Simple Toys – Healthy Minds

A Simpler Time

A Simpler Time. Photo courtesy of The Photography Muse

We moms know that our kids derive more benefit from playing with some toys than others.

The more simple the toy, the more I seem to relish watching my children playing with it. Seeing my son’s face as he makes something “just so” with clay or watching my daughter as she deliberates over her next chess move. You can almost see the neurons firing and connecting in new ways, making their brains bigger and better than ever.

That said, I do have to admit that there’s a time and a usefulness to other kinds of toys, too. Sometimes, we all just want to zone out for a few minutes and watch something dance across a screen. Those modern toys that spoon feed our children with entertainment without enhancing any particular skill have certainly not been banned from my home. In fact, I’ll be the first to admit that they are used daily.

Still, when you want to find something for your children to engage with that encourages greater creativity, you have more options, it seems, than ever before.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to choosing toys that encourage healthy mental development and motor skills.

First, let’s look at the downside of some of today’s toys.

* Toys based on movies might limit kids to using pre-fabricated plots and characters.

* There is growing concern over the toxicity of the plastics used to make toys. PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, is environmentally toxic to produce and contains chemicals (adipates and phthalates) that can leach into foods and, of course, into your child or baby’s mouth.

* Every toy has a life cycle, and when its time is up, it usually ends up in the landfill. More and more evidence points to the environmental toxicity of these plastics as they release harmful toxins into the environment. Of course, you can reduce this environmental impact by giving toys to other children when your kids have outgrown them. (Especially those giant chunks of plastic.)

* There is so much technology today. It’s a digital world, and children get caught up in it. Children can end up viewing the world through a screen.

What Kinds of Toys Enhance Cognitive Development?

Solid, simple toys are consistently shown to be wonderful for a child’s development. Here are some of our favorites:

* Legos. Can I tell you how much I love legos? Oh mercy me. Yes, they are plastic but might just be the best toy ever invented. I actually think that playing with Legos is how my kids meditate. If my 7- and 9-year old have a crazy day at school, they will shut themselves up in their rooms for 10 minutes and play Legos and – just like that – order is restored to their universe. It’s magic.

* Art supplies. Is there anything better than a well stocked art cabinet? (Here’s a checklist of essential art supplies for kids. ) Now that my daughters are 9 and 11, I would add a couple of things: namely, a hot glue gun and some popsicle sticks. You wouldn’t believe the number of afternoons my kids have creatively wiled away making jewelry boxes and dollhouses – of their own design.

* Basic wooden toys - also known as “folk toys” – are gaining popularity and are more widely available. A huge variety of wooden toys are available, such as wooden trains, airplanes, marble chutes, trucks, cars, and others. Not associated with any media, children are free to imagine with these toys and create their own world of make-believe.

* Simple wooden blocks put your child literally in touch with her environment. Various shapes, sizes and colors (although plain wood is fine, too) help your child learn how to manipulate his environment, create, and solve problems.

* Marbles have been a favorite of older children for decades. These attractive glass spheres can be used to play the game of marbles. They can also be run down creative chutes.

* Wooden or porcelain dominoes are excellent for teaching and reinforcing math skills. Setting them up carefully and then knocking them down at a prescribed moment enhances fine motor coordination.

* Chess, checkers, and board games
are timeless, fun toys for older children. Card games, too.

Here are a more Momscape resources to give you ideas:

Family Fun Ideas at Momscape

Lots of creative games, crafts, and activities. No batteries required.

Old Fashioned Children’s Games

A Momscape product pick

Back to Basics Toys
An online store and catalog company specializing in old-fashioned toys. They have Daily Deals and frequent coupon codes, which we are proud to publish here.