10 Things My Baby Actually Wants to Play With More Than Toys

kid in a box
Nooch - Atinooch Jungwiwattanaporn

The only people who have it better than first-born grandchildren are first-born grandchildren of big families. This is my son’s lucky lot in life. He’s been doted on and spoiled by his relatives since he was a mere cluster of cells in my womb -- and he has the overflowing nursery to prove it.

Naturally, his first Christmas morning extended well into the afternoon as we unearthed gift after gift from beneath the tree at my parents’ house. As the toys and plush creatures piled up, my then barely sentient 3-month-old swatted at a piece of torn wrapping paper, indifferent to his colossal bounty. “Just wait until next year,” my mom warned me. “He’ll only want to play with the boxes.”

I smiled. It was a cliché I’d heard before, one I batted away with the refrain that comes back to haunt all parents: Not my kid.

Sure enough, even after he gained the mobility and motor-skills to play, my son wanted nothing to do with his cache of Fisher Price “classics” nor his library of board books. Neither his hand-crafted stacking blocks nor his stuffed animal menagerie could hold his attention. Instead, he only had eyes for, well, pretty much every other non-toy-item in his vicinity, whether that was an empty wipes wrapper, a frayed edge of the rug, or yes, a cardboard box.

Here, in no particular order, are a few of his favorite things.

  • The tangle of wires in the corner.

    wires
    Nooch - Atinooch Jungwiwattanaporn

    My son could be in a padded room and still find the object most likely to cause serious harm. In his baby-proofed-to-near-oblivion nursery, his potential hazard of choice are the cords that snake from the lamp and white noise machine to the outlet. They threaten just the right mix of strangulation and electrocution danger to keep me on the constant verge of cardiac arrest.

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  • His own reflection.

    reflection
    Nooch - Atinooch Jungwiwattanaporn

    Watching my son interact with his own reflection has led me to believe that flirting is an innate ability. I see him amble by the mirror and then catch his own eye and stop. A shy smile creeps across his face. Soon, a full grin emerges as his bats his (unfairly long and fluttery) lashes, completely taken with his own image. He goes in for the double high five. Again. And again. Then he presses his nose and mouth against the glass, officially making it weird. What’s the line between healthy self-love and narcissism?

  • My phone.

    My phone.
    Nooch - Atinooch Jungwiwattanaporn

    There’s no greater trophy for my kid than Mom or Dad’s phone (AKA the one thing that might occasionally get more attention than he does). My son has yet to discover the addictive qualities of social media and the pleasures of a group text, but he has already managed to: type a string of gibberish in a months-old email thread, turn on my Do Not Disturb, disable my phone (I didn’t know that was even a thing until it happened), “like” a stranger’s Instagram photos, dial a Chinese phone number, and take a half dozen blurry selfies.

  • The tiny clump of dirt stuck to his finger.

    the tiny clump of dirt stuck to his finger.
    Nooch - Atinooch Jungwiwattanaporn

    My son stares at a small, unidentifiable brownish-gray glob on his index finger like it holds the answers to all of life’s mysteries. He pinches it with his thumb, and transfers it to his other hand and then stabs at it some more, never lifting his gaze. When he eventually brings it to his mouth, I pray that it’s just run-of-the-mill dirt or a dust-bunny and not a piece of E. coli-laced dog poop someone brought in on a shoe.

  • Doors.

    Doors.
    Nooch - Atinooch Jungwiwattanaporn

    Here’s the thing about doors: They open and they close. Sometimes they make loud noises. Sometimes they make squeaky noises. Sometimes they hide surprises. And that’s not all! They’ve all got hinges that might pinch your fingers, spring stoppers you can play like a banjo, and shiny knobs that are just out of reach. OK, fair. I see the appeal.

  • My piping-hot mug of coffee.

    My piping-hot mug of coffee.
    Nooch - Atinooch Jungwiwattanaporn

    Can we all agree that babies are conspiring to make sure their parents never enjoy a meal again? As soon as a glass touches my lips or I raise a fork to my mouth, that’s the only thing my kid wants to a distracting degree. And of course, his first choice is the beverage that I depend on most for survival and that poses the greatest risk. 

  • Hair -- preferably attached to my head.

    Hair—preferably attached to my head.
    Nooch - Atinooch Jungwiwattanaporn

    ...Though the four strands enclosed in his tiny fist's death grip sometimes suffice. Let’s just say I never understood the appeal of the “mom cut” until my kid discovered my hair -- and his knack for eliciting hilarious blood-curdling yelps by yanking it.

  • Any tag.

    Any tag.
    Nooch - Atinooch Jungwiwattanaporn

    My kid’s woefully under-cuddled collection of stuffed animals serve one purpose: They’re vehicles for the endlessly fascinating tags that sprout from their furry, cotton-stuffed rumps.

  • That thing he just dropped from his high chair, stroller or crib.

    That thing he just dropped from his high chair, stroller or crib.
    Nooch - Atinooch Jungwiwattanaporn

    A second ago, he let go of that thing with an air of disdain I’ve only ever seen on the faces of grown men and women. He may have even turned his nose up in the air. But now? Now, he’s bypassed everything else in arm’s reach and is grasping for this thing like his next breath depends on it.

  • That one toy that makes the noise that's like a harmonica's best rendition of a dying cat.

    toys
    Nooch - Atinooch Jungwiwattanaporn

    You know the one. That hunk of battery-requiring plastic bought by a well-intentioned aunt or uncle who lives miles away from this auditory assault. The one that’s on every child development expert’s “don’ts” list. The one with the music that loops through your mind in slow motion, like in a horror movie, as soon as you lay your head on your pillow. Yep. That’s the one. That’s the one toy he wants to play with.