I have spent hours thinking about and going over materials on the topic of toys, how to choose a toy, why we choose specific materials and how to stay within a realistic budget. There is so much information and so this will be a three-part series as well as my first official blog post.
Giving children real materials to engage with is so important. Ever notice when you give a baby a set of plastic keys they are quickly rejected? Or why your child would much rather drink out of your glass than their plastic sippy cup. Children are incredibly intuitive; they know when they are being disrespected. That is what is comes down to when I explain this concept to my clients. R-E-S-P-E-C-T! Ha! Respect for children is a deep subject and one for another day. I will say that I think that if we are to raise respectful people, we must model respect to them from an early age.
I believe it is disrespectful to expect our children to engage in items that clearly do not relate to the real world. Our “play things”(as they see them) are made with real materials. Wood, metal, and glass! And while I wouldn’t encourage allowing a baby to play with glass there is plenty of space for compromise so that our children can play safely while also feeling their play is respected. When choosing playthings, I always ask myself the following Waldorf inspired
Is it Beautiful?
Sight is incredibly important. A space that looks beautiful is a space people want to spend time in. When choosing Beautiful, handcrafted toys we are introducing life and love into a child’s space. In my experience when I walk into a room that is beautiful, I feel a sense of wonder. Much like a child I am more likely to engage in my surroundings, ask questions, and even play with the items that catch my eye. Children are even more sensitive to this inquisitive, almost primal, feeling. Choose toys that are beautiful to behold, they will call the children to play. Not to mention, an aesthetic playroom is any caregivers dream, am I right?
Does it feel good?
When choosing a new toy, touch them in the way a child might. Rubbing it on your cheek, feeling the weight and density and if you are feeling brave you can even put it in your mouth! We all know toys end up they at least a few times. Aside from the fact that not all materials are safe just because they are on the market; Would you rather have “false-fabrics,” as I like to call them, or cotton, linen, and silks? Would you prefer cheap hollow plastics or wood and metal?
Does it encourage creative play?
Toys that have more than two way of play are referred to as “open-ended” while toys that can only be played with one way are called “close-ended” When imagining your child play with said toy can you come up with at least three different ways the toy can be played with? I fine myself rejecting any toys that only have one use as well as toys that tell you how to play with them. Please don’t misunderstand, I think close-ended playthings have their time to shine in the play space. Puzzles, stringing beads, arts and crafts and mazes are all wonderful when working on attention and completion skills! Close-ended toys are meant for structured play. I recommend them to be kept separate from the children’s “yes space” unless they can play with and put them away on their own. Open-ended toys such as blocks, silks, dolls, and character toys (such as wooden figurines) are all wonderful items to have out. They can be played within hundreds of ways and should be displayed in a “ready to play” fashion all day long!