Have you been wanting to move away from plastic, noisy toys and create a more natural playroom that will nourish your children's senses, imagination and encourage higher engagement and creativity? Read more on the philosophy of why here
If you're new to these ideas, you've probably always known in the back of your head that plastic toys are no good. They are not only detrimental for the environment (likely ending up in a landfill somewhere) but also to your child's health - studies have also shown that they contain BPA, BPA, phthalates, and lead (especially if made in China). Even if plastic is BPA free, it still leaches harmful chemicals. Second hand plastic toys leach even higher levels of these chemicals and for young children who put everything in their mouths - this is very problematic.
Now before you run to your local toy store and buy up all the wooden toys you find, I want you to read the following very carefully: just because they are wooden does not mean they are developmentally nourishing, safe or ethical (ie: Melissa and Doug have been found to contain toxic metals and Janod uses plywood containing formaldehyde)
In fact, most of the wooden toys you'll find at your local box mall retailer are mass produced in factories by underpaid workers and have been found to contain all sorts of chemicals, dyes, leads and glues that you do NOT want in your home, and especially anywhere near your children. Furthermore, consider quality over quantity, keeping it simple and thoughtful, with creativity over consumerism in mind when building your collection.
Waldorf toys check many of these boxes, they are often ethically made in Europe using non-toxic paints, following Waldorf philosophy that emphasizes a holistic approach of engaging a child's senses, stimulating their minds and nurturing their imagination.
Some wonderful Waldorf toy shops that have been my go-tos over the years are nest.ca
Now you may be overwhelmed and awed with a new plethora of beautiful choices.
Well, here is my personal guide to where to start for ages 2-7, and remember - not all toys need to be bought :)
Top 5 must-haves for your Natural Playroom
1. Wooden Play Kitchen.
Young children learn through imitation and they love to imitate. A wooden play kitchen provides them with the opportunity to engage in imaginative pretend play. You can build your own or buy one. Camden Rose makes a gorgeous hardwood play kitchen, as does Drewart. We opted to have ours built by a local woodworker.
Tip: Add some pots, pans, wooden bowls and wooden utensils. These can be bought (we love the grimm's natural stacking bowls) or easily thrifted. As for food, you can make or buy some felted wool or crocheted fruits/veggies or simply let them use whatever they can find to keep it truly open-ended.
2. Building Blocks and Stacking Toys
The ultimate open-ended toy, blocks will provide your children with endless possibilities for creation and encourage both imagination and motor skills. Invest in a good set of blocks, something handmade using natural or non-toxic paints. You'll feel the difference in quality in the weight, feel and smell of quality made blocks. I highly recommend Grimm's Large Stepped Pyramid and add a complimentary set such as the 1001 Nights to add further play possibilities.
I know Wooden Stackers should have its own place on the list, but I just had to sneak them in here :) Grimm's Element Stackers (Water, Earth, Fire) and of course, the Giant Rainbow. These are all perfect for building, stacking and creating beautiful playscapes.
3. Wooden Figures
Provide a few good quality ,hand-carved wooden figures for small world play. Start with 4-5 and focus on a theme (ie, start with woodland animals, farm animals or storybook figures) You can slowly and thoughtfully add to your collection. Ostheimer is our favourite maker, but you can also find independent wooden toy makers on Etsy (just be sure to ask what kind of paints/polish they use). My children make up stories, move them around to create scenes and get lost for hours in their small world play. A definite essential that is played with everyday.
4. Play silks
One of the best and most portable natural toy you will have for your playroom are play silks. If you're not familiar with play silks, you will be amazed at their versatility and how much children love to play with them. They are used for everything from dress up making forts, flags, dancing, carrying dolls, making capes, creating scenes. They are so simple, innocent and truly magical. You purchase them (Sarah's Silks is a favourite) or easily make your own organically dyed play silks.
5. Wooden Table & Chairs
It doesn't get any simpler than this, but invest in a solid wooden table and chairs. This will be a focal point in their playroom. They will be able to draw, have pretend tea parties and meals etc. We found ours second hand, sanded it all down and applied a natural oil rub.
And there you have your basics for a wonderful natural playroom!
Want another 5 recommendations? I will be posting another guide soon to more ideas for how to create the perfect Waldorf-inspired playroom.