Showing posts with label Toys. Show all posts

Less messy art supplies for toddlers - creativity I can live with!

I may have mentioned once or thirty times on this blog that I have trouble doing art projects with the kids. Part of this is because I am not an artistic person myself and found art projects boring as a child. But if I'm being honest, much of my hesitance stems from not wanting to spend an hour trying to get paint out of all the floor cracks.  It's not that I'm neurotic or own priceless artifacts, it's mostly that I'm lazy.

But of course kids probably need some art supplies (right?). So here are products we've found that are at least somewhat entertaining to children and don't cause you to have to declare your place "condemned" and just move out. As a bonus, art supplies that aren't too messy are usually good for travel, so that's win.
  • Melissa & Doug On The Go Water Wow Books. Of all the things in this post, these have got to be my favorite.  These are special books that come with a plastic tube that you fill with water.  The child then uses the tube as a pen to reveal the colors in the picture.  When the water dries, the picture goes back to blank/white - reusable products for the win!.  The only possible mess is the spilling of water, which is awesome.  There is very little fine motor skill involved so it's great for even the youngest toddlers.  Plus, these books are amazing for travel since they're compact and can be brought through airport security because the pen can be emptied and refilled. Melissa & Doug have about a billion versions of these, so you can keep a stack and rotate to eliminate boredom.

  • Crayola Color Wonder Markers. These look like regular markers but they are not -  they only work on special Crayola Color Wonder Paper. On the one hand, toddlers love to draw on anything but paper (hello grandma's couch!) and this way, they can't. On the other hand, this can be a downside, since you have to keep buying the paper (or coloring books) only from them. I personally think this product is sheer genius. Coloring is one of those activities that should be quiet unsupervised play time for kids, and now it can be with peace of mind. The only limitation of this product, as far as I'm concerned, is that the child has to be fairly confident holding and pressing a marker. Also the color only shows up once the marker dries so there is a several second delay between making a mark and seeing it. It's not a problem once the kid gets used to it but kids younger than 2 are probably going to get frustrated.

  • Crayola Washable Triangular Crayons. These make excellent starter crayons for kids.  The large triangular shape makes them easy to hold and they won't roll away when set down.  Their washable nature makes for easy clean up.  These are a great tool for even the youngest budding artist.

  • Magnetic Tins for Pretend Play. Ok so this is not, strictly speaking, "art supplies" in the classic sense of the word. However, it is a versatile toy that allows for expression of creativity and open ended play.  There are many different versions of this toy out there, including character based and dress up doll varietals. These too are perfect for travel, doctor's offices, and restaurants since they are quiet, non messy, and self contained.

  • Do A Dot Art in action
    Do A Dot Art! Washable Paint Markers. These markers are something between a marker and paint.  They are are definitely messier than a crayon but less messy than full on water paints. There is no potential for spilling with these guys but there is definitely ample room for adding flair to your curtains. Parental supervision is heavily advised, but they are so easy to use that they are a more fun art supply for producing bold creations.  We can confirm the paint came out of a tablecloth in the washing machine. Proceed with caution, but overall a thumbs up.
   

Review of the Babyletto Bookshelf: The Book Falls too Far from the Tree

Sometimes even the most savvy of parents (and clearly you are already savvy since you're reading this blog) get taken in by something that seems cute but really fails to perform even very basic functions. Today is the story of one of these times...
Cute, right?

When setting up the nursery for our first child, we had trouble finding ways to add splashes of fun and color in a room that was too small for much clutter but also sparse (given the amazing custom-installed closets eliminating the need for dressers). Knowing also that books would be a key feature in our little one's life, we were quickly entranced with the babyletto Spruce Tree Bookcase.

Given that the babyletto Hudson Crib came highly recommended by the Baby Bargains Book (and looked impressive sitting in the nursery) and that their bookcase was a third the price of similar alternatives, we were IN.

It's true, assembling furniture with a newborn around is not for the faint of heart, however...

Bookcase Bottoms Should Not Be Round

The bottom of the bookcase was not flat. LET ME BE CLEAR. It's not that it wasn't level, it was NOT FLAT. It was instead rounded, making it rather difficult to stand up or support the weight of, you know, books. I guess they assumed that it would be entirely supported by the brackets they provided but that seems awfully optimistic.
...Strike 1...

Bookcases Should be Made for Floors as They Are

Like many folks living in old buildings, or medium-aged buildings, our floors are also not quite level. Had the folks at babyletto been on top of this and provided some kind of leveling mechanism, the problem with the bottom of the bookcase being round would have been mitigated. Unfortunately, we were left with a situation where even IF we'd just had some weird manufacturing error, there was no way to set up the bookcase to safely hold things. Plenty of furniture around the house has shims for leveling, but something designed for cute appearance should do better.
...Strike 2...

An Aside: Power Tools and my Awesome Wife

Undeterred, we went to work, purchasing T-Nut Furniture Levelers, an extra large drill bit, and finding time between not sleeping and cleaning up from our constantly pooping newborn to do some light carpentry. And by "we," I really mean my wife. Anything requiring a screwdriver or wrench, I'm your guy. All other tools, and especially power tools, are trusted only to her. Here you will see her a mere three-weeks post C-section going to town to make this freaking bookcase stand.
Pretty awesome, eh?

Bookcases Should be Made for Walls as They Are

So, to their credit, babyletto did supply brackets to attach the bookcase to the wall (we're not huge on obsessive baby-proofing, but we're 100% on attaching furniture to the wall). The babyletto engineers (rightfully) assumed the bookcase will be pushed up directly against the wall as it has no back and the wall would be the only thing preventing books from falling down the back.

However, the included brackets were very short. As a result, the bookcase makes no ability to leave space for a baseboard. So out came the drill again as we affixed longer curtain-rod brackets to the back. Lest you think I'm being unfair, other furniture manufacturers, such as Ikea, provide a space for a baseboard (see below).

The Ikea Billy bookcase, with space in the back for a baseboard;
still letting the back of the bookcase rest against the wall
(though without leveling feet as well).

Babyletto failing to anticipate a common household architectural feature...
...Strike three...

Bookcases Should Hold Books

Undeterred (and because we didn't know there'd be a baseball theme to a write-up 3 years later), we did not stop at strike three. But at least we have a cute bookcase, right? 

Turns out, shelves at irregular angles are hard to use. Some books only fit in some places, some places are too small to fit most any book, Moreover, the shelves were pretty shallow.

Put all that together and books frequently fell off in droves.
...Strike, uh... Four?

Kallax, a Bookcase that Works as a Bookcase!

Note the tree decals allowed us to keep the
general theme
Once it was time to do some re-engineering of the room for baby #2, we'd finally had it with the Spruce. For the same floor space, we got the Kallax at IKEA. It offered significantly more ease to build, brackets to secure properly to the wall, and tons of additional storage (including room for toys!). It will also grow with the kids as their desires (and the room decor) change. 

We stuck with white (and added accented inner shelves for some color and to give the bookcase a back), but it comes in many colors. Once they're a bit older and have decorating opinions of their own, we can easily add/remove various decals for additional (flexible) fun.

So there you have it. babyletto makes a great crib (we even bought a second of the same for baby #2), the chair you see is theirs too, but the bookcase is a strong Do Not Buy.

And once again, it's Ikea with the win.

Toddler Playmat - Educational and may spare your kid's noggin!

We've discussed on this blog how much of a lifesaver a baby play mat can be.  Play mats for older babies and toddler's aren't quite as critical but can be a great addition to your house.

We have the Edushape Edu-Tiles 36 Piece 6x6ft Play Mat. We put it out right around the time our first baby started crawling.  It provided a softer place for her to fall over as she developed her gross motor skills and is reasonably comfortable for adults to sit or lie on while playing at eye level or being climbed over. They can be especially helpful if the adult has bad knees or is pregnant.

In particular we picked this brand over something like Skip Hop Zoo Playspot because we liked that the tiles fit together without additional extra pieces, which would just get lost with time in all likelihood. Moreover, this flexibility allowed us to split the one mat between the living room and her room, given that neither space was big enough to support an entire mat all its own.


In addition to being soft and colorful, it also let our daughter basically teach herself letters and numbers and taught her about putting together puzzles!

Finally, this is a great item to register for - you won't need it right away, but probably faster than you can say "grow".

2015 Gift guide - What all city-dwelling (and probably many other) parents REALLY want this season!

What gift do you get for your favorite set of parents who have everything and/or no room for anything else?  Here are some suggestions for gifts that are sure to be appreciated almost universally by parents, but most especially those tight on space!

Practical gifts that keep on giving

Food Delivery Gift Certificates

This one makes the rounds frequently for new parents, but everyone loves takeout/delivery. After a night when one kid wants to stand on the train seat and the other refuses to go to sleep, it's good to be married to "someone who knows when it’s time to order Chinese." (Also, seriously internet, no GIFs/memes on this Orange is the New Black line?) Better yet, to do that when already been paid for. Foodler is our pick for services, but your recipient's area may be better served by Seamless, GrubHub, etc.

Parents in a Pinch / Care.com

Every parent in the history of time could use the gift of a break from their little miracles.  However, finding reliable caregivers (and then being able to afford them) makes the prospect of planning an evening out more overwhelming than training to run a marathon.  This is a website that matches parents with willing and vetted caregivers.  It is an especially great gift to give if you are a non-local grandparent and cannot offer your own babysitting in person.

Amazon.com Prime

Ok, I surely don't have to explain Amazon Prime, but it's a great resource for families. It can feel like a splurge given the price, but that's what makes it a perfect gift! Free 2-day delivery is already a great deal, but add-in the additional discounts on diapers, the free TV/Movie streaming, and the Kindle free library, it's definitely worth the money. Bonus Amazon feature: you can download TV/movies to view offline, which means the kids can watch Sesame Street (or many other things) on a plane with no wifi.

Grocery Delivery/Farmshare

Grocery delivery is a luxury for urban dwellers and for those days when getting the newborn (or toddler) out of the house seems impossible, services like Peapod or your local grocery store's options can save the day. Find a farmshare, CSA, or other produce delivery service, and it can make cooking a "real meal" at home that much easier. Plus, it gives everyone in the family an excuse to try new (and in-season!) foods. For folks in the Boston metro area, we recommend Boston Organics which combines the best of a farmshare and a grocery store that delivers.

Zipcar/Uber/Lyft

On the topic of splurges, going carfree means knowing the cost of each trip you take. Having (gifted) credit for your transport method of choice allows you to be confident when you take a trip to the children's' museum in the snow, pick up that extra jug of laundry detergent, or hit that networking event after work because you can make it home quickly.

Entertainment gifts that last beyond the moment

Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Instant Video (both for parents and kids)

Any one of these is an easy win for the whole family. Once the kids are old enough for some screen time, a carefully chosen 30 minutes of streaming for the kids can be a serious relief after a difficult day (plus it's pretty fun to watch Sesame Street with the kiddos). Once the kids are in bed, sometimes all you can muster is sitting on the couch with whatever from your fridge doesn't require adding heat, a glass of wine (see below), and an episode (or 3) of the show from 5 years ago you were too busy to watch when you went out every night.


Childrens' Museum Membership

Childrens' museums can be pretty awesome in general (thank you Magic House in St. Louis for great childhood memories), but especially if you live somewhere with tough weather (too cold, too hot, whatever), many have great spaces for kids of many ages to run around and get everyone out of the house. The Boston Children's Museum (and their under-3 specific space) was a total godsend this past hellish winter.

Music Together 

Without oodles of space, experiences are a great gift for families. Music Together (franchised under many different names city-to-city) fits in the niche between music theory, silly songs/hand motions, exposure to instruments, playgroup, and place to meet other parents. Also, very welcoming of Dads, grandparents, and other caregivers. If you're in Boston, the local franchise is Groovy Baby Music, click here for a $15 discount.

Personal Care experiential presents

If you know that your recipient parent enjoys the occasional massage or trip to their salon of choice, this can be a great way to gift them a little "me time."  Especially if paired with a gift certificate for or offer of child care, you may become their very favorite person of the month.

Wine delivery/subscription 

It is a well known "tee hee wink wink" joke on mom blogs that moms just love wine. Ok but it's really true, and not just for moms.  Sometimes parenting requires alcohol for everyone's sanity. Whether it's because your 5 month old had explosive diarrhea all over the crib or your 2 year old screamed for an hour at bedtime, wine is the legal way to solve the problem after the ankle-bitters are clean and angelically snoozing. So if you know your favorite parent's preferred drink (it's Navarro Vineyards for us), go ahead and get them a case (many wineries will ship to many/most states).  Alternatively get them a membership to the Tasting Room so they can try lots of different things and keep that salve coming on a schedule.

Small things that pack a big punch of value

Pocket Nanny

Ok so it's not really a nanny in your pocket, which would be super cool, if a little creepy.  It is, however a nifty little device that helps sleep deprived parents keep track of when the baby last ate/slept/had a diaper change.  Sure there's tons of apps out there for that, but you can't clip those apps to the baby as you hand him to your just arrived-home-from-work partner as you run to pass out for a much needed nap. The nightlight, we've found, is just the perfect intensity for nighttime feedings. This is definitely one of those "not a necessity but it sure is nice to have" things, which makes it the perfect present, in our opinion, to bestow on your favorite expecting couple.

Thermos Travel Mug

Between middle-of-the-night feedings, teething, colds, and toddlers' habit of waking up with the sun, coffee is a necessity for any parent. And that often means coffee on-the-go: on the way to daycare/work, on the way to the doctor, or while the kid runs around the nearest playground in the cold. Thus, a great coffee cup is a great present. With all due respect to The Sweethome (who eliminated all mugs without a handle), this is simply the best mug. Here's 4 reasons why: 1) It keeps coffee hot for a LONG time, 2) When closed, it really is spill-proof, 3) It's cheap enough that you can forget it somewhere and not feel awful about replacing it, 4) I have 100% confidence I will not spill hot coffee all over my stroller (or baby) when it sits in the stroller cupholder over even the most uneven of sidewalk.

Headphones

Headphones are great for parents of babies (or expectant parents) because they spend an awful lot of time feeding them or sitting in a dark room trying to get them to go to sleep.  This is time that could be spent listening to music, podcasts, or audio books.  Parents of toddlers, on the other hand, may occasionally want to tune out some of the less than pleasant vocalizations their charges make.... for an hour.  In particular, I'd recommend some wireless headphones that your baby won't grab and yank while you're feeding him and that your toddler won't decide is a necklace when you make the mistake of leaving it somewhere within reach.  This is a good place where you can splurge on some high quality ones for the favorite parents in your life (Plantronics BackBeat Fit Bluetooth Headphones are a great choice).

Fitness Tracker

We recommend this with the following caveat - only get this if you know that the parent in question is into fitness AND would like one.  Ask yourself (especially if the recipient is a recent mother who birthed a child) if there is even the slightest chance that this could be taken as a "hint" to lose weight and if so MOVE ALONG, DO NOT GET.  Otherwise, go ahead and get the parent in your life a Garmin vívofit Activity Tracker. We recommend this one over the more popular Fitbit, because it does not need to be charged overnight.  Parents have a slight tendency to be absent minded, so go ahead and simplify this one thing in their life for them.  

Portable Battery

On-the-go in the city sometimes means pushing the cell phone (or bluetooth headphones) so hard you run out of juice before you get home. When the phone is your source for next bus/train info, your way to order Uber, or to listen to podcasts while the baby sleeps in the stroller, this is a near-catastrophe. Avoid/solve it with a portable battery pack you can keep in the diaper bag, briefcase, purse, coat pocket, etc. Also works great for a long airplane/train/bus trip without access to seat-side power (or just avoid the crowd huddled around the lone power outlet at the airport). For some specific suggestions and background, you can check out detailed reviews at The Wirecutter.

Wrap-Up

Those are our thoughts for 2015. What gifts did we miss or are you secretly hoping for? Join the conversation below or on our Facebook page.

Toys! (A Dad's Call to Action this Holiday Season)

If you haven't been paying attention to the latest freak outs about Starbucks cups or the fact that many media outlets have already published their gift guides, you may not have realized that the holiday season is fast approaching. But let's get real, you've noticed and if you're a parent, you're possibly dreading it. The "holiday season" means, among other things, an onslaught of conversations about kids' toys. Which toys are hot this year? What toys do your kids want? Would you mind if your aunt Dora got them a drum set this year?

So before all that happens, let's do some real talk.

Many kids' toys are awful.

I don't just mean the mountains of cheap crap that exist to drain $4 at a time from the drugstore (or the seasonal way to phrase that - "be used as stocking stuffers"). I mean the ones that are unnecessarily loud, inane, and randomly ill-thought-out. As a dad who is about to be on the receiving end of this year's onslaught of generosity directed at his children, I beg any of you who buy toys for kids to read this. Together we can fight the awful in the modern toy industry and maybe preserve some parental sanity at the same time.

Why Many Kids' Toys are Awful

I can identify at least 3 major causes that allow this to continue unabated:
  1. 1. Kids have no taste.
  2. 2. Parents, grandparents, and well-meaning friends are easily seduced by things that seem cute (especially if they are licensed by a favorite team, show, etc.) but were really designed in about 5 minutes.
  3. 3. Some families live in houses with "playrooms" far from earshot of the parents who then don't have to listen to the awfulness generated by the worst offenders. This is not my family, nor is it many families.

Examples of Just What's Wrong

Random and Not Really Fun

Here is a book - St. Louis Cardinals 101 (My First Team-Board-Book). What family member of a St. Louisan wouldn't want to buy that for their new-parent relative? And that is exactly the problem. You'll note Amazon doesn't have a "look inside" option for this book - probably because if anyone really did look inside they would sell zero copies. If the book is for babies, there's nothing really to read to them (captioned photos and drawings of baseball equipment aren't much of a read-aloud winner). If it's for the next generation of kid fans whose earliest sports memories will be from the late 2010s, a black and white photo of a pitching star from the 1960's is pretty irrelevant to them.

I love baseball, I love books, and I love the Cardinals. This book somehow manages to fail on all those fronts.

Not Age Relevant

Many Exersaucers/Jumparoos are adorned with lots of ABC's and 123's which I guess are designed to make them look like "educational" toys. But even if a child who is exersaucer age could/should be learning letters and numbers (they should not), why just three of each? You may suggest "it's just decoration," but the song- and noise-generating buttons on the one we had specifically focus on these letters (and JUST these). It's dressed up to look educational but provides no useful lesson to a kid of this or any age.

Side rant - I think Fisher Price employs only one woman to record all the talking and singing for their toys. I assume this is so she can haunt the nightmares of parents forever.

Needless Noisemakers

My baby is carrying my cheese
up the stairs in the bag.
Toys like the Fun Years My Workbench are insane. The hammer plays recordings of "realistic sounds." I'm pretty sure my kid can generate her own realistic banging sound by... you know... banging it like it's a hammer.

But remember, kids have no taste. They like things that make noise for its own sake. Why encourage them?

The Fisher-Price Sing n' Learn Shopping Tote is another prime example of a random noise making toy. My daughter loves playing with the various toy foods it came with and has even brought the bag to the store with us so she can participate in grocery shopping- great! But, you see, there is a giant button. It plays songs about grocery shopping and saying "please and thank you." They're nice lessons, but why does the shopping bag need to do this at all? She was already using it perfectly as a bag! "So turn it off," you say. But she's a toddler who understands off switches to be her mortal enemy.

So far, insane and insipid, but not ill-willed...

The World's Most Annoying Toy

If there is a special circle of hell for annoying toy designers, then the person at Fisher Price who designed the Lil People Little Movers Airplane should be admitted first. It's not enough that it talks and sings every time you interact with it in any way (god forbid children enjoy 3 seconds making their OWN noises)... no, no, this plane sings the same 30 second song any time the plane's wheels move... at all. Seriously check out this Youtube video! That song in the background, that's the song. The whole thing. Every time the wheels move. Every... time... the... wheels... move...

Sadism is truly the only excuse for this behavior.

Are you Just a Luddite and/or Grump?

No...maybe? I'm not opposed to electronic toys on principle. I spent my childhood playing video games and own a smartwatch, which is obviously the least essential technology of our day (and I love my smartwatch).

That said, things that make noise just for the sake of making noise are idiotic. Things that make illogical noises are infuriating.

Electronics are great. Pretend play is great. But electronics sprinkled into toys at random often crowd out pretend play.

How to Pick Toys that Don't Suck

Here are a few things I recommend you ask yourself this holiday season when picking out a toy for the special munchkin in your life:

  1. 1. Is it fun? Can you imagine it staying fun for a week? A month?

Cute is a good start, but it isn't enough. A good toy gets used a LOT, and when you're space constrained, a toy that's fun in multiple ways at multiple ages (even just 6 months apart) is a good sanity-keeper. If it does only one thing, it gets forgotten and becomes junk when the one thing gets boring. If it lets a kid do many different things (or best yet, encourages kids to come up with many different things), it can stay in our living room toy-box for months.

  1. 2. If it's electronic, does it have a reason to be?

  • - Toy smartphone? Yes. (Electronic in real life, electronic as a toy - sweet!)
  • - Toy drill? Yes. (See above.)
  • - Toy hammer? No!!!

  1. 3. Do the functions/sounds/whatever have anything to do with the actual thing?

We have a Fisher-Price Learning Kitchen that makes kitchen noises (running water, etc.) when the kid interacts with it. This is good.
The toy airplane (yes, I'm back at the airplane),  makes announcements that make me think the designer read a book about airplanes without ever having been in one. Why does placing the flight attendant in his/her seat cause the plane to tell you to fasten your seat-belt and make engine noises? Why? WHY?

  1. 4. Does it have an off switch and/or volume control?

Sometimes the baby is sleeping so we need to use it quietly. Sometimes we want to encourage kids to play their own way. Sometimes the kid may want to use the toy for something not planned by the designer.

  1. 5. If it claims to be for pretend play, does it give the kid room to actually use their imagination?

    Doing my best Judge John Hodgman impression: this really is the crux of the issue.

    If the toy has a "correct" way to play dictated by the manufacturers, it's not very good for pretend play. (I'm looking at you Melissa & Doug Stacking Train - the cars have differently spaced posts so the blocks can only be assembled ONE way. This discourages kids from building what they want.)
If the airplane doesn't stop making noise long enough to let a kid make her own noises or plan out her own flight, then what's the point? (Yes, I know, the airplane again, but really... it's just the WORST.)

ZOOM!

Sanity thy name is pacifier clips

Pacifier clip is the orange thing on the baby's left.
Babies aren't very polite.  They often spit out and throw away the thing they very much want most in this world.  For that reason, some very smart person invented the pacifier clip.  This is a really simple product.  It has a clip on one end, a thick short strap, and a loop at the end of the strap.  The clip can be attached to your baby's clothes, the carrier, the stroller strap, or anything else your baby routinely spends lots of time around.  The loop at the end can be used to secure a pacifier (as the name suggests) or a favorite toy.  That way, you're not constantly chasing the object of their desire around the house/store/car/train, etc.  In particular this is a great way to keep an older baby entertained on an airplane without worrying that the thing they're playing with will fall between the seats never to be seen again.

Many different styles exist, including ones that proclaim your wee one's team allegiances, so choose wisely.

Note 1: There is also a version of these things that is produced by Chewbeads and they were recalled in the fall of 2015 because the beads were breaking off the string and causing a choking hazard.

Note 2: Not all babies will take a pacifier.  However, if your baby will accept one, they are recommended in the first 6 months of life for SIDS prevention reasons.  That said, we do not recommend having your child sleep at night or in unsupervised naps (such as in a crib as opposed to a stroller) with a pacifier clip for fear of them getting entangled in the strap.

    

How to drink a cup of coffee while caring for a 6 week old baby

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a parent in possession of a good baby, must be in want of 10 minutes of peace to make and drink a cup of coffee. (That's how I remember the opening line to Pride and Prejudice.  Why? Do you remember it differently? hmmmm).  Thankfully we will not need an entire novel to answer that question.  Here the answer is quite simple - a play mat!  

Once a baby becomes alert to his or her surroundings (sometime time between 4-6 weeks) they really like to bat and kick at toys hanging over their heads.  They aren't mobile yet at that age, so by placing a play mat on the floor, it is a safe place to leave them and have them be entertained while the parent accomplishes a simple task (choose wisely how you want to spend your time, it is not infinite).  

The truth is that there are many excellent play mats out there.  We have Tiny Love Lights and Music Gymini Activity Gym .  It folds up small so it can be put away in the closet.  It has some parts that squeak or crinkle if you press on them, which is  fun for babies once they start doing tummy time.  It has a mirror for baby to look in, which is always a favorite for tiny tots.  Most importantly, the toys that hang look down on the baby.  For some reason many play mats fail on this criteria (I'm looking at you Skip Hop Treetop Friends Activity Gym).  Many such mats have toys that only look cute if you're looking from the side, the way an adult might and thus looking pretty lame from the baby's perspective.  And finally, the toys can come on and off the arches and attach easily to other things (like stroller straps) so if a child grows attached to one or more, they can play with it much longer than the lifespan of a mat like this.  It's a fantastic toy to have around for the first 6 months of life with a baby, but it's also a great thing to borrow from friends who have children of a different age than you.

Now stop reading this and go have that drink while it's still hot!