Today, children literally can own hundreds of different toys and still complain about being bored. Here’s why you should Stop Buying Your Kids Toys: 14 Alternatives that will Boost Their Creativity!
So what’s the problem?
Could it be possible that all these toys are teaching our children to be bored, instead of teaching them how to play?
Could these shiny plastic, noise-making, battery-eating devices be killing our children’s imagination, creativity, and reasoning skills?
Have you ever heard of Maria Montessori? If you haven’t, you should… so I’m gonna fill you in on the basics.
She basically changed the entire elementary education system back in the day (by back in the day I mean the early 1900’s).
Ms. Montessori was so influential that schools, both public and private, are still using some of her methods today.
She believed in “practical play.” Kinda sounds like an oxymoron…
But really it makes sense. To kids, playing is their “work.” So we should equip them with the “toys” and tools for them to manipulate in order for them to learn the most from their play.
Here is a shortlist of things that children should be learning from their play:
- How to manipulation objects for different purposes
There are private schools that are completely centered around Maria Montessori’s teaching methods. These schools are pricey!!! I’m talking $5,600 a year for half day preschool and over $9,000 a year for elementary. But these schools are amazing!
Maria Montessori is one of the few educators and educating methods that is practiced and loved by everyone: public schools, private schools, and homeschooling families.
No matter what education system you’re using for your children, you can still implement these practices in your home and your children can reap the benefits…without paying thousands of dollars. In fact, you can do it for free!
When you walk down the toy aisle think about what the toys are teaching the children. I’m not trying to say that toys are necessarily teaching our children bad things. But are they helping our children with their creativity? Their imagination? Their reasoning skills? Or are these toys teaching our children to be unsatisfied with what they have? Maybe less is more.
An Alternative to Toys
Here is a list of things that could help inspire reasoning, creativity, and imagination:
- Lots of paper/notebooks and pens/pencils/crayons. Let them make lists, draw pictures, draw abstracts, discover what happens when two colors mix together.
- Art supplies
- Sticks. Seriously a stick can be anything: a gun, sword, spoon, telescope, cane, crutch, various food, dolls, etc.
- Blankets. Again the possibilities are endless: cape, tent, robe, wrapping paper, ghosts, etc.
- Scarves and scraps pieces of materials. Scarves and scraps of material are used as pretend bandages, headbands, eye patches, etc.
- Pillows. Let your kids play with old pillows. They are great for pillow fights, building a bridge across a lake of lava (obviously), walls of tents, putting dolls to bed, and so much more!
- Junk mail. Let them pretend like it is their mail. Let them fill out the information sections, play with the envelopes, pretend like they have important business to attend to. My kids especially love the credit card promotions that come with fake credit cards.
- A dirt/rock pile for digging, sorting, classifying, arranging.
- Empty containers to collect all their treasures.
- Musical instruments… you might want to also invest in some good ear protection for yourself. I am also referring to real instruments, not toys that make music.
- Cleaning supplies…safe cleaning supplies. Give your child a squirt bottle with 50/50 vinegar/water and a dry rag or dusting cloth. Let them help you clean or give them their own areas to take care of. Young children love cleaning and feeling helpful. If you give them the freedom to clean, they will clean things all on their own whenever they see a mess.
- Cardboard and boxes. These things are easy to manipulate. And every parent knows, at Christmas, the kids love the box more than the toy!
My children have so many toys they are overflowing out of our basement. But the things they love playing with the most are the things that I listed above. If we try to throw away a cardboard box or a piece of junk mail, you would have though we were selling their puppy! We don’t actually have a puppy… but I imagine it would be the same reaction.
I would also like to add that it is NOT a bad thing for children to be bored at times. Life cannot be entertaining and exhilarating all the time. No matter how hard we try, there will be times where they will be bored and hopefully they will learn to see the beauty and fun in the simplest of things.
What would you add to this list?
More great ideas: