My children are now 4 and 7 years old as of this writing. That is how I define younger children, I guess. They are growing much faster than I would like them to, and they have gone through several toys over their short lifetime. Since we live in a relatively small apartment of two rooms, I have had to sift through some toys quite a number of times.
While I am surely thankful for gifts and blessings from friends and family, the constant accumulation of “stuff” is an unpleasant habit that I am desperately trying to break free from. My family and I do not have the luxury of my parent’s place back in the province where storage is very much available. So I’ve narrowed down our favorites throughout the years. These toys are not flashy. The classic brick and mortar toys are always good in my book. All these toys or materials provide open-ended play, which is what I wish to foster in my children in the first place.
Top 5 Favorite Toys for Younger Children
My children weren’t that much into wooden blocks, perhaps because we don’t have space for those beautiful but bulky Grimm’s block toys. But they both love Lego. They’ve slowly shifted from the big Duplo blocks to the regular sized ones more recently.
A more sustainable option will be made available soon by the Lego company. But since these plastics last a long while, I’ll be happy to pass it on to another family who will certainly appreciate the sturdiness of the blocks as well as encourage open-ended play.
Costumes and Masks
We read beautiful poems and epic tales. So one thing I made sure to provide my children aside from rich literature is costumes and masks for endless ideas. Having these materials help them live or play out the characters they have heard about or make up their own along the way. I sometimes make a joke about them being “weird and uncivilized homeschoolers” because of the content of their pretend play. There was a time when they were playing peregrine falcon and the pigeon prey, and the other time, it was Beowulf and Grendel. More recently, it was Voldemort sucking out blood from the unicorn. I’d like to believe that these stories feed their moral imagination.
Tales are important. But toys matter, too.
Dolls, Stuffed Toys and Animal Figures
Since my children are big on pretend play, they naturally need more characters. So dolls and stuffed toys become part of their stories. Animal figures like Schleich and Safari minis become creatures of my son’s crafted world.
And if that isn’t weird enough, my children create plays and invite us to watch them. We are the audience, along with their toys. This is very March siblings of Little Women of us, except that boys are very much included, just like Laurie.
Pretend Play Toys
If masks aren’t enough, I provide swords and capes for them to play with in their big costume tub. They also like their cooking and doctor toys. Again, more open-ended play.
Pen and Paper
And for a bit of down time, pen and paper is always a constant in our play room. If they do not have a certain, they create it with paper and tape and scissors. This is particularly true when some toys are in “toy jail.” I apply this disciplinary action when they haven’t packed away toys after informing them for a number of times already. They know this. We don’t apply discipline without a proactive teaching and training. After a few weeks and even months in the “toy jail,” however, the children learn to treasure the play things. Sometimes they become altogether “brand new,” if you know whatI mean.
I provide a steady supply of pens, coloring materials, and paper in our homeschool room. My son enjoys drawing different forms of chimera and he uses paper to come up with 3D creatures too. My daughter is much the same way with her paper dolls and dresses.
On Screens and Sibling Fights
Our family does have a moderate collection of game boards. But my children haven’t gotten a hang of it as much as they’ve loved the other things I’ve listed here. They love pretend play.
We are not an entirely “no TV” family, but homeschool days are designated screen-free days. We encourage screen free time as opposed to immersing ourselves in it.
My children’s play doesn’t always end with fun, either. Fights and frenzies are much to be had with siblings, of course. But it’s something that they need to learn to deal and walk with as they grow in this so-called life, and us parents help them along the way.