Gay Dad Life

Does Your Toddler Have More Stuff Than You?

Most of us know to watch for it with newborns. Their tiny personalities accumulate junk toys, a lot of clothes, and too many cute tchotchkes. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. Once our children have reached the “terrible twos,” or our 3-year-olds are throwing tantrums, we begin to let our guard slip further. A new Lego set from the checkout at Target? Sure. A life-size Elsa doll for your little princess? Of course!


Before you know it, you’re living in a space that looks a lot like an enormous toy store, but with a kitchen. In case you’re wondering, I’m writing from experience. By the time my son turned 2, his toys started taking over our place. He’s 3 now, and we’ve finally curbed the toy mania. In our case, neither my husband nor I are toy-crazy. Our families, on the other hand …

Moving on. Curious how to keep the toddler takeover under wraps (or maybe even prevent it)? Let’s get down to business.

Kid Space vs. Your Place

Every home needs to be kid-friendly, and when toddlers come into the picture, baby-proofing reaches new and terrifying heights. Your kid might be a runner, a climber, or love hiding inside and under things. No matter what personality and physical prowess they have, you need to be ready.

Kid-proofing doesn’t mean giving up your space. You can still have adult space, and you need it. That’s step one. Define what space is yours, and what belongs to the little one(s). Next, identify what’s junk and what’s important in the toy department.

Stuff to Skip

I’m not going to advocate throwing out your tot’s toys. If you really are drowning in clutter, have them help you choose what to keep and what to pitch. Losing a favorite toy can be a crushing experience for a kid. If toys need to go, you need to say goodbye to them as a team – or dispose of a few things that aren’t played with when your kid is at daycare, out with your partner, or with friends or relatives. Don’t pitch all the junk in one foul swoop – you’ll be exhausted, and your toddler will be miserable.

Let’s focus on what you can do in advance. Tell friends and family what types of toys you’d like for your child for the holidays or birthdays and other special occasions. They’ll appreciate the gift hint (assuming the price tag isn’t over the top), and you won’t have to deal with unnecessary junk.

When you head to the toy store, no matter how much your little one pleads, the following types of toys aren’t worth it:

Toys that are too big for your space. Sand boxes and tables, play structures and houses, and life-size teddy bears are great fun, if you’ve got the space. However, for an urban lifestyle, they’re not usually a good pick. There are plenty of places to find alternatives that are better and cheaper. Most daycare centers offer similar items, and a children’s museum year-long membership is cheaper and better than buying even just one giant toy. Not to mention the peace and quiet you’ll get when your little one comes home completely zonked from the outing.

Age-inappropriate toys. Toddlers are fun, and they can do miles more than they could as babies. But that doesn’t mean they’re ready for big kid toys. Pay attention to age guidelines on toys; at this age, they’re a good indicator of safety hazards like choking or strangulation risks. Even when safety isn’t the issue, age-inappropriate toys may pose another risk. If your child tries and tries to complete a task with a toy but can’t, they may get frustrated and quit. Grit is an important characteristic, don’t nip it in the bud with the wrong toys.

Toys with too many bells and whistles. Toys that do too much mean that your kid doesn’t have to. Passive play, just being entertained by a toy, is pretty worthless. At this age, you’re trying to wake up their brains and inspire curiosity and creativity. Play is a learning experience for little kids, and there are some studies that show electronics don’t help at this age. From too much screen time impacting the likelihood of ADHD, to a study on moms that shows electronic toys decrease parental engagement and responsiveness.

Noisemakers and living toys. I’m not talking about normal musical instruments. Heck, I’m even ok with kazoos – although you might find they drive you crazy. Noisemakers are toys that don’t shut up and have extremely annoying sounds. My son got a cement mixer truck with shapes that fit into the mixer part and would pop out the chute while it drove around the room. It seemed innocuous enough, and then we turned it on. Its chorus of electronic voices screeched the most hideous kids’ songs in a high-pitched whine while it circled the room. We took it to our son’s school for show and tell and begged the teacher to make sure it broke. She was an angel, and obliged.

Living toys are ones that have a life of their own, such as the motion-sensing BBQ toy Brooke Kwatny Kravitz talks about in this Scary Mommy post, or the purple octopus that started shouting “green shoe” in the middle of the night from my living room whenever a truck rolled past. It seems so cute and fun until it comes alive in the middle of the night and terrifies everyone.

Toys that suck the fun out of your life. Any toy that makes you lose your sanity as you try to keep up with the pieces, keep it from staining the furniture or walls, or infiltrates everything in sight and leaves you looking like a playroom for days (can anyone say “sand art”?) shouldn’t be a regular part of playtime. Sure, you can drag them out for special occasions, but if your toddler’s playtime becomes your highest stress point of the day, something needs to change. Fast.

It’s Not Just a Toy, It’s a Necessity

Just like there are some toys that your sanity mandates not enter the house, there are others that you need to have on hand at all times. The good news is that they don’t have to be expensive, bulky, or make tons of noise – although a little bit of music does go a long way.

According to a 2011 article in the National Association for the Education of Young Children publication “Young Children," homemade toys and readily available materials can help with child development and are a lot of fun for little ones. Classic toys like blocks, fabric, paper tube telescopes, books, and puppets offer some huge benefits, too. I once spoke with a child psychologist who told me if she could only give her kid one toy, she’d choose a ball. Simple toys can adapt to different ages easily, teach important life skills, and – as anyone can tell you who has ever seen a kid unwrap presents and spend more time with the wrapping paper or the box than with the gift inside – are a lot of fun.

Let’s be honest. We all like to spoil our kids, but sometimes the toys we buy for them really are about keeping up with the Joneses. When you’re looking for the right toys for toddlers, there are certain things they do need. The list below should help you pick out some timeless toys that grow with your little ones throughout their toddler years.

Blocks, nesting cups, and toys that can be filled and emptied. These tools teach early math concepts, like capacity and mechanical-spatial reasoning. Your tot can make castles and towers to let their imaginations run wild. Infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and some school-age kids love these toys.

Stuffed and plastic or wooden animals and dolls. Teach your kid to nurture and care for living creatures, find out how they feel by asking how their “lovies” feel, and watch theatrical performances come to life with stuffed animals, super heroes, baby dolls, and plastic dinosaurs. This type of play is great for teaching them about caring for baby siblings that might be coming home in the near future, too.

Puzzles and shape sorters. These problem-solving-centered toys can be as fun for you as they are for your kid. The challenges they present change with age and the complexity of the toy itself, but can give your tot a self-esteem boost when they manage to solve a difficult puzzle or sort all the shapes correctly.

Arts and crafts supplies. Creativity is huge for toddlers, and the ability to create something of their own is captivating. Squiggles turn into smiles and straight lines become houses. The skills learned playing with art supplies can help with handwriting, problem solving, and selfexpression later on.

Dress up clothes and pretend-play accessories. What kid hasn’t put on your dress shoes or pranced around in your favorite blazer, pretending to go to work? Pretend play helps toddlers test their roles in society, try on different identities, and find things they like. Keep plenty of dress up clothes and accessories on hand, from play foods and cooking supplies to pretend computers and cell phones or doctor’s equipment. They want to be like you, so let them.

Musical instruments. You might want to hide these far, far away, but resist the temptation. Toddlers are the perfect age for learning basic music skills such as rhythm, and music is also a great way to strengthen math skills. Musical instruments also teach concepts such as cause and effect. Note: make sure your kid is the one making the music. That’s what teaches the lessons.

Books and other early-literacy toys. Hoping to mold a young scholar? Play hard, read often, and invest in magnetic letters for the fridge, letter-tracing cards, and other fun toddler toys that reinforce early literacy.

Balls. Playing with balls isn’t just for jocks – it’s a great way to teach a vital skillset including bilateral skills, hand-eye coordination, sequencing, timing, attention, and motor planning. From aiming at targets to throwing, catching, dribbling and kicking, ball skills can be a lot of fun, too.

Outdoor and active toys. Being outside and active leads to some significant health benefits for kids – from stronger immune systems to a better understanding of their environment and healthier longterm life choices. Help them get outside and get moving by picking a few toys from this category. And remember, it’s about getting them to dig in the dirt, master gross motor skills, and have fun. Look for toys that help that process, not hinder it.

Show Comments ()
Gay Dad Life

Dads Tell Us Their 'Gayest Moment Ever' as Parents

We may be dads — but we're still gay, damnit! And these "gayest moments ever," sent to us from our Instagram community, prove it.

Did your child know all the lyrics to Madonna songs by age 3? Do your kids critique all the red carpet lewks from the Tony Awards? Do you often have baby food, diapers, sparkling white wine, gourmet appetizer, and fresh cut flowers in your shopping cart — all in one trip? If you answered 'yes' to any of the above, you just might be... a gay dad.

We asked the dads in our Instagram community to share their gayest moments as a dad, ever, and their responses were just as hilarious as they were relatable.

Here's a great way to start the week...

Keep reading...
Gay Dad Photo Essays

How Single Dads Are Celebrating Valentine's Day This Year

Valentine's Day is not just for lovers! We caught up with 8 single gay dads to see how they plan to celebrate Valentine's Day with this year.

Valentine's Day is not just for lovers; it's also a day to celebrate our loved ones. And that's exactly what these single dads are doing.

Within our community, GWK has a large group of admirable, active, and awesome (!) single dads and we want to honor them! On Valentine's Day, they and their kids celebrate their family unit in the sweetest possible ways. We asked the dads to share these moments with us, and, where possible, one of the most heartwarming things they've experienced with their kids on Valentine's Day to date.

Hear their stories below.

Keep reading...
Gay Dad Photo Essays

11 Gay Couples Share Secrets to Their Long-Term Relationships This Valentine's Day

This Valentine's Day, we spoke with 11 gay dad couples who've been together for almost a decade or longer to learn what's made their relationships last

You're the peanut butter to my jelly, the gin to my tonic, the strawberries to my cream, the Mr. to my Mr.!

Happy Valentine's Day folks! We're excited to celebrate this day of lurrrrvvve by featuring a few dads in our community who've been together for almost a decade or more! And they're ready to share their secrets to a successful relationship and parenting partnership.

Keep reading...
Politics

Supreme Court to Hear Major Case Concerning LGBTQ Foster Care Parents

The Supreme Court agreed to decide whether cities are allowed to exclude tax-funded adoption agencies from foster care systems if they refuse to work with gay couples.

In 2018, city officials in Philadelphia decided to exclude Catholic Social Services, which refuses to work with LGBTQ couples, from participating in its foster-care system. The agency sued, claiming religious discrimination, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit unanimously ruled against the agency, citing the need to comply with nondiscrimination policies.

The case, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, follows a 2018 Supreme Court decision regarding a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. In that case, the court narrowly ruled that the baker bad been discriminated against, on religious grounds, by the state's civil rights commission. It did not decide the broader issue: whether an entity can be exempt from local non-discrimination ordinances on the basis of religious freedom.

The court — whose ideological center has shifted to the right since the addition of Justice Brett Kavanaugh in fall 2018 — may choose to do so now. Advocates quickly called on the court to consider the potential impact on the more than 400,000 children currently in the foster care system:

"We already have a severe shortage of foster families willing and able to open their hearts and homes to these children," said Leslie Cooper, deputy director of the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project. "Allowing foster care agencies to exclude qualified families based on religious requirements that have nothing to do with the ability to care for a child such as their sexual orientation or faith would make it even worse. We can't afford to have loving families turned away or deterred by the risk of discrimination."

"It is unconscionable to turn away prospective foster and adoptive families because they are LGBTQ, religious minorities, or for any other reason unrelated to their capacity to love and care for children," said HRC President Alphonso David. "We reject the suggestion that taxpayer-funded child welfare services should be allowed to put discrimination over a child's best interest. This case could also have implications for religious refusals that go far beyond child welfare. The Supreme Court must make it clear that freedom of religion does not include using taxpayer funds to further marginalize vulnerable communities."

The court may choose to override a 1990 decision, Employment Division v. Smith, which created the current standard for carving out religious exemptions. In that case, the court ruled that laws that target a specific faith, or express hostility towards certain beliefs, are unconstitutional — but this standard has long been abhorred by religious conservatives, who think it doesn't offer enough protections for religions. If the court does overrule Smith, it could have far-ranging consequences. " As noted on Slate, "it would allow anyone to demand a carve-out from laws that go against their religion, unless those laws are 'narrowly tailored' to serve a 'compelling government interest.'"

The four members of the court's conservative wing — Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh —have all signaled an openness to reconsider Smith. The ruling's fate, then, likely rests in the hands of the court's new swing vote, Chief Justice Roberts.

For more, read the full article on Slate.

News

What's it Like to Be a Child of the 'Gayby Boom'?

Tosca Langbert, who grew up with two dads, writes a piece for the Harvard Business Review about what it's like being among the first children of the "Gayby Boom" to come of age.

We've previously written about the pressure on LGBTQ parents to appear perfect, given that so many in the United States still feel out families shouldn't exist in the first place. And we know this pressure trickles down to our kids. But In an article for the Harvard Business Review titled 'The Gayby Boom Is Here to Stay," author Tosca Langbert eloquently writes, from her perspective, about the experience of beingone of the first children to come of age during an era when LGBTQ parenthood is far more commonplace. She and her two siblings, she notes, "were raised in a family that was an impossibility only decades ago."

In the article, Langbert said she knew from a young age that her family was different from those of most of her peers, who had one a father and a mother. But otherwise, she writes, she didn't feel like her family differed much. "Like any other parents, Dad sat in the carpool lane after school and taught us how to ride our bikes," she writes, "while Papa took us to the movies on the weekends and separated the whites from the colors."

Keep reading...
Politics

Utah Bill Would Allow Gay Men to Enter Surrogacy Contracts

Rep. Patrice Arent of Utah is sponsoring a bill that will remove a provision that currently prohibits gay men from entering into commercial surrogacy contracts in the state.

Though Utah is not one of the three states that currently prohibit commercial surrogacy contracts, the state's current policy does specifically exclude gay men from doing so. That may soon changed, however, thanks to a bill in the state's legislature that was unanimously voted out of a House Committee that would remove that restriction.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, a Democrat, was created in response to a ruling by the Utah Supreme Court this past August that found the ban on gay men unconstitutional.

Gay men have been excluded from legally entering surrogacy contracts due to a provision in the current law that requires medical evidence "that the intended mother is unable to bear a child or is unable to do so without unreasonable risk to her physical or mental health or to the unborn child," Rep. Arent told the Salt Lake Tribune — a requirement that clearly excludes gay male couples.

The state's original surrogacy law dates back to 2005, before same-sex marriage was legalized in the state, which accounts for the gendered language. Though the state's Supreme Court already ruled the provision unconstitutional, Rep Arent further told the Tribute that, "People do not look to Supreme Court opinions to figure out the law, they look to the code and the code should be constitutional."

Politics

Colorado Republicans Try and Fail to Outlaw LGBTQ Marriage and Adoption Rights

A bill introduced by four Republican state legislators in Colorado that would outlaw same-sex marriage and adoption rights was voted down.

The "Colorado Natural Marriage and Adoption Act," which would have outlawed gay marriage and adoption in the state of Colorado, was voted down in the state legislature this week. The bill was sponsored by Republican Rep. Stephen Humphrey and three of his conservative colleagues: Dave Williams, Shane Sandridge and Mark Baisley.

If enacted, the bill would have enforced "state law that marriage is between one man and one woman" and restrict "adoption of children by spouses in a marriage ... that consist of one man and one woman."

The bill, which had little chance of success, particularly in Colorado which has trended more progressive over the past several election cycles, was mostly symbolic, according to Sanridrge. "We all know this bill isn't gonna pass in this current left-wing environment," he told Colorado Public Radio. "It's to remind everyone, this is the ultimate way to conceive a child."

In a sign of how far we've come on the issue of LGBTQ marriage and parenting rights, most Republican legislators in the state did not endorse the bill.

Though the bill had little chance of passage, LGBTQ advocacy groups in the state are taking the threats seriously nonetheless. Daniel Ramos, director of the LGBTQ group One Colorado, told LGBTQ Nation that the bills were an attempt to return Colorado to its "hate status" of the 1990s, adding the aggressiveness of the measures were "a bit surprising."

Fatherhood, the gay way

Get the latest from Gays With Kids delivered to your inbox!

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse