People have asked me about toys for toddlers, my ‘must have’ list. Mostly, I think that children do better with fewer toys than we would ever imagine. If you want a more comprehensive list, look in Kim John Payne’s book “Simplicity Parenting.” But here’s my list:
-First, colored silks. These are so versatile and can be used for so many different things: as a cape or skirt, as a baby blanket, as a sack for carrying things around…etc. etc.
-Next, a basket of soft balls of various sizes. These balls are what are appropriate to throw inside, so whenever a child forgets and throws something else, you can remind her: “What can we throw inside?” If she’s too little, you can answer for her: “Soft balls! Where IS a soft ball?” And she can run over to the ball basket.
-Third, a play-kitchen. The first step of imaginative play is largely imitative, and children will act out what they see around them in their play, as their way of processing experiences. Since many of us spend lots of time in the kitchen, a play kitchen is paramount! (warning: I don’t love those vegetables that come apart into pieces with Velcro in between. It seems cool in the ad that the kids can ‘cut’ them apart, but the reality is that they never go back together, at least with little one.)
-Books. Many Waldorf programs don’t have books, but I know that many children use books as a way to self-soothe, and when kids are tired it can be really nice to snuggle on the couch together and look at a book. I don’t usually read the words; most of the time I talk about the pictures with them.
-Dolls. Not too many, though; each doll should be really special and cared for. I tend to think that three is a good number.
-Things for kids to push. These could be wooden trucks or metal Tonka trucks outside, or a baby carriage, or a duck that flaps its feet as it walks.
-Paper and crayons to be brought out periodically.
Really, this is enough. As kids get older, dress-up clothes start to become popular, but again, less is better. When each toy is special and cared-for, and each thing has its own designated space, then toys are used more often, and more imaginatively. I am a big believer in rotating toys, as children will approach things with new eyes when they’ve had time to grow a bit in between. So whenever you notice your play-room or livingroom or a child’s bedroom feeling cluttered, or cleaning up taking more energy than you wish, take several boxes out and fill one to give to Goodwill, and the other to put in the shed for a few months.