This past week, I have spent inordinate amounts of time pottering around the home.
One of my jobs on my to-do list was to finally take down Ned’s cot, as he has now moved into his big bed and there is no ‘baby’ on the visible horizon.
I rediscovered a box of special rainy day toys I have stashed under the bed, for when he is a little bit older and thought I might share a few pictures with you.
(You will see as you read down, that my simple wish of showing you some toys, has evolved into a bit of contemplation instead! )
This game is MY personal favourite. I bought it from my friends, Nikki and Mia of Time for Craft last year before our big Vital Years conference. Nikki actually offered the making of the fishing game as her Vital Years workshop and it was very well received! It is delightful to walk away with a ready made toy or doll for your classroom or home after a week away, as life seems to sometimes get in the way of completing things. The handmade detail and the delectable beauty of this toy make it a wonder to behold, and adults (especially) fall in love with it! It definitely makes a wonderful gift, and is a perfect toy for the rainy day box. Something to savour on a special day.
That is what makes a rainy day box so great. You can fill it with a variety of things, including more formed games such as the fishing game as well as things that act as imagination builders.
(In day to day play, ‘imagination builders’ are much more important. These are the things that remain open ended, and full of possibility for diversive creativity. Think blocks, curtain rings, plain coloured cloths, simple knitted toys, simple dolls, horse fences, blocks cut from tree branches etc- all things typically found in a Waldorf kindergarten for the very practical reason of providing a way for the children to ‘act out’ any and every inspiration that may strike)
‘Formed’ toys are a little different, and have their place- even if it is not so much for the everyday. These are toys and activities that require less of a child’s own imaginative input to create something new. The ‘fish game’, although wonderful and gorgeous, is an example of something with a lot of form. Most children see that you can take the fishing rod and fish for the dolphin, starfish or crab. In some ways, the complex felt shapes become fixed into being just a ‘fish’ or a ‘crab’. The very thing that we adults love, the colour, form and the true to life creation, may actually hinder what our children do with it in play. This is true of both something we make, and also in other formed toys. I have another fishing set with wooden cut out fish/crabs/sharks and the same limiting principle applies. Children have less opportunity to use these formed shapes for anything other than what they suggest. Redemption of these pieces occurs with a child who is able to take them into a game, such as going to buy fish and chips for dinner or the making of their own fish tank, or who uses them in a made up story or game.
It is interesting that my colleagues and I have shared many discussions about the increasing amount of formed toys that are appearing in Waldorf kindergartens in our country. And perhaps worldwide??
It is true that many of the beautiful formed toys in our rooms are made (or purchased) through the good intentions of parents, grandparents or teachers. But, as our classrooms, kindergarten, playgroup spaces and homes fill with an abundance of these lovely things, we risk losing the essence of what provides true, free, independent play. Our discussions have been frank at times, acknowledging that sometimes even with the best intentions, the lure of materialism strikes us all! And so does beauty!! I have, over the years, collected an abundance of lovely ‘toys’ and ‘dolls’ which have never been intended for the play room. Nope, they sit with me in my office space quite happily. I guess what I’m trying to say is that ‘less is always more’. It is a lesson I have to keep relearning.
There is good news too. My experience has shown me that an older child of 5 1/2 or 6 may demand something a bit more formed when they desire to play out an inspiration. A blue cloth, a seedpod or two, a bit of wool and a few scraps of fleece might just not ‘cut the mustard’ for the child of this age and they may find immense pleasure in being able to take a game such as this lovely crafty creation and transform it to suit their play needs. It is a win win for all!
The Rainy Day box is filled with lots of other things too.
Shapes for making patterns and pictures,
a magnetic puppet show
(not at all true to life, but a fun thing that children love.
I had one for my after-school care group years ago, and it was their favourite toy of all)
vintage sewing cards (I found these at a school fete but you could make your own)
a wooden game of tic tac toe (noughts and crosses) with bees and ladybugs bought from the Vic markets in Melbourne,
another vintage game- this one being Snakes and Ladders. Check out the tiny counters!
This is a Japanese game of skill, purchased at Japan Day second-hand stalls last year. You stack the pieces, with the head on top, and have to try and knock the coloured circles out with the hammer without tipping the head off. And, a collection of spinning tops.
This is another set I have had for yonks. It is made up of houses, blocks, trees, etc and you can build your own town. Not really suitable for Ned until he is about 3 or 4, as the pieces are pretty small.
Some Japanese balloons. You can find these at most Japanese food shops for a few dollars. As they are paper, you can play with them inside, or on the verandah, pretty safely.
Curtain pieces bought from an op shop. A great example of an open-ended ‘toy’ that children love and use in all kinds of ways. These will be transferred to Ned’s everyday toys once he completely stops putting things in his mouth! (We are almost there!!)
A basket of wooden gnome and doll bases, left plain.
(Crafty cute ones are great too, but too much detail can inhibit what children do with them in play.
You might use these decorated ones for your nature table or a story instead)
There are some of these in Moondew play area already but these are a few put aside for the rainy day box, along with two wooden planks just perfect for playing upon. These can be moved out of the way of little siblings, or set up at the kitchen table when you want to confine a child to a particular area (eg while you sweep the floor or cook hot oil!!)
And here are a couple of new things for the Moondew everyday playroom.
These are a new find- they were from a craft shop closure. They are pegs for a peg board, to hang bags or hats on. I added them to the block basket and we’ll see what the children do with them.
And a basket of mini-pegs too.
Let the play begin!