3-6 months

I have the utmost respect for anyone out there with small children. Seriously, well done.

And it’s not for the reasons you might think.

I know there are a million reasons why being a parent is hard, but having lunch with a 2 and 4 year old the other day, I thought the playing with beans, colouring-in part was okay.

But fast-forward 6 hours and there I was in the Early Learning Centre picking toys out as presents for a series of small humans. Now, I know the last time I went into one of these shops was 25 years previously, and I just sat in the window playing with the little wooden trains joined together with magnets, but my return visit was INCREDIBLY stressful.

How on Earth, in the name of Val Doonican, do you pick a toy for a small child. Seriously, I suspect I’d have more insight and chance of getting it right if I was trying to wire the safety and take-off circuits for a space shuttle carrying ickle baby giraffes to the moon.

You can’t just go in and try them out you know. Oh no. Press a button on a toy and the staff will furrow their brow and glare at you. You will be faced with a sea of parental faces sighing and pleading with you simultaneously for silence. If you’re 3 you can go in, throw the toys, run at them, play with them and generally dribble with them to your heart’s content. Try it at 31 and you see them reaching for the button on the desk marked ‘security’.

There are rattlers. Shakers. Electronic blippy things. Toys for 3-6 months. Toys for 5-8 months. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, but these are very different age groups. Apparently.

What if you see a toy marked 5-8 that seems perfect, but you’re buying it for a 4 year old? It says it right there on the packet. Even if the child doesn’t snub the toy completely, surely you’re committing the ultimate sin handing a completely inappropriate toy.

So on a Monday morning, when I see a parent delivering two small children to nursery, appropriately dressed, punctual, washed and punctual I’m even more impressed. Not because they’ve achieved all of that, but because they managed to get out of the Early Learning Centre with some appropriate toys for their children before they grew up and left college.

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