Toys & the Child {part 2}

If the majority of today’s toys do little to engage the child in meaningful work (or play), then what are we to do?

As parents, how do we cultivate an environment that meets our children’s continuously developing needs, allows opportunity to explore, engage in imaginative play, and does not build the standard American consumerist attitude?

Each family will answer this question differently. It’s a personal preference. We all have different priorities about how we approach the educating and cultivating of our children.

Toys in Our Home

When buying toys I consider a few different things:

  • MaterialWhat material is it made out of? How well will it withstand consistent play, drool, being dropped, etc?  I prefer “real” materials. What that really means is anything other than plastic. 😉 We do have some plastic toys, but I try to keep them to a minimum.
  • LongevityHow long will it last? Is it something that will only last a few months? Will Otto get to play with it after Joey? Does it look like it’ll break easily? I don’t want to spend money on something, bring it into my home, have my children enjoy it only to have it break in a month or two.
  • DiversityIs it something that both boys can enjoy even though they’re a few years apart? Will girls enjoy it as well? Can it do more than what it’s advertised to do? 
  • Entertainment FactorIs it going to accost my home and children with busy noise and lights? Will it stimulate the children? Does it allow them creative control or tell them how to do it? Is it an “entertainment” toy?
What we like:
  • Classic toys – trains and train tracks, Lincoln logs, Mr. Potato Head (plastic, I know), cars/planes, blocks
  • Dress-up Clothes – We add to this as Joey’s interests grow. Right now, we have costumes for a knight, cowboy, the Man with the Yellow Hat, as well as a few everyday items like hats, sunglasses, and a wallet with old giftcards.
  • Books – Lots and lots of books. Good books. Don’t give them worthless books. If you’re looking for suggestions, check out the book Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt. (Perhaps a future post on this topic?)
  • Art – watercolors, crayons, colored pencils, paper, scissors, glue, stamps…you get the idea. This is becoming a more regular part of our lives.
  • Music – Not just on cds either. We have a child-size guitar, cymbals, maracas, triangle, as well as a full keyboard and our guitar.
  • Outdoors – Lots of outside play, which often consists of wandering in an open field, short family hikes, playgrounds, and learning to play sports.
Often times the hardest part of bringing toys into your home is when they’re gifts. Family and friends are wonderful and often very generous, although sometimes you may get a few of those unwanted toys.
In our family we tend to handle that by gracefully letting family members know the type of toys or books we prefer and perhaps give a few suggestions. We don’t push this, because relationships are more important than our position on toys.
This year we’ll be asking our family to consider giving our children experiences rather than more toys. After Christmas last year we were overwhelmed with the amount of toys (lots of great ones!) we had. When it came time to put them away, I didn’t even have space for them all! I had to go through and get rid of old toys to make room for the new.
Ideas for Experiences:
  • giftcard to the movies
  • pass to a children’s museum
  • pass to a zoo
  • membership to an indoor playground or children’s gym (great during winter/rainy season)
  • homemade coupons for special dates/overnighters with grandparents or aunts/uncles
  • art or dance classes
  • a trip to a sports game
What do you think? What criteria do you have for toys in your home? What purpose should toys play in the home?

2 comments… add one

  • Lindy August 12, 2011, 10:45 pm

    Well my 11mo isn’t super big on toys yet (she was fascinated with a cottage cheese lid yesterday, so we are loving this stage) but I try to look for multi-age toys/babygear as well as gender neutral. Most things can still be repurposed (the stuff animal with a teething ring on it will be around for awhile) but I especially hate newborn or other age specific gear. We have a baby rocking chair that works from newborn to 40lbs. We just got it back out again today and she loves it. I also saved money by using a convertible carseat from the start. Still figuring out toys for the toddler stage but I love reading your tips:)

  • Montessori Print Shop August 13, 2011, 8:32 am

    You have been awarded the “One Lovely Blog Award”! See here:

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