Google+ Authentic Parenting: Toys, Play and a Harmonious Home, Part 1 – Toys

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Toys, Play and a Harmonious Home, Part 1 – Toys

written by Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama

This post is a part of a three piece series about creating harmonious play areas in your home. Read more over the weeks to follow.

In my circle of friends, there seems to be two types of homes. There is the peaceful, joyful home where mama and child(ren) are living together in a harmonious relationship with a rhythmical flow. Then there is the chaotic, boisterous, topsy-turvy home where mama and child(ren) seem to be at constant odds with each other, engaged in a never ending battle of the wills. Even before I had a child of my own, I saw a direct correlation between the level of harmony in the home and the types of toys available to the children along with the opportunity for meaningful play. I am not suggesting that this alone was the end-all reason why a home was peaceful or not. There is a lot more involved in peaceful parenting than toys and play. However, there was a noticeable impact. Now that I am mothering an almost two year old, I am experiencing firsthand how toys and play can aid me in my journey to peacefully parent my daughter and create the most warm, loving environment possible.

Beneath the Rowan Tree
First – I am a big believer in and proponent of natural toys. When selecting a toy or play item, I close my eyes and physically engage myself in really feeling the toy. I try to feel it with a fresh set of hands. Does the toy feel warm and inviting like a smooth wooden block or a slick stone? Or, does it feel harsh and sharp, like most of the plastic toys thrust upon our children these days? Does the toy allow for the child’s imagination to run wild with possibility? Or, does the toy have all kinds of over-stimulating bells and whistles that simply mesmerize the child for 30 seconds? Children under the age of five are so very sensitive and selecting toys is quite frankly something that parents need to do with great care. Toys that allow for visual, physical and mental stimulation while at the same time not over-stimulating delicate senses is of great importance. An over-stimulated child grabbing this toy and that toy and tossing them about will be more challenging to parent peacefully. A child who is engaged in creative play with a few simple pastel play silks and natural wooden toys will certainly be more of a joy to interact with.

I have had friends comment that my daughter is deprived of educational opportunities since I do not let her play with plastic toys and toys that encourage learning. Quite frankly, I think that she is experiencing childhood how it was meant to be experienced and that is through the use of her own imagination and free will. A toy that sings the alphabet, tells you what time it is, and shares the colors of the rainbow does absolutely nothing to feed a child’s imagination. An imagination left uncultivated means a child who will become easily bored as he or she moves into their fourth and fifth year. This means that said child will require constant stimulation either from more expensive, educational toys, or will constantly be wearing on mom’s nerves with “I’m bored” comments. Personally, I would rather see my daughter play with a sturdy, wooden flat bed truck that can serve as a fire engine, a farm truck, a delivery truck, and the like rather than some brightly painted plastic red fire engine that can only be a fire engine! Toys that inspire creative play will feed a child’s soul for hours. A well nourished soul helps keep a home harmonious.

Jennifer's daughter and doll
Please do not think that I am accusing anyone of being a bad parent if they have plastic toys and lots of them! Heck, even we have a couple of plastic toys. My dear friend gave my daughter a tea set and she LOVES it! I have no problem with her playing with it because it does engage her imagination. So certainly, do not go out and replace every plastic toy you have with natural wooden toys. This is not feasible for most families nor would it be healthy to rip your child away from all of their beloved treasures. What I am suggesting is that you limit the number of toys available to your children, rotate them, and create a family centered play area for your children. I am also suggesting that when you add to your child’s toy collection, you select well crafted natural pieces that will grow with your child. A wooden play kitchen is one such item that is well worth the expense. This can be used from the time a child is about 18 months old and will remain a central play item for a good ten years. The kitchen’s purpose will evolve as your child’s imaginative abilities grow. In addition, a doll made from natural materials with simple facial features is invaluable for both girls and boys. A doll without over exaggerated facial features and expressions leaves a lot to the child’s imagination!

Mothering a child or multiple children is tough even on the best day. I believe that consumerism has burdened mothers unnecessarily by convincing us that our children NEED every newfangled toy with all of the bells and whistles. In my observations and experience, more toys and toys that do not open a child’s mind simply lead to boredom, toy fatigue, a disengaged mind, and chaos. For those of us trying to balance motherhood with daily life, we need to embrace every opportunity available to keep our home calm and rhythmical.

Yours in Peace, Love, and Mothering,

Jennifer

About Hybrid Rasta Mama
Jennifer is a former government recruiter turned stay-at-home mama to a precious daughter brought earthside in early 2009. She believes in the importance of having a strong network of support. She's been active both in my local La Leche League and Attachment Parenting chapters. She's a mentor and contributing blogger with the Natural Parents Network and a contributor on Job Description: Mommy.
Why Hybrid Rasta Mama?  I take a little of this and a little of that and blend it all together into something that works for me, my daughter, and my husband. I am a voracious reader and researcher and have read an extensive amount of literature about parenting. I consider myself very well informed about the pros and cons of all the different philosophies and approaches out there. Read more on my blog Hybrid Rasta Mama. You can also find me on Facebook. .


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5 comments:

  1. The burden on us is also much less when we go simpler/more authentic in our choice of toys! Thanks for pointing to this! (I am cleaning up :-) )

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  2. I love this post. I only wish I had read it 13 years ago when my oldest was a baby. I have recently embraced this idea about toys and my 5 year old is benefiting from it.

    I got rid of bags and bags of toys. He has a lot less, but the ones he has are GOOD. His play has improved and life IS calmer.

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  3. Wise parents should think about what foundation is being laid by the toys that are given to their kids. And n my case, fewer toys means more reading in our home.

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  4. I hope you have a nice day! Very good article, well written and very thought out. I am looking forward to reading more of your posts in the future. MyKidsGuide

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  5. My oldest son loves his 900 gazillion (no exaggeration) Legos. I have considered changing them out for more natural, *and fewer* "learning" toys for my own peace of mind, but he uses them every. single. day. He mixes and matches the sets, and pulls instruction manuals up online to see if he can make new characters from the parts he currently has. I just need to help him come up with a good way for organizing them, so they don't drive me crazy, and a way for myself to help him use them as learning toys, though he does a pretty good job on his own. Ooh, I like the comment above about fewer toys means more reading. Maybe I could sit with my son and have him create stories about his creations and I could take dictation for him (he is only 5).

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