Have you ever gone to a children’s resale store and seen the mountains of plastic toys for sale?
I mean mountains!
I was in one this weekend.
What can we learn from that?
Each of those toys at one time belonged to some child first – but my guess is it was not a favorite – not special – not beloved – not cherished -not a keeper – but, instead, disposable.
I know parents often tell me how their child has every kind of toy to play with at home but doesn’t play with any of them and says he’s bored.
Hmmm – what does that say for our choice of toys we give to our children?
It can be so simple too. For children, from babies to school aged are most deeply engaged by toys that aren’t toys at all.
You know what I mean.
- Toddlers love kitchen “stuff”- unbreakable bowls, cups, whisks, spatulas, jar lids, and so on. Create a cupboard especially for your child to store their real items – occasionally throw in a different one to discover, to explore. Perfect for experiencing, analyzing, and assimilating the things they see used around them – on their own time, in their own way.
- Pretend dress-up clothes (real ones) like hats, shoes, jewelry, purses, ties, dresses, scarves, vests, shirts – a total go-to-choice for dramatic play from little ones through grade school.
- You can’t have too many art materials available, and many of them will come from the “junk box” all families should have. Throw away your paper towel rolls, your empty cracker boxes, your coffee can lids? Really? Get a bin to hold these treasures and add some paint, crayons, glue, scotch tape, duct tape, different types of paper, cardboard, boxes, wood, scissors, and a space to work at. And remember, kids don’t care if their creation looks polished or even resembles what they say it does (as long as they think it does). It’ all about process and process is the satisfying part.
- “Office items” are also very appealing to children. And why not? Your discarded junk mail is real to them, note pads and pencils, file folders and envelopes – all add up to “working” at play.
- There are some “prop” toys out there that can support and encourage dramatic play – like blocks, a doctor’s kit a cash register with pretend money, a play stove, cars and trucks, a wagon, ride-on toys.
- And we can’t forget sensory materials – a plastic storage bin with cover is all you need. Add a sensory material like rice, macaroni, beans – then throw in a few scoops and cups and plastic jars and let your child explore. Another sensory experience is play dough (easy recipes on line) Add some natural materials like sticks and feathers, stones and shells for relaxing play.
- Last but certainly not least are books. Stories to hear, pictures to ponder, songs to sing, connections and memories to cherish.
This is the time of year when thoughts and anxieties of the upcoming gift season and what to buy for the children on your list begin.
Let this year be different. Relax, think simple, think natural. Think childlike.
Deliver those other toys that sit unused and cluttering your space to the nearest resale store.
And offer your child the chance to imagine, to create, to think, to play in their own personal way.
If you would like some suggestions on ways to engage the age/interest of your child, give me a call at The Parenting Place – 784-8125. I love to talk about play.