Prev Next
Baby Mouthing Shared Toys: what's the etiquette?

Shared Toys & a Public Shaming

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

I would really appreciate your advice and any insight on the following issue:
My local library offers a “baby story time” each week for babies 0-12 months old. We regularly attend this event along with about 15-30 other babies.

The facilitator will pass out different items (shaker eggs, board books etc.) and she will always say “don’t worry if the babies put these in their mouths, we clean them off after every session.” So of course, doing what babies love to do, most of the babies happily chew on the various props and books. Here is where my question comes in. In an adjacent area of the library, there are various toys and books for kids and babies to play with. On another day of the week, I will bring my 8 month old daughter to play in this area. Of course, she will also pick up some of the blocks or other toys and put them in her mouth.

One particular day, another mother was there with two older girls, (maybe 7 and 8 years old) and when the mother saw my daughter put a toy in her mouth she loudly remarked “that’s disgusting!” so everyone in the vicinity could hear. I felt so extremely embarrassed and judged. I have never felt that way before at the library and I immediately packed up and we left. My question is, should I not allow my daughter to put the toys in her mouth? As you can imagine it will be almost impossible to prevent her from doing this, unless I take all toys out of her reach. I understand these are shared toys, and as long as I make an attempt to wipe or clean them when my daughter is finished, should this be enough? It was clear that the other mother thought I should not allow my daughter to put any toys in her mouth; but this area of the library is especially for babies and pre-school age kids, so shouldn’t some of this be expected? I am not sure if the library routinely cleans these toys as they do with the story time toys.

Please help me understand the etiquette in this situation. I don’t want to be uncomfortable going back to the library and I want to know what the right thing to do in the future. Was that mom overreacting? Didn’t her children put toys in their mouths when they were babies? I believe a little bit of germ exposure is good for kids too.

Thank you so much for your advice!

Holy overreaction, Batman. (Batmom?) And this may be just me, but I cannot even imagine loudly commenting on another person’s baby using the word “disgusting.” Even if yes, babies are kind of disgusting sometimes. BUT THEY ARE BABIES. YOU DON’T CALL THEM THAT.

Clearly, that mom has some issues with germs. That’s her damage, not yours. And memory issues, I guess, unless she raised her girls in bubbles and followed them around with sanitizing wipes and sprays 24/7. And rudeness issues, because CALLING ANOTHER BABY OR TYPICAL BABY BEHAVIOR “DISGUSTING” IS NOT OKAY. Your daughter was doing what babies do. And what many, many babies had probably already done earlier that day. Good lord, my babies routinely shoved dirt, dog food and the bottom of my shoes in their mouths.  That’s disgusting, and yet I still never called them that. At least not to their faces.

Now, whenever I’ve taken my babies to community play areas with shared toys, I did always TRY to make an effort to keep the toys out of their mouths. I’d gently pull their hands down and show them what the toy “did” to try to distract them. Like you, I’m all for a little germ exposure; I just figured that the next kid/parent probably wouldn’t like picking up something that’s been pre-slimed. I still appreciate seeing other parents give a toy a quick wipe-down if it’s been in their kid’s mouth — and I will also accept that wipe-down simply being done with the edge of their shirt, because seriously. That’s about all a pacifier would get from me at this point, if it fell on the floor. (And the worst illness we ever got was a cold, and even then it’d be impossible to “blame” the shared toys at a library group rather than the 2380374048534908 million other possible germy places/people they came in contact with.) There’s always going to be someone with different standards and opinions, of course, but I think MOST parents/caregivers at your little library play area understand that little babies mouth things and nobody is going to die from it. Go back with your head held high and your baby’s cute little mouth drooling at the sight of those awesome toys.

For the record, if I’d been a witness to the “that’s disgusting!” thing, I totally would have spoken up and made you feel better. I’ve gotten quite feisty since my nervous/unsure first-time mom days and quite enjoy butting in to shut some petty judgment down, or at least going over to talk to someone who’s clearly feeling shamed and packing up to leave. “Oh, please, all three of my babies put every object in this place in their mouths and they turned out just fine. I mean, mostly. Whatever. Good enough!”

Published July 28, 2014. Last updated October 29, 2017.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

icon icon
chat bubble icon