Monday, October 8, 2012

toys we love and some we could live without

I know a lot of people would be shocked with how few toys we have our home... or perhaps those that are very loyally Waldorf inspired think my children are quite indulged. I like to think we are creating a pretty good balance... although looking around our 'playroom' the other day I saw that there are still toys that are often neglected, and I noticed a pattern.

The so called 'toys' that get daily play in our home are not toys at all.

They are a variety of baskets, muslin scarves, tree blocks, rocks, feathers, blankets, a set of chairs and a children's desk. 

These are our open-ended toys- they can become anything- they have no definite purpose.

Crayons, paper and scissors take a close second to the open-ended toys. A few days ago North began to set up a bakery by drawing bread, donuts, cookies and cupcakes and then cutting them out and putting them on display.

Our knit and felt animals also get a fair amount of play, mostly re-enacting stories atop of buildings and castles that have been built, but not nearly as much play as the open-ended toys do.

The other toys that have not yet been purged from our playroom are a wooden digger, a few trains and cars, a crane and a helicopter. They are probably only played with a few times a week and for very brief periods of time. I assume this is because my children don't see a lot of construction work, moving trains or speeding vehicles that inspire exciting play. They don't watch TV so Thomas the Train or Bob the Builder aren't exactly icons they are interested in imitating.  But on a simpler level- these toys do not allow creative freedom, flowing movement and transformative play. They are what they are and that is it.

In the children's room sits a play kitchen and doll's corner with wooden food, utensils, cradles and blankets. This space is visited about once a day by one or the other child. This space requires parental make-overs from time to time to keep it interesting- some playdough for food and baking, a new outfit for a doll, a little bucket to give the doll a bath or a bit of water for pouring tea. On its own even this beautiful playset can become dull for the children. It inspires make believe but it has transformative limits.

Over the past few months I have cut down on the number of toys we had in the house dramatically and I can honestly say my children are playing contented for longer periods of time and more creatively than I have ever observed.

Just the other day a few wicker baskets morphed from

- animal carcasses (for playing butcher- God, I know- can you believe their first years were as vegetarians!?)

- boats for racing

- trucks for loading

- boxes for carrying fruits and vegetables to deliver from house to house

- shelves for playing shop

- sleighs for playing Christmas

What 'toys' do you and yours love and which could you really live without?


Anonymous said...

Well done! I am slowly purging too. The past year has seen me voice the 'no battery operated/plastic-y toys-thankyou'. That is going ok, except for a ELC cash register (my op-shop score!) which is regularly used, as is the teaset. We love Duplo and have recently welcomed a Brio trainset for a birthday. But still I find my cooking utensils scattered in the midst of a hefty 'cooking' session! My 2 have some plasticy cups and bowls outside, my boy like to get water or woodchips and fill things! But yes, we could do much more. I think having an emotional connection to a toy they once loved or was bought special for them doesn't help :) We have a LOT of books, which I am slowly 'moving' in order to start rotating them around and cull. Books are really hard because they are everywhere here :) I hardly go into the big toyshops but recently when I did I found I was so overwhelmed by all the really cheap plastic-y stuff (cr*p!) that it made me more determined. Great post (I have been missing your inspiring posts!) and very timely with Xmas fast approaching !!
Lauren :)

Meagan said...

Thanks for such kind words Lauren! xo m.

Nicole said...

What a beautiful play space you have. We don't have many toys here either. Blocks get a good work out and morph into whatever my little girl is imagining at the time. I would like to get a few more "role play" type of toys to initiate a different sort of play...but she seems to do ok at this without brought props. x

Anonymous said...

Hello Meagan,
Great post. I noticed in the background of one of your photots I could see a wooden cleaning set that I was thinking of getting my son (I have found it hard to find child sized cleaning items in Australia). I was just wondering what you think of the set, do your children enjoy using it??
Thanks Carla

Meagan said...

Hi Carla,

We got it online from a very random shop I believe and I would NOT recommend it- it broke in multiple places and my husband had to fix it and it's not practical as the dustpan doesn't even angle the floor properly enough to sweep anything up! Glad you asked! xx m.

Eco Guy said...

Great article. I like the reasoning behind the open-ended toys. Kids always love to play with the box their toy came in as much as the toy itself.

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