Choosing Toys Mindfully
Following principles from minimalism has some great benefits in decluttering our lives, and keeping Energy Sucks out for a more stress-free, simple lifestyle. But the toy business can really make us believe that our children need tons of toys to be happy. This is simply not the case, as children don’t really need any toys at all to be happy and creative.
So I want to break down the only 10 categories of toys that I believe you ‘need’. Again, none of these are necessary, and you don’t have to get a toy from each category. Neither do the toys need to be new or brand name. I encourage you to look for second hand to help with the cost of purchasing timeless, quality, and durable toy,s as I think these will get a lot of use and spark a lot of imaginative play. Remember, children have Mother Nature to interact with, and these toys should be thought of as – just toys – the cherries on top!
This category spans a wide variety of building materials that a child can use to build whatever world they want. These could be simple set of wooden blocks or more sophisticated Magna-tiles, Classic Lego or Duplo. Anything open-ended will do. A few more favorites I recommend are these wooden blocks in wagon, B. Elemenosqueeze Soft Baby Blocks, Tegu Magnetic Blocks, CitiBlocs, Sumblox, the Pink Montessori Tower, or Grimm’s Rainbow Stacker.
- A Doll
Ideally, this should be a gender-neutral, simple symbol of another human being for a child to care for, to practice real-life skills with, and to project their own life experiences onto. A doll is not just for girls! This category of toy is for everyone. I advice against the kinds of dolls without all the bells and whistles, but keeping it simple with a plush or basic baby doll or even a teddy bear or any stuffed animal. One doll is enough!
This category of toy can be a set of characters made up of Playmobil people, Lego people, family figures, wooden peg people painted by your child, or animals. All of these give a license to your child to act out social scenes and important themes in their life.
- A Ball
Balls are for all ages to enjoy because they can be used in so many ways! You can toss, kick, bounce, and throw them as well as make believe with them. One ball will get a ton of use.
- Art Materials
Pick more sensory-rich art materials like paint over markers. But any open-ended and basic art material is an amazing toy for any age. Paint, paper, cardboard boxes, play dough, colored pencils or crayons… check out my page, The Messy Zone, if you’d like more ideas.
I love play silks! They can be imagined into limitless ways – a cape, blanket, towel, tent, flag, pirates hat, ballroom dress, a river, a uniform, belt – they are endlessly pleasing. By investing in a set of silk scarves, you can avoid collecting the bulky, hard to store princess dresses and fireman’s costume, etc. You can purchase some like these or make them yourself.
- Gross Motor
This category is for anything that encourages large movement of the body. You can watch my video on indoor swings here. But even a simple gym mat, mattress, or balance board or beam can encourage the use of gross motor skills. I think balance bikes (or this one) are also a great idea. Check out Movement Zone in the Shop!
Trains, cars, trucks! Children can reenact city scenes, construction sites, and whatever your child sees happening every day. These toys are definitely not just for boys, as every child will enjoy driving vehicles around in their own imaginative worlds.
Include a few, GOOD children’s books in your home that can be revisited again and again. These CLASSICS will be well-loved and enjoyed. In order not to clutter out these well-loved classics, frequent the library if possible and use a Kindle.
This category is for all things like water, sand (kinetic), rocks, rice, dry beans or noodles. You just need a bin (I love this table with bin inserts) or tray to contain it and your child can incorporate other toys such as vehicles or characters into this sensory world.
I always recommend that you invest (a second-hand is just fine!) when possible in a few, high-quality, durable and open-ended toys over more, plastic or cheap versions. Also watch out for when the toys get too specific, exact or ultra-detailed to the extent they can’t be imagined in other ways.
And that’s it! These are the 10 categories of toys I believe is more than enough to encourage imaginative play for any child.
Which of these toys do you already own? Do you have your own recommendations? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!