Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Experiments in Natural Family Living - Natural Toys!

Welcome to the January 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: 
Experiments in Natural Family Living

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have reported on weeklong trials to make their lives a little greener and gentler. 
Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

Dress Up with Hat and Mom's Headbands
I am excited to join in the Carnival of Natural Parenting for 2012 year. One of my goals is to participate every month. This month challenge was pretty fun for us and liberating for me. Our goal was to only use natural toys for at least a week maybe longer. My criteria was the following;
battery = put away, plastic = put away, if it manipulated the child = put away, and if it did not inspire open-ended or imaginative play = put away. We also tried to do no television. We don't watch much as it is, but I wanted to eliminate that as well. My son is 19 months so it was not to hard. I was surprised at how many toys we had that really are useless when it comes learning and developing. Being the fourth boy in our family as far as cousins go he has received a lot of hand-me-down toys.

A couple of exceptions to the rules above were; plastic animals figures, Legos, and puzzles. These are the reasons I chose to keep them out. The animals; he loves them, he plays with them constantly. ~B~ does things like make them kiss (if you ever see an elephant and a lion kiss it’s very cute), puts them boxes and carts, lines them all up, and takes them for rides on his train. I feel that they do inspire imagination, open end play, and of course love for animals. The Legos; stimulate creativity and lateral thinking, they help build dexterity and aid in developing simple math and pattern skills. The way they interlock helps children learn problem solving skills as well. The puzzles; I was on the fence about this one. They don't inspire open ended or imaginative play. They stayed because they help develop problem solving skills, build dexterity, they help teach concepts like colors, shapes, and language skills when done with an adult.

Playing with Trains
We had lots to play with. In addition to the Legos, animals and puzzles we had; blocks, books, wooden trains, wooden bike, rocking horse, wooden food, wooden lacing beads, and musical instruments. Not to mention the recycled homemade toys; boxes, paper towel tubes, cracker box cut into binoculars, packing paper used as a cape, paper bags made in to robots (his older cousins liked these, he didn't). We tried to get creative as possible.

Cousins Robots
 Here is the very selfish reason of why I loved this challenge no noise from toys! Yes, there was lots of knocking blocks over, banging, and crashing. But no annoying sirens, jingles, beeps, honks, roars, chimes, electronic voices, and silly tunes. There was plenty of roaring, barking, and mooing from my son. He would yell crash while knocking blocks over, and make train noises, and the never ending banging of things together. These noises happen no matter what, so by eliminating battery toys they 'annoying' noise were gone. :D

Fun in a Box
There were a couple of challenges. One, he got sick, we did do cuddling on the couch and watched some television. He really didn't want to do anything else. I couldn't blame him, he was pretty miserable. The second, for me was a good challenge. I had to be more present, which I should be. I had to think out side the box for new activities. I helped build and had to actively engaged him more. I did this before as well, but I found that things like the firetruck and school bus that make noises do hold his attention more and can give me a few more minutes to accomplish things around the house.

Hiding in the Box
Where do we go from here. In an effort to become more of a minimalist, we will be donating a lot of toys that really aren't necessary. I will keep his trucks that he loves, but lots of other toys will be moving on. At the start of this challenge while going through his toy room I already donating a bunch of toys/book/puzzles that I felt we had to many of. We will just continue to do so!

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama

Visit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
  • Make your own moisturizer! — Megan at boho mama whips up a winter skin-friendly moisturizer.
  • Cold Water Only — Brittany at The Pistachio Project talks about how you do not need hot water to wash laundry.
  • Family Cloth... Really?? — After lots of forethought and consideration, Momma Jorje finally decides to take the plunge with family cloth.
  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle : 5-5-5 Things A Day — Luschka from Diary of a First Child writes about decluttering her home in an attempt to create a gentler living space. She takes on a new project where she sets a goal of reducing, reusing and recycling every day.
  • Pros and cons of family cloth — Lauren at Hobo Mama would love to continue replacing paper products with family cloth … if she could only get over how damp she feels.
  • Craftily Parenting — Kellie at Our Mindful Life finds that crafting makes her a better parent.
  • Changes — Laura at Pug in the Kitchen couldn't choose just one area to experiment with, so she wrote a long post about all the fun changes initiated in her life!
  • Life without Internet: Not all it's Cracked up to Be — Adrienne at Mommying My Way tries to go a week without the Internet, only to realize a healthy dose of Internet usage really helps keep this stay-at-home mom connected.
  • My Progression to Raw Milk — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling shares her natural parenting progression all the way to trying raw milk.
  • mama's new little friend. — Sarah at Bitty Bird tries a menstrual cup to "green her period," and is pleasantly surprised when she falls in love with the product!
  • Before you throw it out, try homemade laundry soap! — Jennifer at Practical OH Mommy shows visual proof that homemade laundry soap is cheaper, easier, and works better than the store-bought chemicals!
  • Oil, Oil, No Toil, No Trouble — K from Very Simple Secret talks about her foray into the oil-cleansing method.
  • I Need a Hobby — Amanda at Let's Take the Metro couldn't decide which experiment to run, so she did them all.
  • 7 days of macrobiotics for a balanced family — The Stones make a [successful] attempt to release the "holiday junking" with 7 days of macrobiotic meals to balance their bodies and souls. Elisabeth at Manic Mrs. Stone includes an explanation of macrobiotics.
  • Chemical Free Beauty Challenge — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction turned to natural alternatives for her daily beauty and cleaning routine, with great results.
  • Greening my Armpits!? My Green Resolution — Shannon at The Artful Mama talks about how she decided to give up her traditional antiperspirant and make the switch over to crystal deodorants and definitely isn't looking back!
  • Going Raw (for a while) — Jenny at Chronicles of a Nursing Mom shares her family's experience with raw food.
  • Do we get to eat gluten today? — Sheila at A Gift Universe has been trying to figure out if her son does better with or without gluten in his diet … but it's really hard to tell for sure.
  • Hippies Can Smell and Look Fabulous Too! — Arpita of Up, Down And Natural details her experience of going shampoo-free and overhauling her cosmetics to find the balance between feeling beautifully fabulous and honoring her inner hippie.
  • Our cupboards are full...but there's nothing to eat — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud takes on the challenge of chomping through the contents of her storecupboard rather than going shopping — but there's something that she just can't bring herself to do …
  • Elimination Experiment 3.0MudpieMama recounts the messy adventures of her baby daughter trying to be diaper free.
  • Family Cloth Trial — Amyables at Toddler in Tow talks about making and using family cloth wipes in the bathroom for the first time.
  • Taking a Hiatus — Amy at Peace 4 Parents shares how her experience of much less internet interaction affected her family and how it will change her approach in the future.
  • Trying Out the Menstrual Cup — Lindsey at an unschooling adventure ditches the tampons and gives menstrual cups a try.
  • Managing Food Waste in Our Home — Tired of the holiday waste, Robbie at Going Green Mama takes a weeklong focus on reducing food waste in her home, and learns some lessons that can take her through the new year.
  • Going Offline, Cloth Tissues, and Simplicity — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama muses over her time away from blogging and social networking. In addition, she shares her newfound love of cloth tissues and simplicity.


  1. Isn't it amazing how annoying some of the most popular toys are? We have two VTech toys that I HATE but which were gifts so I feel guilty getting rid of them. So they are hiding in the closet.
    I will admit to being addicted to Little People though-my son really loves coming up with stories for his "mans" (as he calls them) & I like that they seem to stir his creativity.

    1. I completely agree the noises drive me nuts! I love that he call's them his 'mans' to cute!

  2. I really dislike battery operated toys. Kieran has these two cars (From Cars) that say silly phrases. Sometimes he'll just sit there and push the buttons over and over - he's completely zoned, no redeemable quality like making them talk to each other. Ugh! I'm glad your experiment had such great results, and yay for unintentional decluttering!

  3. I love your challenge! I try to only use natural toys, but the hard part is that family gives them as gifts (even when you tell them otherwise...) We only got one plastic, talking toy for Christmas, but I've never put batteries in it, and will not, so I'm not sure what it sounds like. Hopefully, I'll be able to get rid of it soon...good luck with continuing your journey!

    1. Thanks, I know I wish people would give books and ask what to get them. It makes it easier all around!

  4. This is a very interesting experiment, lani! Some of Abbey's favorite toys are plastic (i.e. the dollhouse. . . ) or loud (i.e. her Kareoke machine) . . . but she also LOVES her blocks, wooden push cart, and knitted eggs and nest. Joseph gravitates toward natural toys already. . . so I think once Abbey has outgrown some of the more annoying and "more" plastic toys, I'm going to donate them and go much more minimalistic for Joseph. I've already started by not replacing the batteries in the Fisher Price Animal Train set we got handed down from a friend. The kids play much more creatively with it now that it does NOT sing or move on it's own!

    1. I think the biggest thing is that a toy does not manipulate the child.. that the child manipulates the toy.. So many toys have a single thing that they want you to do... As long as they inspire creativity and imagination they are good toys!

  5. Great post! I imagined my life with children full of natural, organic toys and we'd have no plastic "junk" toys. How wrong I was! Like you mentioned, I don't know what to do with the hand me downs of toys and grandparent gifts. Our kids have so much more than children in past generations, it's hard to manage it all.

    1. So true! I have been doing if a new toy comes in then an old one goes. Someone said to donate 2 old for every new one. That it helps children see the value in things... I think that's a good one when they are picking things out for themselves so they will know if they want it.

  6. What a great idea for a challenge! I'm glad it went well. I think it would be interesting to see if I could slip all my four-year-old's non-natural toys away for a week or not. :) I do love the idea of less noise and more engagement!

    1. The no noise was awesome! I think it was easier for me cause he is young.

  7. I'm glad this went so well! We're all about the natural toys, but it's hard to control what people give as well-meaning gifts. We did better with this challenge this Christmas by creating an Amazon wish list and putting only green, natural, or wooden toys (and books!) on it.

  8. Awesome, Lani! It's so funny how shockingly little kids need to still be able to grow and develop. It's funny to me that all the things kids 'need' tend to really be things that don't stimulate learning and growth at all!! This is an excellent reminder!!

    1. I know serious that box and huge piece of packing paper kept his entertained for hours!

  9. As a Waldorf mama I am all about natural toys. They really do inspire so much creativity and imagination. Plus, they feel SOOOOOO good! I love that you took an honest look at what toys are critical and what toys are not. And agree, sometimes you do need a few toys with bells and whistles as a distraction!

    1. Thanks I really do want to get rid of so many more. My new rule is if something new comes in something old goes out!

  10. Awesome choice for a challenge. We don't have much as far as natural toys, but I'd really like to make the switch. I'd really like to cut back on TV, too!

    As I type this, Sasha is actually in my lap drawing. I guess that is a step in the right direction. I'm just not sure how to make the switch with little / no investment.

    1. Jorje a great place to start is Freecycle! I get so many of ~B~ toy there. Not to mention clothing and other random Items and i am constantly getting rid of thing that way too! I got tons of puzzels for him there. http://www.freecycle.org/

  11. As a grandmother, I love buying toys. I've found that many toys are not played with past the initial "newness." Now I ask my daughter for ideas and keep my impulse buys to items for the craft box, books or a food treat

    1. That's such a great way to do it! It saves money and you know that what you get them will get some Mileage! Plus all grandparents want to spoil their grandbabies as they should!


Thanks for commenting!