Kids have been known to sometimes opt for playing with the box a toy came in, turning it into all sorts of resourceful constructions, much to the dismay of the gift giver.
Playing with ordinary things like boxes that can be turned into countless other items just by adding a little imagination actually encourages free play, which is important in all stages of growth. A lot of money can be wasted on toys with good intentions, only to find the pieces quickly get lost or it is set aside after just a few minutes.
While it doesn’t take fancy toys to stimulate a developing mind, think about what the toy claims to do and whether or not it is backed up by any research or pertinent data, or if it is just misleadingly packaged. Play is a wonderful opportunity to introduce meaningful concepts that can be applied to daily life. When selecting a toy, don’t underestimate kids. They are clever and can handle stronger themes relevant in today’s world. Toys that model environmental and social awareness provide more than just playtime.
Recycling is a great practice to pick up at any age. Toys made from recycled materials or upcycled merchandise can be found to suit any interest. It is thought-provoking to learn how things that may have been tossed aside can be turned into other usable objects. Plus, children and adults alike find it interesting that things like bags can be made from recycled juice boxes or water bottles can be turned into plentiful other things, like toys.
Wooden toys come in countless varieties and can be used to teach the importance of conservation if made from sustainable woods. Choosing products that are ecologically accountable can promote the notion that where things come from and how they are made are as important as the toy itself. Also, quality made wooden items often last longer than cheaply made plastic things, making them a good investment.
With tons of toys on the market that seemingly encourage questionable play, like pretend violence, it is increasingly important to provide toys that teach responsible global citizenship and empathy. These are a great way to foster a sense of social conscience and are springboards for character education activities. Books and games are an endless source of informative possibilities. Also, world globes and maps can be purchased in many formats, and are visual ways to provide a world perspective. Toys that promote learning about one’s own as well as other cultures are also ideal ways to cultivate ethical principles.
Being wise about the power of play is important and choosing playthings that will sustain developing minds as well as be entertainingly educational are essential. If ever in doubt about buying a toy though, you can always delay the purchase, do a little research and in the meantime use the tried and true trick of breaking out a cardboard box with unlimited creativity as the only rule. Hours of entertainment are included, and it is undoubtedly a fun way to reuse!
Hardwicke, S. October, 2003. What Makes an Educational Toy? Retrieved from: ToyDirectory.com