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Keeping imagination alive Kristina Madsen lives with her partner and their two children in Bedfordshire. Passionate about wooden toys she recommends a few of her favourites for open ended, imaginative play
Is that a wooden spoon?!’ The lady at the baby clinic stared at my four month old baby happily munching a wooden spoon, in disbelief. Magnus was very easily entertained as a baby, happiest when given free reign in the kitchen drawers. And so his trusted spoon came along wherever he went. Handed down from my grandmother, this spoon has served its purpose many times over, only to end its days being gnawed to bits by a teething baby. I knew I wanted wooden toys before I even wanted children. I’ve been told that my grandmother used to bring home wooden spools and buttons from the yarn shop where she worked, and I would sit and play with them for hours on end, content and happy with the simplicity of the offering and creating a world out of the smallest things.
Choosing Handmade When my children came along, what started off as a sensitivity to sound, and aversion to light up plastic toys, quickly spiralled into a world of wooden, handmade, open-ended and ethical toys. Our toy collection kicked off with a handmade wooden dumper truck, crafted by my then 12 year old brother at school, which is still played with every day, four years later. With the imminent arrival of our rainbow baby, Mali, I was searching for a toy to gift to Magnus and found the Grimm’s rainbow. An avalanche of wooden toys began pouring into our home. Which I realise in hindsight wasn’t very ethical of me, but I was addicted and couldn’t stop. The fact that these toys were open ended and have no age limit, means that as my children grow - so does their imagination and the play opportunities. Luckily my children love them as much as I do! Barely a day goes by without Magnus using the Grimm’s rainbow in play; stacking, building, and knocking it over. I feel as though I’ve been given a second chance at childhood, letting my creativity unfold alongside my childrens', which really proves that these toys are ageless! I will always prioritise play before anything
"The fact that these toys were open ended and have no age limit, means that as my children grow - so does their imagination"
else as the children are little for such a short time. I’m trying to soak up every moment and make the most of this precious time.
Keeping it Interesting I’ve found that a regular rotation of their toys is necessary to keep the magic alive. Since we first started collecting, the amount of toys have drastically reduced, but even with fewer toys I still find toy rotation beneficial, with the kids seeing the toys in a different light and therefore their play will take a different direction every time. We definitely have favourite brands; Grimms, for example, is a German manufacturer of handmade, wooden and natural toys. Grapat is a Spanish family-run business creating a diversity of loose parts toys (and my personal favourite - mandala pieces) to perfectly accompany small world play. Wobbel make balance boards, designed to let children grow and play without limits, in Germany. Plan Toys are perhaps the most ethical of all toy manufacturers. Situated in Thailand, they create their toys from rubber wood, where nothing goes to waste and even the sawdust gets turned into toys designed to last (almost) forever. Ostheimer is a family business crafting wooden figurines from sustainably sourced wood, perfect for small world play and play based learning. And the TriClimb created, designed and manufactured in Wales - is the children’s favourite toy. It offers a variety of play opportunities and encourages children to climb and discover through their own abilities. From a slide in the garden on a sunny day or a cosy den when the clouds announce their arrival, its possibilities are limitless! What all these companies have in common is that they care about the environment and sustainability, and ensure that everyone involved in their chain of production is treated fairly. Maybe now it’s not so hard to see why I fell head first down this wonderful rabbit hole in the first place.
The Natural World Many of our toys are second hand. It’s important to me that my children see second hand toys as valuable as those you can buy new, and sometimes their value is heightened due to their history. Our Plan Toys dolls house has been loved at least three times over, and despite the small marks and repairs the kids love it! Alongside toys, we incorporate a lot of natural resources, such as conkers, pinecones, shells and sticks. Mixing them with toys makes for a great opportunity to show the children the play-value nature has to offer. We don’t just keep the fun and play at home - Magnus is currently attending a gorgeous Montessori school nearby, and it was only when stumbling across it by accident that I realised that much of the activities we were doing at home were Montessori based already. >
OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2019 thegreenparent.co.uk