Help! Toy-nado alert!

My house has been swallowed by a toy-nado! Like many new parents, I am again eating my words from a past life.  I swore I would not spoil my children with ‘stuff’ nor let every space in my house be ravaged by a toy-nado of plastic, but I have failed miserably.  It is well established that play is vital for children’s emotional, social and cognitive growth and “Toys are the tools of play”.  So tonight’s blog will attempt to address the following:  What are the best kind of toys to buy and how do you get the ‘biggest bang for your buck’ when it comes to toys?

Toy anxiety

I have heard ‘toy anxiety’ is an actual condition for children in today’s ‘want-for-nothing’ modern world. 

Toy anxiety (n):  A condition that results from having too many choices causing a child to feel overwhelmed or anxious and not successfully ‘playing’ with any toy.

What I do know is that ‘toy anxiety’ is certainly a thing for adults …. the struggle is real! If toys really are the ‘tools of play’, shouldn’t we be providing our children with as many toys as possible to help them reach their full potential?

Less is More

Like most things in life, “less is more” when it comes to toys.  There is no minimum number of toys needed.

In fact, a recent study found that when toddlers had fewer toys in their environment, they played with each toy longer, allowing them to focus more and play more creatively ( How many toys do kids really need?  By Carla Harms Dec 1st, 2017.)

This is important to remember when buying gifts for relatives or friends, don’t contribute to their clutter.  Instead why not try buying just one special gift – maybe local, handmade or something educational … our Little Birdie Book Box might be a good start. 

The box versus the toy inside?

I think it’s safe to say we have all witnessed the child who tosses the toy to the side to enthusiastically play with the packaging instead. 

Children have incredible imaginations and cardboard boxes allow them to play, with no agenda, just the way they want to.

They can use their creativity, imagination and problem-solving skills to develop whatever game they please. These ‘open-ended’ toys are the very best kind of toys to buy to support your child’s development.

What are open-ended toys?

Open ended toys are toys with no specific agenda or purpose so can be played in multiple ways, limited only by the ‘player’s imagination.  Here are the top 5 ideas for ‘open ended toys’ (which conveniently all start with ‘B’):

1. Blocks

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Not only can your child build and destroy any structure, they can create pretend scenes with their blocks including fish tanks, castles, hospitals or construction sites.

2. Boxes

Boxes make great boats, buses, cars, dog kennels, houses, cubbies, beds. They are alternatives to paper for drawing, puppet stages or can even be small world containers filled with dirt/sand and little animals.

At Little Birdie Books, we have incorporated a ‘BoxPLAY’ activity which gives you and your child an idea for upcycling the packaging into a fun game or craft with an educational spin.

So far we have turned the box into:  a special collage box unique to your child; a counting boardgame (a mouth with teeth); a traffic light box for posting healthy and unhealthy foods; and a jungle small world scene. Of course, our activity card is just a starting point – follow your child’s lead on the BoxPLAY activity and let their imaginations soar!

3. Balls

The physical properties of a ball allow children to be entertained for hours:  throwing, catching, rolling, passing, bouncing, shooting, spinning, squeezing, shaking and turn taking.

4. Baskets and Blankets

Household items like these often make the best toys! Make a bed, a cubby, or a rabbit hole; use it as a shopping basket, doctor’s bag or handbag; play ‘hide and seek’, ‘mummies and babies’ or ‘doctors and nurses’.

5. Bit and bobs of craft

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Drawing and crafty items such as coloured paper, markers, crayons, colouring pencils, chalk, stickers etc. etc. are a must have!

Rowan-Legg, Canadian paediatrician, explains that drawing allows kids to express their emotions and mimic images the way they mimic behaviours.  It can be introduced as early as two years of age.  Another great bonus of drawing is that it teaches your child that not everything needs to be perfect.  A great book written by Peter H Reynolds called ‘Ish’ teaches children that thinking ‘ish-ly’ is far more wonderful than “getting it right” which is a great lesson not only in art but in life.

The best toy in the world?

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You! You are the most powerful, adaptable, portable, cheap (sorry) and fun toy to play with and to learn from.

Think about all the old favourites like ‘Peek-a-boo’, ‘This little piggy’, ‘Hide and seek’, ‘Pretend shop’, ‘Doctor’s and nurses’ and ‘I spy’. There is no toy bought from the store, just you and your child interacting.  As speech-language pathologists, we LOVE these ‘people games’. So remember when it comes to toys, the best present is your presence!

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