In honor of Earth Week (or everyday in our house) I’m continuing with my eco-friendly theme.
If you hadn’t got the memo children learn best through play through at least the age of 10. So let them be little and join them on the floor. I’m a huge advocate of child led play and my home is full of open-ended toys. We spend lots of time outside as well connecting with nature. If our children don’t spend time with the earth how can we ever expect them to respect it? A fantastic way to do this is by filling your home with eco-friendly open ended toys.
So What is Child Led Play?
Also known as self directed play this is a form of play where children are encouraged to play at their own pace. It tends to be hands on, active and the child (as long as they are safe) is in control. Children direct and lead play between themselves and a parent. Follow your child’s lead, avoid power struggles, be sensitive to your child and encourage them often.
What have we been doing wrong?
We live in a society that currently puts way too much emphasis on academic achievement, success in the work place, and everyone is trying to keep up with the Jones family. The term “Stop Playing Around” is used so often its no wonder we have collectively forgotten how important play is to our children. Play helps build relationships you might say it helps keep our emotional cup full. Play helps kids relate to the world around them and they require our guidance to encourage creative play. Guide children, don’t correct them, get down and be part of their reality. The problem is we don’t know how to play anymore so keep reading for some tips on having fun again.
What are Green Toys?
Green is a short term for Eco-Friendly or better yet more sustainable. I’m always on the hunt for toys that are good for the earth and educational. They need to fun, safe and if we can learn something too even better. I look for toys that are made of wood and recycled materials like milk jugs because these are the kind of toys that can be handed down.
What Does Open Ended Toys even Mean?
Open ended toys are toys that can be played with in many different ways and used to suit your child’s imagination. These toys allow children to express themselves during play freely and creatively. By using toys with multiple uses we give children limitless possibilities to learn outside of the box. Great examples of open ended toys are as follows: Legos, Green Toys dump truck, modeling clay and play dough to name a few.
The toys we have in our house and why.
Here are a few of my favorite things:
Oh Melissa and Doug who doesn’t love them? These toys are a must have in our house. If only the amazing team of M&D would help clean up.
- Blocks like these give kids endless possibilities to create till their hearts are content.
- For the animal lover in your life this one is always a hit. Our library has this on hand and its a fan favorite.
- This easel has seriously been one of the best investments we ever made.
- As far as floor puzzles go this one is really neat and it always inspires some interesting questions.
- These pattern boards keep my little ones entertained for hours and they love to come up with new patterns.
Have you heard about Green Toys?
We fell in love with these while looking for bath toys that were washable and durable. They are made of recycled plastic and not only are they kid tough you can toss them in the dishwasher and in eco- friendly form when you are done they can be recycled.
- This little tug boat started our obsession
- For the little gardener
- A great set for the sandbox
- for the little handy person
- For the smallest family members
Another great company is Plan Toys, the following are a few we love, I have a list I can’t wait to get more.
- Even my teens love playing this game with the little ones
- the balancing boat game
- the gears, another one that entertains for awhile
My 5 year old loves these, she will build castles, barns for her animals anything she dreams of for hours.
Fat Brain Toys are wrapping up my favorite toy section, yet again I have a list but here are my must haves.
- The suction cup builders are fun for 18 months and up.
- The amazing Teeter Popper, oh my goodness this was a lifesaver for rambunctious kids stuck inside during a polar vortex.
- stiltz that sound like horse hooves, yes please.
Where you can learn more about play based learning and child led play.
Here is a list of some of the books I have read that helped with our journey, for those who want to incorporate nature into your play time, this one is great with simple and inexpensive ideas. If you are looking for research based tomes to read this one Saving Play is great and provides examples of why we need more child led, open ended play. Chapter 1 of this book goes into great detail of the benefits of playing with your child and how to play with them. After reading this first chapter I saw how much I could have helped my older children, it was mind blowing. I highly recommend reading and re-reading this because believe it or not there really is a wrong way to play.
The benefits child led play can have on your family.
By placing value on play and setting aside time to play with your kids you are fostering an environment that encourages them to feel safe using their imagination. This kind of play fosters self esteem helps with social emotional development and can help reduce feelings like fear, anger and inadequacy. play in a supportive atmosphere helps develop positive communication and makes children more confident. One change I have found is I was always telling my older kids how to do it right, I never asked questions and often said that isn’t how it’s done. I asked too much of them and although I tried so very hard to make childhood fun I actually made them feel inadequate. I see so much now that they are older, I try harder to be the mom they need now.
- This post contains affiliate links. If you click on a link and make a purchase, I will receive a small compensation at no extra cost to you.