What's the Deal with Natural Toys?
People get very excited about wooden toys, but are they more than just a current trend? There is no questions that the natural beauty of wooden toys displayed in your child's environment is hard to beat! But how do these natural and wooden items really compare with their plastic counterparts? Let me preface this by saying that we do absolutely have plastic toys in the Playnest house - in fact what we do have, we love! Lego/duplo, bristle blocks, plastic animals (a favourite!) quality dolls, and that good old Tupperware shape sorter! But lets have a think about what natural toys have to offer.
As educators (yes YOU as a parent are the first educator in your child's life, you facilitate your child to learn!) we encourage our young babies and children to notice and experience the variety of attributes presented by the material world through touch, smell, sight, sound and definitely taste - as any parent well knows! This is where natural toys really come into their own. Many plastic toys are smooth, hard, and usually very bright. Children need to move beyond just focusing on bright colours which they are instinctively drawn to, and experience texture, pliability, size and shape. Natural toys invite children into a more considered, exploratory type of play, which is exactly what inquisitive minds and senses need! Real little material things to puzzle over.
We want our children to expand their imaginations, to extend their creative play. Mass manufactured plastic toys often have a single purpose (press a button, and such and such happens - usually some amazing tune that burrows into your brain!) which limits creativity. They also take up a lot of space for their one or two functions! When items are carefully considered for how they feel in your hand, how opened ended they can be and how long your children will get use of it, toy spaces begin to be less cluttered and more intentional. Children find interesting things to do with their toys when they are offered a variety of shapes, forms and textures. We also need to consider where these plastic toys will go once they are discarded by our kids or often snapped and broken! The idea of choosing toys that will stand up to years of play is not just an educational view but an environmental one!
We are often drawn to the natural aesthetic without knowing the real benefits behind it for our little ones. Hopefully this gives you a little more insight and confidence when selecting toys for your home!