A friend of mine commented on a photo of Isa I uploaded to Facebook, with the background of his basket of toys, saying that what a load of toys Isa has.
Isa examining the wheel of his walker.
Well, I have to say, Isa has collected a full basket or more of toys – and I always proudly make it clear to anyone who gives remark on the amount of Isa’s toys that more than half of them are not bought by us.
When Isa was around 4 months old, my boss offered me his daughters’ old toys. He thought that before his wife donated it somewhere else, he’d offer it to me first. I gladly accepted it – we knew that some playing equipment are necessary for Isa, but we are not to keen on purchasing a lot of them.
So the next day he brought two big bags of toys and books – all of those his daughters have outgrown. We were delighted. Well, since he is a senior manager, you don’t wonder why all the toys are Fischer-Price or Lamaze, and all of them are in a very good condition.
He, thankfully, spared us from having to shop for toys for nearly a year.
Many of our friends and families are generous too when it comes to gifting Isa with toys – which helps our budget greatly.
We did add a few items here and there, simple and less expensive ones when we feel necessary. When I noticed that Isa is in a phase where he reacts more to sounds and musics, we added some sound-producing toys, mostly the cheap ones. We have come to believe that a good toy is one that can be used creatively, and not just some press-one-button-and-we-are-done kind of products (which normally cost a bomb and have externality i.e. batteries!)
My best friend gave Isa a toy boat which comes with a few pieces of Mega Blocks for his birthday. Isa seemed to be able to grasp the skill of putting two blocks together and deconstructing them after a while, we went to get him a 74-piece big building block set (of unknown, cheaper brand). I am happy to observe that he has progressed to be more interested to actually build blocks rather than deconstructing it recently!
However, I have to agree, based on my still brief experience of mothering a child, with what Montessori has to say about toys. Children are really more interested with real-life, fully functioning daily items and not some mock-ups we got them i.e. toys.
At any time, a basket full of my cosmetics drawer items will get more of his attention than his shape-sorter.When I was in the kitchen for example, enticing him with his toys would definitely be in vain. He’d prefer some new containers he found in the kitchen, or analysing my spice racks, or digging through my pantry or (of course) looking for some novel treasures in my fridge.
They want reality – because they are learning life, and what to do with it. How to adapt with it, and what they have learnt by observing us, they would want to imitate it.
Nevertheless, as I am reading Montessori (for the time being, mostly self-directed) I know that some basic toys (or items) could be helpful. Many of them are wooden, and from my research and browsing through some toy shops, I’ve come to known of Melissa & Doug brand.
While their products are expensive (gulp!), I wanted to believe that they are a good investment (since we are planning to expand our family) should we choose the right ones. With this justification, I bought him Melissa & Doug Bead Maze, on 20% discount at Early Learning Centre outlet at Suria KLCC yesterday….fully-approved by the ever frugal husband.
There are a few things I am planning to do with regards to toys and Isa’s activities:
1. Sort them out (again), keep them organised, and rotate periodically. I will try to choose a few items of Isa’s interests and of those we can actually get him to do some activities with , perhaps for a week or two, while keeping away the rest. I have noticed that Isa lacks focus (he’d hold one ball only to release it when his eyes catch another item). This well help keeping his play area neat, which will make it easier for him to focus – though we are talking about a toddler with 30-second attention span.
2. Spend a screen-free time (aren’t smart phones addictive!) for playing with Isa intentionally. I am guilty, I know, when it comes to this but we are learning. Isa is learning from my behaviour and at the phase where he replicates and imitates everything that we do. As my husband puts it, it gives him a slight pressure playing with Isa, bearing in mind that he is there watching us, and learning from our moves, both positive AND negative.
3. Pick one book for a week and read to Isa nightly before sleeping. We received about two dozens good children books from my boss. Previously I put them together with the toys in the basket until I noticed that they gone out of radar – Isa barely picked them up. I put all the books in the study room (still awaiting a proper shelf), and will pick one a week as said. I started doing it two nights ago, and last night, after we changed Isa into his pajama, he picked the book from our bedside table and asked to be read to. Is not that wonderful?
Since it was a ABC picture book rather than a story book, I made up stories based on the pictures shown (There is an APPLE, it’s red, on a bench. Suddenly a BUTTERFLY flies and sits on it, trying to eat it while a CAR came by…). Suffice to say that Isa loves it. I think it also works as a comforting ritual, as he falls asleep easier after the session.
I’d share for my record how Isa’s play area looks like now and after my reorganisation.
Isa playing mechanic, working on his push walker. Never thought it could be played this way!
Till then, keep playing!