Warning and Disclaimer: This post is about products that I - me, specifically - do not like or want or use. I am not saying you will be banished to bad parent land if YOU use them. I am simply saying I don't care for them and why. If a product I list is something you love or can't live without, that is just fine with me. I don't care. Use away. I promise not to think badly of you if you do. Just extend the same courtesy and don't think badly of me because I don't.
There's a new baby on the way at our house. It's been nearly eight years since the last one, and eight years is a long time to think about what has worked and what hasn't. This lucky baby gets to be born to parents who already have some idea what they're doing and who have experience on their side. I've spent a lot of time lately looking at products for babies and toddlers and there are some I just...well, some I just don't understand at all, and some I know good and well would never make it at OUR house. Here's my top five:
Baby Einstein and other "Educational" DVDS for babies
OK, the first thing I think when I see this is, "Why do I need a DVD for my baby, educational or not?" The American Pediatric Association recommends no TV at all before age two, and I totally agree. The world is full of interesting things for babies and toddlers to watch and explore without turning on the TV, right? We all know these things are not really educational, there have been enough lawsuits already. What I also don't get is...exploring shapes? exploring water? a day on the farm? neighborhood animals? Um....if I want to teach my little ones about these things...I'll do it in the real world. With real water. And farm animals. But maybe not at the same time.
Don't get me wrong, I understand the temptation to plop baby down and let them be mesmerized for half an hour while you get something finished, all without the mess of real water or toys all over the floor. I also understand that messes and play are how children learn best, and that whatever it is I need to do can either wait, or that there are a hundred other ways to entertain a 12 month old besides sitting them in front of the boob tube.
Baby Mozart and all those other "Classical Baby" CDs
Don't get confused. I'm not at all against exposing kids to great music at young ages. I personally think children should be exposed to all kinds of music (within reason, of course) right from the beginning. I'm all for Mozart. And Beethoven. And Vivaldi. And even Raffi (though not for extended periods of time or I may start screaming).
What I don't get is why you need a special "baby CD" for this. For example, Baby Mozart has 15 tracks, most of which are not actual full length pieces, just snippets, for $6.21 on Amazon. Or you can buy 25 Mozart Favorites (25 full tracks) for $5.31. Or you can just turn on the classical radio station for free. So, yes, I'm all for exposing your children to good music. I'm just not for buying it in a fancy case with a cute little picture on the front at an extra cost.
Books that Make Noise
Yes, we have had some of these in our house in the past. No, we did not buy any of them ourselves. I love books. We have books, books, and more books. We have board books and Little Golden Books and First Reader books and chapter books and literary classics. We have Shakespeare and Sci-Fi and even some manga. But I don't get books that make noise. In my opinion, books are for reading, not pushing buttons. I don't want to read about Elmo going potty and push a button that sounds like a toilet flushing (for that matter, I don't really want to read about Elmo going potty).
We read to our kids from a very early age. All our kids are now old enough that they love to read on their own. They spend probably an hour or two (at least) every day reading on their own, even in the summer when they don't have to. So, books - yes. Love them. Love the nice, quiet - keyword: quiet - that fills the house when everyone is reading. Love that the kids are using their imagination. Love that they sometimes use different voices or even make sound effects (mostly under their breath these days) as they get into the stories they are reading. Do NOT love books that have become glorified electronic toys with buttons to push and cool sound effects. To me, that is not a book, that is a toy.
No, I don't mean Leapster. Games like that have a place - in moderation. I'm talking about toys like Tickle Me Elmo and Turbo Tail Tigger. Tickle Me Elmo was one of those toys that people fought over in the stores at Christmastime when my oldest was very young. Moms and dads elbowed their way in for the very last Elmo and paid outrageous prices so they could see their children unwrap them on Christmas morning...and be bored a week or two later.
Toys that talk or move on their own...they're OK...for awhile. Then they're boring. Even a child will get sick of Elmo's laugh at some point. Know what will entertain them much longer? A plain stuffed Elmo toy. Why? Because they get to use their imagination. Elmo can laugh...or he can cry...he can sleep or use the potty (or NOT use the potty)....he can jump up and down or he can be sick. He can even go to bed with you (ever try sleeping with one of those toys that are all hard and jointed inside? Not comfy...)!
Or better yet...get them a plain baby doll. Or a ball. Or a truck that they have to push and make noises for themselves. Or a box, for that matter. I prefer to skip the batteries and give them something they can actually PLAY with, rather than just pushing a button.
Exersaucers, Swings, Johnny Jumpers, Bumbos....and etc.
I know, I'll get lots of tomatoes thrown my way for this one, but just hear me out before you start throwing. We had a swing that someone gave us with my oldest two. They hated it. We had an Exersaucer someone gave us with my third. He hated it.
First of all, my kids do NOT like to be contained. They are independent from...well, pretty much from birth. They want to be put down and allowed to wiggle and squirm and roll over and crawl and sit up on their own, thank you very much. (That's them thanking me, not me thanking you.) They didn't like car seats or strollers, either, but sometimes they just had to be in those whether they liked it or not. All those other nifty things you can sit all over the house and stick the baby in? Not so much.
Second, I'm a firm believer in both quiet time and tummy time. You know, quiet time, when a newborn can lay on a blanket and watch the shadows on the wall, or a 6 month old can sit alone on a blanket for 10 minutes and examine a board book. And tummy time -when you lay your 3 month old on his tummy for awhile so he gets practice using all those muscles he'll need to push up, crawl, sit up, etc. I don't need an Exersaucer or a Bumbo to do those things. I just need a blanket and some floor space. Or bed space. Or wherever baby happens to be space.
I know, parents everywhere love those things. That's OK. I don't care. I have yet to gasp in horror at the site of a child in an Exersaucer. I just never saw the need for them, and my kids hated them on the rare occasion I even attempted to stick them in one.
And in case you're curious: a few other things I don't want: baby knee pads, baby high heels, baby spas, and Peepee Teepees.
I would, however, like to have THIS.
And...in an effort at full disclosure, we DO have a bouncy seat. Because sometimes, between siblings and cats, the floor just isn't safe. So for the first 4 months or so, baby will occasionally be in the bouncy seat. I know, I'm such a hyporcrite. : )