Advantages of Natural Playthings - Mothering Forums

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Advantages of Natural Playthings (Page 2)

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Author Topic: Advantages of Natural Playthings
Member posted 10-27-2000 04:58 AM
Aside from the obvious educational/ developmental advantages of natural materials in playthings, and the selection of "open-ended" toys that encourage imaginative play, I have come across some additional advantages of natural playthings.
One of the hidden advantages is that they are more fun for Mom to play with!

I can play with puppets, or little animals, or paints, or clay, or a rake, etc. for a really long time and have a lot of fun. However, I was at a friends house recently and I cold not stand playing with her sons plastic trucks (most of which were broken in some way - very frustrating), the electronic violin nearly made both my son and I deaf (you should have seen my son's face - he may be turned off the violin for life), I discreetly took the batteries out of a fire truck (ooops forgot to put them back) because my son did not like the noise it made - he wanted to make his own noise. And then there was a toy we did not know how to play with as we had not sen the TV show and did not know what is was for what it did. (Do the moms watch the junky tv shows with there kids? Or do they just not play with the kids?) Oh, I could go on, but you get the idea.

Another advantage to natural playthings is that they are nice to have in your house. Plastic brightly colored toys are hideous, so people are always shoving them into closets, which makes it more difficult for child to get them , and for mom and child to clean up. My son's toys are not offensive, so they are all over our house. His cotton/wool doll and bear sit in a chair in the living room. I have baskets all over with toys in them - finger puppets here, wooden blocks there, pinecones and acorns etc. in another place. They are easily accessed by Sam and myself when we are playing and easy to put back. After all, Sam lives here too. I think his things should be in the living room, not banished to some closet.

Any other thoughts?
Member posted 10-27-2000 09:20 AM
I totally agree. I can play much longer and better with sam when we are playing with natural materials.
Also I think there is something to be said for playing with materials that had some kind of life force. Does that sound just too metaphysical? Well,anyway that would be me so it figures. But,there is warmth to natural materials that you don't 'feel' with plastic.

Sam got a load of plastic toys some with batteries for xmas last year. He also got alot of natural toys. Well we donated all the plastic stuff to the women and childrens shelter. Sam was only a year old and was really happy with the wrapping paper

I find alot of natural toys and great real life things (such as pots pans, wood spoons and measuring cups, shovels etc) at thrift shops. I spent 7.00 dollars last week on a big box of really cool hats for dress up,some books,a tea pot for pouring water on the dog and some other great stuff. Perfect for reuse recycle huh?

Member posted 10-27-2000 12:45 PM
Some more advantages: you will never have to wait in a long line to get the latest "hip" toy (like Furbies) that all the kids are demanding! In fact, you will never have to go to any junky store like Toys R Us ever! Think of how much less stressful life can be. I can' t imagine going in a store like that with a toddler demanding everything they see.
I also would speculate that you can save a lot of money by choosing quality playthings. Although it is more expensive to purchase a quality toy, if the toy is "open-ended" allowing the imagination to create, you need less toys overall, as the child can create so many varied fantasies. And a quality toy does not break (my niece went through 3 plastic doll strollers in one year!) or if it does, it is repairable.

Of course, I am like you Kelly. I scour thrift shops for cool stuff, and am a yard sale fanatic. You would not believe the things I buy at yard sales. Perfectly good, not even hardly used quality stuff!

Sierra M-
Moderator posted 10-27-2000 12:56 PM
I loved hearing about some of the toys you recently got! Those are some great, inexpensive ideas ! I was wondering about the rest of you...what are some of your favorite finds?

Member posted 10-27-2000 02:14 PM
I've been thinking about the whole toy issue and have decided to slowly replace most of my daughter's plastic toys. I started making her doll house dolls and have been using fabrics from my own somewhat worn clothes and clothes I buy at thrift stores. I also discovered a large bag of wood finish samples from a furniture store at a yard sale and they make the most elegant tables with glued on legs. I keep getting more creative and my daughter seems to really enjoy the new homemade toys. I have a question, though. How do I phase out the plastic toys she is already attached to? I am making her a Waldorf style doll but I am afraid she will still prefer her plastic ones.

Member posted 10-27-2000 02:19 PM
There is a great catalogue I've been getting recently called Back to Basics Toys. They do have a website under, but it's no where near as impressive as their paper catalog. They have fantastic stuff, some of it just classic - jack in the boxes, twister, checkers, quality kids musical instruments, wood blocks, board games, wood doll houses etc. It is where I'm shopping for Christmas for the two elementary school age kids I babysit - they are getting the stackable checkers game, the one that stands up on the table (can't think of what its called!). I was also in the T-R's-Us store the other day and felt just assaulted with noise, gadgets, and toys with small cheap breakable parts. I was shopping for a 6yo boy turning 7, and everything was either cars or weapons of some sort! Horrible. Instead, I'm taking him to a bookstore to shop for something he'd like to read or listen to. Anyway, check out the website and order the catalogue, it's neat.

Member posted 10-27-2000 02:42 PM
Em's Mom RE: Phasing out toys. This is really hard with any toy, even ones they have outgrown. You have not sid how old your daughter is, but this is what I have been doing so far with my 3 year old as I try to eliminate junky toys he got as gifts.
First, I do one toy at a time. I make it disappear and hide it in a back room somewhere. If he asks for it, and is really looking for it, I "find" it! If he never thinks of it again, its gone. I usually stash things for a few months before they go to a thrift store, just to make sure he does not ask for it. So far he has only asked for one thing. The others are "out-of-sight - out of mind". I never tried to eliminate a toy he was really attached to though. He has good taste I guess, because the junky toys he never cared much about!

I love that you are making dolls and dolls furniture! What fun! I too made my son a Waldorf style doll and he loves it! I bet your daughter will prefer it over her plastic one one she "gets to know her".

Member posted 10-29-2000 05:14 PM
I am looking for a wooden doll house under $100.00. I have found the $99.00 A frames but really like those hand carved ones. I know you get what you payed for especially the hand craftmanship one but I really can't afford it and I really don't want to go the fisherprice or barbie(yuck) route.

Member posted 10-29-2000 06:39 PM
I know you said you didn't prefer the A-Frame Dollhouse, but has it for $50. I have not seen a hand-carved house (a la Playstore) for under $100, but I read a really great idea (I think in Natural Family Living) if you want to go more low-key: a small book shelf can make a really great dollhouse. I was amazed I'd never thought of it--tons of room, very open ended, and you could totally paint, paper, and decorate your head off if you wanted to. Lot of folks have these around the house, or you could probably get one cheap second hand. This might not be the solution if you're really looking to buy a nice dollhouse, but I think it's a great idea for those of us who can't afford one right now. I was thinking of getting the wooden people and furniture that Target has right now, using a bookshelf for the house, and upgrading later when I can afford it and Annabelle can appreciate it. BTW--Target has a very modular wooden dollhouse right now for $50. Not heirloom quality, but great for toddlers I would think.
Love this conversation.

Moderator posted 10-30-2000 05:45 AM
Hi there,
Here's another question. Having thus far steered MOL away from Disney, Barbie, etc (it's been quite a fight) she still insists on plastic stuff. Some of it like Duplo, I don't mind too much, although the kids rarely play with it, and the Fisher Price farm held thier interest for a while.
The question is this, being a verrry enviromentally friendly household, can we justify replacing the stuff we already own with other stuff. Whether it's made of wood or plastic, it still requires energy and resources to make. I would prefer to own all natural toys, and most of them are, but I'm not sure how I feel about creating a kind of false demand for something.
This sounds like a storm in a teacup, I know, but we've been discussing it for months. I'd appreciate some input, thanks.
Blessings, Becca

Member posted 10-30-2000 03:22 PM
We have a number of "natural" and creative toys, but have not banned plastic from the house. Some things that we have from plastic that still encourage imaginative play: lego and duplo, my boys (6 and 8) have playmobil knights which keep them busy for hours, a whole bin of plastic play food which my girls (3 &4) "cook" with for hours on end, a few little tykes pieces (which are sturdy) given to use by gramma (a play kitchen and stroller). I agree, I can't stand to walk into Toys R Us and rarely find anything for my kids there, but relatives who are determined to buy mass produced plastic can be directed toward these types of toys which still encourage creative play, are noiseless and keep my kids entertained for hours.

Member posted 10-30-2000 04:20 PM
About getting rid of stuff and buying new--I know what you're saying, and I've thought of this myself. One of my major beliefs is that Annabelle doesn't need lots of toys, plastic or natural. I sell toys I don't like (that she gets for gifts) to the second hand baby store because I need the money--I figure this doesn't create demand, exactly, b/c folks who can't afford toys from the stores will buy these, and I don't go out and replace them with natural toys for the most part. I have always been anti-plastic, so we don't have a big set of toys we don't like, but we do get things--it seems impossible to totally avoid--from well-meaning friends and relatives. Anyway--I think donating the toys you don't want is a good thing, though I then get into the dilemma of pushing off my rejects on other folks. I suppose, though, that I can't in any way control the choices of others, so... I don't have answers except that rather than "replacing" toys you don't like, think about what is good and what is not, get rid of what you think is really counterproductive, and try to keep the whole toy frenzy to a minimum.

Member posted 10-31-2000 04:25 PM
We only buy toys at thrift stores and garage sales. This is due to our finances but I have discovered other good reasons for it too. Of course the R-R-R thing, but, more selfishly: Used things tend to be through leaching their toxins. (this goes for clothes too.) What I don't like are wooden toys which are "plasticised" with varnish or paint. (both which must leach as much toxins as plastics.)
I really want to make my own blocks. Does anyone know if its ok to use lumber scraps? Is there a certain grade that isn't treated? Is all commercial wood treated?

Member posted 10-31-2000 08:17 PM
Because I have been thinking about the topic of natural playthings quite a bit I have been doing some research at the library. I have found many books on homemade toys that are very interesting. Of particular interest have been books about making dollhouse furniture. I have been wanting a wooden doll house for my two year old but they are very expensive and when you add wooden furniture even more so. I had thought of using a small bookcase and am now actively looking (thrift stores, yard sales, etc.) As far as furniture goes I found out that it really is not difficult to make, either out of wood (available in craft stores) or out of cardboard (which is probably more appropriate for an older child). If you look creatively around your house, you can find many ideas for easy furniture and the dolls. As my daughter gets older, I figure we can have the fun of creating more and more dolls and accesories together because I am sure she will beat me in the creativity department. Also, salt dough is easy to make and can be molded into furniture, dolls heads, etc. If I don't have to buy any furniture, I think I may spend a bit more and get a decent dollhouse, although cardboard boxes would also probably make a very creative dollhouse. I find that I can get obsessed with getting the "perfect" toys for my daughter but she loves the not so perfect homemade toys just as much and I love having her watch me make things from junk around the house.

Member posted 10-31-2000 08:56 PM
When I was about 7 and my parents were in school pursuing adv. degrees, we didn't have a lot of money. Someone we knew bought a new set of dishes, each place setting came in seperate box with a pattern of strawberries on the box. Well, I acquired the boxes and made a dollhouse out of them. I spent an entire summer making furniture out of cardboard and fabric scraps. It was one of the best projects of my childhood. The wooden dollhouse I got a few years later I still have for my children, but the memories and experience of that first dollhouse could not be purchased at any price.
[This message has been edited by Chava (edited 10-31-2000).]

Member posted 11-01-2000 12:15 PM
This is an interesting and important topic. I have two kids, a son age 6 and a daughter, age 4. They have three sets of grandparents (due to divorce, remarriage, etc.), and 10 aunts and uncles, and a zillion cousins. Not to mention birthday parties with friends who bring all manner of plastic, toys (YIKES!). It's impossible to keep plastic toys out of our house. When my son was younger - up to age 4 I guess, I was able to trade away toys that we didn't like to have around our house without him noticing. Now that he's older, and remembers the Star Wars Naboo Fighter Jet he got from Aunt Jenny, we can explain to him how we feel about it, but can't exactly take it away from him.
My question is, has anyone had success keeping the plastic-toy acquisition down by trading, discussing the differences in the value of the toys, etc. once they're old enough to know the difference?

Thanks for your help. Love, Laura

Member posted 11-01-2000 12:23 PM
Don't forget yard sales and rummage sales, etc. if you want to have plastic toys but also care about the environmental impact of plastic. Buying used plastic toys keeps them out of a landfill or incinerator in my opinion. I wish wood toys weren't so expensive, because they are so wonderful! I don't buy much plastic myself, but tons of relatives swamp us with plastic stuff as gifts and hand me downs.

Member posted 11-01-2000 01:00 PM
I am very interested in knowing what a Waldorf doll is - could someone please explain? Thanks!

Member posted 11-01-2000 06:05 PM
It really is silly to call it a Waldorf style doll, but I assume it is an outgrowth of the Waldord Education movement, which among other things, has an emphasis on natural playthings, made of natural materials. A Waldorf style doll is made of cotton and stuffed with wool fleece, with wool used to make the hair. The features on the doll are non-existent or minimal, so that the child can view the doll with whatever sort of features or expression they desire. (I personally do not like faces that are completely blank -- the eyes are the route to the soul. The doll I made has just 2 embroidered dots for eyes and a small embroidered mouth that is neither smiling nor frowning, just sort of there.) These dolls are frequently handmade or homemade. Because they are made with natural materials, they have a very "real" feel to them, as opposed to plastic. They are extremely huggable! To see some, check out the catalog for the company Magic Cabin Dolls ( They have a beautiful selection though they cost about $125.00 each. I bought a kit from that company for around $25.00 which I highly recommend it you have any sewing ability. It is mostly handsewing, though I made the clothes on my machine. The process of making that doll really taught me the lesson of how important it is to make playtings for our children. My son loved watching me make it, and was very proud of it when it was done. He was 2 1/2 at the time. Also, I think the general term Waldorf style doll refers to "baby" sized dolls, 12" or 16", though I have certainly seen all sorts of dolls in all sorts of sizes that would meet the description above. Does that explain it good enough?

Member posted 11-01-2000 06:27 PM
KelpaLeen - Wow! Thanks for all of the info!I have seen that kind of doll in an Ecobaby catalog and liked it very much. However, it seemed a bit expensive at $55. I will check out the website. I am looking for natural, non-sex-sterotypical toys for my son and this doll sounds very sweet. Plus I will get to be creative while I make it. Thanks!

Member posted 11-03-2000 04:41 AM
OOOPS. I posted the wrong address for the doll website. It is Sorry! Also, with the pattern you can make endless varieties of dolls - boys, girls, generic, vary hair colors, skin types, clothes. The pattern gives directions for about 6 different hair styles, and a variety of clothes.

Member posted 11-03-2000 10:36 AM
Those of you making dollhouses/furniture, check this out!
Hope that's right. If not, I'll post more info.

Member posted 11-03-2000 10:44 AM
Sorry that posted a zillion times. Something was going wrong while I was doing it. Oops.

Member posted 11-03-2000 11:59 AM
Wow, Bellesmom - that is a cool link! It was worth posting 6 times!! I think I am getting inspired to make furniture for Sam's wooden castle. (It is like dollhouse, except it is a castle.)
[This message has been edited by KelpaLeen (edited 11-03-2000).]

Sierra M-
Moderator posted 11-03-2000 01:09 PM
If you click on "edit" at the top of your post, you can delete your posts. Don't worry though, I did it for you, so your post about dollhouse furniture shouldn't show up a million times over now .


Moderator posted 11-13-2000 02:03 AM
Here is my favorite site (and catalog). It is (I have no idea how to post as link). They also own Magic Cabin Dolls & frequently have the same items on sale! If you join the frequent buyer club, you can get GREAT deals.

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