Everything But Their Toys - 10 Reasons Why Babies Want Your Stuff
Toys Are Boring, But The Box They Came In...
If you offer heaps of toys to a baby, you'll barely get a glance from them. But, if you simply own something that a baby shouldn't be playing with and keep it within their eyesight, now that's an hours-long activity. Even the weirdest of things.
All parents say the same thing. This isn't just a TikTok trend, this an hourly aspect of parenting.
For most of us, this means Googling just how dangerous something is, placing protective measures and finding convincing baby-safe replacements.
But once the silence finally settles and the little ones are tucked away in their cribs, there is a moment of reflection on the glaring question:
Why do babies play with everything but their toys?
We've spoken to the experts, racked our brains and scoured the internet. We have 10 reasons in total. In most cases, it'll be a combination of some or all of these explanations and in many cases the reasons themselves will flow from one to another.
1. Exploration Of Places And Things
"Babies are Marco Polo, Toddlers are Columbus"
Having been born semi-recently, babies have a constant urge to explore the places around them. Besides for the desire to learn new things from the exploration (that's later in this list) they simply love to rove, wander and toddle.
In our own experience, our little one squeezing into the cupboard to play with the styrofoam plates is an hourly task of hers. She drifts there because she already knows her way around in there.
2. Versatility Of Uses
“Children don’t necessarily like the box better than the toy, but they can do more things with the box because it’s not limited.”
- Jason Scofield, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, University of Alabama
In a fascinating paper, a team of academics offer a compelling explanation:
Where a unicorn or a rocket ship is exciting to the eye with their bright colors and unique shapes, they're actually quite limited. There are very few things a rocket ship can be besides for a rocket ship.
Whereas, a non-toy because, from the child's perspective, the proper way to play with it isn't defined, all avenues are open.
Is a cardboard box a home? A basket? A toy to throw? Poke? These endless options are what're enticing to toddlers.
3. Novelty Is Never Boring
"Novelty is the great parent of pleasure."
- Robert South
Like all humans, babies find immense interest in the less-accessible and new. That which is at hand is already passé.
A room full of toys neatly set up within the reach of little arms, grow rapidly boring in comparison to the contents of a distant makeup drawer, no matter how many child locks you put on it.
Even if the grass isn't greener, it's on the other side. And that is enough a reason.
4. Independence Of Choice And Movement
"To find yourself, think for yourself."
Growing into a fully developed human, as your little one started doing the moment they were born, involves developing independence. However small that independence is at the start, the toddler begins asserting it as soon as they can.
Few can stomach a fully rebellious two-year-old. However, the mostly benign, independent decisions of where to wander and what to play with can cultivate a healthy dose of confidence in the child for the future.
5. Challenges And Overcoming Them
“Challenges are what make life interesting. Overcoming them is what makes them meaningful.”
Like in the pursuit of a spouse or a great video game, goals grow more desirable according to how challenging they are.
The simple knowledge of an obstacle arouses the urge to break through it. But it's more than that. A challenge can sharpen the mind and develop the character of the individual bearing it.
This desire for the challenging is inborn and is already apparent in babies. Although they may not understand the benefits of the difficult path, they're not looking for the easy road.
6. Educational Insights
“Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.”
- Isaac Asimov
Every single thing around us likely has a lifetime of knowledge and wisdom to learn from and about it. For most things, we learn first about its external look and feel and function. We then decide whether to probe deeper.
For most of the items which are made for babies are simplified so much that babies learn their function quickly. A silicone rattle can only be studied in so many angles.
Whereas, all those interesting-looking items their parents find so useful, they seem to teach an endless stream of handy knowledge.
7. Baby Mimicry Of Adults
"Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness."
- Charles Colton
Babies look up to their parents. Toddlers look up to their preschool teachers and parents.
It might be because parents (seem to) know what they're doing. Or maybe because we just look cool. Either way it's the psychological reason for the steady stream of imitation every child has for their adult.
8. Not Knowing The Difference Between Toys And Non-Toys
"In a child, or a fool, lacking intention and reason, often makes a choice more steadfast, not less."
Often, humans assume lots of explanations for occurrences that are actually quite random. Take superstition for example.
This is even more true when it comes to parents and their children. We ascribe deep meanings to things that really have quite banal explanations.
"Why did baby Tommy break my cello? Is it because he comprehends the intrinsic flaws of classical music and is attempting to spark a revolution of taste?" No, Becky. It's because you forgot to put your cello back in its case.
In our context, it could very-well be that a baby plays with whatever is in their radar, be it a rattle or a toilet plunger.
9. Baby Toy Flaw: Intentional Dullness
Although the following entry can be understood to be harsh on parents, we mean no offense. We occasionally fall into this trap ourselves! We must talk about...
The Instagram-friendly toy. You know, the brooding pastel-colored wood carved in the least appealing shape possible. The ones which even PhD students struggle to figure out how to play with.
There's a hilarious TikTok account called @SadBeige which offers melancholic descriptions for all sorts of toys which seemed to have the life sucked out of them.
As parents, we must select the toys that are, yes, educational, but most of all, fun!
10. Usefulness Of Household Items
Another often overlooked factor is the fact that whatever usage you may have for a particular household item, your baby may have the same use in mind.
Do you like watching videos you find entertaining on your phone? That may be why your baby loves your phone too!
Do you open a can of soda when you're thirsty? Maybe its thirst that's propelling your child to your can as well.
Parents would be well-advised to check for the real needs of their little one in these situations.