Back in 2011 Jonathan H. Liu wrote an article for wired.com called “The 5 Best Toys of All Time” The title is linked to the article if you wish to read the whole thing. Here are his selections:
- Cardboard Tube
This article got me thinking about kids and creative play. As we enter this holiday season, our minds are focused on the next great toy. Each year there is that special coveted toy that makes every child’s wish list. It is usually flashy and colorful with buttons and noises. So much fun, right? Well yes, it is fun for a while… but have you noticed that once your child has played with it for bit they tend to lose interest in it? That flashy, great, must have toy usually ends up in a corner somewhere collecting dust when the child loses interest and moves on to something else. Why is that? Well I believe that it is because children’s interest is better served with much more open ended play things. Toys that allow for creative play and thought. Toys that can be used in multiple ways and for multiple purposes tend to stand the test of time. Often times those toys are much more simple in nature, such as the box or the stick. They can represent many things at many different times. They grow with the child’s interest and knowledge of the world. They are as dynamic as the child’s own brain.
I am not saying that these fancy toys are bad or that you shouldn’t provide them for your child. I am only suggesting that they be balanced with simpler more open ended play things. Items that last beyond the lifespan of a battery.
I am reminded of two of my very favorite toys from childhood.
- A wooden rope spool
- 2 pieces of plywood hinged together.
These toys were given to me and my brother for Christmas one year by a dear family friend and they provided hours of entertainment throughout the years…Yes I said years. I still had them when I went away to college! When we received these toys we were quite young. I do not remember exactly how old, but early elementary school anyway. At first the hinged wood became a fort/tent to play in. We would set it up and hide inside. Sometimes it was a doll house of the cave for a stuffed animal. The spool was often used as a car or a wheelchair. Sometimes it was a tower as we built with blocks. I used to even pretend that it was a two story condo for my barbies. I loved to try to walk on it, pretending I was in a circus act. Both of these toys provided hours of endless entertainment. As I got older the spool became a seat in my room or a night stand. The hinged wood became a table top, or a hard surface to draw on. These toys grew with us and allowed for many uses as we grew up and our interests changed. I can tell you I do not remember many of the toys I played with as a child. There are only a few that have remained in my memory, but these were two of them. These two simple yet creative and open ended toys remain as fond memories of childhood.
Throughout my work with children, I have seen the toys listed above turn into magnificent creations. When a child’s imagination is at play wonderful things happen. Creative play allows the child to process their own unique ideas and thoughts. It allows them to problem solve, to discover new ways to do things, and to build confidence in their own ability.
So with all of that in mind I would like to expand the list of toys to include a few more items that allow for creative play and foster the child’s imagination and creative minds.
- Sticks of all sizes.
- Cardboard boxes, and sheets of cardboard.
- Cardboard Tubes (Toilet paper tubes , and sturdy mailers)
- Nature Item: dirt, leaves, pine needles, pine cones, acorns, seed pods…
- Bottle caps, both plastic and metal
- Tin cans
- Wooden Spools, (both large and tiny!)
- Scrap wood (Large and small pieces, perhaps with a hinge!)
These are simple toys that are readily available to just about anyone, they provide hours of creative play, and are engaging to all ages! Children of all ages can enjoy playing with these items. The photos throughout this post have been made by preschoolers, school age children, teens, and even adults! So go ahead raid your own recycle bin or collect some items from your yard.
What can you create out of these items when you allow your imagination to run wild?
Consider the following tools to use with your creative items when playing:
- Low Temperature Hot Glue Gun
- Scissors (Sharp enough to cut cardboard)
- Tape (Try out different kinds!)
- Sharpie Markers
- Simple hand tools (hammer and nails, drill…)
Note: All of these tools can be used with children, however adult supervision is necessary to prevent possible injury with some of them. Just remember not to take over if you are assisting a child. Your job is to assist them in creating their ideas… even if you can think of a better way to accomplish the task. Failure is ok in creating…it provides opportunities to problem solve and to learn perseverance. Most importantly it shows the child that you have confidence in their ability and that their thoughts are valid. And always, remember to have fun! 🙂
I would love to see what you create leave a photo in the comment section or on Instagram with the hashtag #artbreaks