Well, the hype of Christmas is beginning to fade and new toys are beginning to mix in with the old ones, only to be soon forgotten. Before it was too late, I wanted to share our convictions on toys and perhaps shed some light on the reasonings behind our particular choices.
My husband and I have opted to do our best to steer clear of most plastic, battery-operated toys. We prefer beautiful wooden or plush cloth toys. We have chosen this route for several reasons:
-Imagination & Creativity - Wooden toys do not do all the work for you. A child must employ their creativity and imagination to bring it to life. Where does a child's imagination go when all their toys do it for them? A battery-operated rocking horse that whinnies, rocks, turns it's head, and swishes it's tail? How can the child imagine and create it's own character for that horse when the horse does it all for them? Wooden and plush toys are simpler. They require imagination. And imagination brews a wonderfully creative, witty, brilliant child.
-Safety & Health - The majority of mainstream plastic toys are actually made of PVC which is laden with harmful toxins like phthalates. With a teething infant, where do most toys go? Her mouth. Here is one article from Mothering magazine (one of my faves!) on this very topic. Or, just Google 'phthalates' to learn it's affects on human health. We have even chosen to give Vienne all organic pure rubber pacifiers...these are the coolest pacifiers out there! They are one piece so there are no crevices for bacteria to grow and every part of it is soft and chewable when she is learning to insert into her own mouth.
-Creating a Peaceful Home - This may be more of a selfish reason on our part, but we do not want our main living spaces cluttered w/piles of neon-colored, loud, plastic crap....that most likely rarely gets used. It is sad to me when I walk into a home and their main living space is over-taken by shelves of toys, plastic pink play houses, a matchbox car race track...every corner inhabited by loud obnoxious toys. Talk about over-stimulation! Mark and I do not like clutter...we cannot function around it. How does a child learn? Focus? With sooo many toys, sooo many options, sooo much noise and stuff going on...I just don't understand how they are able to settle down, imagine, create, and learn.
-Environment - Wooden toys last forever! Plastic toys with batteries often break or eventually stop working. Obviously, when a wooden toy is recycled it is safer on the environment. We know plastics and batteries are not. 'nough said.
-Simplicity and minimalism - We are minimalists...or we are, at least, trying to be so. I've already learned with having just an infant so far, that babies and children do not need much to entertain themselves. Vienne already gets bored w/her toys and would much rather prefer the tupperware in the cabinet, a small cardboard box, a scarf, her shoe...you know what I mean. Don't you? Haven't you found that your children are much more entertained by the things that are not toys? So, why fill your house with extra unneeded clutter?
I've also learned that in making these rules for our home, people are more careful and thoughtful in what they buy for Vienne. It's not just any random cheap toy from the Toys-R-Us aisles that will break in a few short months or never get used. If a friend or family has opted to buy her a toy, it is usually just one very nice beautiful wooden piece that was thoughtfully chosen and will last forever, to be cherished as that one special toy that Grandma or Auntie bought for her. You know what I mean? Wooden or nice plush toys are a bit more pricey...which helps to keep the collection small, keeping the clutter and over-stimulation to a minimum. And, that has greatly helped in keeping our goal for simplicity.
As the collection of toys inevitably will grow through the coming years, Mark and I have also established a goal for recycling toys to help keep things at a minimum and to help inspire a heart for giving. So, our current 'goal' is to establish a rule for new toys that come into the house. At Christmas time or birthdays, for every new toy that is received we will aim to choose a few old toys to give away to either a children's home, our church, or a resale shop. We hope to make it a 'fun' event of sharing and blessing others. Hope is the key word. We know that we must be realistic in our goals, but all goals are a challenge and we are determined to try and make this one work. Guess, I'll have to report back as Vienne grows and as I grow my family through the coming years!
Now, I must make one disclaimer before I post this: All of this does not mean that our home is completely free of plastic toys. No. We still will receive gifts and let Vienne play with them for a short while. We are not completely radically unrealistic!
Here are a few more sources that I've randomly selected that offer great info on natural toys:
Mothering Magazine - Wonderful articles for natural mothering
Babies Online - One of many found articles on natural toys