“Children should be surrounded by a few multi-purpose, open-ended items that encourage imaginative play, social interaction, and healthy bodily movement.”
~~Waldorf theory (Rudolph Steiner)
We have to plan ahead for Christmas here, because there are no stores here in town so we have to order everything in, and in the wintertime the seaplane often gets grounded for a week or more at a stretch (sometimes three weeks) so mail gets backed up and things take a while to get here. So in other words, if we want it here in time to put it under the tree, we had better order it in October.
This isn't a huge deal for me because I was raised to think ahead about these things, but it does mean that lately Hubby and I have been talking about Christmas and what to get for the boys, and I thought this would be a great time to share my philosophy on toys.
I'm a proponent of fair trade over free trade, avoiding sweat-shop products and lead-based paint, and sure, boycotting stuff made in China. But those are not my main guiding points when choosing toys for our household--the toys I choose usually do fall within those parameters, but they are secondary.
I look for toys that are:
open-ended (meaning that they can be used in more than one way) building toys such as legos, tinker toys, erector sets, blocks, and lincoln logs are a classic example of open-ended toys. Wolf has used his lincoln logs to be airplanes, catapults, and alphabets (as well as the more traditional use of building buildings with them!). Playsilks are another popular open-ended toy.
encourage imagination and creativity
not plastic (wood, fabric, metal, etc is better...Legos are one of the few exceptions to the plastic rule) Natural materials will last longer, are kinder to the Earth, and are safer for kids. They are also usually pretty washable, which is a definite bonus in my book!
non-electronic (no lights or noises to make me crazy, no batteries to wear out) Stuff like the little police car with real sirens, or the magic want that makes twinkly noises...and yes, this includes video and computer games...yes we do have some of those, but they're on time-limits and are only allowed after reading. ☺
educational (meaning that they allow the child to learn, not necessarily that they are from the school supplies aisle. This would be things like books, musical instruments, or toys that imitate adult life, such as tools, kitchenware, toy foods, or 'babies')
will last through many years and many children here's the frugal part. What is the point of spending 88cents on a toy that will break the second time it's used? Isn't it a better use of your money to spend $12 on a toy that will last for years, through multiple children? I guarantee you'll get a better value than 88cents per use!
We have some great little crochet fruits and veggies, a cloth doll/wood ring teething toy, wooden stacking rings, homemade beanbags, dress-up clothing, art supplies, puppets, books, and lots and lots of legos. Sure, we have some cheapo toys that have been given to us, or that we ourselves purchased in a less-idealistic time... but slowly and surely we are getting rid of the poor toys (which don't get as much playtime anyway) and we're aquiring good toys. It makes me happy to see the beautiful, fun, and high-quality toys starting to take over the shelves.
I'll be making some additional posts about specific toys/shops that I love
For additional information on Waldorf's philosophy of toys, including an excellent list of recommended toys for various ages, visit here (it's a document that you'll have to upload, you can't just view it on a webpage).