Monday, September 22, 2008

A Favorite Baby Distraction

For a long time, I've wanted to post about this secret distracting toy I use to keep my toddlers occupied, especially during conferences or retreats. When I sat in on a few classes of the truly excellent Act One writing program, I had my baby Thomas in tow. I packed toys to distract him during the five-hour classes, and this is one I always brought along.

It's deceptively simple: eight satin-brocade covered rectangular and square cardboard boxes backed into a square tin: small, light, noiseless, and unbreakable, if not indestructible. (The boxes were sold as a set on Montessori Services. I found the tin on my own.) But for whatever reason, toddlers find them fascinating.

The Montessori exercise, which my two-year-old is performing here, is to take the lids off the boxes, and then try to put the correct lids on each box, matching both the shape and the color of the box. She then puts them back in the box, which is a little tricky as you have to line up the squares and rectangles to get them to fit.
But younger babies find them just as intriguing. They take the lids off, they gnaw on them (which is the one way they can be destroyed, btw, eventually), they stack them like blocks, they throw them, they put them in and out of the tin... I don't know what makes these boxes such good "distractors" during grown-up activities like talks where baby activity is not appreciated. Maybe it's the colors. Maybe it's the fact that they don't make any noise when they're played with. Maybe it's the way they loan themselves to hide-and-seek and surprises (I've put Cheerios and treats inside each one). All I know is, when I'm off to a talk with a toddler in tow, I put this bag inside my tote or briefcase. I've replaced the boxes over the years, and I tend to keep it packed away, so that's it's always a "new toy" when I bring it out.

(Note: I tried to find the boxes at Montessori Services, but they don't seem to be on the site. Perhaps they would know where to find them, though. Blog reader Deeny found a similar item at this link for wedding favors. Let me know if you find any other sites that sell them online and I'll link to it.)


Clare said...

Hi Regina!
What a great idea! Are the boxes cardboard under the fabric? It seems like you could make something similar... somehow! Hope you are all doing well!


Hummingbirder said...

I couldn't find them online. I'd love to get something like these. I need something to keep my little guy occupied!

Deeny said...

There is a set for sale here:

A little more challenging because of the shapes, but the same idea.

regina doman said...

Clare- yes, they are cardboard!

Deeny - thanks! I changed the post to link to the set you found: I once had a similar set of different shaped plain cardboard boxes that my kids enjoyed.