A Greener, More Natural Toy Box for Baby0
I just realized I don’t post a lot (or ever) about parenting on this blog and I’d like to change that. Yousef (or Youby, as he’s come to be known) will be 10 months soon and I’ve learned so much in that short time that I feel I could write a book!
One thing I’ve been wanting to write about for a while is Youby’s choice of “toys.” If you’ve seen his toy box, you’ll understand why I put quotes around the word, toys. You see, we have a running joke in the house that before we send an item to the recycle bin, it gets passed by Youby first – and pretty much every time, he’ll take it and have a field day with it. I mean any and everything – water/juice bottles, yogurt tubs, paper towel rolls, etc. And it doesn’t stop at the recyclables; his toy chest also includes common household items like wooden spoons, measuring cups, rolls of tape, and magazines.
Why on earth would I deprive my precious child of all the brightly-colored, loud, sparkly toys that are incessantly advertised to parents like me? Am I cheap? No – well, kind of but that’s not why LOL Am I just a mean-old mommy who won’t let my baby enjoy all the cool toys at the toy store? Nope, not that either. Get this: Youby actually prefers the household items over the real toys that he has – and he does have a few, but I think I can count those on one hand, honestly.
When he was younger (gosh, that sounds so weird to say!), we did buy him a handful of toys that we thought he would like, but we still made sure the few that we bought were educational or at least, intellectually stimulating in some way. So things like a mini-piano with numbers and lights, one of those activity gyms/play mats, an exersaucer, and a few stuffed animals…oh, and Sophie! Can’t forget about Sophie the Giraffe – she’s a favorite But even his “real” toys don’t get used in the proper way:
Although he would play with them from time to time, he definitely preferred the other items much more. It took me a while to catch on to this and once I did, it just made total sense to me. I already wasn’t fond of the idea of buying a bunch of loud, bright, noisy pieces of plastic for him to play with. They just seemed like overkill and overly stimulating, not to mention how annoying they are to everyone else in the house! Who knew, my little Youby was already riding the simpleton train way before I ever had to invite him on board!
So this whole learning process (yes, my now 10 month-old is actually teaching ME a few things!) really got me thinking about the things we as parents should be offering our children as entertainment/stimulation. Aren’t common household items more beneficial for our children from a developmental standpoint? Shouldn’t we be exposing them to familiar, recognizable objects that will make more of a mental footprint on their rapidly developing little minds?
Of course, some (pre-screened) toys are ok, but I think we should be making more of an effort to try to include more practical items into our little ones’ toy boxes – not just to teach them about these items, but also to foster a sense of appreciation and gratitude for the things around us. If we just keep buying, buying, buying more and more toys, they start to lose their value; their special-ness factor; their novelty. Not just that, but we’d be teaching our children to always expect new toys, instead of making the best out of what we already have; and that’s not in line with our parenting philosophy at all. We want to teach our children how to live a simple, sustainable, natural lifestyle – one that doesn’t require all the bells and whistles.
Yesterday I came across a post from Lindsay at Passionate Homemaking about a Montessori-inspired sensory treasure basket for baby. And what do you know? The treasure basket she prepared for her young daughter looked an awful lot like Youby’s regular toy box – filled with a variety of regular household items. I did get a few ideas for some new toys to put into his box, so I’ll be giving it a little makeover very soon.
Below are some ideas and tips if you want to venture into the world of ‘non-toy’ toys for your little one. It’s really just what I’ve learned through watching and observing Youby during his play time.
- Obviously, the typical rules still apply: Nothing dangerous or small enough to fit into his mouth, choking hazards, etc.
- We have a few different boxes spread out across different rooms in the house. So one in his room, one in the living room, and one in the kitchen, since he spends a lot of time in there with me throughout the day.
- I try to cycle through the items in the boxes when the novelty wears off, so he doesn’t get bored.
- Like I mentioned, recyclables are a huge hit in our house – water bottles, juice jugs, milk cartons, yogurt tubs, etc. I just make sure to rinse them out very well (which I normally do before tossing them into the recycling anyways) and put the caps/lids back on.
- Anything that rolls is great – bottles, rolls of tape, paper towel rolls, etc.
- Anything that rattles or makes noise is even better – I’ll usually put smaller items into a larger item to make it rattle. His latest favorite is a yogurt tub with a bottle cap inside.
- Anything that spins or can be spun (by you) is awesome – He loves watching as the bottles go spinning across the room, sometimes colliding with each other.
- We’ll stack different items on top of each other to create a wobbly tower, which he’ll crawl into or smack with his hands to knock over and send everything flying across the floor. (Yes, Daddy invented that one, of course!)
And here is a short list of other items in his box, not mentioned above:
- pots and pans
- silicone spatula
- old CD/DVD (but not in the mouth!)
- cookie tin (like the round, blue Danish cookie tins)
- egg carton (plastic or cardboard)
- plastic cups and bowls
- an old wallet
- plastic spoon
- new sponge
- metal colander
- soap ladle
- measuring spoons
And as far as what we use as the actual toy box? You guessed it, an actual box One of his boxes is just an old Huggies diapers box. I think he likes that one best because of the flaps, which he gets to open and close. The others are just regular cardboard boxes with the flaps cut off. Believe me, I’ve also tried to keep his toys in nicer boxes – I found some nice fabric-covered Ikea boxes in our new house when we moved in, but again, he just likes the cardboard boxes more. Maybe it’s the way they feel or something, I’ll never know!
So there you have it – our toy box in a nut shell. I know it seems weird and even not normal, but hey it’s what makes the little one happy! And who am I to complain? It’s a cheaper, easier, and more natural way to play – what’s to hate, really?
And speaking of natural, I’ve even caught him playing with some of the fruit from the fruit basket too! He loves to play with and roll oranges around on the floor.
What do you give your little ones to play with? Do they like the typical toy-store toys or do they gravitate more towards the unconventional items? Would you consider giving them a Montessori-inspired sensory treasure box?
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