360 minutes, 48 toys.
October 14, 2009 11:36 AM   Subscribe

It's small, it's interesting, I WANT TO PUT IT IN MY MOUTH: suggest everyday objects or materials that will amuse and delight a six-month-old baby?

Baby B, age 6mo, will be taking her first-ever plane trip this month. The flight is only three hours each way, so rather than trying Benadryl I'm just going to try to keep her entertained for that time. I estimate that this will require one new toy for every 5-15min of flight time (so, as many as 12-24 toys total each way).

Luckily, it doesn't take much to engage her at this stage; pretty much any graspable object, particularly with interesting colors/textures/sounds, is enthusiastically received. (She's still not at the point of doing much with things beyond looking, shaking, and chewing.) Consequently, I'm looking to compile a ginormous list of small household/craft/kitchen/natural objects I could take along as "toys" on this and future flights.

Criteria are pretty lax: ideally, objects would be
(1) small,
(2) not poisonous,
(3) not sharp or pointy
(4) not choking hazards, i.e. big enough not to fit through a paper towel tube, although all play will be under close adult supervision anyway.
(5) cheap-- either <$3 at your standard neighborhood craft/hardware/department/grocery/kitchen store, OR freely found outdoors, OR already present in the average American home.

I'd love to get a list as comprehensive as possible, so please err on the side of inclusivity in suggestions. Ideas so far include a sheet of waxed paper, silicone basting brush, kitchen prep bowl... what else?
posted by Bardolph to Shopping (37 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
In my experience, every fancy toy in the world gets trumped by the first big fat jangly keychain someone produces.

You can get uncut blanks from any hardware store; they lack the sharp points, and you can hand-select rounded-end ones while at it. And while one or two keys might be scary, a big fad wad of them on a huge keychain fob is much too big to swallow.
posted by rokusan at 11:40 AM on October 14, 2009

Speaking of paper towel tubes, a paper towel tube itself was a favorite baby toy for my daughter. Especially when she found out she could put her arm through it.
posted by mbrubeck at 11:41 AM on October 14, 2009

Spoons and, going with rokusan's theme, find ones with holes in the handles and put them on a ring of some sort. However, the noise factor might push you away from jangly metal objects.
posted by sciencegeek at 11:42 AM on October 14, 2009

wooden dowels or rings from your local craft store. They should be splinter-free but you can sand them to be sure.

Also, how about a sponge?
posted by scrutiny at 11:43 AM on October 14, 2009

oh, there was one baby I knew who absolutely loved tags. He had a small blanket square - maybe 8"x8" - where his parents had added all sorts of tags on the edges. He loved putting them in his mouth.
posted by scrutiny at 11:44 AM on October 14, 2009

Old cell phone? Especially if it lights up and makes noises when you press the buttons.
posted by something something at 11:45 AM on October 14, 2009 [4 favorites]

posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:46 AM on October 14, 2009

They should be splinter-free but you can sand them to be sure.

It depends on the wood and the state of the baby's teeth--baby llama has chew marks in a lot of her wooden blocks and puzzle pieces.

OP, two words: dog toys.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 11:47 AM on October 14, 2009 [3 favorites]

Small plastic container (tupperware/rubbermaid type)
Stacking cups
Those baby links that every parent should have (to attach toys to stroller, etc)
Soft hair scrunchie
Headband (not the kind with teeth!)
Scrunched up saran wrap
Small empty box (the kind that would hold a bar of soap)
Empty toilet paper roll
Large highlighter
Sock (doubles as puppet)
Clean kitchen sponge (as long as baby has no teeth yet)

Don’t know if you have any old, unwanted cassette tapes, but my kids LOVED pulling those apart when they were babies. I think 6 months is probably too young, though.
posted by yawper at 11:47 AM on October 14, 2009

Scotch tape. Nesting measuring cups. Cloth napkin for peekaboo, putting on her head, putting on your head.

You can also rotate the toys; she'll be interested in the first one again, once she's seen six others.

The best entertainment is you. Finger rhymes ("I have a little turtle, he lives inside a box," "where is thumbkin,") and bouncing rhymes ("bumpin' up and down in my little red wagon," "ladies go a-canter," "row row row your boat") can entertain a six-month-old for quite a long time.
posted by palliser at 11:48 AM on October 14, 2009

Cloth books with cool things to do on every page, even if the baby is too young to manipulate them. I still remember the one I had way back in the dark ages.
posted by mareli at 11:51 AM on October 14, 2009

I agree, keys are #1.
Paper bags are very entertaining -- as you'll notice when the baby ignores whatever expensive toy came out of one. I think it's the way they crumple up into a different shape when the baby grasps them, while making such a satisfying crinkly sound.
Even at 6 months my baby LOVED looking at picture books before she ate them.
posted by keener_sounds at 11:53 AM on October 14, 2009

Also, seconding baby hand games -- there are some good ideas here
posted by keener_sounds at 11:58 AM on October 14, 2009

My son's favorite toy at that age was a purple one of those little plastic 3.5oz travel bottles.
posted by ook at 11:59 AM on October 14, 2009

Small, clear plastic water bottle less-than-half full. She can't unscrew the top, the water is sparkly, the bottle rolls, and unless she gets lucky (or learns) her hands can't grab it, but only bat it away.

This ingenious contraption taught range, jr. how to crawl at about the same age -- he was so fascinated by it that he had to chase it all over the room as is squirted out of his itty bitty grip.
posted by range at 12:04 PM on October 14, 2009

A pacifier in his mouth and these ring-a-link things for his hands pretty much kept mini-me occupied when we took him on a 4 hour flight at 10 months. Oh, and milk for takeoff and landing.
posted by IanMorr at 12:06 PM on October 14, 2009

Baby Banana loves her Altoids tin (with small object inside for noise/weight). Also paper of any kind, particularly newspaper (most attractive if it's a newspaper you're trying to read). My glasses are also a big hit (and thus terminally spotted with tiny fingerprints). Electronic devices are the forbidden paradise (cell phone, laptop, etc.)
posted by Go Banana at 12:10 PM on October 14, 2009

As a fellow airline passenger, please don't let your baby play with keys. Flying is stressful enough without the jangle-jangle-jangle.

My parents used to entertain me with a deck of cards.
posted by desjardins at 12:15 PM on October 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

Not to be a spoilsport, but keys can contain lead. Be careful.

I estimate that this will require one new toy for every 5-15min of flight time

I flew with my nine-month old son from Boston to Las Vegas for my sister-in-law's wedding. (This trip included a significant layover in Salt lake City). I found our schedule, roughly, went like this:

-- Top of hour: I introduce new toy of some kind, E played with it for perhaps 10-15 minutes (sometimes I would help).
-- When he got bored with the toy, I would let him space out for 5-10 minutes (or until he showed signs of restlessness). I wanted to avoid over stimulation.
-- Then we'd have a small snack. That took 10-15 minutes.
-- Then we'd sing or play finger games or look at a book together (me reading or pointing and naming things). 5-15 minutes.
-- Then a little more "quiet alert" time.
-- Then back to new toy, rinse and repeat.

I really found the "quiet alert" time was key to keeping him a) interested in new things, and b) calm and not overstimulated. Of course, this varies from child to child, but I suspect if I had kept giving my son a new toy every quarter-hour for three (or, in our case, eight) hours he would have been a demanding, overstimulated mess by the end of the trip. The key is, of course, to closely observe your child and read his cues carefully - there is a point where "quiet alert" turns into OMG!Bored and you have to be careful not to tip over that point. I also found that the regular (hourly) snacks were key; a full tummy = a happy baby, after all.

Things that were in my "bag of tricks": 4 - 5 age appropriate board books; a couple of "activity" cloth books; a mirror; a Lamaze-brand crinkly toy animal (I think ours was a peacock); a couple of puppets (easy to make at home); a photo album with pictures of our family; some clear plastic blocks that had different "things" inside them (by Fisher Price; something like these); snack-sized clear plastic bowls with lids -- some you could take the lid off and there was something (a fabric scrap, some saran wrap; a walnut) inside; others I put rice or sand or beans in and glued the lids shut with Elmer's glue; a couple of "traditional" (wooden) rattles and a couple of gel teethers.
posted by anastasiav at 12:23 PM on October 14, 2009 [4 favorites]

My parents used to entertain me with a deck of cards.

Leadin' to a rich, whiskey-soaked life of ridin' the rails, I hope.

I estimate that this will require one new toy for every 5-15min of flight time

You're overestimating memory, or underestimating novelty. After five or six toys, you can rotate back to the first one.

(Babies is easy tuh trick.)
posted by rokusan at 12:27 PM on October 14, 2009

I was on a flight with a 14-month-old. We were delayed on the tarmac for 3 hours. The toys were used up. The cheerios were used up. No nap was on the horizon. Out of necessity, I devised a toy with an air sickness bag.

Take the bag. Poke 4 holes in the bottom with your keys or a pen. Put your hand in. At random, have your fingers pop out of the holes, in whack-a-mole style. Jerk them back in before the little hands can grab them. Pop them out again. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Almost an hour of fun was had, and the previously grumpy people seated near me were smiling.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 12:37 PM on October 14, 2009 [13 favorites]

scrutiny - Taggies!
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 12:43 PM on October 14, 2009

People who have babies should be issued a copy of Toys That Kill. (Initially called Toys that don't care)
(4) not choking hazards, i.e. big enough not to fit through a paper towel tube, although all play will be under close adult supervision anyway.- really? Are you faster than your child's swallowing reflex?
Soft hair scrunchie- can become a chocking hazard
Scrunched up saran wrap- can become a chocking hazard
Large highlighter- cap can become a chocking hazard
Clean kitchen sponge -can break into small pieces and become a chocking hazard

Not to harsh your baby buzz, but as far as toys go, especially for a mouthing baby big and plain is the way to go.
posted by Gungho at 12:55 PM on October 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

I have a dirty secret. Last year, when I was babysitting my 6 month old nephew, I would get really bored and would just want to read or browse the web or watch tv, but my stinky little nephew would get all fussy, demanding noisy attention, until I discovered something that absorbed his full attention: my forearm! I would hold my forearm up, and just like a good little alien baby, he would lock on with tiny lips and gums and gnaw away while I frittered away my time. Was it gross and slimy? Sure, but it kept him occupied and kept me from extreme boredom (now, a year on, he's actually fun n' stuff).

So my vote is for: available limbs.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 1:19 PM on October 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

Gloves (that look like finger puppets)
Playing "Where is so-and-so" with a magazine in front of your face.
Something that can be stacked and knocked down repeatedly (tupperware containers, 3-4 blocks)
posted by melodykramer at 1:40 PM on October 14, 2009

I wonder if dog or cat chew toys would work? Not something like rawhide obviously, but silicone chew toys or something along those lines.
posted by mlo at 1:52 PM on October 14, 2009

I travel a lot with my baby (now 11 months).

Tool #1: boobs - this takes up most of the trip along with the sleeping that comes with them
Tool #2: Baby Mum Mums (6 months is a good age to start with these.) They are amazing as a snack.
Tool #3: stacking cups
Tool #4: something that lights up
Tool #5: airsick bag as puppet and to put things in and out of

3 hours is nothing to stress out about. You entertain your child for 3 hours all of the time. Try 15 to Australia. Or this weekend, 6 across the country.

I wouldn't worry so much and try to induce a nap. And, if you're still on every 2 hour feeding schedule, try to feed the baby before you get into a long security line.
posted by k8t at 2:13 PM on October 14, 2009

We had a great toy Freddy Firefly that had all sorts of crinkling noises, shiny bits, plastic bits, eyes, antenna etc. If we were going to take one toy at that age it would be Freddy.

Soft book to read / eat (We liked PAt the Bunny - Sleepy Bunny" cloth book

Our baby loved a metal tea strainer (the one that opens up by twisting off the top). She would love opening and closing it.

For older toddlers or if you put the baby down on the floor, be very careful about crap left on the group from previous fliers. On the last trip our baby popped up with PILLS that must of fallen out of peoples purses or hands.

She also pooped up with peanuts, and while we don't think she has an allergy, we didn't want to find out for the first time at 35k feet.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 2:24 PM on October 14, 2009

Taggy blanket?
posted by Artw at 4:51 PM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

I agree that you are overestimating the number of activities you will need. We first flew with our son at about that age and I had a big bag of books and toys. We barely needed them. He ended up sleeping most of the flights. The rest of the time, we played with a few toys but mostly he people-watched. There's so much going on on an airplane!

He had his own seat so we had one of those toys that go across the car seat handle. It was pretty entertaining for him and was something that I didn't have to pick up off the floor.

But six months is a great age because they're easily entertained. If you run out of stuff to do, you can even just put a sticker or some tape on the end of one of her fingers. She'll probably spend several minutes trying to figure it out.
posted by wallaby at 5:34 PM on October 14, 2009

That Taggy blanket is freaking brilliant. Wow.
posted by rokusan at 5:44 PM on October 14, 2009

The plastic keys at Giant Eagle!
posted by debbie_ann at 6:45 PM on October 14, 2009

Go to the store and choose a few small new toys. Shiny, jangly,different textures. Many things are just not very safe for babies; avoid the risk. 6 month old may be teething, so something that can be frozen is a nice change. Do you have a cell phone that plays music? Bring some familiar songs that you can play.

The water bottle is a nice idea, and multi-purpose. Plenty of small plastic containers that started out w/ cheerios inside. The one homemade toy we carried was a piece of sturdy, crinkly, shiny mylar.

Bring many more diapers than you can imagine needing, and changes of clothes. Something about the change in air pressure made my son explosive. Memorable.
posted by theora55 at 10:02 PM on October 14, 2009

Be prepared with a change of clothes for yourself too. I had spares for my son but since he was sitting in my lap at the time, I was stuck in my own stinky pants until I could claim my luggage.
posted by metahawk at 10:56 PM on October 14, 2009

oh, there was one baby I knew who absolutely loved tags. He had a small blanket square - maybe 8"x8" - where his parents had added all sorts of tags on the edges. He loved putting them in his mouth.

Taggy blanket?

Here's a Swedish version. It's not too difficult to make one yourself out of assorted textiles and laundry care tags.
posted by iviken at 7:55 AM on October 15, 2009

Etsy has great tag blankets.

also, don't forget the teething tablets and baby tylenol in case a toothie pops.

a 3 hour is so short (heck, we were on the tarmac for an extra 3 hours last week), but bring extra dipes, wipes and outfits. Pack tshirts and elastic pants. Many planes don't have changing tables. Lap is easier.

at 6 months my kiddo loved a 1/2 filled water bottle.
posted by k8t at 8:23 AM on October 15, 2009

Just now, I handed my 6-month old the plastic torn from the window of a standard envelope that bills come in. You know how it's sorta stiff and makes that crinkly noise? It's baby crack. He's been fiddling with it, entranced, for about ten minutes now (read: forever) and hasn't once tried to put it in his mouth.
posted by oceanmorning at 10:38 AM on October 15, 2009

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