A while back a friend’s FB status went something along the lines of “Ah open-ended toys. So beautiful. So multifarious. So very expensive.”
This made me sad. While I was able to share some ideas with her about “loose parts play“, I had to admit that the most beautiful open-ended toys are generally quite expensive. I’ve been following the most beautiful Grimms’ toys on my IG feed and have terrible #toyenvy when I see the elaborate creations, marble runs, Noah’s arks, car garages and obstacle courses built with these positively beautiful, masterfully crafted wooden shapes in rainbow colours. I would love to support them through our business and for our family,but buying a set of imported wooden “blocks” for R5-7K just seems totally crazy!
So what is the rationale behind acquiring expensive toys for our children? Aren’t our homes cluttered enough?
1. Make space for beautiful and durable toys
I recently saw a post on IG by a mom who has totally bought into the concept of wooden toys, and open-ended play. Before Christmas she cleared out their toy room of anything plastic other than Lego. She created an absolutely beautiful space, with wooden blocks, a play kitchen and various other toys which allow for creativity without giving the child too many ideas as to how each toy “should” be played with. The idea of open-ended play is that the possibilities are infinite. The child develop their play ideas according to their level of what occupational therapists like to call “Creative Ability”. Creative Ability is a very proudly South African concept as one of the pioneers in the field developed the theory of understanding what an individual is capable of doing at each stage of development. Just give the same blocks to a 1-, 2- and 4-year old and watch in amazement as they play.
2. Support green manufacturing processes
Open-ended toys should definitely last throughout childhood, and when not compromising on quality the manufacturers go to great lengths to ensure durability as well as adhere to international safety standards. The amount of energy that goes into production of a toy should be proportional to the use that the child will get out of it, thereby reducing waste and at the same time using our planet’s resources responsibly. Did you know that Moluk’s toys, although plastic, are considered green?
Moluk has been featured at Design Week Milan and were part of Play It Green, an exhibition by afilii about sustainable toys during Kind & Jugend Fair in Cologne. Sustainability has always been an essential concern when they develop toys. They use recyclable plastics and avoid any painted parts or composite materials. No PVC, no phthalates, no BPA. The resources and energy it takes to produce a toy always stand in relation to the play value and years of use you get out of it. Moluk toys have a stellar track record in this regard and a minimal ecological footprint
3. Think SIMPLE or rather don’t think at all
Despite my background I made some rookie mistakes this weekend when planning a space adventure party for my kids. Essentially still toddlers and two years apart in age, I had many crafty activities planned which required too much adult assistance, too many steps to follow, too much dexterity and too much structure. At one point I found myself a little exasperated amongst the chaotic squeals of kids around me. But everyone was having a great time. I realised afresh that kids just crave freedom to be kids, to explore some new materials and create at their own pace, and to have the safety of a familiar adult nearby but one who does not interfere.
4. You don’t need big bucks for your kids to have big ideas
On Sunday, when all the friends had gone home and we were left with play materials that needed to be packed away, they were much more ready to be creative in the space that had been created. And this space did not require fancy toys or a large budget. They just needed time, a place where they could explore at their own pace, and the freedom to do it.
5. Clear out those junky bits and pieces
Whose joining me in clearing out for a fresh start to 2019, #mariekondomeetsstraightzigzag style?