The thing I most ask myself when purchasing a toy is, 'Where will it end up years from now?' I think most of us have seen The story of stuff (if not stop everything and watch now!) and realize we do not want to contribute to that cycle of planetary unraveling. So I ask myself, "Will this end up in a landfill or will it be passed on to other children?' And most importantly, "Is its ultimate destination the compost bin?" Does the toy have longevity? Can it be used by more than one age group? Is it well made and sturdy? Is it beautiful? Do I enjoy looking at it? Does it contribute to the overall decor and feel of our home? All of these factor into the decision to buy the toy or not.
I placed this removable board in front of the fireplace that I painted in simple watercolors to create an extra play area. When we want a fire we move it over and light up our logs.
Santa brought this castle to the girls but I'm pretty sure they have identical ones at Nova Natural (hee hee). Santa usually brings the bulk of the toys for both girls and just a few as individual gifts. 'A little for myself, and a lot for all' is a message I find important and am glad Santa agrees. Keep in mind this is including me, and not instead of me- a warped sense of martyrdom is as unhealthy as selfishness. The girls have come up with many theories on why he does this, which are usually quite amusing, but the gist of it is that they think he doesn't want them to fight over toys and if it belongs to both of them neither can claim it as their own. Also, he brought this over a 4 year period. Don't think that you have to get everything at once for your children. Instant gratification is not a long term gift. Not only does it defer the costs for the parent it also teaches the child about waiting. I guarantee the girls were way more excited each year to receive more pieces than if they had received the whole thing at once. These were not gifts that were opened, tossed aside and moved on from. They stopped opening, brought them over to where their other castle pieces were and set them up before moving on to the next gift. The more we give children the less meaning all of it has. Less, less, less. the golden rule.I got this little kitchen for very cheap at a garage sale and repainted it in soft colors that don't call attention to itself. It falls to the background so that the play can be the 'star.' The curtain is a piece of silk chiffon that we dyed ourselves. Just thick enough to diffuse the light and create a warm atmosphere.
The basket of silks ought to be a staple in every playroom. The uses of them are infinite- from creating playscape backgrounds to dress up, wrapping gifts to swaddling a doll- they get used everyday at our house. We dyed these all ourselves with the 3 basic colors from dharma trading company. That's also where we bought our silks and curtain fabric.
This kitchen was another cheap find covered in country stencils. The bookshelf was a freebie from the trash. I use the top for a nature table area. I also have a large basket of blankets available. I hear so often that wooden toys and and natural things are too expensive. With a little imagination it can be quite cost effective!
Providing multicultural playthings gives the children an early appreciation for the asthetic from another country. The early years are not a time to try to make a social studies lesson out of this. I do not tell the children that the shoes are Dutch, Chinese and Japanese. Right now they are elf shoes, princess shoes and farmer shoes, but that changes daily according to who's playing with them.