Every day we see our kids have the time of their lives with a pile of stones or the wood chips at the playground. Sticks become swords, leafy branches become brooms. In these simplest of play environments, the child’s imagination powers the fun. Because of this, there’s really no reason to pack your kids’ rooms full of toys that will all be on the floor within minutes. In fact, there is research suggesting that too many toys can be overwhelming and overstimulating to a child. Instead of suffering from this very typical and chaotic playroom clutter, consider becoming a toy minimalist.
Paring down the toy box selection would certainly bring a greater sense of peace to a home. The toys we do keep should be chosen purposefully. Just as sticks can be swords and branches can be brooms, it is wise to choose things that promote imagination. Toys or games with this transformative ability have “open-ended” qualities because the possibilities for playtime with them are just that — endless! When kids use these types of toys, their brains are encouraged to grow at a faster rate. Conversely, plastic toys that light up, beep, or have similar independent abilities actually discourage this natural process. Here are eight types of open-ended toys we recommend to make the most of a minimalist play space.
Whether they’re super-simple wooden blocks, Lego Duplos, or Magnatiles, blocks are a timeless toy that can be used to create anything at all. A kid can construct their own barn, school, spaceship, or grocery store, and then use it as the setting for Army men to fight a war or dolls to have tea.
2. A Ball
A ball is the ultimate open-ended toy. It can be used for all types of gross-motor fun and, of course, for endless amounts of games with friends.
3. A Set of People, Characters, or Animals
This group of humans, animals, or perhaps even dinosaurs, inhabit the imaginary worlds that a child builds. They can use them to recreate and explore important scenes from their lives and practice group or family interactions.
4. A Doll
Preferably, the doll you choose should be human and somewhat life-like. The child can use it to reenact his or her own day-to-day activities. It doesn’t need to have any special functions or features, as the child will usually pretend on their own that it is eating or going potty. Additionally, children use dolls for practicing their kindness and nurturing skills.
5. Art Materials
Things like paint, paper, cardboard boxes, glue, and dollar store crafting items are great to have on hand for your little artists. Paint is preferable over markers because it encourages more open-ended play, and you can use it on much more than paper!
6. Silk Scarves
There’s no need for 10 different dress-up outfits! With silk scarves, kiddos can create capes, skirts, hats — you name it! Again, it’s a great opportunity for open-ended playtime.
7. Set of Vehicles
Kids will use vehicles to reenact the busy cities and towns that they inhabit and experience every day. For this type of toy, choose higher quality wooden vehicles if you can. The wooden vehicles are generally less specific in their design and therefore more creatively freeing. They will hold up better to years of use and abuse better too.
8. Sensory Items
Rocks, kinetic sand, pasta, rice, playdough, and moldable foam are great types of sensory materials. Playing with these substances — in a tray or bin, because we’re not looking to clean up more messes — encourages many different types of developmental benefits. This is a great time to bring over your set of people or vehicles as sensory bins often become another landscape for imaginative play.
Could you see yourself adopting some of these toy minimalist techniques in your home? If it seems a bit too drastic to purge the entire toy collection at once, but you are intrigued by the benefits of doing so, consider making one small change at a time. The entire family will benefit from less crazy clutter, and with fewer toys, your children will actually have an enhanced learning environment!
Toy minimalism doesn’t mean that birthdays and holidays have to be sparse. Give Gifts that Aren’t Things.
Photo Credits: Thaliesin | SusanHoltSimpson | Conger Design | Markus Spiske