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Nature or Nurture – and Eureka!

You hear ever again the argument: is nature or nurture the most important influence in childhood, or is it both? Yes, of course both are important, and the more research that is done the more we find how much the environment a child grows up in, not just physical but even more important emotional, will influence the child for life. Yet something important is still missing.

In a roundabout way, it provided me with inspiration for writing about the ‘third year’ in early childhood (in previous blogs I have written about the first two years). It came together with something else:

We’ve all had such experiences: sudden thoughts, inspirations, helping us find a solution to something. It turns out the Eureka moments have greater insight and accuracy than lengthy analysis*. A puzzle – it would seem to contradict our modern rational order of things! Something inexplicable happens – something new enters. Continue reading Nature or Nurture – and Eureka!

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A Minimalist Approach to Toys

The words minimalism and toys are rarely put together, instead, when we think of our children’s playthings some more appropriate words may be clutter, spreading, jumbled, vast, or even just “AAAGH, they’re everywhere!”

We live in a world that prizes possessions and puts huge value on the giving and receiving of material goods. Toys are considered educational, stimulating and above all necessary, and as such most children have an ever growing collection of their own.

We certainly have our fair share of toys in our home too, and I definitely do see the benefits they can bring to a child’s world, but in this article I want to talk about the benefits of de-cluttering and taking a minimalist approach to the toys you keep in your home.


A Calmer Environment

Fewer toys equals less clutter and leads to a calmer environment, both for the parent and the child. This in turn leads to less stress, fewer disagreements over mess and tidying up, fewer lost parts and an increased feeling of serenity. And who doesn’t want more of that?

More Engaged and Focused Play

When there is a mountain of toys to choose from, children can become totally overwhelmed and this can lead to unfocused play. Pulling out box after box, tipping the contents out aimlessly without stopping to explore the resource, and flitting from one thing to the next with no real sense of purpose. When you cut down the “stuff” there is so much more opportunity for focused and engaged play, and this is where learning and development really come in to their own.

More Quality Resources

When you are making a choice to have fewer toys, you will likely put far more thought into which ones you decide to keep. Toys which are going to last longer and that your child is going to get the most out of are likely to be those which make the cut. Open ended resources made with quality natural materials are a great way to get endless hours of play from one item. And when you buy less overall, you can pool your funds and put them towards something that little bit more special.

 Fewer Disputes Between Children

You may think that fewer toys will lead to more arguments between siblings, but the reality is that the opposite is actually true. With fewer objects to argue over, along with the resulting calmer environment, children have less reason to fall out with each other and play becomes far more harmonious and cooperative.

Greater Levels of Imaginative Play

When a child is presented with a simple resource, such as a basket of wooden pegs or a cardboard box, they are challenged to use their imagination to create their own play experience. They have to decide what the peg will become and create a story around it, which is just what children do best! When they are given a toy which does it all for them at the push of a button, their imagination is not triggered to quite the same extent. Instead they fall into passive play which is far less enriching and valuable. Imaginative play feeds the mind, enables children to explore their world safely, play out frustrations and fears, work though strong emotions, test boundaries and be in control of their own world. A simple, uncluttered environment is perfect for encouraging imaginative play.

To a child, everything has the potential to become a toy. It doesn’t have to be complicated, noisy, flashy or brightly coloured in order to capture their interest and engage them in play. They don’t need endless boxes of different toys to play with. Sometimes it really is the simple things that are the most well used and loved. Our favourites are good old wooden blocks, a bowl of rice or lentils with a selection of jars and spoons for scooping, a stick and some mud and of course the unlimited environment of the great outdoors – Surely the greatest playground of all?


©photo by James Young is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


Sam Vickery is the author of Trust Me I’m a Toddler a guide to parenting gently and peacefully through the toddler stage. Follow her blog at Love Parenting to get her latest articles on Natural Parenting straight to your inbox and start creating a family life you adore!


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