One of the things that was repeated time and again in our pre-natal classes was not to layer a baby’s sleep area with toys. Expert after expert warned Snuggle Biscuit and I that harmless looking teddy-bears can suffocate an infant because of the child’s inability to push the bear off once it restricts their breathing. Following this rule was a no-brainer, after all, the child will have plenty of time to play with her toys when she’s not in the crib.
As I soon learned there’s a funny twist to this toy story, infants don’t care for toys all that much, or rather, they could care less about them. When Snuggle Biscuit returns home from work Turtle Biscuit’s eyes light up. If she sees her bottle while I’m warming it up, she’s raring to get a go at it. Sit her in her chair and she’ll amuse herself staring at her hands for a good 10minutes (that’s like hours in adult years). But if you plop a teddy bear or any kind of toy in front of her, she’ll look right past it.
All of this went against what I thought was a truism for all children and of all ages: THEY LOVE TOYS. Sure, you don’t hand a one-year old an X-box and expect them to beat the computer at Madden. But I was confident that by the time she was a month or so Turtle Biscuit would get a kick out of a teddy bear.
I’ve spent a considerable amount of time thinking about this new information. And it wasn’t until I overheard an interaction between Teen Biscuit and Singing Biscuit that I was able to unlock the mystery of infants and their distaste for toys. Singing Biscuit had just discarded his Happy Meal toy almost as fast as he opened it. When asked why by his older brother he couldn’t give an answer, and like older brothers often do, Teen Biscuit provided him with an answer: “because you don’t know how to play with it.” Well for once the teenager was right and after he took a minute to show Singing Biscuit how to play with the toy, Singing Biscuit’s interest was suddenly piqued.
When I thought back on that incident what I realized is that early on in life children don’t like toys as much as they do the interactions surrounding them. Think about it, when children play with toys their either also playing with their friends or others their age. Toys are also a vehicle through which they can occupy an alternative and often more equal universe with adults. Toys are associated with fun, imagination and often camaraderie. The happy child is not the one whose room is filled to the brim with all kinds of gadgets and trinkets, but rather the one whose been fortunate enough to share and play with the few they have with the ones they love.
Turtle Biscuit is still no more interested in Sophie the Giraffe than she is in NPR. What I have learned and will remember though, is that the way that I introduce her to that toy and others is that it will have profound effects on who she becomes as a person. And as I am finding out little by little everyday, on me as well.