Since I have been making storage bags for children, and observing their interactions with the bags and contents, I have also become fascinated by collections of objects. The scope for sourcing and collecting natural, recycled, reused, hand made .... items is endless.
It seems that once items are stored as a group, or collection, the possibilities for experimentation and exploration increase greatly.
A word on safety - care needs to be taken to ensure the following items are safe for young children. There is a lot of information available on the internet, including guidelines for safe toy / object sizes. There is also information on the safety of plastics and other common materials. Factors such as size, weight and sharp edges should also be considered, with thought given to the ages and interests of the children who may be using the objects. For example, clothes pegs may not be such a good choice for children who like to have things in their mouths.
I will add a few extra safety notes next to some of the items in the following list ....
- cloth dolls, bed linen - lots of bed linen! (cloth dolls made from organic fabric are recommended for young children who are likely to put the dolls in their mouths a lot, or use them as a toy to sleep with)
- pieces of interesting fabric
- very small cushions - made in lots of different shapes and sizes, from all sorts of different coloured and textured fabric
- clothes pegs (care is needed if children are likey to put them in their mouths)
- wooden containers (any sharp edges can be smoothed with sand paper. If children are likely to put the container in their mouths, any varnish can be removed by sanding and the bowl / container can then be wiped over with cooking oil)
- metal containers
- cane baskets
- plastic containers (information on plastic safety is available on the internet. Generally plastic numbers 2 and 5 are the safest)
- cardboard boxes
- chains - (it is difficult to find out the type of plastic that chains are made from. If a child is looking for something to suck or chew on, a natural product (such as a wooden teething ring) would be safer)
- beads + buttons (threaded onto strong cord for younger children and tied very securely. Also check that the beads and buttons are sound. Wood and natural materials are preferable for young children who are likely to put them in their mouths.)
- scarves (be aware that very light scarves can vastly decrease in size if they are chewed, and may become a choking hazard)
- egg cups
- eggs - wooden, plastic, knitted etc.
- fabric bowls and circles - on website
- tree branch blocks - circular - cut from tree branches (if you are making them yourself, search on the internet to make sure the wood you are using is safe for children to put in their mouths)
- shells (check for size and sharp edges. Be aware that shells can chip easily. The best shells for young children are the very thick, smooth ones, that don't weigh too much)
- found objects - smooth sea glass, driftwood etc (check for size, shape, sharp edges etc. etc)
The value of collections - collections made up from items such as the ones mentioned above, are well worth the effort involved in sourcing them. The combinations, and possibilities for experimention are endless. As each new item, or set of items appears, new possibilities emerge. Another advantage is that many of the items are free, or else cost very little. Opportunity shops, garage sales, the country side, the beach etc.etc. are great places to search for interesting things. Some of the items may require a little work (eg. sanding and oiling for wooden bowls etc.), but this is usually suprisingly satisfying!
Keeping things stored as collections adds value / importance to the individual items. We have founds things are far less likely to get lost or broken once they are stored together. It is also very exciting and satisfying when you are able to add to a particular collection.
Another great advantage is that many of these things already exist, which saves the energy needed to constantly produce new toys.
Items such as the ones listed above can be grouped together to make some beautiful gifts.
For example, combintions of things like - cardboard boxes, plastic containers with lids, fabric, shells, chains, clothes pegs etc. etc. hold so many possibilities. With some careful thought and planning, they can be presented in a way which makes them look very special, very inviting and full of promise. Consider storage options to keep things like shells grouped together, eg. fabric bags, cardboard boxes, plastic containers, a 'plainly canvas' bag! etc.
For some inspiring wrapping ideas, google 'gifts wrapped in newspaper' and 'gifts wrapped in brown paper'. It is quite amazing what can be achieved with every day items.
Another thing to consider as part of a gift, is ....... 'the beginnings of an idea'. For example, if you have a small patch of ground available in your garden, you could draw a map / picture of where it is located, and include the drawing as part of a child's present. If you combined it with items that may be of use to them, it would make a very inspiring present.
- for a child who loves cars and roads, depending on their age, you could include items like - a spade, some pieces of wood to use as bridges, small twigs / sticks packaged together, a plastic container with holes in the bottom to use as a car wash, a small piece of plastic to use as the bottom of a lake and so on.
- for a child who loves huts and imaginary play (and once again depending on their age) - a large piece of fabric and some way to attach it to a fence or a tree, extra fabric to put on the ground, items to use as props depending on their interests (for older children, great pieces of old china can be found in second hand shops for very little cost), shelves can be made from boxes or some pieces of wood etc. etc.
- there are endless ideas of huts, outdoor play ideas, and pretty much every thing else you can think of, on the internet.
With some careful thought, the ordinary can definitely become the extraordinary!