Playing is learning! Unstructured and unscripted play benefits young children in so many ways – it helps them make sense of their world. Open play has so many mental and physical benefits! But in the world of montessori-inspired play – less if more! Fewer and higher quality toys that can grow with your child are best (i.e. avoid the batteries!). Clutter can be overwhelming for both parents and children. There for sure is such a thing as too many toys – we all know this.
Find toys that go along way – both in imaginary “long play” and that can still be played with as your child grows and matures! For us, these are our favorites that fit that bucket below:
My kids love trains! Both the building/construction of the tracks and and all the things that can go around it, as well as the actual trains themselves! Having two young boys – trains teach them to play together since having a big set and a few trains to choose from gives everyone some space. They can play with trains for quite a while – constructing and deconstructing, pushing around the engines and pretending all sorts of things – like crashes, a race, and whatever else! It’s actually a fun family activity on Saturday mornings too!
Less is often more in the montessori mindset but we started with a starter track and quickly needed to expand a few times. As gifts, trains and some other additional expansion packs have been great gifts the boys really joy adding to their collection. I feel good about our collection as their imaginations are ignited with all the possibilities and this kind of toys will last us a lifetime! My parents still have our train tracks and trains from my childhood – now my kid’s get to enjoy those when we visit them!
Building is a great, great open play, unstructured activity! Oh the possibilities! We love wooden blocks when visiting the grandparents, as well as our own cardboard jumbo blocks and our new Magnatile collection (which is an amazing thing for going to a friend’s house or bringing some to a dinner out!). Legos also fall into the open play building category – watch your feet! (We have the big legos right now while C still puts things in his mouth and can’t be trusted around regular size legos).
Kitchen playsets are truly awesome if you have the space in your house! Kids love to imitate what they see and playing in their own kitchen can be so much fun – just like they see mom and dad do! As a child, I still remember playing at my best friend Emily’s house in her kitchen set for hours. Her mom still has it today and we now let our little ones play in it together! There are plenty of cute accessories you can add to your set like pretend foods and cookware!
Wooden Barn + Animal Figurines
We really love our Melissa & Doug Farm set – we often incorporate it into our train set! Who doesn’t need a locomotive going around their peaceful farm after all? Ha. A farm set is a create imagination toy that can be moved around and played with in all sorts of ways. I have to admit, we have added some extra animals (some that don’t totally belong on a farm) and some tractors because – ya know – our boys love tractors. It’s all fun, it’s all cute – I have to say.
We don’t actually have a sandbox because my husband legit hates sand so much (even the beach!!!!). BUT we live across the street from the park which has sandboxes in plenty – thankfully! W also gets a good dose of an awesome sandbox at pre-school – it shows when he comes how with sand in his socks and a smile on his face! If you are thinking about getting a sandbox, I’d recommend one that comes with a lid like this! The best part about sandboxes for kids – digging, scooping, dumping, and filling up! Get a bunch of great accessories and let them play forever!
Cars & Trucks
…Things that go! Wooden cars, trucks, planes – it’s all good for imaginative play. Try to stick to things that don’t need batteries and there aren’t a lot of bells/whistles too (literally). Letting your children just push around vehicles, sort them, fly them through the air, move them around, line them up – whatever – it’s all great unstructured play and allows them to learn as they go. Our boys truly love anything that “goes” (we have a small bin of “things that go” in all honesty) – and I love to watch them come up with their own plans for these items- like climbing the couch! Who knew a car could go 90 degrees upwards? My son.