Uncommon Toys That Encourage Imagination

If you have kids, you have toys.  Toys, toys, toys!  The selection of toys available is dazzling, and bewildering.  What are the best toys for kids?  The answer to this question varies by family.  In our family, toys have to meet many specific criteria.  We have a goal of maintaining a 90% plastic free house.  This is most important in our toys, so we aim for toys made from wood, metal, natural fiber fabrics, paper or cardboard.  Non-plastic toys cost more money, generally speaking, than their plastic counterparts, so we can’t be buying new toys constantly.  So, when we look for new toys, we look for toys that can grow with the kids without becoming obsolete.  Also, we look for toys that can be used in many ways.  Open ended toys are amazing sources of entertainment for children.  And, if at all possible, toys should be hand made and beautiful.  Tall order, no?  But, my kids play for HOURS without intervention, guidance, or needing to be entertained.  I thought that for today, I’d share some of our favorite toys!

Top 10 Unconventional Toys at Our House
1. Peg People – Peg People are basic shapes that are reminiscent of people.  But they are clearly undefined people.  The reasoning for this is that then the children get to define what the people are THE MOMENT.  They are no supposed to be named, defined, and remembered as a certain person.

Peg people can be bought in several sizes, but I prefer the large ones because I tend to panic about the baby having small things in his mouth.  Our peg people have been used as characters in Little House on the Prairie, Heidi, farmers, dollhouse families, fire hoses (as the nozzle), phones, baby bottles, spices for play food, and a plethora of other things.

2.  The Play Silk – If you haven’t heard of Playsilks, let me introduce you to the wide world of toys that can be used in about a million ways!

Play silks, also called playsilks, can be used to make so many pieces of a child’s imagination, that they truly are indispensable.  My kids have used them as hats, scarves, capes, blankets, sleds, canopies, slings and baby carriers, covered wagons, sewing projects, dresses, dragon tails, grass for cows to eat, water for ducks to swim on, and many more things that I can’t think of right off.  We have silks that were scavenged from closets, estate sales and thrift stores (read that as what some grandma’s would refer to as head scarves).  We have some that were purchased white and dyed different colors.  We have giant ones that reach across the top of our play stands.  We have long narrow ones.  We have the standard 30 or so inch squares.  We have handkerchief sized silks.  And when it is time to clean them up, they all get heaped in a basket – easy peasy.  Actually, that clean up job usually belongs to the youngest member helping us to clean up.

3. Buckets – Buckets are a toy that we often think of in relation to sand boxes or beaches, but may forget in other contexts.  However, my kids play with buckets constantly.  They have a special place in their hearts for anything they can refer to as a “washtub”.

4. Wooden Cut Outs – I love Dad’s Wooden Toys on etsy.com!  My kids currently have the farm animals set from this site and have literally played with them every single day for the past 3 years.  I never spent a better penny in my life than I did on those animals!  The kids are hoping for a “zoo” and a “fairy tale” set for their birthdays this summer.

5.  Logs – We have logs in so many sizes, and they are used for so many things!  We have giant pieces of tree trunk outside that are used as climbers and seats.  We have firewood sized logs that are used for all manner of outside play, including pretending to build campfires.  We have Tree Blocks that are used as characters, to pretend to build fires inside, to build with, as play food, and, again, way more things than I can think up to name!

6.  Clothespins – Wood Clothespins are used so many ways at our house!  We have painted the ones that you see at the top of the page, as well as several others, just to make them pretty.  We have plain ones.  Occasionally they get to use my spring loaded ones when they need them to hold things up.  These are used to secure playsilks as part of outfits, to secure tents, as characters in imaginings, to build things (Walter’s favorite is to build airplanes and drills), and on and on.

7.  Bowling Pins – Bowling Pins are another great accessory to our imagination games at home.  The kids use them for all of the above mentioned tasks.  It is amazing that sometimes they need more than one option for their game, and sometimes they need more than 6 different options!

8.  Baskets – My kids use baskets for so much of their play!  They have baskets in different shapes and sizes.  They use them as beds, for hauling, as boats, as cars, as covered wagons (we are big on Little House on the Prairie around here), for clean up, for organizing the toys.  Our playroom wouldn’t be what it is without its awesome array of baskets!

9.  Tins – Walter especially is a collector of tins.  We have tins that used to hold tea, that used to hold mints, that used to hold gifts, tins that used to hold cookies, tins that used to hold spices – tins, tins, tins!  And the kids use every single one of them.  And then they ask for more!

10.  All of Outdoors! – As Papa likes to say, “What do you need toys for when you have all of outdoors?!”  My kids spend the majority of their day outside playing.  They move their bodies.  They run.  They jump.  They swing.  They ride their bikes.  They pretend.  And I watch them from the windows or the picnic table, without getting involved.  Actual outdoor play is sorely lacking in America these days.  Yet, it costs nothing, is one of the best ways that kids can spend their time, and is one of the healthiest things that kids can do!


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