Once upon a time, I bought three pairs of the cutest little shoes at Old Navy for my five-month-old baby girl in one shopping trip. I even splurged on some rompers. After all, every girl knows that you buy the dress to match the kicks.
A month later, I realized much to my dismay, that neither frock nor footwear fit her comfortably anymore – all this was even before my credit card statement had arrived! However fun and therapeutic it may have been at the time, spending too much money at the mall for my baby was not the best way to start my gig as a doting single parent.
I made the decision that unless it is for vaccinations or dental care, I will (try my hardest) not to spend more than P500.00 a month on more baby stuff. If you’re a new mom, you know this is a challenge – again, let me draw your attention back to the photo of the shoes – but it has to be done if I don’t want to end up with piles upon piles of useless cuteness and credit card debt.
Which then brings me to the dilemma at hand: Should I make an exception for books for my baby?
I knew when I started reading to my pregnant belly, that I’d want my child to be a reader when she grows up. Therefore, starting my little one early on the reading path requires some early investment. And investment it is, because books for babies can be quite expensive, ranging from P400 – P800 per volume off the rack.
But babies don’t really need so many books right? Don’t you just buy a whole bunch of them once and read and repeat every once in a while? No you don’t.
Pediatricians recommend that parents start reading to babies as early as four months old. You start with fold-out tummy-time books made of cloth or vinyl material, with single pictures and words presented in stark contrasts, like black and white or red in some form of lighter background. The patterns and contrasts supposedly help with infants’ vision development, and prepare them for other more advanced reading material.
As their depth of perception and attention span progress, they can start on glossy board-types that can withstand several teething cycles. By almost a year old, babies can already associate many sounds and words with pictures, so it’s time to bring out sound and musical books that offer a sense of interactivity to curious toddlers. It is not until two to three years of age do children begin to appreciate Dr. Seuss and Maurice Sendak.
As you can see, just like with clothes and other baby apparel, books can be very age-specific. With my tendency to go overboard when shopping for my daughter, it is necessary to have practical sources of reading material as my baby grows. Pre-loved books are an option, but may not always be good choices because, as can be expected, these books go through a lot of abuse – from sticky peanut butter streaks (peanut butter, yeah right!), to chewed-off binders – so it pays to know where to look.
In the last year since I started reading to my baby, I have accumulated a list of what I consider “good finds”, and where I found them. I’m sharing the list here, in the hopes that one day it will help save other parents a little bit of money, and a lot of buyer’s remorse.
Board books – Unless you want to get bitten on a regular basis while trying to pry out pieces of book pages from your paper monster’s teething mouth, you definitely want to start with books made of hard cardboard. These are especially helpful once the little ones learn to flip through the pages by themselves. Board books come in different sizes, from the smallest flash cards-sized collections to the jumbo-type variety. A word of caution though – pop-out-type books made of cardboard are not ideal for babies and toddlers, because no amount of close adult supervision will prevent their complete and utter destruction in those tiny hands at some point in time.
BOOKSALE branches at any SM mall usually have a good selection of board books, although not all volumes are in good condition. At a fraction of the brand-new costs, potential purchases need to be checked carefully to ensure that all pages are intact. When buying sound and music books, check that the batteries are securely screwed in. Battery ingestion is the last thing you want to worry about. Finally, use cotton balls and rubbing alcohol to clean the pages when you get home, because you know these books will also serve as teethers on a regular basis.
I am a big Olx.ph fan, and regularly check out and purchase from postings in their Baby Stuff section, among others. Some sellers also ship at the buyers’ expense, so it’s a convenient way to increase your book collection if a visit to the bookstore is not scheduled in the near-future. Make sure to review their section on safety tips for buyers to avoid getting scammed.
E-books – Applications like iBooks, Kindle, and Moon Reader have invested a bit in developing technology that tries to simulate the old-school reading experience, from the sepia tones of aged library volumes down to the sound and animation of flipping pages. At the same time, many e-book apps also allow interactive content, so much so that “reading” on your iPad almost seems like watching TV or YouTube, something that many child development experts still frown on for babies younger than two years.
Nevertheless, there is a bigger variety of choices online, and the convenience factor is undeniable. Left un-checked, however, an e-book reading habit can be quite expensive as well, so don’t be too quick to whip out that Visa Card. In fact, not saving my credit card number in iTunes or Google Play have helped me avoid impulse buys many times in the past (read: Gem Pack discounts in Hay Day).
As is always the case with online resources, the key is in finding free stuff, and there’s no shortage of them out there, even if you keep your sources legit. Learning moguls Fisher Price and Story Bots offer free e-book trials for exploring parents, so you can look around and sample the merchandise before making a purchase decision. I even found a few books that were created by fellow parents like me for their own babies, like this one, that my daughter loves:
Online libraries such as StoryJumper also offer free content with an option to buy. It does require an internet connection to browse and read, but you may purchase if you’d like to take the books offline.
The e-books for kids platform is so massive that I will reserve one article just for it in the near future.
Reading books to your little ones is not so much a learning activity as it is a bonding one. Infants yearn to be close to you and hear your soothing voice, and reading to them answers both of these basic needs. Babies and toddlers love to interact and crave your full attention, and in these short moments when you flip through pages together as you point out familiar objects in pictures, they have all of you. Your little one can’t get these from any toy or TV show.
But it doesn’t mean that you need to go broke. For now, just trust me when I say that you can build a considerable collection just from free and discounted stuff with some resourcefulness and a little bit of patience.
Now does anyone know where I might be able to find some free shoes?