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Rethinking The Toy Box- How to Create a Home Filled with Safe, Natural Toys, More or Less

Posted Aug 26 2008 11:36pm

As parents panic about safe toys this year, they have yet another worry….toys will be harder to find and higher priced! For many parents this will mean rethinking their whole approach to toys.

Around the time my DS was 2, when I finally settled on my current not-quite crunchy parenting style, I started to rid my home of most of the plastic, electronic and character oriented toys I had purchased in my naivety. Now, it seems many parents may find themselves doing the same.

Parents of young children have an easier time of it. Not yet addicted to TV – or at least without the developmental skills necessary to scream “I want that toy for Christmas” after every commercial, parents can sneakily clear out at least a majority of the offending plastic toys. But, it's not a lost cause if kids are older.

Happily, we are entering the holiday season when replacing those toys should be easy – at least friends and relatives will help bear the financial cost of replacing the supply. The question might be however- what to buy - here's some ideas!

Based on classic child development theories, a child needs open ended toys that stimulate imagination geared to their age. There is no evidence that just about any toy that requires a battery offers any additional learning benefits. So, avoid batteries, avoid plastic – what’s left?

For infants to one year olds

Wooden and fabric Mirrors
Wooden and fabric Mobiles
Wooden and fabric Rattles and teething toys
Wooden Instruments
Board and fabric books
Wooden and metal/fabric push toys- trucks, walkers, strollers

For one to two year olds

Waldorf and soft fabric Dolls
Wooden Cars/trucks/airplanes vehicles
More complex instruments
Lift-the flap books
Small wooden and fabric play figures – generic not a specific character
Wooden train sets
Nesting toys

Two- three years

Metal sand toys
Ceramic and tea sets
Wooden bowls and metal silverware
Wooden food
Metal pots and pans
Dress up costumes and lots of silks, natural fabric swaths, etc.
Start your block collection with a basic “unit block set”
Wooden puzzles both 2 and three dimensional – lots of trucks…cars available
Wooden play sets
Doll house and furniture- (firehouse for boys if someone in the family has ‘issues” with a dollhouse)
Metal cars/trucks, etc.
Picture books

Three – five

All sorts of art supplies
Clay or homemade play dough
Easy board and card games
Wooden Building toys – Lincoln Logs, Tinkertoys …more blocks
Beginning Chapter books
Picture books

Above I’ve listed categories of toys for each age group. One trick that we have learned is to pick one or two categories each Christmas and birthday and build around that.

Since many relatives and friends haven’t the foggiest what to buy and many natural toys need to be ordered online, I’ve taken to using to build a “wish list” in one or two category of toys. This next lets you pull the items you want on your wish list from different retailers so it's great when you order from a variety of sites.

We often select a theme area or play set with accessories, such as the great ones from Plan Toys or Playmobil or Legos or building material Tinkertoys /blocks/ Lincoln Logs and ask various people to buy different parts. This year, since I've started to start shopping early, The hamster has decided he wants Lego "City" building sets. (There are at least 50 different choices for folks to buy.) He also wants different peices from the Playmobil Roman set. Here there are fewer choices but there are also a lot of accessories that we can add on.

Last year we worked around a Plan Toys airport set and asked for die cast airplanes and airport vehicles as well. In time, using this method, we’ve been able to replace most of our plastic toys without due stress and screaming…

Someday I AM going to pitch that ridiculous, two foot, light up siren producing plastic helicopter I bought when he was just two!

Check out the Gessel Institute Books - Your One year-old, Your Two year old..., Your Six Year Old... etc. Besides being great guides to behavior and skills at each age they list recommended traditional, toys.

Read more of my posts on where and how to buy safe, developmentally appropriate toys here!

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