My aunt came for our family Christmas party when Sage was four. She gave him a Superman action figure with a plastic box that broke open when Superman threw it on the ground. A green plastic kryptonite chunk fell out of the middle upon impact. Sage opened the package and stared at the toy, turning it over in his hand.
"What is it?" he asked.
"What is it?!" she replied. "Its SUPERMAN! You take this thing and put it in his hands and push this button and he throws it and it breaks and…"
He stared at her. He wasn't trying to be rude. He just didn't get it.
My mom spoke up. "Sage doesn't know who Superman is. He lives in a land of gnomes and fairies."
"What do you mean he doesn't know who Superman is?!" she shouted. "Well its about time he learn!"
My mom was right. We do live in a land of gnomes and fairies. My
children have grown up in a gentle world free of commercialism,
marketing, and directed play. They play because it is fun and it feeds
their souls, not to follow a preexisting script.
Our toys are mostly natural, made of materials that will return to the
earth when their functional life is done. I like that. Wool, silk,
cotton, and wood make up 90% of our playthings. And many of them have
held the children's interest for years and will continue to do so far into the future.
quality, open-ended toys can be expensive, yes. But the dollars spent
on the farm animals above when Sage was two were dollars well spent by my estimation. So far they have enjoyed five years of play by Sage plus two years of play by Lupine – with no end in sight.
We've also scored plenty of second-hand treasures, both online (through Craigslist, Ebay, and barter groups) and at garage sales and have made many of our own using fabric, wood, and found objects. Even a simple basket of stones or acorns is a treasured toy – and is far more valuable (in play terms) than a box of plastic superheroes.
With no one else's stories to draw on our children are free to play out their own dramas. Sage can express his anger or fear through dragons and knights, while Lupine often makes sure no one is going to sleep alone in the farmhouse. (Babies and mamas must always stay together!)
Pete and I are conscious of staying out of their creative way while the children play. It is not our story that needs to be expressed, but theirs. So we strive to be present and playful but in a passive role, quietly allowing the children to take the lead.
Some of the children's favorite (open ended) toys include:
- Ostheimer wooden farm animals
- Conkers – baskets of acorns, chestnuts, stones and seashells
- Handmade (by me) dolls
- Wooden doll bed (second hand)
- Wooden playstands (handmade by Pete and I)
- Wooden cash register (second hand, amazingly)
- Playsilks (many hand dyed with affordable silks from Dharma Trading Company and kool aid)
6 thoughts on “Imaginative Play, Natural Play.”
I’m SO JEALOUS! You are so lucky to have parents that respect the way you’re choosing to raise your children. The toy thing gets me every time. I work so hard to have sweet, simple birthday parties and Christmases with handmade lovelies and open-ended toys, only to have it overshadowed by the loads of JUNK the grandparents bring. (I do, however, end up getting my way as each quickly breaks or quietly disapears over the next couple of months.) It makes me ill to think about how wasteful that kind of mindless buying is…and what message that gives my kids. Yikes! Hopefully this year my wish will be heard….art supplies!!
Jody, My parents have been AMAZING. I am really blessed and tell them this often. At first I wondered if they would feel criticized by our decisions, but we explained it as lovingly as we could and they understood completely. I read an article in Mothering Magazine when Sage was a baby about writing a letter to your family requesting they type of gifts you would love – their time, handmade gifts, or natural toys – as well as an explanation why. It is worth a try!
I really like the letter idea. My parents have been an easier sell than my in-laws…I’m such a pushover!
I forgot to ask you…I want to make my girls Waldorf dolls…did you sew the hair onto yours? Was it easy? I’m a little intimidated by that part.
BTW: love the post today…I should write down my own list and keep it visible. Being inspired in small ways everyday helps me balance the craziness of 3 little ones at home.
Enjoy the day!
I have done the hair in several different ways. My favorite was braids with a center part, no bangs. They went on very easily. The instructios are always more intimidation than the actual work! It take a while though, so allow a few evenings to be safe (though you can crank it out in an evening if your kids are sleepers!).
There are some great techniques in this book: http://www.amazon.com/Kinder-Dolls-Waldorf-Doll-Making-Handbook/dp/190345803X . I borrowed it from a friend and really liked some variations she had. Good luck. And write that letter! 🙂
How very clever of you to be able to make toys for your children. This is beautiful and I’m woking towards to natural play too. But I still gets lots of commercial toys (plastic) LOL!!!!
Do the commercial toys come in through your hands or as gifts from loved ones? We occasionally let second hand plastic items into our world, but Sage (now almost 8) will comment that plastic toys are junk and they break. Wooden toys last forever. They observe our relationship to the Earth through these items. Its a little heavy, eh?
Blessings on your creative mama journey!