Kids Safety Network

11 Toys That No Toddler Really Needs (And a Few Cheap Alternatives That They Will Love)

The number of toys that clutter up our living room and pour from my kid’s closets is ridiculous.  I’m relatively vigilant about donating items after holidays and birthdays, yet the toys still seem to multiply more rapidly than the bacteria lurking in Aunt Millie’s potato salad after sitting in the sun all day at the family reunion.  Every now and again I take a mental inventory of the types of toys the kids have and which ones are the “good ones” and which ones I’m looking forward to ditching during the next round of donations.

Things like:

1. Electronic devices that do nothing but emit a limited number of sounds 

Letter sounds, word sounds, ding-dongy doorbell sounds.  A lot of these toys claim to have some sort of educational benefit for the child but we all know that there is nothing that works better to promote the acquisition of language than speaking and reading to our kids ourselves.  These toys don’t do much other than suck the life out of batteries while annoying the crap out of parents in the process.  Our kids can figure out how to make noises of their own with their mouths and their bodies, which I’m sure is better for their brains (though maybe not for your sanity).

2. Stuffed animals that talk

And most of the other stuffed animals that don’t.  Yes, kids need a few “loveys” but they usually don’t need 4850483093, which I’m quite sure is how many the average toddler has received by the age of three.

3. Motorized vehicles  

An outdoor plaything that encourages sitting seems like an oxymoron, particularly when geared towards tiny people who literally can’t seem to move their bodies around enough as it is.  Parents know that wearing those little legs out is what is best for their kiddo (and for themselves, let’s be honest).  Toddlers don’t understand the concept of “lazy” yet,  Also, they don’t understand inertia.  I’ve seen my kid almost pitch backward and land on her head because she pushed the button of her purple toddler motorcycle (yes, we have one) and it shot her forward faster than she expected.   

4. Dolls that sexualize females

It pains me that I even have to write this down, but I do.  Children’s brains are literally being shaped based on what they observe in their hands and manipulate in their minds and we’re giving them dolls with impossibly wide thigh gaps and boobs bigger than heads?  I don’t get it. I really believe there might be something wrong with us as a species.

So what are some affordable and practical toy options that both you and your kids are sure to love?  Let me enlighten you:

5. Feminine Hygiene Products  

Or something else you already have sitting in the bottom of your closet.  One of the things my daughter played with the most, which she will absolutely kill me for talking about later in life I’m sure, is a bag of panty liners.  I had them in the hall closet, which she loved because she could squeeze her little self in there and shut the door almost all the way behind her and providing her a “workspace” on a shelf that was just her height.  She would unwrap the panty liners and put them back together making “pizzas” which would then get baked in the “oven” (an empty cardboard box sitting on the shelf).  The amount of imaginative play that kid got out of the $4.00 package of panty liners was a thousand times greater than the price per unit.

6. Cardboard boxes

Save a few boxes from your Amazon prime deliveries and there ya have it.  Duct tape a few together to make a dollhouse, a kitchen, maybe a fort.  (Build the fort.  Everyone loves the fort).  If you get a new appliance, the fort even comes pre-assembled.  If you shop online as much as we do you’ll be able to construct your very own metropolitan center in no time.

7. Dry Noodles

Pour some ditalini or penne noodles into a large bowl, give your kid a few scoops, spoons, tongs, dixie cups, empty butter containers or whatever you’ve got in your Tupperware drawer and you’ve got entertainment for hours.  I keep the noodles in a labeled bag and they can be reused until I finally run out of noodles that aren’t covered in hair, crumbs, leaves, or other debris (we often do this outside in good weather). Full disclosure: I tried the noodle thing once outside in combination with a kiddy pool and it was sort of a disgusting disaster.  Noodles and pools do not make for easy cleanup.  Beware the Noodle-Pool connection.

8. Cotton Balls

Cotton balls can be safely chucked at each other without fear of bodily harm.  They can be thrown in the air and showered down like snow on the heads of your little ones or can be scattered on the floor and swished in to make “snow” angels.  They can be put in a cup, and taken out of a cup, and put back in a cup.  They can be used for artsy activities like these or these.  They’re also pretty dang easy to clean up, which means you can let the kids go crazy throwing them around the kitchen and you won’t regret that decision later.

Okay, I know some of you guys are thinking, “Okay, is she going to ever tell us the REAL toys she’d recommend?”  (Even though, seriously, I already did).  But here are some goodie gift ideas to tell the people who want to know what baby needs:

9. Stacking Cups

 I don’t know exactly what it is, but all kids, from infants to toddlers seriously LOVE stacking cups.  If I could only keep one toy for my girls, this one would be it.  They can be chewed on, banged together, scooped with, poured with, and all of these things can happen in the living room, in the bathtub, in the sandbox, at the beach, you name it and there’s a way those stacking cups can play a part in any type of fun. Bonus: They can usually be put on the top rack of the dishwasher for easy cleaning.  

10. Blocks

Building, Mega, Duplo, Lego, the kind that stick together in all different ways.  All awesome and another infant-through-toddler type toy.  “Boom” was one of my daughter’s first words, she loved all the building and stacking and had even more fun watching the teetering and tumbling.

11. Puzzles

Puzzles promote problem-solving while simultaneously working on fine motor skills. Any toy that helps a kid learn that he or she is capable of figuring something out is pretty darn cool in my book.  They are varnished with images of animals, cartoon characters, space, flowers, robots, or anything else your kiddo might be into, which means there are plenty versions out there that your kiddo will dig too.

The bottom line is this: kids don’t need all kinds of crazy contraption or expensive gadgets, they just need something to spark their own internal curiosities and allow them to engage in imaginative play.  


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