edited by Sasi
taken from THE CREATIVE FAMILY, How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections, by: Amanda Blake Soule. Trumpeter, 2008
Our lives today are full of more and more “stuff”. The things we have around us and the things we see in our daily lives all greatly affect the way in which we create. Before you bring toys into your home, I encourage you to think about the following questions and apply them not only to new toys coming in, but the toys already in your home as well.
Is It Beautiful?
Do the tools and toys around you evoke a feeling of beauty? By choosing carefully what toys you bring into your home, you can encourage a love and appreciation for good design and craftsmanship. Choosing to surround ourselves with beautiful design can be a great source of inspiration. Choose toys that are handcrafted, when possible. Search out toys that feel good to touch and hold and are visually pleasing. Think beyond the big-box store for your children’s toys and look to antique shops, thrift shops, your local woodworker, and “natural” toy catalogs. Finding toys that will hold up to lots of use and play – versus poorly made toys that will break easily – will encourage your children to value human work and experience over consumption.
Is It Simple?
Many modern toys are sophisticated and technologically complicated, which certainly have their place and importance in our lives. But the downside is that they can often eliminate a need for imagination when playing. If there’s a toys that does it all for you, there’s little room left for creativity. Think about selecting toys that can be used in a multitude of ways and that evoke imagination and creative expression. Many classic, simple toys of the past are full of these creative possibilities. Look beyond the plastic dolls that “do everything” and head toward a simple cloth doll that grow with a child or a big basket of wooden blocks that can be a toddler’s stacking tower or a child’s fort. Toys that grow with a child will encourage even more imaginative play; the way they use the toys will change over the years.
What Is It Made Of?
Can you tell how a toy is made? While there is certainly room and a need for some manufactured plastic in our lives, we also need to make much more room for simple, natural materials. Does your children’s toy selection show an adequate representation of nature? Is there wood? Cloth? Natural fibers? Not only do these toys feel good to play with and connect children to the outside world, but they are also often strong enough to last a lifetime and even more. I think we should consider our toy materials in the same way that people talk about whole foods: the closer to the original source, the better. Can you picture your toy growing somewhere on the earth? Wooden blocks, felt balls, and cotton dolls are often some of the best toys.
What Senses Does It Use?
Do the toys in your home evoke the use of many senses? We experience the world through our senses – with our ability to see, hear, feel, touch, and taste – and children are particularly sensitive to this as they discover the world with fresh eyes, ears, and so on. Try to include at least one toy in your home that represents each of the senses. And the ones that encourage play while using more than one sense? Even better!
How Is It Organized?
In our own adult creative lives, it helps the creative spirit tremendously when things are accessible, easy to find, and available. Beginning a project seems much less like a monumental feat when the materials are readily at hand. If too much time is spent looking for what you need, creativity often goes by the wayside. Keeping toys organized in baskets, boxes, and on shelves (all within easy reach for the little ones) helps so that children know just where they are when inspiration strikes.
Is There Too Much?
When it comes to playthings for our children, I can’t emphasize enough that for creative play, less really is more in regard to toys. Between generous gifts from family members, hand-me-downs, and accessible inexpensive toys, it is quite likely that our homes are cluttered and full of playthings. A sad product of our modern world is that our children are taught early on to over consume and to want more, more, and more. Chances are that they do not need more toys, but fewer. When there are too many things around, there’s little room for imagination. Clean out some of the toys you have now that are not used often, and think more critically about the ones you let into your home. Tell family members your philosophy and ask them to share it when they make purchases for your children. Rotating toys in and out of the play space can also be a helpful way to use fewer at a time, and it can provide a “new” way of looking at an “old” toy.