A month or so ago, I received a call asking my thoughts on buying toys. (My first thought was, of course – “no please, we have too many!”) Calming down I was able to briefly discuss the “not-quite-crunchy,” work in progress, philosophy of toys.
Since I’ve written about toys often, I find myself becoming more and more discerning. (The downside of blogging- too much research means too much information.) I wouldn’t say I purchase fewer toys; I just adhere to my “three things philosophy” a little more closely and search farther a field to satiate my toy buying habit.
Like many first time parents, my initial toy purchases including many plastic items requiring batteries and featuring lights and sound. Later, introduced to Waldorf education, RIE Parenting and “crunchy toys” I began seeking out open ended toys made of natural materials.
Now I, of course, meander all over the toy buying spectrum. Our playroom features a few battery operated toys, some plastic toys and many made of natural materials. In general, though, they have only one thing in common. They are well made and can be played with in many different ways. The downside of course is that, unlike many trendy or poorly made toys, they hang around our playroom longer. Sigh.
In a nutshell, The Rule of Three, which governs our toy buying, is as follows:
Prior to purchasing a toy, one must determine how it can be played with in 3 different ways. In other words, the fewer pre-programmed features, structured choices and pre-associated personalities, the better.
Action figures and dolls associated with popular TV and movies characters are out. Playmobil, generic dolls and play figures are in. Character based toys set the personality for the child – Batman ALWAYS fights the bad guys; Cinderella ALWAYS goes to the ball. Generic dolls and action figures take a bath, walk the dog, climb a tree and stop by the ball on the way to fight the bad guys.
Blocks, pipe cleaners, Legos, rocks and miniatures are in – preferably heaped in a basket rather than in kits. Though I do buy “make-your-own” type kits from time to time, once made, the play is done, so I try to buy “open stock” materials as well to encourage repeat building.
Electronic choices are limeted to those that can be played with without batteries as easily as with. Our plastic BBQ grill, at one time made great “grilling noises” – now, sans batteries, grilling sounds are supplied by the cook. Electronic learning, toys, of which we have a few, do double duty as space ship control panels.
As a work in progress, we review and refine these rules on a regular basis. We find however, that, in general, they work pretty well. We shop at independent retailers and our favorite online vendors, cruise the Internet for new ideas and make exceptions…being “not-quite crunchy” has its advantages.