Tuesday, April 20, 2010

simplified play

with my daughter at her grandmother's house for a few days, my husband and i did the first sweep of simplifying. in doing a big sweep, it might work better to have the little one's away. we have tried to do a little at a time in the past but it just did not work for us.

it was a challenge to change a play area for an almost 6 year old to an area that could be shared with a 1 year old. the first step was to remove all the small items which could be a potential choking hazard. we left toys that were safe for a toddler to play with, like wooden blocks, smaller-sized playsilks, a few musical instruments, a basket of wool balls and a basket of wooden eggs downstairs in the play area. and on the top shelf of the playstand, we were able to keep a few of our daughter's toys downstairs.

we brought one of the playstand upstairs into our daughter's bedroom. all her natural collections were organized. smaller-sized ones were put in canning jars and others went into baskets. the open-ended toys stayed and the commercialized toys were eliminated. the simplicity parenting book offered a few tips of toys without staying power:

1. broken toys
2. developmentally inappropriate toys
3. character toys like my little ponies, care bears, barbies, littlest pet shop, etc
4. toys with too many functions and buttons
5. hi-tech / over stimulating toys
6. offensive / annoying toys
7. "developmental" toys like smart boards type gadgets and leapsters
8. toys you are pressured to buy
9. toys that inspire corrosive play
10. toy multiples

this is something that is years in the making for my family and we really are not there completely yet. we really did eliminate a lot of toys that we accumulate from well-meaning relatives. i think our family tries hard to purchase what they believe our daughter will like, but unfortunately, the toys just are not played with and the toys really hinder imaginative and creative play. 

i have not purchased from mainstream toy stores in years. the last time, my husband and i walked around and around the store, desperate to find a gift for our daughter's birthday. we knew none of the toys in the toy store suited her, but felt we had to purchase something. we purchased a set of fairy dolls (which fell apart) and a set of bugs encased in marbles (weird, i know). 

i will say that my husband and i sometimes are not on the same page with this as well beacuse this past christmas, my husband felt that he needed to buy her "other" toys. in his attempts, he went off to toys stores numerous times, only to come home empty handed and his head spinning. he searched the internet tirelessly and spent a lot of time picking out some gifts. despite his well meaning purchases, the toys were barely played with. we'll have to see if he feels the need to venture out to the toy stores again.

has your family been able to simplify? is everyone on the same page? does your extended family support your efforts? what do you say to your spouse or family regarding this?


Lisa said...

I love your blog, it is so beautiful in its simplicty ~ no clutter, streamlined writing all really interesting, no ads, each photo is gorgeous, everything on your blog has meaning for the reader and it is visually beautiful.

We simpliefied years ago when my teen was a baby and we packed up our houdehold, put it in a shipping container and moved to the South Pacific. We moved houses regularly and were forced to simlify during his early childhood. I don't recommend this approach.Another baby came along and we had to start over.It does creep back and is a daily process to maintain simplicity.

For extended family members who want to give some "thing", there are memberships to the museum or to the farm or tea parties, or a bicycle, garden tools, the wheel barrow, wooden figures, books?

I had catalogues sent to extended family members who insisted on buying something. Back then it was Nova Natural, Rosie Hippo and A Child's Dream. Now you have so many online stores to choose from. The plastic, loud, ugly toys go in the basement and then move on unless they become really important in a healthy way, which they did not.

It can be really hard when parents are not on the same page. My children really value everything anyone has ever made for them. A whittled gnome? spoon? a swing? some boards and stumps to make a teeter totter? Small saw horses?

How about a hammer, child size goggles and some geodes to crack open? a work bench with a few well made simple tools like hammer, nails, saw? How about stumps to pound the nails in outdoors?

For those who are not on the same page, ask them what they remember about their childhood. What really stands out? Any toys? Suggest that they observe the child's play and even play themselves with different sorts of toys and in different environments to see what gestures, what kind of play arises with that toy within themselves..

Children tire of closed end toys and often the colors and sounds are overstimulating and ugly.
Ask: is it beautiful? Is it worthy of reverence? Really be conscious of what the toy brings to the child.

Maybe an environment with less stuff will feel so good that others will "get" it. We recently cleaned out a space in our house and my seven yeat old said, I feel so light, so free. It is such a good feeling to have space and the beauty of simplicity around us..

Best wishes with your endeavor.

boatbaby said...

We did the big sweep when Zach was about 3 years old. And I am SO happy we did!
As for the family supporting... well my husband gets it and is supportive. Extended family, well... sort of. Usually the ones who understand don't bu toys at all (yay) and opt for experiences (tickets to events, classes) or books, which are PERFECT! Then others still bu him junk.
Honestly, they never make it in the boat. I open them when DS is not around, and bring them to Goodwill. Then write a nice thank you note. If we DO open it with DS, I give him a couple of days play (if he is interested) and then either explain to him that we don't have space for said toy, or slowly let him play with it to the point where it gets lost/ or broken or once it loses it's novelty I toss it and it's forgotten anyhow.
I have had success using the web site www.thethingsiwant.com with family. You can list things from anywhere on the web, including etsy, and it tracks it like a registry. I love your idea about the jars for the little bits. I may steal that when our new baby is roaming. :)

Christine said...

yes, boatbaby, please use the canning jars idea. you can even put out a tray when Z brings out the smaller things, so they all stay put. we have a larger tray from the montessori days that my A uses when she does her beading, it keeps all the beads in one spot :)

thank you lisa for you kind words and great advise. i really appreciate your insight.

Queen of the Butterfly Ball said...

I just started following your blog last month and I am really enjoying it! I wanted to comment on your simplified play post.

I am trying very hard to simplify EVERYTHING around here. It seems like I have spent the past 10 years aquiring tons of stuff which is now piled into every corner of our home (and I'm not sure how because I abhor shopping of any kind and have always avoided it unless absolutely nessassary!)It is slow work because I'm not able to pack the kids off anywhere while I work on getting everything down to a peaceful, happy minimum! My husband is on board, with the idea of more natural/open ended toys for our children. But our extended family is not so much! I've explained it to the grandparents time and again, but they still insist on buying each of our children 6 or 7 battery powered, noise making toys that a child only has to push a button and the toy does all of the playing for them! Uggh! I hate it! But I have to walk such a fine line because I don't want to hurt the grandparent's feelings but I really don't like having those types of toys in the house.

One family member listened to me explain about how I didn't want our baby daughter to have a bunch of yucky plastic toys and that we were going to try to avoid letting her have anything like that but instead focus on a few better quality natural toys for her rather than a room full of cheap junk. The very next day she shows up bearing gifts of several shiny new plastic toys... I'd love to know what to do in such a case! I'll be watching the comments on here. Hopefully someone will have some more really great ideas about how to nicely convert family members!

Thanks for posting about this, it is very inspiring!

Christine said...

Queen- i have been trying for years to have family understand and follow through with my wishes. there were enormous lead paint recalls for children's toys years ago that led us down a natural toy path and now we are on a simplification path. it's tough to break established habits, both for ourselves and our family.

it can be hard because natural toys can be made, purchased online and require a little more thought than family is used to. it requires a more conscious way of thinking than just walking in a toy store.

family only sees commercials and advertisements of the latest and greatest toys and they really think they would be great for your child. some family is just blissfully unaware and i have found a few to be spiteful. i have said No Tinker Bell, i have said No Barbies and i have said No Plastic for the baby. we do have a few plastic toys in our house, but i try and hide them when family comes so maybe they will take notice that we do not have any plastic toys.

i have a post coming up that i will try a different appeal to family.


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