Tuesday, May 9, 2017

On Open Ended Play - and - My Favorite Toy Companies

We are big about open-ended play around here! Given my past as an educator as well as research I have done on my own, I have strong opinions about toys and what is best for children. I am particular about what toys come into our home. As a result, I have found that our girls truly enjoys playing with their toys and are is learning to use their imaginations and creatively use toys at a very young age.

My general "rules" about what comes into our home are:

  1. Toys do not "play" for the child. We have only one which takes batteries - it's a stethoscope that makes a heart beat sound. I would prefer that they engage with a toy and make it do what they want  it to do rather than it having a pre-set number and type of activities which is does. Also, I find the sounds that come from most toys with batteries completely annoying - and if I have to listen to toys all day, I want to be hearing pleasant sounds. 
  2. Toys are not based on movie or tv characters. I very rarely even allow toys from books. I would rather the girls have a generic princess who can be any character they have read about, seen on a movie, or dream up in their mind. A licensed character is much harder to be creative with. 
  3. Toys are made from high quality materials. Wherever possible, this means wood. Wood toys have a beautiful aesthetic, they make pleasant sounds (as compared to many plastics), and they can last through lots of young child abuse love. However there are also some toys for which plastic just works well or better and for those toys we look for very high quality. 
  4. Fewer toys are better than more. I would rather pay more money to get a few of a high quality toy than have a whole bunch of toys which break or get ruined. This saves money and energy as we create less waste and have to shop for and re-purchase fewer toys due to not being able to take the abuse of playtime.
  5. They are pleasant to look at. For three reasons - 1) I have to look at them all the time and I appreciate pretty toys. 2) Our playroom is right inside our front door and we like the area to look nice and welcoming to company despite housing all of our toys. A most importantly 3) Beautiful toys are more pleasant and more inviting for children to play with.

Some of our favorite toy companies to purchase from (where most or all of their toys meet these requirements) include: 
  • Plan Toys (wood)
  • Hape (wood)
  • Green Toys (plastic made from recycled milk jugs) 
  • Schleich (high quality plastic animals)
  • Lego & Lego Duplos (plastic)
  • Haba (we love their games and cloth dolls)
  • IKEA (great prices on large wooden pieces)
  • Little Tikes (esp. for outdoor sports, climbing, riding toys)
  • Guidecraft (wood)

If you're looking for good, high-quality toys, a search on Amazon for these brands will reveal some of our very favorite toys! 

Do you have a favorite toy company that I missed or one I haven't heard of? I'd love to hear about it!!