Babies/toddlers and toys go hand-in-hand. It's a fundamental fact every parent-to-be and parent-who-is comes to terms with. And accepts and embraces. After all, babies learn through play (now how fun is that!) and we all want our li'l munchkins to learn and discover, don't we? Not to mention, if the toy keeps baby/toddler occupied for even 15 minutes at a stretch, it's a blessing.
So mums and dads go all out in getting the best toys for their budding brood. In the early months, it's not much. The quintessential rattle, a colourful playmat, probably a soft toy or two. But as the months progress and baby needs to be entertained, the number – and scale – of toys shoots up. There's no dearth of choice out there – from every possible super-hero to cartoon character to role-play (kitchen set, doctor set, doll- in-pram, train station) to creative play (play-doh, lego) – there is something for every child. But there are some that are all-time favourites. More like essentials, in fact. Every house that has a baby or a toddler will be in possession of at least some of them, if not all. Next time you go visiting a friend who has a child under five/ go for a playdate, look out for them, and let me know how many you find!
Sophie the Giraffe
Originally Sophie la Girafe, born in France in 1961, she's now become a hit with mums and babies in London (as well as in other parts of the world). Sophie is 'baby's first toy' as the makers rightly state on their website, and more often than not you will see the dainty rubber giraffe hanging on almost every baby's buggy, unless baby is chewing on her long legs or horns or ears. Yes, Sophie is a godsend for teething babies! And a source of comfort and security for small babies as well.
Alphabet mat and alphabet blocks
Every parent wants his/her child to learn the alphabet and then hear them sing it, complete with 'Now I know my ABC, next time won't you sing with me?' So, what better way to initiate the learning process than by letting baby play on a bright and colourful ABCD mat? Added advantage: the foam acts as a perfect padding for those soft bums!
And while you're sitting on the mat, how about building a tower with ABC blocks? Choose from soft blocks for tender fingers or harder ones for toddlers with a better grip.
The alpha-numeric singing red bus
If 'The Wheels on the Bus go Round and Round' is a nursery rhyme that goes round and round in your house, 24/7, then the alpha-numeric singing red bus (yes, I coined the term; see it in the pic below) will be a favourite with your toddler. It's multi-purpose too – to begin with, it's a bus, and which toddler doesn't like pretend-driving his/her own bus around the house? Plus, it's educational: it teaches alphabets, numbers, basic words (a is for apple) and sings all the popular nursery rhymes too. No wonder it's a hit with mums and toddlers alike.
A train set
Where there's a bus, there will be a train. And tracks. And probably even a train station. Trains are an exciting mode of transport for those animated young minds – they make a fun 'choo choo' sound, emit steam from the engine, stop and go at every station… oh, it's so much fun to be a train-driver or a station-master. Enter the toy train set. Entertainment guaranteed for toddler. Peace and quiet for mum.
Pssst… Mega Bloks First Builders do their own take on Lego, and are immensely popular (and cheaper than Lego) for smaller babies owing to their large-sized blocks.
Rocking horse/ ride-ons