You may or may not know that I enjoy throwing stuff out and simplifying my life. I feel it makes for a more sane mother, a cleaner house, and less anxious children. Despite my belief in the insanity that is caused by excessive toys, all around us are advertisements for toys (AKA crap) that our children "need" in order to function, be smart, and find happiness.
For those who also feel rage well within when they discover hundreds of tiny pieces spread around the floor, perfect for the baby to choke on, supposedly "educational" and well suited to break one's ankle, I have created ANOTHER list.
Toys your children actually NEED...
The short list goes like this:
1) None- Kids make their own toys. They are smart and clever and inventive and have something called an "imagination". (I don't have one either anymore but it has something to do with making stuff up.)
The longer list goes like this.
1) A box- The brown cardboard box is a classic toy. One of my favorite things about it is that when they are done with it, tear it, or (this has actually happened a few times in my house) pee in it, you simply toss it in the recycle bin with no guilt or angry grandmothers. The other marvelous thing about a cardboard box is that it is FREE! You get some groceries at a big box store or something in the mail or somebody moves and VOILA! A TOY!!!
Kids can use a box for many things. The favorite toy box idea in our house is the indoor sled- as many kids as can fit sit in the box and the other bigger child straps a belt or a rope to holes they have made in the box and then they drag the kids around. (I do not know if this is OSHA approved. Must check.) It's other uses include, nature box (throw junk in it and glue), a place to pile things, a big one can make a house or fort, a bed for a doll, a home for other toys (if you still have them), an outdoor sled, Santa's sleigh (much like the sled except some of the kids are reindeer and some of them are Santa), a great place to draw or decorate or poke with a stick, etc, etc, etc. Really the options are never ending.
LOVE the box. Banana boxes are especially fun and strong.
2) A stick- Like the box the stick is FREE! (Love that!) It can also be tossed when it breaks or loses usefulness. The stick can be: a sword, a spear, an arrow, a cane, a wand, a leaf blower (I don't promote violence in my house but I do have a son and I have come to believe that they just like weapons), a gun, and much much more.
Sticks are great for boys and girls and they are pretty easy to find. A kid who really likes to do things themselves can carve a stick into tons of other fun things. (Did I just let slip that my kids get to carve things. They allow knife use in Waldorf schools, I swear it.)
Sticks use the imagination, encourage pretend play, and are basically fabulous in every way. Also, kids totally understand if you have a "no sticks in the house" rule. It doesn't bother them and then the sticks stay outside.
3) A ball- this one you may have to buy but they are CHEAP. Everybody loves balls, even babies and teenagers and grown men. Millions of games can be played, tons of fun can be had and virtually everybody can participate. As an added bonus, you can also have a "no balls in the house" rule. (This began after a broken window and NO, I don't want to talk about it.)
4) A doll- My girls love their dolls. Being mama is one of their favorite games. (I know some boys like dolls, but mine has never shown an interest.) You CAN buy dolls but you can also easily make one from a corn husk, a handkerchief, a sock, or if you are more crafty you can sew or knit one pretty easily. I truly believe that having a doll helps teach nurturing behavior in children.
5) Salt dough- As we speak my kids are playing with salt dough. I even made it myself! You can find lots of recipes online and they are usually pretty easy and you can make them with your kids. They can play and make things (mine are currently throwing balls of it at the walls.....not sure I like "imagination" anymore) practice letters and learn motor skills with dough. I will warn you, salt dough is not a friend to the carpet.
6) Chalk- Chalk is super cheap and educational. My oldest practices his drawing and letters and numbers on a little chalkboard in the house. Chalk is also excellent for outdoor play if you have a sidewalk near your house. Plus, babies like to eat it. (Don't actually feed chalk to your baby. I was kidding.)
7) A sheet- Sheets or blankets make great forts. My husband hates cleaning up forts but I think they are just SUPER and much better than 1,087 Legos. Big toys clean up faster. Kids will play for hours in a home made fort and have a blast. Again, this one is FREE!
That is the long list. Pretty simple isn't it?! If you have space and are feeling generous then I will admit that all my kids enjoy toy cars, wooden trains with tracks, wooden blocks, and puzzles. (I have some harsh words for puzzles but I will keep them to myself.)
I am pretty sure that my life and my children's would be simpler if I stuck to the list above. Can you imagine how much tidier your house would be, how much more CALM your children and you would be if we all rejected the notion that children need more THINGS in order to be happy? I truly believe that less stuff equals more peace both within ourselves and within our homes. NEVER feel guilty for not giving your children more things. They don't bring happiness.
(Unless that "thing" is a pair of jeans that fits and makes my butt look cute. That would make me very happy.)