Monday, May 2, 2011


It has been said often. But looking around toy shops, parents' shopping bags before Christmas or Easter (which seems to be becoming another Christmas madness) it looks like it can't be repeated over and over again: Children do not need bright and shiny, several senses stimulating, challenging and encouraging toys. It's the simple things they enjoy the most.

Careful reading about Emmi Pikler and Magda Gerber and their approach on toys and children's entertainment we were attempted not to overwhelm our son with oh so many toys. I believe so far we did quite well. But still, there are the temptations in the toy shops, the own childhood memories and the thought of giving your child all he needs to develop well. It is a struggle after all and here is a summary of our journey so far.

Before Leander could actually grab and here I mean purposefully grab - seeing something, wanting it and grabbing it - there was a time where I was impatient. I had some soft toys ready for him and with his first teeth approaching I wanted him to be able to grab a carrot or a wooden ring to bite and chew on. As soon as he was able to all the soft toys ended up in his playpen until a friend reminded me of what Pikler had said "not more than 4 toys at a time". And it made sense because the playpen seemed to be overloaded and the little man was not playing with any of them. So every now and then I removed some of the toys in there, replaced them by some others etc...

When our son became rather active and moved around a bit more we learned what really interested him - the paper my husband left lying on the floor nearby, the plastic bag with cough drops that slipped out of my pocket... such things way more interesting than those colourful knitted dices and sewed animals and puppets my mom had made herself.

Obviously - with the crawling, sitting and standing up EVERYTHING in reach that belonged to us (Laptop, mobile phone, books, coffee cups... you name it) was much more interesting than the toy car or the wooden mobile he was so keen on the week before. In a charity shop I bought him stacking cups and a stacking tower. After all I wanted him to have something and it was cheap as well. Well he LOVES the stacking cups and would love the tower but that just challenges his frustration skills (which is worth a whole new blog post).
In the playgroup I discovered that he loves playing with balls and wooden cars. I bought him one each for his birthday. Now that I am writing this I seem to remember that wooden car and realise I have not seen it in a week. It also seems that half of Vienna heard that Leander loves balls so he's got a bucket full of them now. They are so small though that it takes him 10 minutes for them to end up under the furniture and a minute later he won't miss them at all.

One day the hoover came out while Leander was around (usually we hoovered when one of us was out with him because he was so scared of the crawling noisy monster). Well now he seemed highly interested in getting to know that monster and was entertained by it (or entertained it) for a whole day. When we bought a new hoover and he kept playing with it so happily we gave him the tube of the old monster as a toy. That was interesting. For a bit.
A friend of my husband gave him a tube for cleaning building sites which makes funny noises when you blow in. A brilliant toy and you should have seen the look on Leander's face when he brought that home with him. He couldn't care less about me as long as this tube was around. Now since he's got it in the living room obviously declared as a toy it is - yes - just not interesting at all.

Cables have been the hit for EVER. So my husband looked for an old one we don't need anymore. It was received well and is now... well actually. Where is it??

Today Leander was playing with 6 empty beer bottles in their crate. Taking them out, putting them into the cupboard and back. My first thought was to take our plastic cycling bottles, fill an empty beer crate with them and give him that to play instead of the old glass bottles. But somehow I got the feeling that as soon as I give him the crate for the purpose of playing he will find... well... anything else more interesting.

It's not just that a child doesn't really need toys as produced and sold by people who are interested in making money and not in our children's happiness and daily fun. It's that our children see for themselves what is fun to be with, fun to blow in, to pull on, to stack on top of each other and to fill from one item into another. Of course we can't let them play with anything in the house (that's why he is still interested in our phones and laptops). But we can realise that he is the one to choose and what's interesting today might not even be blinked at tomorrow. And that again is the excitement of it all.

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