Last month we had the joy of celebrating Thomas’ second birthday. It’s tricky to know whether he remotely understood that it was ‘his’ day but it would’ve felt wrong not to mark it. We spent a wonderful day with close friends at at Steam Train museum and Thomas’ was really in his element.
But when it came to getting him a gift it was really quite tricky. What do you get for a child who really just likes keys? Is it mean to just give them a set of old keys?!
I absolutely loath buying things for the sake of it and really don’t like to choose gifts that are inevitable landfill. I think it’s really important that toys are not just throw away commodities. They need to be played with in a variety of ways, appeal to different ages, and be sturdy enough to be passed on.
Happily enough, I’ve discovered One Hundred Toys who follow this exact philosophy. There are no plastic, musical, flashing radios with annoying tunes that just. won’t. turn. off. Instead there are pages of beautiful wooden toys all sorted into suggested age group categories.
What is lovely is that many of the ‘toy’ suggestions found on the site are in fact, absolutely free. There’s loads of ideas of ways to play with things you could easily find in your home – like this brilliant Junk-Model Robot. We’ve been making a lot of effort to cut down on plastics in our lives, so ideas like this really make my heart sing.
But I was still a little stuck about what to choose for Thomas. He is generally happiest when climbing on things he shouldn’t or when emptying the kitchen cupboards. He’s shown no interest in cuddly toys, he’s shunned shape sorters, and generally knocks down all attempts to build with blocks.
It all changed when I spied the Haba Ball Track. We have an old marble run at my Mum’s house that he has always enjoyed, but I was always nervous of letting him play with little marbles. He’s a boy who really does like to watch how things work – and loves to make noise. I knew that he would just love playing with this toy and I wasn’t wrong!
We set the track up for him to find first thing in the morning. Immediately, he set about watching the ball run down the track again and again. He was delighted by the ball hitting the bell and just giggled with delight. Of course, eventually he also worked out he could take the track apart and see how it all fitted together. (He may also have discovered he could throw the bell across the room hitting his mother… but we’ll skip past that bit!)
But how else has it been used?
Funnily enough, in the last few weeks Thomas really has fallen in love with trains. We have a basic wooden track and he will happily play for hours. It’s been fun to combine the two toys in a variety of ways. Sometimes we just set the bells up from the ball track to ‘ding’ when the train goes past or stops at the end of the track. Sometimes we’ve set the ball rolling down the track to hit the train – which has caused Thomas no end of ‘Oh no!’ moments followed by fits of giggles.
We also have some wooden skittles that were gifted to Thomas last Christmas. He’s not quite got the aim to knock them down accurately but we can now just send the ball rolling down the track directly at the skittles.
The ball track could easily be expanded with other kits from the Haba range, but it’s nice to incorporate it with toys we already have. We’re working hard to change our mindsets that the kids need ‘more’ to be happy. Sometimes, fewer really is better – along with a bit of thought of how we can play together!
P.S. Thanks to One Hundred Toys for their support – Edinburgh Life with Kids readers can get 10% off their first order by using the code EDINBURGH100