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On Play and the Toy Library

Toy LibraryIt's been about three years since I first read Simplicity Parenting and was introduced to the idea of a toy library.  Many families do this on their own already. The idea is that most toys are put into storage of some kind while a few are available for play at a time.  It's also a place to store toys that come out when family visits, because that's just good manners  (especially when you have family that keeps track).  We still use one here and I consider it to be a valuable tool for keeping clutter under control.

Once a month or so, during a time that I am able to be alone for a couple hours, I sort through it and swap some items out.  There are trades and eliminations.  I'm looking to keep toys that inspire creativity and cooperation.  At the same time, I do believe in toys that allow a child to do his or her own thing without interruption, like the Little People house.  I sort out broken toys, of course, and try repair them if I can.  If not, or if they've been repaired and broken many times, I play taps and out they go.

I also look for items that are not contributing to truly productive play.  These would be things that are objects of great dispute, are very frustrating to use (velcro butter, anyone?), or are often placed in a high spot out of reach in order to maintain control of them (and not by me!).  Does that make sense?  Some of those are put away for a later time when they will be more appropriate, some are donated and some are sold.  I have moved out nearly as many, or maybe more, as I have kept.  Living in a small home goes a long way in aiding my efforts.

Tidying the LibraryIt might seem like I spend too much time on something that doesn't have to be done at all.  That's okay with me.  It is a significant task to our family and swapping toys does have a way of shifting play in more healthful directions.  I recently brought out some beloved stuffed animals.  It made things more tender and loving right away.  This is a good time of year for snuggling, anyway.  Other times, I've looked for toys that spark cooperation or don't require too much contracting activity.  This is not the season for Legos, but it does seem time for those Lincoln Logs.

I really have a true interest in the ways that children play and how it changes as they grow.  I'm also concerned with helping children who have trouble sinking into play, while maintaining the important element of free-play.  We have no shortage of creative, free-play here, but I often here from people who wish their children were able to play more.  With Willow on the edge of leaving early childhood, I feel a little nervous about how her play will change with time, because it is largely unknown to me.  But, she does have two younger siblings who will keep her in their sphere a bit longer.  I am so glad that I get to watch them all grow.  This time a year from now, Laurel will be pretending!

A Blessed Wilderness

It was just like being in heaven, being in there. In those days there was no road. The park was all a blessed wilderness. I have often thought what a wonderful people we would have been if we had wanted to keep it that way.

~Adolph Murie, biologist, on Denali


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