Born into an artistic family, I have, from an early age, learned to love and cherish the creative process with its ups and downs and often surprising results. Having only a limited number of ready-made toys, my family would use different materials found all around our house to make our own toys. My grandmother would collect scraps of cloth and sew dolls for me and my brother, while old shoeboxes and drawers would serve as doll house furniture. As I grew up, I began to make toys myself, transforming old woolen sweaters into blankets and capes for my dolls and digging up clay from our backyard to make figurines and beads. Looking back, I am very grateful to my grandmother for teaching us to view even the tiniest and seemingly useless piece of cloth as a possible prompt for exploration and inspiring us to follow our own fantastic imaginations in our play.
Today everything aims at providing the most realistic experience, with mass-produced toys overflowing with life-like details, thus, totally dismissing the need for imagination. Toys with specific pre-determined functions utilize electronic features such as light, sound, and motors to engage the child, usually making him or her the passive spectator. But, as research has shown, it is very important for the child to actively participate in his own play, to complete a toy using his own imagination, which, in turn, plays a key factor in his social, moral, and physical development. Thus, for example, tying a silk scarf around the shoulders as a cape or placing it on the floor and playing among its folds as if it were a river allow the child to explore the world around him and communicate his feelings in a stress-free environment. Such open-ended toys also allow the child to adapt the toy to whatever game or situation he most relates to at that moment, again aiding in the development of not only his imagination but also his relationship with the adult world.
Natural materials such as silk, wool, and wood also provide a very different tactile experience from the plastic usually used for manufactured toys. Besides the comfort and warmth afforded by the natural materials, there is a great variety of textures available for the child to explore, further aiding his development, as opposed to the relatively uniform texture and unnatural coolness of plastic. Moreover, natural toys minimize the child’s exposure to harmful toxins which are abundant in mass-produced plastic toys. Especially dangerous are the dioxins contained in #3 PVC plastics, the Bisphenol-A (BPA) added to #7 plastics to make them rigid, and the synthetic dyes, containing heavy metals, used to produce bright, saturated colors. All of these are considered to be some of the most toxic poisons known to man, and now imagine the harm such chemicals can inflict on the developing body and brain of a child at this especially critical stage of his life.
We as parents should try to resist this new technological impulse, not giving into the temptation of using television and computers to keep our children busy but encouraging natural play. Encourage them to spend more time outside, maybe even helping you with yard-work such as raking and gardening, which provides them with inspiration for their own future games and symbolic play. Chose simple toys and teach them various crafts, all of which develop their imagination as well as offer loads of fun.
This beautiful article was brought to you by Daria. She sells her beautiful dolls and natural children’s items in her Etsyshop NobbyOrganics.