“If it hasn’t been in the hand or the body, then it can’t be in the brain”. The words of Bev Bos world renowned teacher, author and play advocate have never ringed truer in the age of technological toys and stores filled with over stimulating everything. Children learn by touching, smelling, tasting, hearing and seeing. It is intriguing to think” why do we have so many plastic toys surrounding us?” A plastic block has no real “feel” to it, but a tree does. Try it, find a groovy rock and a plastic rock and hold one in each hand…which would you rather hold? Which would you rather explore, or create with? Do not fret, plastic toys have their place too…keep reading!
Do not underestimate the hours of joy pots and pans can bring… In our house, we try and limit the number of plastic toys. Aside from the obvious reasons of what is in plastic: wooden toys encourage imagination, creativity and help ground children back to nature. It is important to think about the toys you introduce to your baby and toddler. Children are constantly learning, and we want to encourage curiosity. So often toys already give children the answer, make too many noises, and can often over stimulate the child instead of engaging the child. Babies and toddlers love to dump, taste, bang, shake, fill, imitate and more! There are many toys on the market to encourage all of this, but if you look in your home, you will find lots of safe materials to support this play. Treasure Baskets Treasure baskets derive from the theory of heuristic play, using natural or found objects and allowing babies to explore the object at their pace using all of their senses. These baskets are filled with materials that have a common theme. They are best for children who are able to sit up unassisted through to 18 months old. For example using a theme like “shiny” and add 10-20 objects into a basket that all can relate to shiny- perhaps a whisk, mirror, ribbon, metal spoon, etc. While baby explore the objects you can chat with them about the look, feel, and smell of the object. You can change your theme once the baby loses interest, perhaps changing it to “textures”.
As with any material it is important to always be with your baby when exploring treasure basket materials. Sensory Bottles Sensory bottles are a way for children to engage in their senses through play without the mess and they are safe! Sensory bottles can come in all shapes and sizes. Whether you make your own bottles or purchase them, your child will certainly be engaged! Wooden Toys Wooden toys have so many benefits, they are natural, durable, interchangeable, encourage imagination, less stimulation visually and through sound, encourage interaction with child and parent, improve hand eye coordination and more!
Over stimulation Toys are now designed to be stimulating and build up certain skills however they can quickly become over stimulating to children and instead of benefiting the child, the child will withdraw and likely feel mentally tired. “Two plus one is three” blog captures it perfectly stating “true attention begins from within and radiates out into creativity whereas modern toys seize the attention from without and thrust a "procreated" system onto the child, thus diffusing locus of attention into the environment.” We also must remember to SLOW DOWN our days, and focus on our transitions in the day. When baby is playing, remember to take time for them to linger, move slowly. Our mind is racing and usually we are “thinking in the future” whereas babies and toddlers are able to focus on “living in the now” and enjoy moments for a lot longer. Sometimes we get caught up in all the neat ideas we see on pinterest and we want to engage our children in 5 new activities in one day, but try to slow down and focus on one new activity. Quality over Quantity Many comments I get are that wooden toys are too expensive, and I tend to agree, but my motto is quality over quantity. Of course, plastic toys are cheaper but remember they also usually do not encourage open ended thinking or last as long. I do not have a lot of money to spend on beautiful toys, but over time I am slowly building my collection. Often, wooden toys will grow with your child.
Building blocks can be just a tower to be knocked down at a year old but by age three your child is using the same blocks to create castle or farms! Second hand stores often have wonderful toys and usually some beautiful character! Lego is something I will purchase, I remember countless hours as a child creating towns with lego, houses, schools, train tracks and more, as it encouraged me to be creative! We have plastic dinosaurs, but we use rocks, pine cones, wooden blocks and more with the dinosaurs to create open ended play. When selecting toys, be purposeful about what you want your child to gain from the experience, even if it as simple as a basket of balls; at six months, adding a basket of different textured fabric will encourage sitting up, fine motor control, identifying colours, shapes and more.
Recommended Toys for Your Baby and Toddler:
-Pots and Pans
-Wooden Ball Tracker
-Wooden Stacking Ring
-Wooden Building Blocks
-Black and White Books
-Simple Baby Gym( Ikea makes a great one)
-Tie a Balloon to their foot