If you've ever had a kid throw a complete and total tantrum over a toddler toy – usually in public or when you have company, amiright? – you can probably relate to my pain. I always thought the whole “toys and tantrums” thing was fairly straightforward…until I had kids of my own.
It seems simple: kid gets toy. Kid acts up. Toy gets taken away.
Turns out, there are a lot of other moving parts and factors that go into the whole toddler toy thing, and there are quite a few steps parents can take ahead-of-time to help keep the peace.
This is Thomas the Train, known fondly in our home as “Toot Toot.” You're probably wondering why we have three of him and why they all sort of look like they're plotting to take over the world. A kind relative gave Some Boy this train set as a gift for Christmas back when he was two, and the kid was smitten. He fell into a deep sort of toddler toy love with Toot Toot and took him everywhere. The two were inseparable. Until one day, they weren't.
Toot Toot went missing.
You can probably imagine the toddler toy tantrum that ensued. It was like all the fury of Zeus was unleashed. The kid was BESIDE himself. Two years old is a bit early for a lesson in responsibly keeping track of one's items, so I declined to turn it into a teaching moment. I called Opa, who was running errands in town. “I need you to swing by Toys R Us. We need Toot Toot reinforcements, STAT.”
To this day, there are multiple train backups stored cleverly in various locations throughout the house, and when he becomes extra-attached to a new toy, I seek out extras to have on-hand. He is much more careful with his stuff now, but I figure it can't hurt to have birthday gifts around for his friends in case he never needs to use the extras!
Tools do not Equal Toddler Toys
From an early age, Some Boy has been really interested in details. I remember him running his finger along a piece of furniture when he wasn't even a year old, assessing how it was put together. He now has toddler tool sets that he tinkers around with, but I quickly learned that we had to put the real tools up high. This kid can and WILL disassemble any toy in minutes given an actual, functioning screwdriver.
Trust me: when a child gets a glimpse at the inner workings of their favorite toddler toy, it can be a little disturbing. Do them and yourself a favor and keep toys intact whenever in view. I can't even change a battery in front of this kid without him thinking I'm torturing his favorite little friend.
Distractions are Everywhere
If you do find yourself in a precarious situation without the favorite standby toddler toy, just hand them the nearest object. Act like it's the most fascinating thing in the world. This picture was taken at Uncle Ki's house when we were nearing naptime and unfortunately didn't have Some Boy's stuffed animal on-hand. His clever uncle handed over a pair of chopsticks and acted like it was the most special thing ever bestowed on any child, anywhere. That bought us at least an extra twenty minutes.
Bulk Up on the Batteries
If you've ever had a leaky battery ruin a playdate, you probably know by now that name brand is the only way to go. It only takes one or two rounds of, “Toy no woking. Toooy noooo woooooking!!!”dead toy wails from your kid to figure out that leaky batteries can totally ruin a toddler toy and wind up costing a lot more in the long run. We've been working with Energizer and love their new Energizer MAX batteries with Power Seal technology that hold power for up to 10 years in storage and protect devices from leakage of fully-used batteries for up to 2 years.
Carry Energizer MAX when you travel, too, since toddler toys tend to see extra playtime when kids are stuck in a car or on a plane.