When was the last time you were at a cottage with no wi-fi?
Did you miss that screen time?
Children are just as fond of their devices as we are, but they are missing out on some important learning by only playing digitally.
There have been a number of research studies conducted recently that link deep learning with an outdoor classroom, and the benefits that children derive from their imaginations never replace what they learn from a screen.
At the Waldorf Academy, one of the few grade one private schools in Toronto Ontario, we stay up to date on this cutting-edge research.
Here, just in time for the holiday season, we’ve assembled our five favourite toys to give kids to encourage not just learning and imagination building, but fun.
Conventional Toys Are Nice Too
From hand-crafted wooden toys to plastic figurines you find in a department store, there are many different options for toys that help stimulate your child’s creativity and curiosity.
However, as adults, we can sometimes overthink things.
If you’re experiencing discipline issues with your child – meltdowns, temper tantrums, impatience, frustration – it could be you’re overstimulating them with too many toys, or toys that are just too complicated.
Instead, try one of the below toys to encourage their imagination.
1. A Cardboard Box
Have you ever taken a trip in a transmogrifier?
We did a few times, while reading a strip comic called “Calvin & Hobbes,” and it inspired us to build our own time machine/mansion/woodland hideaway/parliament/equestrian stables.
Even cats – supreme judges of the universe – cannot resist an empty box.
Why? – because an empty box is magic, easily turning into whatever you can imagine.
It doesn’t matter if your box is from a fridge or an Amazon delivery – give your kids some markers, safety scissors and packing tape, and suddenly it’s a noble steed or a rocket ship.
2. A Cardboard Tube
The good news is that cardboard tubes are free with your toilet paper or paper towel; the bad news is that you’ll never have enough for all their fun, crafty uses.
Cardboard tubes are not just telescopes to use on your cardboard-box pirate ship, they can also be turned into ‘flowers’, bee homes to be enjoyed all summer, pencil holders, or any number of other interesting things.
3. A Stick
Now we’re graduating to a really fun toy, which also come in all kinds of shapes and sizes – sticks.
Sticks are dangerous, yes, but mainly because they make great masts for cardboard box pirate ships, or even pirate swords.
Sticks can also be used to dig holes, poke things, draw pictures with in the ground, or fly flags from.
For older kids, sticks can be whittled, used to roast things over a campfire, or as a rickety lean-to in your backyard.
Don’t worry, parents: sticks also teach about spatial dynamics, mechanics and physics, but we won’t tell your kids that if you won’t.
4. A Piece Of String
A piece of string is often a cast-off from mom or dad’s afghan or winter scarf project, but the good news is that it doesn’t have to go to waste.
String can be used for cat’s cradle, for rigging a pirate mast, for weaving together flowers into a daisy crown, or for simple bracelets.
We’ve used strings to do finger crocheting, for making cup coasters (glued into a spiral), for tying around secret map scrolls, and for hanging artwork from door handles.
Think about all of these great string uses, and we don’t even have a child’s imagination – now do you see how string is the gift that keeps on giving?
5. The Earth Itself
Mother knows best – mother Earth, that is: she knows how getting your feet dug down deep into the soil helps connect and ground both children and adults alike.
Dirt is fantastic for piling into walls, or dug into hideouts; add mud and you can make statues, bricks and mud-men (think snowmen, but messier).
The good news is that kids who play in the dirt have been proven to have better immune systems, keeping them safer from infection, even though this seems counter-intuitive.
As a last thought, consider this: the child who is taught to play in the dirt could always be your gardener-on-call as a teen.
Contact Waldorf Academy
Waldorf Academy is dedicated to not just education, but the enrichment of children’s lives.
To find out more about our learning style and philosophy, call the Waldorf Academy to set up an interview.
We have the resources to make sure your child gets a well-rounded learning experience that helps them appreciate the world they live in.