Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Kids and Toys: Avoiding the plastic crap trap.

I am against plastic toys. Not for any sound, research-based reason, but because I just don't want a huge pile of that stuff hanging around the house.

So, I aim to stick to a few basic types of toys, which are those that cover all the basics. And, really, kids are resourcesful and inventive all on their own. They will make toys out of anything. One could argue that those cheap, ubiquitous plastic toys actually stunt kids' creativity.

But, there are a few toys that don't. Blocks are one. I finally finished the fabric blocks I set out to make. There are 9, one for each letter of Baby Field Notes' name. Each side has something different on it. On the reverse side of her name letters are numbers, and on a facing side are the numbers 1-9 in arabic. Because the numeral symbols we use are derived from arabic, there are a lot of similarities in the two sets of numbers. The white sided block, right underneath the division symbol in the photo here, is a 3, for example. In addition to some letters for her to spell out the two newfs' names, I threw in some mathematical symbols. Those sides she can have fun with later. I loved math as a kid and I won't be surprised if she does too.

As far as other toys for her to play with, we have been pretty spare. Better to not start that bad habit in the first place. I do not want to get in the habit of accumulating a bunch of plastic toys that only do one or two things and that quickly lose appeal.

So, I am trying to keep toy purchases and planned ones to a minimum of what is really essential in my opinion. Stuffed animals are essential, I think. They serve the same purpose as dolls as far as make-believe goes. They will also be a stepping stone to an interest in biology and the natural world, just like going on nature walks and playing in the garden will. She'll have her giant collection of felt food too — another one that is wonderful for play because she can pretend to not only serve meals and shop for them, she can pretend to operate a restaurant and farmer's market stand too, if she wants to. I am sure her stuffed animals and I will have to sit through more than one 'tea party' where sushi is served.

Every child needs to have a truck or two — the kind you use in a sand box or out at the beach or in the dirt and mud in the backyard. We've already got a dump truck. I get a kick out of the fact that it is in use as a handy place for us to keep a stash of diapers. More fun than leaving them in a box in the closet!

Other than trucks to play with in the dirt and sand, she'll need puzzles and blocks. Both are essential in my opinion. We've already got a few puzzles. I plan on getting her a really nice set of wood blocks to build towers and bridges and whatvever else she puts her mind to, if no one else does, but I have a feeling between her grandparents, aunts and uncles and great-grandparents, I probably won't need to buy her a thing! When she's older, we'll do the Legos. Mr. Field Notes still has the Legos he played with as a kid! Tangrams are awesome puzzles as well. They are excellent for practicing spatial skills and are fun for kids and adults alike... which is why we already have a set.

I really cannot think of other toys that kids really need. Paper, crayons, balls? That's more basic stuff we already have. Mr. Field Notes and I are really just big kids, so we've already got just about every basic type of toy I can think of. The only thing we really need from toy land for the next several years are wood blocks! Ha! I make it sound like we can get away with not buying toys for the next 4 years.


AmandaMay said...

I have thought about this too. It isn't an issue for me yet as I have no children, but I wonder how you communicate these toy dislikes to grandparents, friends, etc? Were you able to just tell them you don't want so much stuff and to stay away from plastic? Natural material toys are so much nicer, and generally last longer I think. Sounds like you have a pretty good plan!

Field Notes said...

That's a good Q, AM. I don't think we'll have that problem so much here, but we'll see come Christmas next year! If we start having toys pile up, I think I would casually mention that we've got enough toys already.

Now, one thing I didn't mention that I think is a good idea (for parents, grandparents, etc) is to have a special type of toy collection that can be added to over time, such as a train set, Legos, building blocks, sandbox toys, etc. That way, they know what the collection is and if they want to, they can get pieces that add to it.

It seems to work well for my little nephew - and no one is ever at a loss for what kind of toy to bring for birthdays.

Becky said...

I really like this philosophy. If I were patient and creative enough I'd make toys for Little Miss, like you have for Baby FN. Alas, I am not! However, I am a HUGE advocate for using the imagination, being creative, and being content with a few fun things that can be used in a variety of ways.

The train/block sets you speak of that can be added to over time is a fabulous idea. My parents got me Brio trains as a kid, and DH has a HUGE Rubbermaid container full of LEGOs (not just from when he was a kid, either!).

We don't actually have very many toys for Little Miss right now. A few she can grab and chew on, and a couple that make music for long car rides, and perhaps a rattle or two. All the rest are stuffed animals and books. I'm sure there are plenty of toys wrapped from Grandma under the tree, however...

You've inspired me to blog, actually...if I steal your blog/parenting idea, will you forgive me? :)

Kitty Wilkin said...

This is great. We are in the same mindset regarding toys, and so far it's been great! (our darling daughter was due yesterday, but she's still enjoying her womb-nursery and hasn't made any moves to join us out here yet)... we have some wooden puzzles and wood stacking rings, some organic stuffed animals.. and that's it. I figure clay and an easel are essential, but beyond that, I'm totally with you. Creativity and "toys" in the natural world will be plenty. The plastic light-up, noise-making toys are too over-stimulating and creativity-smushing. Right on! Good luck with your plan, and I hope that we will be able to follow suit!

Unbalanced Reaction said...

This is fantastic! I have no kids yet, and I'm always shocked (sometimes appalled?) by the sheer number of toys my friends' kids have....and don't use.

Little Lovables said...

I have the same feelings as you regarding plastic junk toys. No matter how nicely we explained this to well meaning grandparents, they thought it was ludicris and abtually tripled the amount of toys they bought.

So, it gets rather difficult trying to maintain this when they keep buying your kid piles of upon piles of toys.

We finally told the grandparents about getting trains, blocks or books would be helpful instead, but it was a struggle and a sore spot for a long while.