The choice is endless and before you know it toys overtake the home. Let’s look at a few natural and simple toys that will instill character in your littles without hindering their development. Children don’t need tens of different things to have a happy childhood. I want to share some of my best toy ideas that helped us simplify.
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Go big on this first category. You really can’t have too many books if you ask me. That is if you select only the really good, living books. Books that speak to the child and have the child form a relationship with the characters in the book. This may sound a bit far-fetched for picture books, but it isn’t. Who could better explain than Charlotte Mason?
She says: “One more thing is of vital importance; children must have books, living books. The best is not too good for them; anything less than the best is not good enough. And if it is needful to exercise economy, let go everything that belongs to soft and luxurious living before letting go the duty of supplying the books, and the frequent changes of books, which are necessary for the constant stimulation of the child’s intellectual life.”
With a good book, you’ll automatically make a picture in your mind when you read. Making it much easier to remember a story and make it your own. A quick example:
“Leif stood on sturdy feet in the prow of his father’s Viking ship as he sailed across the Snowstorm Sea. The brine stung his tanned cheeks and the wind tore at his hair.” – Leif the Lucky by Ingri & Edgar Parin D’Aulaire
“Vikings lived from about 700 AD to 1100 AD. They sailed from Scandinavia and made big wooden boats. They sailed the world and discovered many countries that were unknown to them before.”
When you read the first quote you’ll most likely make a picture in your mind of Leif standing there on his ship sailing a stormy sea. You’ll be more likely to remember the story and the things you’ll learn later connect on to what you already know, because you made a picture in your mind.
Children love to hear stories about other children living at different times and in different parts of the world. They’ll develop good language skills, and problem-solving skills, and they most likely become very creative both in thinking and play.
Books for young and old
Even a very young child can enjoy books that might seem above his level. A good book with engaging pictures and a rich vocabulary stimulates his young, growing mind. Don’t be too careful and choose only the really simple language books or read-aloud books with very short sentences. Choose the best quality books and you’ll bring out the best in your child.
Wooden blocks & shapes
This classic toy is well worth investing in if you ask me. They will last a long time and lends themselves well to imaginative play, the child can shape his ideas and make something new every time.
It also teaches balance and weight and stimulates good hand-eye coordination. It’s a very versatile toy that can be used for free play but also for counting and sorting for older children. Missing pieces can easily be replaced. It’s simply one of those great open-ended toys.
A beautiful range of wooden blocks and other complementary items are available from Grimm’s. They do come with a price tag, but are made responsibly and will last for generations!
What I love about these too is that, when they grow older they might like to carve out supplementary items themselves. That was they can enjoy the “old block” along with their handmade wooden toys!
Open-ended toys are toys that let the child be creative and come up with an accompanying story that can be different every time he plays with these toys.
This can be wooded blocks, animals, or soft stuffed animals. Open-ended toys stimulate a child’s imagination and let’s him think. Dolls and role plays are also good for social development and enjoyable for children of all ages.
With open-ended toys, the child has to come up with his own different ways of playing and thinking. When he’s done he can start all over again and play something different.
Animals are a great idea for young children. They can make their zoo, build a farm, or pet shop. He can use as little or as many of those open-ended toys as he likes.
Dolls are great children’s toys. Little ones, and older ones too, like to care for “their babies” as they see mom and dad do.
What’s so nice about open-ended toys is that they can often be used with other open-ended toys. That makes them a great option if you’re looking for (open-ended) toys that make great gifts.
We’ll talk about dress-up clothes a little more after we touched on some creative toys.
Here’s a category that I would suggest you spread a feast for them just as with the books. You don’t need to buy any special drawing tools, projectors, or robots. Just a stack of paper and a few good pencils come a long way.
The problem with offering too many toys is that it takes away from letting the child think for himself. It’s not a bad thing for a child to feel “bored” now and then. Usually, those moments are the ones in which they come up with the most creative ideas. Arts and crafts are a great way to express themselves and be creative.
Complete your art supplies by adding good-quality pencils. I highly recommend Lyra pencils, since they are the only ones I’ve found that are soft and actually give off color on the paper. Cheaper pencils often have a hard and sharp tip, which can be frustrating for the child since they won’t so much color on the paper. Especially if he wants to color larger areas.
Paper is a must of course, widely available and affordable. Also, make sure to add some more cardstock like constructiosn paper for craft projects and making cards to send to friends and family.
Glue is another must-have. Use a good quality glue, one that’s water soluble (washable!) and dries quickly. I like to have one solid type of glue and one liquid glue for different projects. Although this may sound straightforward, make sure the glue glues well. It’s very frustrating for a child if he tries to make something and it keeps coming off.
Stickers are always a hit over here. I like to pick stickers that have true-to-life pictures. Especially for your children, it’s a good idea since so much of the child’s developmental basis is laid in these early years. You’ll want to show them the true, beautiful and real version of how things look.
For all the other small parts, I’d like to suggest you collect natural things with the child over time. Next time you get out of doors collect acorns, leaves, pine cones, feathers, sticks, etc. Because the child collected them himself he’ll be more likely to use them because he already has a “bond” and fun memory when you collected them. It’s a great way to collect useful craft material.
You might like…
A B C…
Lovely watercolor illustrations make this alphabet poster a sweet addition to the playroom!
Click the image to go to the poster in my Etsy shop
Princesses, knights, a child from the past, kings, and poor men. All some of our children’s dress-up ideas. They dress up almost daily. Every time they come up with a new idea; in what country they are, who is who, is he wealthy or not. It’s great for creative play and learns them to listen to each other so all parties like what they’re playing out.
You can find great costumes and dress-up clothes at stores. But don’t forget your local thrift store, they might have some clothes or fun accessories too. We found a real fireman’s hat at a thrift store once and it’s been a real hit with the boys. Hats, funny shoes, necklaces, scarves, and glasses are all fun to let your children pick at your local thrift store.
Also, old sheets make great capes. Play silks and other soft materials make pretty skirts and dresses. Sheets also lend themselves well for building “houses” for the new characters. Ask your child what he likes to be and there’s a good chance he knows exactly what he likes to be and what he needs for that.
Overall less is more when it comes to the best toys for children. Not only will your house be much easier to keep tidy with less toy clutter. It will serve your child just as well, maybe even better. It’s much easier to have a few choices than an overwhelming amount of toys. Isn’t that the same stress we experience as adults when we stand in the grocery store and have to choose from 300 types of pasta in all shapes and sizes? We just want pasta for dinner! The child just needs to play and develop their gross motor skills, creativity, social skills and fine motor skills, and so on.
Never stop learning…
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“Never be within doors when you can rightly be without.” – Charlotte Mason
Being outdoors is what wraps it all up for the best natural toy ideas. Because honestly, I think they learn most when they’re out of doors.
“…nature-study cultivates in him a perception and a regard for what is true,…” & “A knowledge thus naturally attained of the immutability of nature’s ‘must ‘ and ‘shall not’ is in itself a moral education.” The Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock
They find the most natural materials to play with in the forest on the beach or at the local park. They can be creative in what they are going to play, with what they’ve found. They learn about birds, leaves, trees, animals, and other people around them. Their imaginative play is stimulated at its best.
To wrap things up… Let’s keep it simple for our children and carefully select the best, not the most.
- Wooden toys by Grimms
- Open-ended toys like animals, dolls, blocks, etc.
- Dress-up clothes (like this nice Postman set by BeadiesSewingShed on Etsy!)
- Lyra Pencils
- (Construction) Paper
- Natural materials
- [BOOK] Leif the Lucky – Ingri & Edgar Parin D’Aulaire
- [BOOK] Land of sweet surprises – Ernest Nister
- [BOOK] Brambly Hedge – Jill Barklem
- [BOOK] James Herriot’s Treasury for Children – James Herriot
- [BOOK] The big snow – Bertha & Elmer Hader
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