Saturday, January 27, 2007
It's All About What I Have to Pick Up Off the Floor.
Why wooden toys?
Some folks choose wooden toys for their children for environmental reasons -- they don't want their children breathing in supposedly off-gassing fumes from plastic toys, or they don't want to contribute to plastic in landfills.
Some folks have Montessori reasons for choosing wooden toys: they argue that, for their own education, children should be given real things, not fake things, so they can learn about materials like wood, metal, wool, etc. instead of imitation things, like plastic.
Some folks have philosophical reasons for choosing wooden toys: wood is a natural material. As one mother-writer (whose name I forget but who founded the Natural Baby Catalog) wonderfully reasoned: consider a sunny field of daisies. Picture a child playing in the field. The child and the field belong together -- they fit. What sort of toy fits into that picture next to the child? A Barbie Doll? Rainbow Brite? A plastic laser gun? A Bionicle? Introduce those toys and something jars. Those toys don't fit. Now picture a rag doll with the child -- a wooden truck -- those toys fit. They are natural, like the child. Intuition and instinct. That's why they give their children wooden toys.
So why do I give my kids only wooden toys to play with? Honestly, for all the above reasons (though I am not enough of a science-type-person to understand if plastic toys really off-gas or cause cancer). But the main reason, I admit here, is due to my background as an oldest child of ten children: it's all about what I have to pick up off the floor.
I spent the first seventeen years of my life picking up toys, my own toys and the toys of my nine siblings. And I grew to hate so many different kinds of toys (particularly Legos and Fisher Price, sorry to say).
So when I started life as a parent some eleven years ago, I was adamant that I wouldn't be tricked into being in the position of caretaker of a quarter acre of Lock-Blocks, Polly-Pockets, Lincoln Logs, Barbie shoes, and Fisher-Price, no matter what I had to do. I became a Present Nazi to all my relatives, fiercely opposing gifts of Legos and electronic gimmicks with lights and sounds (what child needs more and louder sound effects than the ones he was born with?). I exchanged, I threw out, I gave away, I passed on -- and today, I am happy to say, wooden toys have prevailed in our house.
Yes, okay, we do have some plastic toys, but I'll explain what I do with those later.
But the main things lying around in our house are wooden toys. Brio tracks, wooden baby rattles, wooden push toys, and pieces of the wooden castle a carpenter friend made for my sons a few Christmases ago, which I photographed above.
Because it's all about beauty, for me. Even when they're lying in a dishevelved way on the floor like above, I like looking at wooden toys. Maybe that one writer was onto something when she said they were more natural. They don't jar the senses. They don't scream for attention. They "fit."
For homemakers (or should we call ourselves, "house artists?"), I think this is an important component of crafting a home. Beauty isn't just filigree, decoration, pictures and curtains and knicknacks we put around our home. It's also about the day-to-day essential components of our home. And it's about molding our children's sensibilities to appreciate beauty by surrounding them by what we ourselves find beautiful.
We try to simplify. But we should also remember to beautify.
And for me, at least, beauty is found in wooden toys.
Peace to your day.