Metro Mama & Metro Baby

By Stephanie Ila Silver-Silberstein

There he sits. Happy and content. Smiling and laughing. And playing with a paper towel roll. Despite the array of expensive, award-winning toys strewn across my living room floor, my son still finds more than enough merriment in a paper towel roll. Now, I’m all for the environment, repurposing and recycling stuff, but something was definitely wrong with this picture. So, after some research and first-hand trials, I (or rather Jake) have found some toys that make the paper towel roll look like…well…a paper towel roll.

Baby Steps

Caption: Soft classic rabby rattle, wooden elephant on wheels and wooden giant-knob puzzle, books with developmental information, suggesting games using each toy

If it pains you to see your newly decorated home covered with brightly colored plastic toys and alphabet foam mats, definitely check out Baby Steps. Their age-appropriate baby toy kits include 3 handcrafted toys, 3 books (which refer to each toy) and a cotton flannel blanket. Baby Steps created these kits with the guidance of the head of the Yale University Child Study Center (Linda C. Mayes M.D.), and the detailed books offer guidance to parents who want to actively engage with their babies. Visit http://www.bbsteps.com.

Kushies Zolo Toys

“The Magic Garden” was one of my favorite TV shows growing up and the Play Garden Magnetic Activity Garden from Kushies Zolo Toys can certainly inspire imagination just like Paula and Carole did for me! Magnetic creatures stick to the garden and the magnetic plant pieces stack and build so your toddler can create a variety of different gardens. And it packs up nicely too. The garden window box doubles as a zippered carrying case for toddlers on the go! It’s easy to see how this toy encourages visual development, dexterity, flexible thinking, exploratory and independent play and real-life learning. Age: 18+ months. Visit http://www.kushiesonline.com.

Schoenhut Toy Pianos

If you ever had visions of your baby as the Schroeder of the Peanuts Gang, the Schoenhut Toy Piano is a definite must-have for your nursery. Schoenhut Piano Company, the oldest and best-known manufacturer of toy pianos and other musical instruments, has been in business since 1872. These unique 49-key stringed pianos have perfect pitch and true piano sound. And the keys are the same dimensions as those on a full-sized piano (the keyboard half the width) so it’s the perfect starter piano for your little future Mozart on her way to Carnegie Hall (where Schoenhut’s toy pianos have actually been featured in performances). Visit http://www.toypiano.com.

Your Baby Can Read

When I was a pregnant insomniac in my 3rd trimester, I stumbled upon the infomercial for “Your Baby Can Read“. Initially, I didn’t pay too much attention to it since I was planning on going the old-school route and just reading to my baby (while also not showing him any television or videos for the first 2 years). But if you find yourself needing a few minutes of downtime to yourself (trust me, you wouldn’t be alone) or better yet, you’re looking for something educational to do along with your baby, the “Your Baby Can Read” books, cards, activities and interactive DVDs, developed by Dr. Robert Titzer, are very useful learning tools that will last for many years. And off the record, my friend’s son has the deluxe edition and he was the first to clap, imitate sounds and wave on command. Coincidence? Hmmmm. To learn more, call 888-READ-888 or visit http://www.YourBabyCan.com.

IQ Baby Busy Box

The IQ Baby Busy Box by Small World Toys looks like your average run-of-the-mill toy. But it’s not. Seriously. I inherited the busy box from my neighbor who cautioned me to keep it hidden from her 5-year old daughter because she might rip it out of my 9-month-old son’s hands if she catches him with it (My 3-year old nephew also couldn’t put it down). The 6-sided Busy Box contains 12 different activities: a clicking clock, a mirror for peek-a-boo play, a shape sorter, a key to unlock the box (like it’s the door to Narnia or something), animal sound and music buttons that my son actually dances to, a telephone, pop-up and moving bears and gears that move and click. It encourages manipulative play, cause-and-effect exploration, shape recognition and a host of other developmental benefits. And it comes with a carry handle so your child can take it wherever she goes (and believe me, she will). Visit http://www.amazon.com.

I’ll admit that my son can still find countless hours of entertainment in paper towel rolls, Tupperware containers, remote controls and empty bottles of Tri-vi-sol, but with these toys beckoning to him, those faux-toys will all be a distant memory. No baby (and certainly not mine) deserves any less.

Originally published October 2009
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