I had the opportunity to spend the day with these 2 cuties recently! At the age of 1 they are interested in everything and ready to explore. They were great toy testers!
I decided to set up a simple play area for them. I wanted to include many natural materials, while making it fun and engaging, yet simple.
I am a huge advocate of minimalism when it comes to toys….. now my craft supplies and books are another story! My daughter may occasionally give me grief that many of her friends have playrooms full of toys, but the fact that her 6 year old brother sat in a wheel-barrel of dirt the other day happily playing with nothing but a stick for an hour, gives me such satisfaction. OK, maybe that sounds totally weird and doesn’t appeal to everyone…..but I announce our weirdness to tell you that the experts are right on this one.
According to www.becomingminimalist.com, kids with fewer toys are more creative, have longer attention spans, argue less, take better care of things, experience more nature (as seen in photo below), become more resourceful (as seen below), and are more social. The last one makes me laugh because my sweet boy is SUPER social, but sitting in a wagon talking to a stick for an hour certainly doesn’t sell that point well. (Some serious laughter going on over here.)
OK, back to the good stuff. What should you include in your child’s play space?
Don’t feel like you have to create a picture perfect play-space or spend a fortune. A simple blanket on the floor, some thrift store silk scarfs, an empty oatmeal container to satisfy the desire to fill and dump, a few library books and your child’s favorite toys in a basket will be perfect! They really don’t need much. What toys they do have, will be un-touched half of the day in search of what is under your kitchen cabinets or to push buttons and slobber on the remote. TRUTH. However, if you are looking to add some select items to your play space, I am apart of a wonderful online community of crafters and I am going to link up to some highly recommended shops.
Guidelines for Choosing Toys for Toddlers
(some of these tips are from the website Zero to Three)
- Select toys that encourage exploration and problem-solving. Toys that give kids a chance to figure something out on their own—or with a little coaching, are great for building problem-solving skills. Stick with open ended toys that can used in a variety of ways.
We used play silks and napkins rings in our space!
Napkin rings are great because they can be stacked or lined up. Toddlers can also begin the process of stringing a silk scarf through the rings. There is so much hand-eye coordination and thinking that can go on with a simple open ended set like this. The large size peg people, (see picture below), are also perfect for taking in and out of the rings! These guys aren’t quite old enough for some of those task, but luckily these toys are great for teething too! A nice block set would also be a great option to give you years of hands-on creative play!
We love playsilks for open-ended play!
What is a playsilk? Renee Kitchen of KitchenDyeworks says~ “Playsilks are a wonderful toy for open-ended play…they can be used as blankets, bandannas, capes, curtains, doll carriers, doll hammocks, costumes, skirts, flags, anything your child can imagine, they can become! They’re also a wonderful addition to your Waldorf nature table and can be used as water, grass, ice, dirt, or any other surface your child can imagine!”
I have personally seen the many uses in my own kids who have been using silks since they were little. Our favorite size is 35″ x 35″.
The twins can totally agree! They love the silks as snuggle buddies to fall asleep and they are so much fun for peek-a-boo!
Montessori-re store is a wonderful place to shop for open-ended wooden toys and beautifully crafted sets.
Check out this napkin ring and scarf set she offers!
2. Look for toys that spark your child’s imagination. Pretend play builds language and literacy skills. “Real-life” accessories such as a toilet paper roll “fire hose” for your little fire fighter or a large cardboard box are always a big hit for toddlers and are free. (Call an appliance store about picking up one of their refrigerator boxes). Boxes become houses, pirate ships, barns, tunnels—anything your child’s imagination can come up with! Other great choices are play dishes and food, toy keys, musical instruments, child-size brooms, mops, brushes and dustpans.
This is another great set from Montessori-re store that would fit this category.
3. Include wooden people, cars and animals. As a child’s imagination is growing these items will really extend their play. Just today my daughter was bored at her Grandpa’s house. She had been playing creatively with a set of blocks for an hour when she came over to us and requested people for her play. Grandpa took a wooden dowel and cut it into 2″ and 3″ sized pieces and off she went for another hour setting up her “people.” It was awesome. Your child will enjoy making animal sounds, pushing the cars around and pretending with the toy. Once again, keep it simple and rotate toys as needed. No need to take away favorites, but if your child seems bored with the play changing the toys or even the location of the play corner can make a huge difference.
Our wooden animals came from Wooden ya Play.
The vehicles are from Mama Made Them.
This natural seedlings doll is no longer made and next to impossible to find, but Mimi designs makes gorgeous dolls! Check out the organic teething doll here.
Below is a thrift store breadbox I used to store some of the kids wooden toys. It was perfect because they could take the toys in and out, use the top for play and then hide them all inside for clean-up!
4. Include various textures and sounds. We used silk, wood slices, and a wool rug to really allow for the twins to explore textures and satisfy those sensory needs. For sound we avoid toys that “perform” for the child with flashing lights and sounds. These can actually do more harm then good. Pots and pans with a spoon or a wooden instrument set are wonderful choices!
The twins had a ton of fun with this gourd drum set made by the talented Annie White. We also had a thrift store tambourine and rhythm stick. Another option would be this beautiful 7-piece instrument set.
5. BOOKS, of course books. Lots of them even! I have a weakness for books. I do however recommend that you keep only a few on display and facing forward. We have several areas in the house where we store books this way, and the rest are tucked in a basket. The ones on display definitely get read more by the kids.
I have these pallet shelves in several spots in our play/learning area. They are great for facing books forward for easy access.
I hope this guide was helpful! Coming soon ~ Setting up an outdoor play space!
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