My children have a lot of toys. I have a bit of a problem saying no to them which I know is probably not a good thing but I figure there are worse qualities to have as a parent.
Having said that though, they tend to play the most with non-toy items which always makes me feel a little better.
On a recent trip to the beach, the oldest boy brought a piece of drift wood home with him and, along with a log we already had in the garden, he has spent hours arranging characters and toy animals on and around it and it got me thinking about all the natural things my children have played with the most andI thought I would share them with you.
Sticks. Sticks are a big hit here. I think it stems (pardon the pun) from the Stick Man book and they pretend they a swords or use them to make marks in sand or soil. We have collected sticks to cover the roof of their play house and they are so versatile when it comes to imaginative play. I quite regularly draw little faces on sticks for them and watch their little faces light up.
Pebbles. Pebbles have a lot of possibilities. You can paint them or use them in a tuff tray. They can be piled to make caves or shelters for little toy animals or people. If you have enough you could write letters and/or numbers on them. They are also very tactile for using in sensory activities.
Shells. If we go to the seaside, many of those tacky shops selling souvineers often sell shells at a reasonable price. Of course of you go to the beach you could always collect your own but I am not sure if it is illegal-or is that the removal of sand? I can never remember. We use shells all over the place but, like pebbles, the tuff tray, sand pit or paddling pool are favourites.
Leaves. Leaves seem to only be used in the autumn time but in the summer when there are heavy winds, there can quite often be fallen leaves in the floor to uses as stencils and templates and here, they are also used as bedding for the many nests my children make. They love a good nest and spend ages constructing them for their toys.
Logs. We found some discarded logs at the farm. Most were too heavy for me to lift but one or two were smaller so I brought them to the garden and the boys especially have spend many hours balancing little creatures on them and draping sticks and leaves on them. It shocked me how much fun they had with something so simple.
Grass/hay/straw. We have this in abundance at the farm and the children really enjoy plating with it. Whether it is used in nests (again) or just to fall through their fingers, they love it. One or all of them can usually be found carrying a little bucket or container filled with straw or hay (or both).
Pine cones. We found a pine tree recently at a car park near to us and we weren’t allowed to get back into the car until they children had picked up every single pine cone off the floor. I know there are loads of crafty things you can do with them but they have actually just enjoyed playing with them as they are and I think this adds to them enjoying the natural element of them.
All of the things listed here were free and most of them were discarded on the floor. It amazes me how great a child’s imagination is and, even though I still might buy them far too many toys, I love how much joy they get out of simple things too.