Hello and welcome to The Treasure Baskets, a page dedicated to supporting play for children through the use of natural and recycled materials.
I would like to introduce the idea of an alternative solution to plastic disposable toys. Natural wooden handmade toys for children. I would like to take the time to explain my own views on why
I believe these could be beneficial to children, their learning experiences and the environment. These are my own creations but there are many other products out there and the potential for many more.
Wood toys handmade and organic
We are living in a world where people are becoming more and more aware of our need to reduce waste and to look at alternatives to throw away, inorganic products.
We also spend money on things that are not made to last, that break easily and cannot be fixed. They have limited use and then end up in a landfill somewhere.
I began making more of these types of resources when I moved close to the coast. The most beautiful pieces of driftwood were in abundant supply and I could see so many possibilities amongst the piles of wood half buried in sand.
I saw a solution to the problem, replacing the plastic with a natural, organic alternative. To create something useful, and educational for children while doing my bit to ‘save the planet’.
Natural wood threading and stacking sets
My first attempts at creating these handmade wooden toys, were a very simple concept. I thought about the age group that I was working with at the time and how I could tailor these resources to meet their physical developmental needs, while still making them inviting. (Most resources or toys were designed to be used in limited ways and children quickly lost interest in them.)
Most were at a stage at the age of three and four years where they were learning to hold pencils, undo buttons and struggling with some of their fine motor skills. However, they were fantatsic young problem solvers always up for a challenge. and I saw an opportunity.
I began making threading sets initially out of wood slices and added shells and pumice, for children to practice and fine tune some of those fine motor skills and hand -eye coordination.
These were very successful with most children mastering the ability to pass the threading material (usually a shoe lace) through the holes very well.
Along with these I also created some threading sticks of various sizes designed for little hands. These were interesting pieces of driftwood of varying colour and texture, sanded with holes drilled though at different angles. They were popular and not just for threading!
Warning! Supervision required! With the imagination of some our wonderfully energetic darlings, they became swords, wands and all sorts of other things.
The younger children that wanted to try, found it a little more difficult, but they really wanted to be involved, so rather than have them become frustrated, I came up with a new resource along the same lines that was very simple but effective.
I created a very basic stacking toy that resembled a small tree branch that curtain rings, bracelets and other similar sized objects could be dropped over easily. (You could also use recycled coffee mug trees.)
Our infants and toddlers loved this and spent lots of time placing all the different objects on the “stacking tree” as I named it and then tipping them off again. I noticed that they also began sorting the rings, lining them up and grouping them, and trying to eat them.
After much observation it became clear that our older children needed more of a challenge. So back to the drawing board to search for a way to extend on the resources, which I have included in the photographs here. A more sophisticated stacking toy and small wood slice threaders.
I have experimented with and produced a number of toys and resources using natural driftwood but have concentrated mainly on the stacking and threading varieties in this post.
Open ended resources
The ideas behind some of these resources are naturally to support children’s learning and development, however they are also meeting the need for children to explore and to create their own ideas and ways of using them as well as being environmentally friendly.
Hence the various use like swords. They are not designed entirely for one purpose as with the toddlers grouping, sorting and lining them up. They are this stage of development of stacking, tipping, sorting and eating everything.
Natural construction sets are wonderful for this type of play with children as they can be used in whatever way the child feels inclined. There are no limitations, no instructions and no expectations.
These natural wooden resources have many benefits for children. By being exposed to natural materials and manipulative play, children:
- develop and extend their cogniitve and fine motor skills
- learn problem-solving abilities
- are exposed to sensory and tactile experiences
- develop an understanding and appreciation of nature and what it can provide
- use their imagination and creativity
This could also lead to an interest in where the materials come from and result in some wonderful excursions in search of new ideas and resources.
There are many ways for us to provide rich and stimulating learning experiences for our children without breaking the bank and cluttering up those landfills. Just imagine if you replaced the resources in your settings with natural substitutes, how beautiful and serene your environment would be.
It would also reflect the message you trying to share with the next generation. There are many settings already doing this and it is amazing how different they all are.
I have seen some truly inspiring centres of innovation that are working towards this type of philosophy and that is one of the things that ignites my passion for what I do.
I have several new projects I am working on that I cant wait to share with you all, and would love to see some of you natural settings and environments. If you would like to share, just drop me a line, if I’ not here I’m at the beach.
Bye for now!
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