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Simplified Childhood Play

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The holidays are fast approaching and this time of year always makes me evaluate our clutter situation. I am one of those people who react to clutter with anxiety. I’ve been this way since I was a child and always valued order in my space.

No matter how much I try to keep up on it, stuff always accumulates and my kids are tremendous culprits of accumulation. I have always been drawn to Waldorf or Montessori type education and play environments. I really like the idea of a simplistic play area, with a few, good quality, open-ended toys.

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I truly believe children are here to play, they develop key life skills through play. They establish emotional health, intellectual health, problem-solving and social connections. I think about myself and my “clutter-anxiety” and realize that when a kid is overwhelmed in their play area they are unable to decide what to do and essentially can’t tap their natural creativity and exploration.

In today’s society, we are bombarded with advertisements and toys that are “educational” and claim to “develop” your child.  In our home, the majority (not all– we do have some noisy plastic ones) of our toys are open-ended, classic, simple toys.

I also rotate them every few months to keep the variety engaging. My kids tend are less likely to stay focused and calm when overwhelmed with things, noises, or overstimulation. I find the classic toys are the ones that are used the most and never seem to end up lost in the house, and are wonderful for teaching.

I’ve mentioned in other posts, we have a pretty nice rhythm in our home for how the days go, we also fit in time for outdoor play and take our time during the day for exploration. We try to limit the “rush-rush” feeling when going from point A to point B and we also limit screens, although they do have their place from time to time.

I know I thrive in a simplified space, if my desk is cluttered, I can’t produce optimally so I just think about how my ideal environment looks and try to bring that in for my kid’s play area.

Before I pull out the holiday decor, so I will do my winter inventory and rotation to see what is best serving the kids in their current phases. I’ll share a few of our favorite toys in the links below. Everything I am sharing is non-toxic and eco-friendly.

  1. Balance Board– This is a great one for our toddler. He can use it in many ways– to get his energy out, to make ramps for his cars or even a slide from his bed.
  2. Grimm’s Rainbow– This is a beautiful toy and handmade in Germany. It stimulates creatively, and visually and really triggers the imagination.
  3. Uncle Goose Classic Blocks– These are played with daily. They are a great size, we’ve used them to teach letters, colors, numbers, animals, or open-ended building and playing. As the baby starts to explore her world more, I’m seeing her gravitate toward these blocks.
  4. Manhattan Toy Skwish Classic– This is another that is played with daily by both the toddler and the baby. It is a teether, a rattle, teaches colors, is a ball. It covers many bases and is very sturdy.
  5. Waldorf Doll– These are wonderful first cuddle toys. They are soft, open-ended because the face is basic and not “telling” the child what the face looks like. My oldest son had a doll similar to this that was his friend for many years, and I’m glad to buy one for the youngest this holiday season.

I work to keep our toys organized in 3 baskets in a shelving unit and my rotations are at least seasonally (sometimes more often) and we have a basket of books in both the bedroom and play area that I change every month or so. These things keep our overwhelm at a minimum, and the kids active and engaged.