We need a 1-dish toy solution for babies

Published 5:40 pm Saturday, August 31, 2013

Column: Pass the Hot Dish, by Alexandra Kloster

In times of chaos the one dish meal is king. A birth in the family? Congratulations, here’s a tuna casserole. A death in the family? Please accept our condolences and this lasagna.

Calling all newlyweds, first time parents and the recently relocated, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and take a load off because dinner is done. One dish, sturdy and predictable.

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Why can’t this model of efficiency and ease apply to toys for tots? I’m not talking about the charity that takes up toy collections at Christmas. I’m talking about the disaster in my living room.

Gertie and Clara’s toys started breeding right around their first birthday. Suddenly they have pieces, lots of them. We have a Noah’s Ark teeming with wildlife, geometric cornucopias known as shape sorters, a bus of miniature commuters and a plane full of tiny tourists.

Gone are the self-contained toys of infancy. Now our floors are booby trapped with three sets of alphabet blocks, two cozy bunches of nesting cubes, rainbows of plastic stacking rings and puzzles of all persuasions. How can two children who walk with the stability of a drunk guy riding a drunk horse navigate such an obstacle course without harm when I am full of stubbed toes and swallowed swear words?

My inclination toward order is not a friend in this comedy of toys and its cast of thousands. Pieces and players are continually put away in the wrong places or disappearing altogether. I spent most of the weekend looking for lost Little People.

“What are you doing?” asked my husband, Graham, as he walked in the room and saw me with my head in the sofa.

“Searching for the Little People,” I answered.

“You lost Gertie and Clara?” he asked.

“Yes, I lost the twins and I’m looking for them between the sofa cushions.”

Two female Little People had gone astray, and I was determined to find them. The next day a police car puzzle piece went missing. It’s probably tracking the Little People girls right this minute, chasing them off the edge of the toy chest like a Romper Room version of “Thelma and Louise.”

Graham didn’t understand why I couldn’t let lost Little People lie. “Because they’re not random. They all have a specific role to play. There are no small parts in this show, only small Little People,” I told him. “We are missing crucial bus passengers.”

He picked up a fetching blonde wearing a headset. “Do not put that pilot in the school bus unless you can sell me a plausible fiction as to why she’s not in her plane,” I warned.

“Is that her plane? The one that’s upside down over by the bathroom?”

“OK. Put her on the bus,” I said.

I never found the Little People, and today Cookie Monster vanished. I’m not sure how he fits into this drama, and Big Bird’s not talking. What is happening to these toys? Where do they sleep? How do they make a living? Is there a sordid underworld of runaway toys? That could be a series you know, not one of those tacky Bravo ones, something classy, like for PBS.

It seems as if the only toys that don’t get lost and don’t come in pieces are the ones that make noise. The popping vacuum that sounds like gunshot, so I take a dive every time it’s dragged across the rug, the pig that shakes and laughs so hysterically I think he might be a refugee from Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” these toys are boomerangs. No matter how deeply I bury them in the toy box they figure out a way to pop back to the top.

Still, with all of these toys and their accessories, which I’m told only grow in number as the kids get older, there are times when the girls are so cranky they want nothing to do with them. That’s when we go into the kitchen and I get out two bowls and two spoons.

The storm is stilled. They push the bowls around the floor. Voila! A car. They bang on them with the spoons. Shazam! A drum. They put them on their heads. Abracadabra! A hat. They stick their faces into them. Knock that off! Do you want to suffocate inside a bowl?

Anyway, there you have it, friends, in times of chaos the one dish toy is king.


Woodbury resident Alexandra Kloster appears each Sunday. She may be reached at alikloster@yahoo.com, and her blog is at alexandrakloster.com.