baby proof: toys.

March 10, 2015

baby proof: toys | reading my tea leaves
We keep Faye’s toys in an old wine crate that we slide underneath the couch.

It’s funny how becoming a parent changes the composition of things. The box used to be a catchall for our stuff. We’d stash the laptop there. We’d lazily wind our cell phone chargers and toss them in, too. When we wanted to tidy up, whatever books we were in the middle of reading would get thrown in, dog-eared for later. But around this time last year we started to receive little gifts in anticipation of a baby.

A set of blocks. A rattle. A small collection of books.

So I relegated the phone chargers and computer cords to other corners and cleared out the crate. Every time we were given something new, I’d unwrap it and rearrange the contents of the toy box so that the blocks fit just so or the rattle had a place to rest.
baby proof: toys | reading my tea leaves I still have the weekly ritual. Rearranging the box so that Faye’s toys fit it in more or less neatly. They get jumbled over the course of the week. Played with, tossed back in, and played with again. We’ve outgrown the wine crate a bit, so the books now get stacked in their own separate box. At the end of the week, I sort through the boxes and put everything back in its place. Teethers and rattles and colorful balls on a string get zipped into pouches. Alphabet blocks get pushed to one side. It’s a calming practice for me. A quiet moment for finding a bit of order after a busy week.

While parenting quickly quashes the notion that you’re in complete control of anything, it can be funny the ways in which that crops up. I’d imagined buying a few precious toys for Faye myself. I’d planned to wait and see what she needed or wanted or what happened to strike my fancy.  But the truth is that we’ve been given so many toys as gifts that I haven’t added to the collection much myself at all. Gratefully, almost all of the toys we’ve been given have been in keeping with what we’d hoped for. Wood, mostly. Toys borrowed from Montessori and Waldorf traditions with an emphasis on leaving room for imagination over anything else.

In general, we haven’t been overwhelmed by too many toys, though we have left a toy or two at her respective grandparents’ houses. And a duplicate item or two has found itself in the donation pile.

Like most everything else involving Faye, we’re taking things a step at a time. Her toys will surely eventually outgrow this box. And of course, we still have parties and birthdays and another decade of life (at least) to get through before I can declare victory over an onslaught of toys. But for now, we’ve been able to keep things simple by resisting the temptation ourselves to buy her more than she needs and by gently nudging insistent grammies and grandpas in the right direction.
baby proof: toys | reading my tea leaves Because so many of you have written asking for recommendations, I’ve put together a little resource list for places to find sweet toys. If you have other suggestions to add, please do!

Acorn Toy Shop: My favorite local stop for heirloom-quality toys (with an online shop, too.)
Babyccino Kids: Some of the very sweetest shops on the internet, all pulled together in one easy-to-browse space.
BellaLuna: Waldorf, wooden, and imaginative toys for babies and big kids.
Brimful: In their words: “modern whimsical” toys for kids.
Brookfarm General Store: A solid collection of beautiful toys to match the rest of the shop.
Diaperkind: Our diaper service, who happens to also stock a beautiful toy or two, including Faye’s round rattle.
Madesmith: Home to a gorgeous collection of dollies by Erika Barratt
Meus Shop: For the sweetest teether blankets I’ve seen among other treasures.
More & Co.: For brightly colored blocks, etc.
Norman & Jules: Another delightful Brooklyn shop, chock-full of sweet toys, crafts, and other kiddo things.
Over the Ocean: Specializing in European toys.
Wilson & Willy’s: A source for very sweet stuffies and Faye’s beautiful building blocks.

PS. If you’re looking for a good read on the subject of kids and toys, I recently read Simplicity Parenting and found a breath of fresh air.

PPS. If you’re looking for more specific ideas, I update my “things for little ones” Pinterest board with treasures for admiring fairly often.

Disclosure: Faye received her set of building blocks as a gift from Wilson & Willy’s. The blocks are a collaboration between St. Paul’s Beka Block and Minneapolis’s Wind and Willow Home. …And—ahem—they’re not for kids, only.

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  • Reply Bethany R March 10, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    I'm in the middle of Simplicity Parenting now! I love it! When I read the section about simplifying environment, I actually thought, "I wonder if Erin Boyle has read this…" : )

  • Reply Anonymous March 10, 2015 at 3:29 pm

    Another lovely post! I have taken to buying second hand Fisher Price toys for my two toddlers. They might be 20 years old but they are as good as new! And better for the environment! I also love Lego as they can use their imagination and create what they want.

  • Reply Hannah S March 10, 2015 at 3:31 pm

    So cute. My little niece would love toys like this, her mom would probably be even happier that its not another piece of bright plastic in her living room 🙂

  • Reply Joan March 10, 2015 at 3:56 pm

    I just bought a Toddler Top from My 10 month old grandson loves it.

    • Reply Erin March 10, 2015 at 4:00 pm

      Great shop! Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply Juliette March 10, 2015 at 4:37 pm

    Please tell me how to gently nudge grammies in the right direction!!! One Grammy in particular is obsessed with loud pink plastic princess crap – I want to die everytime….

    • Reply Erin March 10, 2015 at 4:41 pm

      Oh, man. Admittedly, might not have been *so* gentle. We've just plainly told them no plastic! Good luck!

  • Reply Marichelle March 10, 2015 at 5:18 pm

    Thank you so much for including our shop in your round-up! You always inspire me to re-evaluate, edit and repeat 🙂 A bit challenging with three little ones, especially with a four year old leading the pack with her current obsession with everything princess related! xo

  • Reply Anna March 10, 2015 at 5:26 pm

    Our biggest toy policy is "no battery-powered toys." Electronic beeping noises drive me mad. The in-laws ignored that this Christmas, so we now have a singing teapot. E. likes it for a few minutes, then gets upset because the teapot is making noise. Fortunately, there's an off-switch. My toddler's favourite "toys" tend to be things that were not originally intended to be for that use. She loves to empty out the sock drawer, or to run off with pots and pans and spoons. Empty tins and clean cloth diapers become toys. I could probably get rid of most of the toy box, and she wouldn't mind, because there are so many other things that she finds interesting.

  • Reply Rachel March 10, 2015 at 5:37 pm

    When my son was your daughter's age he had very minimal toys and I would get frustrated when family friends/family would try to buy things that I didn't approve of. I eventually told encouraged people that if they felt like buying something that books were a great choice. I loved your list of stores that you shared. I'm keeping them in mind for future babes and gifts!


    • Reply admin March 12, 2015 at 2:04 am

      Thanks, Lissa! So glad for the Nova Natural tip!

  • Reply Monica March 10, 2015 at 6:14 pm

    I struggle with balancing between controlling and curating everything my daughter is given with trying not to worry about it. I would love if everyone understood that we live in a small house and we don't have room for toys that don't meet a lot of developmental needs and are also fun and inspire creativity. I try to guide people towards good toys, but I end up doing the reverse of you, it seems. I buy the toys I really want her to have, and donate / return / regift the ones we just don't have room for. There are people who you can give direction to, and then there are people you can't. I wish I could just say NO PRESENTS PLEASE in big letters, but some people might think that's rude. :c)

  • Reply Lissa Snapp March 10, 2015 at 7:42 pm

    Love this post Erin! I too love the process of organizing and cleaning up Owynn's toys each week. Occasionally I find something that needs to leave and always try and keep his toys to a minimum so they fit in one large african basket but then of course we have loads of books. I love your shop ideas too and fun to see what others do with the whole toy dilemma. I think our hardest part in the toy area is shedding off those unwanted gifts from parents and friends. I have found this site to have loads of cool toys and clothes.

    • Reply Erin March 12, 2015 at 2:04 am

      Thanks, Lissa! So glad for the Nova Natural tip!

  • Reply Anonymous March 11, 2015 at 1:34 am

  • Reply Aja Lake March 11, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    I love seeing some of my shops listed here. And great tip on the book. Ordered! xx

    • Reply admin March 12, 2015 at 2:04 am

      Agreed! Too many beautiful toys can still be too many toys! So excited to get to the silk scarves and art supplies stage around here!

  • Reply littlefieldbirch March 11, 2015 at 7:07 pm

    What a beautiful collection!

  • Reply Gert Bert March 12, 2015 at 1:02 am

    My children are in college, but I raised them on wood toys and cardboard boxes. Oh the things we made from refrigerator and furniture boxes! I now see one problem with beautiful wood toys–to nice to give away and now all in storage in my attic, and we are down sizing to a 900 sq ft house. If I had to do it over again I would even say no to many wood toys also. I think the best toys are boxes, great art supplies, silk scarves, and some type of building toy like blocks, tree blocks or legos.

    • Reply Erin March 12, 2015 at 2:04 am

      Agreed! Too many beautiful toys can still be too many toys! So excited to get to the silk scarves and art supplies stage around here!

      • Reply admin March 16, 2015 at 11:51 am

        We have a small wooden box where I've been saving Faye's baby clothes that are most special and in the best shape. Onesies that have gotten tattered beyond repair have become rags and other hand-me-downs and gifts that while used, were not perhaps *loved* have gone to the thrift store.

  • Reply Anonymous March 12, 2015 at 9:59 pm

    I am curious, what do you do with the things that Faye outgrow? Do you keep them, give them away or store them in grandma's attic? 🙂 I am in the process of getting rid of excess belongings, and it gets hard when it comes to baby things. There's always that "baby #2 can use it".

    • Reply Erin March 16, 2015 at 11:51 am

      We have a small wooden box where I've been saving Faye's baby clothes that are most special and in the best shape. Onesies that have gotten tattered beyond repair have become rags and other hand-me-downs and gifts that while used, were not perhaps *loved* have gone to the thrift store.

  • Reply Miyabi_Na March 13, 2015 at 3:06 pm

    Love your list of toys and pinterest full of sweet baby things! May I suggest another shop that I think you might enjoy? A friend of mine makes these sweet little bears….she's a WAHM shop – every single bear is unique since it's all done by her hand! She stocks periodically (as she makes them) and announces on her IG:

    They are very durable, adorable, and unique…I hope you like them!

  • Reply Anonymous March 16, 2015 at 8:12 am

    While I think these toys are beautiful, I'm SO curious to know what you'd do if Faye starts hankering after brightly coloured/garish plastic toys when she's a bit older. Would you let her have them or would you say no as they go against your aesthetics?

    • Reply Erin March 16, 2015 at 11:49 am

      I think I'll have to embrace the struggle that every parent needs to, which is balancing my own hopes for my child with her hopes for herself. (I'd also say that my hope for simple wooden toys goes beyond aesthetics and I do think that part of the work of parenthood is to set limits and boundaries.)

  • Reply AC April 7, 2015 at 3:35 pm

    Love this post and your aesthetic. We live in a tiny apartment in Brooklyn (also 1 BR) with our 8 month old son. What are you doing in terms of a playpen/play yard, or are you forgoing that altogether? We have very little space and sometimes I just need to put him down for a few and he's been getting into all the cables/wires/etc that come with having a TV and video game system (ugh).

    • Reply Erin April 7, 2015 at 3:40 pm

      Hi neighbor! So far we've done our best to keep cords and wires tucked up and out of reach and have gone without! (It does require a bit of chasing around, but so far so good!)

  • Reply Rafaela April 19, 2015 at 8:18 pm

    I try to be a minimalist, and I try to live plastic free, etc.
    But I have a bigest problems with our kids stuff (we have girl and a little boy). Everyone (who's comming to a visit) bring us some (plastic) toys, stuffed animals, candies and so on. Even my husband is buying them some stuff even they have it way to many. I just don't know what to do.

    And I must say, this wooden boxes are really good tip for stashing kids toys! Thanks

  • Reply Stacie September 28, 2016 at 8:19 am

    Have you ever heard of For Small Hands? While working at a Waldorf School I stumbled upon the site. It’s really great!

    • Reply Erin Boyle September 28, 2016 at 4:58 pm

      Lovely: thank you!

  • Reply joana | myseastory September 28, 2016 at 5:40 pm

    love coming back to these posts for some inspiration on going simpler 🙂
    would love any ideas / tips on bath time fun, it’s one of the favorite times of the day for my daughter and i don’t really know how to have few entertaining bath friendly toys.
    thank you xx

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