Friday, October 24, 2008

Thoughts about Toys

“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).


Katrina said...

One of my favorite gifts/toys is a wooden name stool that my oldest daughter was given. She still loves it and has had it for 3 years now--and my baby daughter loves it already and she's only 8 months old! I love its utility, practicality, durability, and educational value! If you haven't seen this site yet, you may be interested in checking it out:

Becky said...

My husband has converted me to wooden toys. They really are more durable. There's a great little toy shop here that we love - it's where we got all of Riley's Thomas the Tank Engine gear. I love watching him make new tracks and figure out what fits with what.

Yeah, they're pricey, but worth it.

Mary@notbefore7 said...

Great thoughts on toys. So...what are you thinking of buying this christmas to add to the collection of good toys?

I love watching my kids build all sorts of wonderful things with their wooden block sets.

Another favorite toy in this house is a basket of scarves...some of which are just cut up pieces of cool looking fabric (a 1 yard cut). They have been dresses, hats, wigs, leashes, and even spider webs!

Mae said...

I usually give my nieces and nephews "consumables", like craft supplies that they use up constantly.

My 7 year old niece and nephew are the creators in our family and their moms can't afford to keep them in craft paper, glue, popsicle sticks, etc. And no matter how poor I am, I can always give them some small amount of craft stuff. It also doesn't take up a lot of room in their house. And it doesn't make noise. That's the big no-no in our family...except for the set of tub flutes I got them. Those were and still are a hit (and only $5!).

nicole said...

Thanks for sharing those thoughts. I'm with you... especially about the educational and open-ended toys. I'm also pretty strict about not having too much "stuff". It's all about simplifying around here! Especially with 4 little ones. My new policy is that with every new toy that comes in, an old toy goes out!

Linked Within

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...