Since the day Orbit could move himself around the boat, the Skipper and I have let him explore at his own pace, allowing him choose what he would like to play with (minus the things that could hurt him). Orbit enjoys playing with his toys in the v-berth and is interested in the usual things that other babies and toddlers play with, such as drawing, reading books and playing with tuppaware. But most days he is more interested in exploring outside – the cockpit and deck.
The day we were installing the washing machine, Orbit found the inlet pipe. He was convinced at the time that it was the greatest thing since rusk sticks! I should stress here that we had never used the inlet pipe and haven’t since (but that is another story). I did clean it regularly as he used to produce a fairly impressive amount of drool when chewing on it. Besides chewing on the inlet pipe, Orbit was also interested in its texture. The plastic was crimped and he would run his little fingers over it as he bent it every way it would go. I can’t remember when Orbit stopped playing with the inlet pipe, I think it was when the bucket handle took over as his favourite thing to play with.
The handle became separated from the bucket during one of the Skipper’s fishing adventures in the tinnie. Orbit was on deck when the Skipper was emptying the tinnie and picked the handle up. He was interested in its shape and the noise it made when he hit it on the deck. Knowing where the bucket had been and worried that Orbit was going to put it in his mouth, I quickly took the handle below for a clean. We were worried that Orbit would poke himself in the eye with the handle, but he never did, instead, the Skipper and I nearly had our eyes poked out as Orbit waved it around, learning what his arms could do.
Once Orbit could open a peg by himself, they became the toy of choice. He would spend up to an hour quite happily attaching pegs to the peg basket, take them off and then put them back on again. I remember being fascinated the day he started to attach the pegs to the basket in colour groups and then group different types of pegs together. The next step in the peg evolution was when I set up a clothes line for him to pop the pegs on to – just like I do when hanging out the washing.
Orbit also likes playing with the ‘rope’ we use for the clothes line. He will sit and undo the knot that holds the ‘rope’ together when its not in use, sometimes creating more knots than the one he is trying to undo. But I have to give him credit, most days he will sit and focus on undoing the rope until it is running free. He then tries to put the clothes line up himself, but gets frustrated when it won’t stay up. No doubt, he’ll be the tying knots soon! Pegs are still a favourite and I can rely on them to keep Orbit occupied while I am hanging out the washing.
A few weeks ago Orbit found the Skippers stash of zip ties. He now carries at least one zip tie most places he goes (I have a growing collection in my handbag). On the weekend we went to for a sail and while we were anchored, with no prompting from the Skipper or I, Orbit grabbed some zip ties and walked/climbed to a shady spot on the deck. He was quite chuffed with himself once he got to the spot where he wanted to go. He then focused on putting the pointy end of the zip tie into the other end, giving himself a little clap each time the task was achieved.
Part of me worries that we are somehow depriving Orbit by raising him on a sailing boat, that he is missing out by not growing up in a house with a backyard full of toys. But listening to the advice of other parents, those who live on boats and those that live on land, it doesn’t matter that inlet pipes for washing machines and zip ties are his favourite toys. The most important thing is that he is in a safe and loving environment, learning and growing with a genuine interest in the world around him and a drive to get out there and be apart of it.