Preferably toys are not plastic (see the BBC documentary called The Disappearing Male for the impact of BPA an other plastics on our children). I am grieved still at the tremendous number of plastic toys still in my house, but we are slowly making changes.
- Here's a few ideas that have worked very well with our children. Use real items instead of plastic. For example: Andrea gets real metal dishes instead of plastic or real hairbrushes instead of plastic. Real items are always better, well almost always. Nathan wants a real knife so badly but at age 4 he's still a little untamed and dangerous.
- Use what you have, even food products, and do not buy more plastic. We used an avocado seed for a lovely, made-up game with the boys. It works as a ball and when it got cracked we simply composted it in wormville out back.
- We use fabric to make dollies, pretend food like pizza, or tents, forts, costumes. The sky is the limit. I do not buy fabric but use old clothes or blankets or rags. Rather than throw it away, it goes in our fabric bag. We always have too much!
- We encourage creativity and cooperation between the children. Even if we had no toys, we would still find ways to play. We would race, do hand rhythms, tell stories, braid hair, or wrestle. The human body is amazingly versatile.
As I mentioned before, I have been convicted of trying to give an item where a person is needed. My children need to run and jump and play with me, not with a Wii or a computer game. My children need to explore and be creative in natural, real settings, not in virtual ones that have little resemblance to the physical world. These ideas have significantly changed the way we live, purchase, and play...for the better. The peace that we have found has been a tremendous shift in a parenting paradigm.
What other ideas have you found to naturally and sustainably help children play?
We found good info included in Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. www.lifewithoutplastic.com