I had been thinking about how I would keep the toy situation under control and keep the junky, kid's meal quality toys out of our home. I had a conversation with a friend the other day about how less is more where toys are concerned. Thanks Alana for the encouragement in this area! Fortunately, Eden hasn't had a birthday yet, so we still have only a very few toys. She actually only has a small basket-full. She now has even fewer after the purge!
I looked around the house, and I am not sure we can completely eliminate cheap plastics from our home, but toys are a start. In looking for good quality toys, I ran across this article that I thought was worth sharing.
About Natural Toys
Many children today are accustomed to detailed toys that "do" something in an attempt to entertain them or teach them a specific skill - press a button and it talks, walks, or lights up. I believe that children have a natural desire to experience, explore, and discover things for themselves. Toys should provide children with the opportunity to create a complete play experience that actively involves the child in play, not one where the child is a passive participant who watches play happen. Among the best toys for children are those that are open-ended and multi-purpose, toys that encourage the child to use his/her imagination to define the play activity and creatively use a single toy for lots of different purposes. These unstructured toys not only nurture creativity, but research has shown that they help our children to become problem solvers by encouraging "out-of-the-box" thinking.1
I would also like to suggest that we take this a step further and think about the materials the toys are made with and the image these toys present before our children. I personally am committed to offering toys made of natural materials. Babies and young children are just beginning to learn about the world around them and I feel it is important to provide them with toys that give them a beautiful image of their world. A wooden rattle comes from nature, from a living thing, and it has a depth to it that synthetic counterparts cannot match. It is warmer, has more texture, and each piece is unique. Children can sense this difference as they touch and manipulate the toy.
I also adhere to the belief that we should try to present children with images that are representative of their true appearance in the world. That is, if we are to show our child a dog, whether in a book or a stuffed animal, the dog should be made in the image of a real dog instead of a cartoon-type characterization. In her book, You Are Your Child's First Teacher, author Rahima Baldwin Dancy states, "…the young child is trying to get to know the world as it is and lacks the sophistication and humor that most characterizations involve." This made a lot of sense to me. I would much prefer to have my daughters read a book about rabbits that show a real rabbit, a representation of what this beautiful creature looks like in nature as opposed to a caricature of a rabbit with big googly eyes and buck teeth!
Lastly, I believe that plastic single-purpose toys contribute to children's over consumption. Not only does the advertising for those types of toys leave children wanting more and feeling increasingly dissatisfied, the toys simply seem more disposable. When the child has played with it a few times, it is more likely to become "boring" and literally gets thrown away. After it is played with awhile, it gets added to the ever-growing pile of useless toys. I have seen this so many times at garage sales! Children's toys in big piles of plastic parts and pieces. I am concerned about what this teaches our children and think that we would be far less likely to do this with well-crafted, multi-purpose wooden toys.
This is why I am committed to offering Waldorf toys - they are unstructured, multi-purpose, made of natural materials, and they do not promote commercialism.
But Natural Toys are More Expensive!
Providing the types of toys that I am talking about can sometimes be more costly, yes, but I ask you to think about a couple of things when considering this. Toys that are creative, meaning toys that allow the child to use his imagination to create different things, have much more play value than a high-tech, single-use plastic toy. The creative toy will be used in all types of play, not for one simple task that the child sits and "does" for a few minutes and then moves on to the next thing. Creative toys capture the child's imagination and engage the child in continuous play over and over again.
Waldorf toys also have a much longer play life. The wooden nesting bowls you purchase for your toddler will still be played with at age six when they are turned into a bowl for cooking in pretend kitchen play. The play silks your baby plays peek-a-boo with will be turned into a blanket for a baby doll at age four. The wooden play kitchen or wooden doll cradle your child loves can be passed down for generations.
Also, you don't have to buy a ton of toys. In fact, it is discouraged! A few, high quality playthings are all a child needs to get the creative juices flowing.
1 Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, PhD and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, PhD Einstein Never Used Flash Cards (Rodale, 2003)
© Dana Johnson, MSWOwner of Three Sisters Toys
Thanks to Dana at http://www.threesisterstoys.com/ for letting me put this article here on my blog!