In order to keep everyone happy in this situation you have to find a way to teach your child independent play. I am happy to be down on the floor with WTJ playing but you can create a monster if you never leave them to play on their own. When I saw this beginning to happen I had to take action! Was the answer to buy more toys? Better toys? Bigger toys? Well, yes and no.
We live in a condo that doesn’t have too much room for toys so how could I keep him from getting bored? It’s great to mix things up and go to playgroups, the museum, the aquarium, Gymboree and friends’ houses but the truth is you still spend A LOT of time at home with your kid. If we had more space I am sure we would own half of Toys ‘R Us but since we don’t we have to choose wisely.
One of my best investments yet has been the STEP2 play kitchen. We have a basic model (again, the space issue) but you can get anything from simple to deluxe depending on how much you want to spend and how much floor space you want to give up. The kitchen may come with some accessories depending on the model you choose but we have found that my son prefers to play with real items – like my empty spice containers (plastic of course), rolled oat cartons, Tupperware, spoons and milk cartons. We taught him how to stir, taste and season (with the spices) and he will spend a good chunk of time over there doing that by himself throughout the day. It has been most helpful when I am actually trying to cook myself and can convince him to go make something in his kitchen while I cook in mine. My husband and I get a good laugh each night as we are picking up the play area and see where WTJ has stashed things in the STEP2 kitchen -- the creativity is great to see!
I would recommend a STEP2 kitchen once your child is around 12 months old. Anything that has buttons to make sounds and doors that open will provide hours of entertainment. You of course will have to invest some time teaching your child how to use the kitchen when it first arrives in your home but after that they will have a nice way to play independently and you may even be able to get something done! These kitchens are built to last and you can use them indoors or out – I’m pretty sure once we do have more room and more kids this kitchen will be replaced by a bigger one but for now it’s perfect!