Being an only child, I’ll admit that I have had many advantages as a kid—my own toys, my own bedroom, my own playroom, and of course, all of my parents’ attention. Knowing how sentimental my mom still is about my childhood, I wasn’t surprised when she told me that she very neatly tucked away all of my baby toys in her upstairs attic. Perhaps she thought I was going to have siblings, or knowing her, she packed them away precisely for what she’s using them for now, her grandchildren. (She’s that proactive.) I forgot about them, but little by little, they started reappearing each time my mom had a chance to watch Little Lewie.
At first I thought the notion was cute—“Awww, look, Little Lewie is playing with my old toys. I guess you can say they’ve been passed down from one generation to the next.” However, as I started watching him interact with the toys, I realized that they were more interesting to him than his new toys. Sure his new toys have all the “bells and whistles;” they sing in different languages, they make sound effects, they move on their own, and they’re super colorful. They’re basically “eye candy” for the baby. They prompt him to push a button, and watch out—there goes a laser beam, a sound effect, and flashing lights. Parents don’t even have to be in the room for these toys to entertain. Nevertheless, besides pushing the button, Little Lewie doesn’t have to do anything else except be a passive observer.
The toys from my generation were a little different. Most required my power to operate them, and some of them required his ability to learn skills—hand operations way more advanced than simply pushing a button. Sure, in essence, they required more work on both his and my part, but believe me, the reward of seeing him giggle and coo every time they are taken out is well worth it. To provide some examples, I’ve decided to list his top three favorite toys—all former inhabitants of my old toy box.
1) Squeak-a-Boo (Fisher Price)—Squeak-a-Boo is a stuffed animal that looks like a brown furry triangle with large ears, small feet, and a bright orange/yellow face. (It kind of reminds me of a very primitive Ewok. My husband thinks he looks more like a flying squirrel.) His ears very cleverly have slots to place your fingers, so you can easily bend them to cover his eyes while squeaking them at the same time. Using one hand, I waddle little Squeak-a-Boo to my son while positioning his ears to cover over his eyes. Then, I say “squeak-a-boo” and squeak his ears respectively while lifting his ears to show off his bright blue eyes and face. I only show his face for a second because then I cover it with his ears again. “Oh my goodness!” I say. “Did you see his face? He’s playing peek-a-boo with you. Hey Little Lewie, are you ready…? Squeak-a-boo!”
Squeak-a-Boo hops all over the place—to the right, to the left, on top of my son’s head. My son laughs each and every time Squeak-a-Boo squeaks and/or uncovers his face. The design is brilliant—way better than any other stuffed animal in his collection.
2) Peek-a-Boo Block (Fisher Price)—Yes, I know, another peek-a-boo concept toy, but he loves it! When Little Lewie was seventh months-old, my mom decided to take it out. It’s a yellow plastic block (a little larger than a traditional sized Rubik’s Cube) that has four bright red wheels. It’s connected to a pumping device with a fairly long cord. When you press the pump, the air makes the block squeak and pushes a little cylindrical shaped boy out of the top. The top of the block has a little door, so the door is pushed open every time the little boy comes out and closes again when the boy falls back inside. Since the pump has a long cord, my mom and I drag or roll the block around while we control the squeaking and the surprise appearance of the little boy.
When my mom dragged the block out for the first time, my Little Lewie went buck wild. “What is it?” we asked him as he curiously watched the block roll, squeak, and surprise him at varying times around the room. Sometimes the block would squeak without the appearance of the little boy, and other times, if we applied more pressure on the pump, the block would squeak with the little boy coming out at the same time. He loved the surprise element—the fact that he couldn’t predict just when that little boy might pop up.
If his thunderous laughter wasn’t loud enough the first time, it became all the louder as we brought the block up close to him, so he could see it in full view. He’d try to put his little hand on top of the block to examine it, but every time he did, we’d surprise him. “There he is. Oh no, there’s the little boy again. Can you catch him? No, he’s too fast!”
My little boy did eventually tire of the block. It happened about two and a half months later when he started realizing how we controlled it. Nevertheless, I’d say almost four months of everyday use and laughter is quite an achievement for a toy.
3) Busy Surprise Box (Kohner Bros. Inc.)—The Busy Surprise Box is a plastic yellow box, with carrying handle, that gives Little Lewie five different types of levers to pull, push, dial, flip, or slide to master hand coordination. When triggering these levers, a colored door pops up with a “surprise.” Among the “surprises” are a lion, a cat, a dog, a little brown haired boy, and a little red headed girl. (There are modern toys that are similar.) In the beginning, I almost labeled this toy obsolete because it had a rotary dial. “Who uses a rotary phone anymore?” I questioned, but the reality is that each of these skills is important to master as they improve overall hand-eye coordination.
Initially, I wasn’t sure how Little Lewie would like the toy since it doesn’t have flashing lights or sound effects. The pop-up doors are pretty basic; the only sound that comes from them is the noise of the trigger releasing and plastic hitting upon plastic. Still, it turned out to be on the top three list of favorites. It keeps him busy and entertained as he tries to figure out each of the levers. (At nine months-old, he has now mastered three of them.) For close to an hour, he practices his little skills and appreciates the “reward” or “surprise” when getting them correct. Even more, he has figured out how to close, or push down, the doors themselves. I’m not sure if this is an early sign of OCD behavior, but after each door pops-up, he makes sure to push it down again before proceeding. This toy makes me so proud of my little boy!
So, in closing, if you have old toys in an attic somewhere or have a chance to frequent a local tag sale, flee market, Goodwill Store, or Freecycle center, it might be worth investigating what treasures are out there. There may be some cheap but exquisitely designed toys that will make your baby’s list of favorites.