My granddaughter loves balls. Or anything that looks remotely like a ball. She often has marbles and rocks jammed into her little fist. Though I’ve taught her that these items don’t go into her mouth, I don’t really trust her. She’ll lock eyes with me and slowly raise the marble or rock to her lips, waiting for me to object.
“No, no,” I’ll say. “We don’t want to eat that. Yuck.”
She’ll obligingly lower her hand, and then watching my face carefully, she’ll repeat the process.
So, to distract her from the rocks and marbles she finds I’ve given her balls of different colors and sizes. It’s worked beautifully so far.
Until recently her biggest ball was a four-inch clear pink glittery one I got at the dollar store. It was so popular that this week I bought her an even bigger ball at a kid’s thrift sale. Her new ball is red with white polka dots and at least a foot in diameter.
I thought she’d love it, but she’s been giving it the cold shoulder. I think the red ball is too big for her to handle right now, mentally or physically. It’s like giving her a Great Dane when what she really wants is a Chihuahua.
In our granddaughter’s toy box are balls that light up if you bounce them hard enough, small balls with bells (actually cat toys), and a soft, squeezy fabric ball. A few months ago I found a pink golf ball, which I washed and gave to her. She was delighted. It fit perfectly in her little hand, and the pink golf ball quickly became her favorite.
However, I have growing reservations about this ball because our granddaughter is learning to throw, and she has a pretty good arm for a toddler. Just ask my husband, who had a split-second to duck when he asked her to toss him the pink golf ball and she lobbed it at his head like she was a pint-sized Nolan Ryan. Grandpa will be the first to tell you that his little granddaughter’s speed and accuracy are really improving.
For that reason, the pink golf ball is beginning to look like a bad idea, especially in the house. But how do we take it away from her? Anyone who’s around children knows that unless you enjoy tantrums you don’t remove a favored toy without trading something in return. Even if the object in question is clearly, ridiculously dangerous, like a bag of broken glass, you don’t yank it out of their little hands without offering a replacement, like a bag of Styrofoam blocks.
So, to soften the disappearance of the golf ball I thought of pom-poms. I got the idea when my granddaughter came back from daycare with a paper cut-out of the letter P covered with pasted-on pom-poms. She carefully pried each pom-pom off the paper and played with them for the rest of the afternoon.
I went to the craft store and bought a big bag of 300 pom-poms in different colors and sizes. I poured them into a round box and when she saw them she dug her hands right in, grabbing as many as she could and throwing them into the air, laughing. And I laughed with her because I’m an indulgent grandmother and more tolerant of messes than I used to be.
We stuffed pom-poms into her tea set, into her stacking cups, and wherever else we could think of. As we looked for new places to stuff the fuzzy things, she kept repeating “balls” with enthusiasm. Soon we may start sorting them, by size or by color, if she’s interested. But only if wants to.
Now, pom-poms do have some disadvantages. They’re light and fly everywhere. I’ve been finding them under the sofa, under the cat, in the dog’s dish and in crevices all around the house.
But unlike buttons and other small objects, pom-poms don’t seem to be mouth-magnets. If you step on a pom-pom barefoot in the middle of the night you probably won’t hop up and down swearing, like you would if you stumble on a Lego. And if a pom-pom gets thrown at your head, even a big pom-pom, you won’t get hurt.
As for putting pom-poms in her mouth, Little One hasn’t tried that yet, and I’m being vigilant. But I think I could explain a pom-pom finding its way through her digestive system and into her diaper much better than I could a pebble.
Yay for pom-poms!