Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Why Wooden Toys?

When I began planning my family nearly 17 years ago, I was drawn to many wonderful catalogues with many beautiful children's items. Still in the pre-Internet days, a lot of information could be learned from different children's catalogues and magazines. I love education, and knew I wanted to create an environment for my children that would encourage a love of learning. One of the trends at the time was the Black and White and Red items, which I did have, and the babies did enjoy, as well as other toys claiming to stimulate the young mind. Some of these toys were great, and I would incorporate them again if I had a younger child.

However one day, I was sitting in a nearby chair, watching my two children play amidst a sea of bright primary colored toys, and something about all the colors and plastics was chaotic, and unsettling. If I was feeling this way, maybe the babies were too. I had also been reading a book on healthy homes and knew that plastics might be made of material that was harmful. With the inspiration of a few books and toy catalogues that sold wooden toys as well as Waldorf and Montessori and natural parenting supplies, I decided it would be best to replace my kid's toys with more natural materials. Over the next few months I slowly replaced plastic toys with wooden toys, by the time my son turned two the switch was complete. I had simplified the play area with baskets of books, wooden blocks, various stacking and sorting toys, some wooden puzzles. The one exception to non-natural material toys were the beloved Schleich animals which we had collected one by one on each of our many trips to the zoo.

Over the next few years I discovered many other beautiful wooden toys, once we had Internet, a whole world (literally) opened up, and I was able to find amazing toys. One of our most beloved were the figures from Ostheimer, beautiful, and well worth the expense, I would encourage everyone to add some of these to their play area, as well as seasonal tables, and home decor. Most recently, Etsy has been a wonderful source of beautiful toys, as well as a great place to sell my own felt fairies and gnomes.

We had the joy of having my four year old niece and six year old nephew over for a sleepover last week. Being a house of teens we are not completely set up for small children, so out to the garage I went, to bring in the carefully stored wooden blocks and animals. My living room floor was transformed into a wonderful wooden zoo. When the niece and nephew were back at home, and my kids off to school, I was tidying up the blocks to store them back away, and decided to keep out some of my favorite Ostheimer figures to bring some warmth to a corner of my living room.

As my children have grown up, we have had other toys that were not wooden, both my kids loved their Lego's, and other cool building sets like Pixel blocks. My daughter loved her American Girl doll, and my son enjoyed collecting various action figures. The beautiful wooden toys have, however, always remained- tucked onto a bookshelf, displayed in seasonal decor, or decorating a corner of the living room, always adding warmth to their space.

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