Let The Children Play
We wrote a few weeks ago about how to welcome babies into the world without contributing to the destruction of that very world.
Let's summon up our time machine and zoom on a few years. It's now the child's 3rd birthday.
Are you going to buy a big plastic toy that may turn out to be their favourite, but may, just as easily, clutter up the house for a while and end up cluttering the environment pretty much forever?
We still believe that the most valuable gift you can give a child is your time, but we also accept that that is not always possible - obviously we're very limited right now - and, anyway, young children like receiving presents (just make sure you are buying for the right reasons, that you are giving something you think the child will like, not something that makes you - the giver - look good).
It might not feel the same, but perhaps giving money is a better option? Is it better to ask the parents what they think you should give? Although, speaking as a parent, we know just how annoying it is when you give away your best ideas and someone else gets the credit for giving the best present ever:( Our advice? Get over it! A happy child is the important thing here.
And what of the parents? What should we be buying for our children, especially now when we are all spending so much more time with them, often indoors.
Remember our mantra? Look round your house and see what you have already got before bringing in anything new.
Have you heard of Loose Parts play?
What Grannies of long ago always said turns out to be true - give toddlers and young children a wooden spoon and an empty yogurt pot and they are happy.
For a long time now we have passed on random objects from our Give Boxes to Scrap Antics in Dundee who - as well as many other things - run a fabulous Loose Parts programme.
Loose Parts works on the principle that introducing simple, everyday objects can improve creativity, boost social and problem-solving skills and support inclusions.
A 'loose parts' toy is probably not a toy at all, but it is something that will capture a child's imagination and encourage their creativity. And the richest source of loose parts is nature. It excites all the senses.
Our old Grannies may not have put it quite like that, but they knew it all along.
You can read the report from Play Scotland on Playful Schools, the partnership projected delivered with Scrap Antics here
If you are buying a toy, don't ask yourself, "What does this toy do?" Ask instead, "What can my child do with this toy?"
But before you do that, what about opening your cupboards and sitting down together to play. Let their curiosity and imagination lead you. Make up stories as you go along. For starters, you might try:
saucepan lids - make great musical instruments, also good templates for drawing circles
pieces of fabric - so many possibilities, capes, tents, togas, picnic rugs, tablecloths
stones - count them, make patterns or shapes, decorate them with pens or paints
sticks - can be wands, swords, walking sticks, use them to make drawings in sand or flour
empty containers - stack them, fill them, make a track, make musical instruments
cardboard boxes - absolutely amazing, they can be houses, shops, homes for animals, cars, trains, theatres, a helmet, hiding places, treasure chests. If they are small stack them up, if they are big enough, get inside them
spoons - for banging those saucepan lids
old keys - for unlocking magical kingdoms, or to be decorated
feathers - for tickling. Obviously! or for art work
jewellery - wear it to create your made-up character, draw round it, make a snake from a necklace, make your own by threading macaroni on to a string
buttons - sort them into colours or sizes, make pictures with them, use them for making maracas
pegs - peg up drawings, peg material together to make a hideaway, make peg dollies
hats - the best way for you - or dolly or teddy - to become somebody new
cushions - are you going to jump on them, fight with them, or cosy up on them?
This kind of loose play is starting your child off on a green lifestyle and making them aware of the environment around them and how much it can offer. They are learning from a young age that rampant consumerism is not the way to go.
Remember, small children like what they've got and don't notice what they haven't got.
Unfortunately, we know this will not necessarily be the case as they get older, but that's a whole other blog.