Since I have been making storage bags for children, and observing their interactions with the bags and contents, I have become fascinated by collections of objects. The scope for sourcing and collecting natural, recycled, reused, hand made .... items is endless.
Once items are stored as a 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 things 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 things may require a little work (eg. sanding and oiling for wooden bowls etc.) but this is usually really satisfying =)
Keeping things stored as collections adds value 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 great 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. There is an article on my blog site which gives lots of examples, it is called '14 Inspiring Gift Ideas for Children - for very little cost'
Please let me know if you have any questions =)