Thursday, 4 March 2010

Being Creative with Toys

Toys can be great fun for children. They can provide amusement and be educational. However, they can be expensive and they can take up a lot of space in your home. Inevitably, you'll have some toys that your child never plays with and it can be hard sometimes to know what they will really get hours of enjoyment from, when you are staring at shelves of toys in a shop. This post talks about a few ways you can be a bit creative with toys, enabling your child to play with a variety of things, develop their exploratory side and yet not requiring you to buy and store lots of new toys.

My son has recently discovered the contents of one our kitchen cupboards. Conveniently it has little plastic containers in that I used to use for storing his pureed baby food when he was younger and they don't get used now. They're small, they're unbreakable and they are within easy reach when you open the cupboard, so are perfect for him to take out, play with and then put back. I remember a Mummy Zen reader once mentioned in a comment that she had set aside a cupboard in the kitchen for her child in which there were some things to play with and I thought that was a nice idea. I guess that has sort of happened but without me planning it!

You often hear how children enjoy playing with ordinary things around the house, sometimes more than their own toys. I've mentioned before that my son has enjoyed playing with cardboard boxes and he also likes flipping the pages of  magazines and playing with random articles of clothing he finds. The site Simple Mom, back in 2008 listed these 11 cheap (and free) toys for young children:

1. Egg cartons.
2. Chalk.
3. Water and cups.
4. Paper and safety scissors
5. Dried beans or rice.
5. Toilet paper or paper towel tubes.
6. Old clean socks.
7. Washed out empty food containers.
8. Balloons.
9. Books.
10. Paper and crayons.
11. A cardboard box.

Myself and a group of mums and toddlers meet in a space we hire out for an hour and a half one afternoon each week. We all bring a few toys with us and then all the children play with each others toys and have space to crawl and run around. It's been great in the cold weather when we can't get outside to play. My son always enjoys it and loves getting to play with toys he doesn't have at home and that are very different to things he does have. The other children are the same. It's a simple way to share toys amongst friends and sometimes if a particular child develops a strong attachment to a certain toy, the owner of it  will usually suggest to the child's mother that they take it home for the week.

That brings me onto toy libraries. A local playgroup near us operates a toy library once a week. You borrow toys for a week and everyone's very generous about bringing toys for lending too. It means your child can try out toys you don't have at home without you having to spend any money.

With the cost and clutter associated with toys, it's good to be a bit creative with them. It's easy to do, either by encouraging play with things around the house such as those in the list from Simple Mom above or by lending and borrowing toys amongst friends or using a toy library. These methods can provide all kinds of fun for your children whilst you avoid accumulating more stuff in your home and save money too.

What kinds of things around the house have your children taken to playing with? Do have lots of toys at home or have you got rid of things your child's grown out of and no longer plays with?


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