We interrupt your Internet browsing (hopefully using goodsearch.com!), to bring you this public service announcement on toys... Not just any toys, I mean good toys! Although gifts are not the point of Christmas, many of us do plan on buying or making gifts for our children this time of the year. I wanted to share some of the things that we enjoy providing for our children in case you were in the need of ideas.
Ok, so many of you know that I am the mother of 5 children ages 6 and under. That being said, you can imagine that if certain precautions were not taken, my life and house would be an absolute crazy mess! I'm not saying that at times it's not, but things are a lot better than they would be if we didn't have our children's toys and entertainment under control.
I am very... extreeeemly... picky about toys! When son #1 was born, I tried to choose his toys carefully, always trying to make sure there was some sort of educational or developmental value to the things. Well, 7 years and 5 kids later I look back and think, "That was nothing! You should see me now!".
Right off the bat, anything with flashing lights,and things that play music by themselves or even worse, toys/dolls that go off and start talking/singing by themselves (kind of scary!) ... Gone!
Having said that, here are the types of toys and entertainment that we provide for our children, which might give you ideas for Christmas presents to your own children:
Blocks. It's a classic for a reason and there are quite a few different styles to choose from. Lego's are great, you just have to watch for small parts with the little one's under 3. Something I'll look into maybe getting the kids in the future is architectural blocks. They look pretty neat and could provide an enriching experience intertwined with a study of architecture and history. For example, my 6 year old son was just reading a book on the architecture of ancient Egypt and was really curious about the designs. I've seen architectural blocks based on an Egyptian pyramid that would be a great extension to his studies at Blueberry Forrest Toys
Art supplies galore! We provide the kids with different types of paper, with different textures, colors, and purposes. Tissue paper, construction paper, watercolor paper, doodling paper, textured card stock, etc.. We also provide them with modeling clay, oil pastels, watercolors (the more colors the better!), tempera paints, acrylics, crayons, colored pencils, wax, felt, glue, pipe cleaners, etc. Also providing them with books for inspiration and art ideas makes a great gift with supplies.
Books, books, and more books! I try and take care to provide books with nice illustrations and good stories or poems. I do my best to avoid "twaddle" type books, so gross looking characters or stories are definitely out. I respect my children, so why would I give them junk? Books are pretty easy to come by too. You can get them at garage sales, thrift stores, and for free at your local library!
Music is always a hit with children! Having a few well chosen Cd's, access to a CD player and basket of instruments near by, is a great way to ignite a love for music in the home. We particularly like Elizabeth Mitchell's You Are My Little Bird CD. It has a sweet version of Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds", that we all enjoy singing together and that is easy to play along with rhythm sticks and instruments.
One of the boys most versatile and favorite toys are their silk play cloths. We bought six of them in colors for them last Fall. They've played with them so much, almost everyday, so we are planning on buying them some more for Christmas. The kind we bought are from Sarah's Silks , and they are such a wonderful open ended toy! The boys use them for capes, tie them together to make "trains", put them on their head to pretend they are shepard's, and all sorts of other things. These are awesome for creative open ended play!
Catholic books, stories on CD, pictures and videos have proven to be a wonderful resource and font of learning for our children. These are the kinds of things we can share together and help them grow in virtue and love for God and the world He created. Some of my children's favorites are Glory Stories Cd's that you can get from HolyHeroes.com. For Videos, my children enjoy watching the videos from CCC, which you can purchase at AdoremusBooks.com.
Last but not least, we provide our children with real life objects. The Montessori philosophy tells us that children like to imitate adults. We've all seen this happen. Whether you are dusting the furniture, sweeping the floor, or cooking, children like to mimic what you are doing. This is a great opportunity for them to learn real life skills! We do our best to provide them with real life objects they can use to help themselves and take care of their surrounding environment. Things like child sized brooms, cooking utensils for making snack, and real child sized gardening tools are fun things for them to use, while providing them with the satisfaction of accomplishing a real task. You can purchase the child sized items mentioned and more from the For Small Hands catalog. For Small Hands is having a promotion for schools that ends December 31, 2008. Any purchase of $25 or more can be used to apply a 10% credit of your total to the school of your choice. If you happen to decide to place an order with them, please consider applying the credit to my family's home school. We are Queen of Heaven Montessori, and our customer number is #164813.