travel about the flat. It can also be used for basic games of peepo and worn as a hat on occasion.
It’s true that babies love boxes. Well, our one does at least. They’re good for exploring and investigating and if they’re small enough they come in handy when you need to wave something around.
We haven’t worked out how to hide our cables out of reach and our flat is not particularly spacious. Baby’s bedroom used to be our study so now our tech equipment has been displaced and they’re easy for prying hands and an inquisitive mind to find. We’re still looking for a solution to this problem but until we find it baby considers them one of his toys.
9. Our books
He has his own books but baby likes ours just as much. Especially as they can be eaten and bent around and pushed about. Anything that’s left in reach (any of our books really) is a target. And if they’ve got another baby on the cover, that’s all the better. We’ve come up with a solution to his book enjoyment, which is to squeeze so many on a shelf that he can’t pull any off. It won’t be many years until we’re encouraging him to take them down to read.
10. Musical instruments
These were a gift from grandma at Christmas and can count in the toy category or not, as you see fit. Recently ball has been thrown against the tambourine and drumming is either done with the hand or any available stick, especially a maracas. He has a min-tambourine that I picked up from Lama’s Pyjamas for about 50p and a similarly priced small maracas from a charity shop in Balham. The latter was the gift that kept on giving while we were on holiday and was the only thing guaranteed to settle baby, which we discovered during a fractious car ride in a rain storm on the last leg of our journey out.
What toys that aren’t toys does your baby like?
Father, Quaker, communicator, fundraiser and networker