Choosing Quality Toys
© Beverley Paine
At this time of the year we all begin to reflect on the wisdom of the toys given to our children at Christmas... Are they worth the money spent on them? Do they enrich the child's life? How long will they last or be played with? It's easy to choose toys with great lasting power once you learn what makes a quality toy. I worked on the principle that it is best to spend big dollars on toys with lasting play value than to spend money on cheaper versions or toys that rarely get played with or add no value to my child's life.
And it makes sense to buy quality toys. A craftsperson is only as good as her tools. For children, toys and playthings are the tools with which they learn about their world. As a young mum I soon discovered that there are some basic toys which serve children well, in the same way I have a set of basic clothes that form the backbone of my wardrobe. I judge the quality and usefulness of a toy in the same way I judge a piece of clothing: based on cost per wearing and how often I will wear it. I know that some basic toys are expensive and that brand name toys cost more than imitations, but it's always been worth it in exactly the same way that well made clothes that last the distance and still look good years later. Looked at in this way quality toys, like clothes, end up costing peanuts. Bargains can always be found. It pays to shop around and keep an eye on the second-hand market for toys that will wear longest, be most versatile and suit a broad range of ages.
It's important to watch children at play and see what they like and don't like, what they use over and again or go back to, and what they quickly grow tired of or discard. See how they use their toys and play props. That alone can save you hundreds of dollars. Some children will happily neglect expensive toys to rummage about in the kitchen cupboards for hours, or swish about in the mud ignoring the fancy plastic sandpit.
Visit the best toy store in your area and notice what the customers, especially the children, are drawn to. If there is a section set aside for children to play, make a note of the toys there: these have been deemed by the store to be durable and of high interest to children.
Another important thing to consider when purchasing toys is where, and in what, it will be stored. Toys need to be accessible and easy to put away. Each toy needs a place of it's own. Dumping everything in a toy box decreases the value of your investment through lost parts, broken toys and encourages disrespect for belongings in general.
Your children and their belongings deserve the same time and attention that you give to yourself and your belongings. Caring for people and things is taught by example. Children do what you do, not what you say they should do. Consider helping your children understand why they need to care for their belongings as part of their education. This teaches respect for the resources our planet provides and develops their appreciation of quality, craftsmanship and beauty.
How do you recognise quality toys? They:
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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