Sam loves real stuff. I believe that all babies do. Not baby versions of real stuff that a bunch of grown-ups in a conference room in New York designed for them, but the REAL THINGS. If you hand a baby a kiddie "phone" and an iPhone, which do you think he'll choose? Given a choice between chunky plastic "keys" and your car keys, which do you think he'll grab? They know.
Sam's current favorite Real Things include light switches, doors of all kinds, handles, wheels, and buttons. As Sam started rejecting his toys in favor of opening and closing drawers, pushing furniture around the house, and investigating electrical cords, Jordan decided to work on creating a workstation for Sam full of Real Things, similar to the ones around our house, that he could practice using himself. One Saturday, Jordan took Sam to Home Depot, and they picked out a variety of Real Things that he thought Sam would enjoy using. He found a small wooden board in the scrap lumber section ($0.75!), sanded it to remove splinters and rough edges, added stick-on felt pads to protect the floor, and then screwed each Real Thing to the board. Now Sam has his very own spinning caster, hinge, light switch, metal ring, window lock, bouncy door-stop (after we took the photos, we removed the choke-able white rubber cap and sanded down the sharp metal), and door latch. The parts added up to about $25, although you could scavenge thrift or salvage stores--or your own garage--for safe parts that would work. Sam was beyond thrilled when he saw it, and although he soon realized that the Real Things didn't actually do anything Real, he still deigns to play with it.