Play is important to us. In fact, it’s more than important. On a par with eating and sleeping, I would say, play is a necessary, vital part of our life. And so, over the years we have tried to surround ourselves with the loveliest sorts of things to play with.
I’ve been quite careful with toys entering the house, tending to focus on quality over quantity, and wood/sustainable/natural products over plastic. We’ve been very blessed and been gifted some wonderful collections of toys, and if the girls have wanted plastic toys, such as Duplo, Lego, or Playmobil, we’ve always bought them secondhand on ebay, giving that plastic a second lease of life.
But I’ve noticed that it’s always the same items that they return to again and again -always the simple, natural, wooden pieces that allow the imagination to expand and creativity to flow unheeded. Items that don’t dictate the play, don’t limit the imagination and can be used in multiple ways. Items that feel beautiful in the hand and are visually soothing and satisfying. So beautiful in fact that they don’t get tumbled into baskets and popped on a shelf, but are displayed, for all to see and reach for when required.
We’re very lucky to have a playroom (which we call “The Garden Room”) so toys, and collections of things, can be kept on open shelves, some in wicker baskets, easily to hand whenever they are needed, allowing play to be the free-flowing, spontaneous part of life that it needs to be.
When Bod10 was tiny I discovered Myriad Toys, who stock a wonderful range of gorgeous gorgeous natural toys, many inspired by the Steiner-Waldorf tradition. Most of our best loved, favourite, most treasured toys come from here:
These toys are simply beautiful in every sense of the word, beautiful to look at, touch, hold, feel and smell. (I can’t personally vouch for how they taste but having a gnaw has been an inevitable part of each child’s babyhood 😉 ) And these are toys that are open-ended, that kindle creativity and allow it to glow.
More recently we bought a Brett balance board – another wonderful item, beautiful in it’s simplicity, with a myriad of uses, some yet to be explored. This was ostensibly bought for Bod7 who is a child who needs to move all the time, finds it hard to be still and finds sitting on a chair challenging at times. I thought it would provide her with a soothing motion when she is feeling “loopy” (her word to describe those moments!) and might also ‘contain’ her movement, especially during story time, when her whirling and twirling can sometimes be distracting for others. (If left to her own devices, we often find that mugs miraculously fly off tables and pictures fall off walls!)
It also acts as a table or stool and has been useful for grounding her – she can sit at it when writing, reading, or eating with her legs stretched out underneath. But of course, it has many other, much more creative uses – as a boat, a bed, a door, a tent, a burrow, a slide, a hill – you name it, it’s been it.
Of course some of our toys aren’t “toys” in the conventional sense. We have a basket of marbles, a basket of precious stones and crystals, and a collection of stones that we picked up on the beach with letters/sounds marked on them, a basket of shells, a collection of pine cones, a basket of “nins” – little wooden peg people that can be just anyone or anything you wish them to be, a wooden tree stump that was supposed to be a pot plant holder that makes a wonderful tree home for animals, fairies and gnomes. All get used in wonderfully creative ways in the play worlds that the girls create.
Ever since they were little the girls have loved Schleich animals – a German company that make beautiful, realistic, hand painted animal and fantasy figurines. As the bigger Bods have grown older they have started to collect pieces from different Schleich ranges – Bod10 amassing the horses and Bayala, and Bod7 whatever takes her fancy.
These days no Christmas or Birthday is complete without a small addition to the collection. The Schleich range is made from plastic, but they are very hard-wearing, and the detail in the painting and proportions is superb. The girls love that they look so real, are beautiful to look at and feel solid to play with. Whilst they are plastic, I know that these toys are loved and will continue on in our family for generations to come…
…and that, I suppose, is part of what makes all these toys so special – that timeless quality they have, the magic you sense as you hold them in your hands, knowing and witnessing the wonderful adventures your children have with them, knowing that one day maybe your grandchildren and great-grandchildren too will hold them in their tiny hands and magical worlds will unfold for them – knowing that the play will continue on through the years. For these are not “toys of their time”, pertinent only to a particular popular TV series or fad, that will fall out of fashion and be condemned to a landfill site. But these are “toys of all time” – their appeal unending and everlasting.
Our home ed rhythm incorporates a lot of time for play (more on this another day!) and so it’s vitally important to us to have a beautiful range of toys and objects that inspire and fulfill this essential element of our lives. Toys are the tools of play and as D.W.Winnicott famously said,
“It is in playing and only in playing, that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self”.
Each purchase is conscious and considered for it will in some part shape our world. So today I spent a very happy hour with a cuppa and the Myriad catalogue planning this year’s birthday purchases 🙂 …
What’s does play look like in your home and what are your favourite toys?