“Beyond the Toy Box,” Ensign, July 1984, 66–67
In shopping for toys for my children, I often became discouraged at the high prices. I felt I was depriving my children of valuable play experiences because I could not buy all the toys I wanted to give them. However, as I looked back into my own childhood, I realized that most of my memories of play did not involve toys at all. I realized that I need not buy my children expensive toys to give them a rich, varied, and creative environment in which to grow. A treasure hunt of my own house and yard gave me a wealth of ideas to use with my children in their play. I make sure, of course, that the materials are safe to play with.
Children often discover their own unique identities by pretending to be somebody else. They love to experiment with adult roles. Some of the things I collected for use in pretend play include dresses, shoes, scarves, hats, purses, gloves, sun glasses, army uniforms, badges, briefcases, lunch boxes, scrap pieces of fabric, empty makeup containers, and pieces of things that glitter and shine.
Kitchens are full of interesting things to play with. Containers make great toys. There are bowls, pans, cartons, boxes, and bottles. All these can be used as drums, rattles, cradles, jewelry boxes, or banks. Food can also be used for play. Macaroni can be strung and made into necklaces. Dried beans, peas, or lentils can be made into pictures or collages.
Children enjoy making things with their parents in the kitchen. A child can stir and empty, or wipe and wash with your supervision. He can make simple recipes and clean up and do the dishes.
To a child’s active mind, nothing is useless. I chose a handy place in the house to keep such things as spools, cardboard, bottle lids, plastic pill bottles, tacks, toothpicks, clothes pins, rope, paper bags, scraps of material, maps, buttons, marbles, ribbon, boxes, pieces of wood, old envelopes, old wall paper, old latches and keys, egg cartons, popsicle sticks, and wrapping paper. I let the children decide what to do with these treasures.
Helping around the House
Sometimes the activities that seem like drudgery to an adult can be exciting play for a young child. I’ve tried, with various degrees of success, to interest my children in playing at washing tables, floors, walls, bathtubs, sinks, cupboards, and counters; putting things away; picking things up off the floor; washing the dishes; sweeping the floor; dusting; shoveling, raking, and planting things; taking out the garbage; folding and sorting clothes; running errands; taking care of younger children; and setting the table.
Water and Earth
A garden gives children a place to learn of the miracle of growth and to enjoy the soil. It also provides training in distinguishing between weeds and plants and in the rewards of a harvest.
A garden hose is a wonderful toy. Children love to “run through the sprinklers, and water mixed with dirt makes mud pies, castles, roadways, cities, and lakes.
Playing for children is not a diversion; it is serious business, for it prepares them to successfully engage in the activities of adult life. Some of the best gifts we can give our children, therefore, are magic junk drawers, a little fresh mud, opportunities to help around the house, an old dress, or some garden seeds. Janene Wolsey Baadsgaard, Spanish Fork, Utah