In the vein of exploring the ways that have proven the most thrilling for me and my little one to enjoy our time together, I thought I would take some time to explain my philosophy (if you can call it that…it is pretty fluid) on the types of toys and experiences that I try to provide my babe.
Simplicity is key. The simpler the toy or experience the more joy and open-ended exploration seems to happen. I love wooden toys or homemade toys, and simple games and activities that you can craft from things you already have lying around your home.
Now, let me clarify by saying, though I don’t go out and buy light-up, sing-songy toys for my kiddo (outside of a few garage-sale buys that I miiiiiight not have realized had buttons when I purchased them…), he does have a few of these around that we received as gifts or hand-me-downs. He plays with them, usually in short bursts, and not usually as the manufacturer has intended. I still allow him to interact with these toys, sometimes putting them away for a time to keep things fresh, and even though they are not my favorite, he has fun with them. Hence why I say my philosophy is fluid. I also know he is exposed to A LOT of these kinds of toys at daycare though, which is why I strive even more to keep our home experiences simple.
I always love to hear what kinds of things other families engage with in their homes, so here are a few of our “favorite lists”.
Some of our favorite simple toys:
- wooden trucks/cars (it is fun to make masking tape tracks on the carpet to extend this play)
- wooden blocks (I try to add wood cookie blocks or other fun pieces to extend this play)
- duplos/mega blocks
- wooden rings (we found these at a local store that sells used home gear and hardware)
- natural items (pinecones, rocks, sticks, shells)
- wooden and DIY musical instruments (especially shakers made from household items)
- kitchen utensils (these become SO many other things in the hands of a toddler)
- wooden puzzles
- wooden stackers
- balls of different size and texture
- wooden shape sorter
- a wooden push-roller and a few wooden pull-toys
- DIY painted wooden figures
- wooden train set
- wooden bead maze
- stuffed animals/puppets/baby dolls
- outdoors balls, bikes, and buckets/shovels
- silky scarves/hats/fake glasses/funny slippers for dress-up experiences
- cups, duckies, and fishing net for the bath (also looove these suction cup pipes to pour into)
*we have been able to find wooden toys and other quality play things at garage sales and thrift stores, so as not to break the bank while still enjoying sturdy, open-ended toys
Some of our favorite simple experiences:
- #1 all-time favorite: Discovery Baskets (fill a wide, shallow basket with different household or natural items for your kiddos to explore and see what they come up with–rotate these out as soon as they loose interest)
- ART! Painting, drawing, collage, sculpture…you name it, we love it!
- DIY activity board (filled with knobs, latches, etc. for the little guy to explore)
- DIY magnet board (though I feel like this still might be a bit beyond him still)
- Making music
- Reading books (especially ones with feely texture and lyrical words)
- Activity trays (a wooden tray filled with DIY fine-motor activities that we rotate every week or two)
- Pouring practice (we found this perfect little pitcher at a thrift store and let him practice pouring water into cups over a towel)
- Sensory bins (we have made a water bin, a rice bin, a snow bin, and a cloud dough bin so far)
- Helping mama and papa cook and bake (he joins us at his learning tower and loves to “mix”!)–he is even more adventurous in trying things that he gets to sample along the way
- Helping with chores (sweeping, wiping, loading laundry, recycling, etc.)
- Wandering around outside, whether on a trail or in the nooks and crannies of our own yard or a park
- Gardening (a.k.a mostly harvesting anything that looks edible and promptly munching every last bit, from berries to flowers or herbs, this kid loves anything fresh)
- Water play-literally ANY type of water is awesome: a puddle, creek, splash pad, pool, bath, river, lake, hose/sprinkler, irrigation ditch)
- Does anyone else just love rolling around on the floor? We seem to spend a lot of time “snuggle wrestling” in this house 🙂
- Climbing and balancing (we made a simple, shabby balance beam out of one long board that is nailed to two small pieces of wood and it has been so cool to see him try different things on it!)
- Outdoor “cooking” with sand, dirt, mud, leaves…anything goes as long as you have a bowl and spoon!
- Exploring the public library (we love to pick out books, play with toys they have there, and join in on the family song and story time they host)
- Other free “out of the house” experiences (live music, free days at the local children’s museum, festivals, etc.)
Keeping it simple (and, most of the time, free or very cheap), help me to enjoy the experience even more. The less I have to do, the more time there is to just be in the moment with my little one. I would like to provide my little guy with a slow childhood. One that is full of love, belonging, discovery, and creativity.
I want to encourage you all to try something new with your little one. Something small and manageable. You might just find a new favorite activity! But most of all, I encourage you to remember, the kinds of activities you choose should reflect the loves and joys of your particular family. To each their beautiful own!