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Seven reasons why I don’t buy plastic toys for my ...

Seven reasons why I don’t buy plastic toys for my kids

Pexels Tara Winstead

Primary school teacher and mama-of-two, Sophie Helsby, has made the conscious decision not to buy brightly coloured plastic toys for her children. Here, she shares the reasons why.

It’s more than just an aesthetic

Of course, I love beautiful, well-made toys as much as the next Instagram mama, but my reason behind not buying lots of brightly coloured plastic toys from the latest TV series that my little ones happen to be into goes beyond an aesthetic. I want to encourage my little ones to use their imaginations and play with open-ended toys that will last them for years to come. So in our house, we have a mixture of well-crafted toys and lots of activities and things to play with that we have lovingly homemade together.

Plastic toys don’t create a very calm environment

Lots of bright colours and overstimulating toys don’t create a very calm home environment, and the environment directly impacts our children’s moods. A calmer, less busy environment helps keep your child calm – and isn’t that what all parents want?!

Pexels Ron Lach

If you can craft it from what you already have at home – why buy it new?!

We love crafting together – and it doesn’t cost us any money every time my daughters want to play with something new! My eldest daughter’s imagination has brought us to craft all sorts of things together from simple binoculars to a jet pack, house, cars, and fishing game. We don’t ever buy new materials to craft from either, we just check to see what we have in the recycling bin and around the house. These items may not be as beautiful as her toys that we have spent good money on, but they are often the most played with – because she imagined them into reality.

It’s better for the planet

We try to think of the bigger picture when bringing in new toys into our home. Is it something that will be played with for years to come? Is it well made and will it last? Or is it likely to break easily? If not, do we really need it? There’s far too many plastic toys ending up in landfills each year, so we try to do our bit to avoid adding to that.

Pexels Tatiana Syrikova

Plastic toys aren’t usually open-ended

I want my children to use their imaginations, think critically and make their own choices in their play. In the words of the great educator, Maria Montessori, ‘Play is the work of the child’, and what we adults can do best to support the development of our children is encourage them to play and to use their imaginations, as much as possible. Brightly coloured, plastic toys that sing and dance aren’t usually very open-ended, don’t encourage critical thinking or leave much room for imaginative interpretation either. Will your child still be interested in that Paw Patrol singing toy in 6 months’ time? Can they play with it in multiple ways? I doubt it.

I’m inspired by Reggio Emilia

I’ve chosen to send my own little ones to a Reggio Emilia Forest School to begin their introduction to life outside the home. Reggio Emilia is a teaching style that was born in a Northern Italian town after the destruction of World War Two, which left the children of the town, of the same name, with little to play with. Instead, the people of the town encouraged the children to use what they already had and draw a lot from nature in their play. Fast forward to today, why not just give your child a toy car to play with instead of making one? Well, a toy car is just a toy car, but a crate for example has endless possibilities, it could be a car, a stage, a train, or a bed… the possibilities are endless! This approach to open-ended resources gives little ones more opportunities to develop their imaginations, problem-solving skills, become better communicators and good team members who can easily adapt to different social situations. I love open-ended toys for these reasons, and would much rather have a few of these in my home than hundreds of plastic toys.

Pexels Tatiana Syrikova

Nature is the best place to get open-ended toys, for free!

Nature is filled with amazing loose parts that children can use to create play with – stones, sticks, logs, pine cones, acorns, conkers, flowers, leaves, shells – the list is endless. You don’t need fancy Montessori toys to join the anti-plastic revolution, think of your local park/beach/forest etc as your emporium (your children certainly already do!). What can you do with these bits? Let your children take the lead! It could be building, crafting or playing imaginatively – there are so many possibilities! 

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Sophie Helsby and her daughters

If you’re interested in open-ended toys and imaginative play, you can follow Sophie on Instagram at @littletales___

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