My daughter Plumblossom has a tiny toybox—a little fabric bin that holds her small selection of rattles, balls, books, blocks, and other infant playthings. The majority of its contents are gifts from friends and family; lucky for her, as her minimalist mother is not particularly adept at choosing or acquiring such items. :)
In fact, while browsing Amazon and other retail sites, I’ve found many more toys I don’t want to buy than those I actually do. Here’s what I plan to avoid:
Battery-operated toys. I think toys that have flashing lights, electronic sounds, or too many bells and whistles are overwhelming for a baby. Furthermore, I want play to be about imagination, not pushing buttons.
Branded toys. No items with Disney or other mass-marketed characters will enter our home until my daughter specifically requests them (and even then, I’d like to limit them).
“Little grown-up” toys. Plumblossom will have to live without a play cellphone, laptop, or cash register for the time being. I know many people think it’s cute, but I’m not too keen on these little plastic versions of adult items. I want my daughter to enjoy being a child, before the pressures of consumption and connection encroach on her life.
Trendy toys. This won’t be hard, as without a TV, neither Plumblossom nor I have any idea “what’s hot” in children’s toys; fortunately, I don’t think I’ll have to worry about this for quite a few years.
Plastic toys. Oh, how I’d love to avoid plastic toys or anything made in China! She currently has a few, but as she gets older, I intend to replace them with European or American-made wooden toys (most of which are geared towards older babies).
So far, Plumblossom has a take-it-or-leave-it attitude towards her toys. She likes to turn the pages of her books, and now that she can sit on her own, play with her blocks and stacking rings. But to be honest, she finds household objects (bags, boxes, mixing bowls, measuring cups) and natural objects (flowers, leaves, sticks, stones) infinitely more interesting than what’s manufactured for her age group.
I also think she’s a minimalist-in-the-making: she’d much rather go for a walk, crawl around the house, or splash in the tub than sit with her playthings. And like her mom, she loves a clear surface; if I put a few toys on a table, she’ll sweep them off (and onto the floor) in record time.
Furthermore, I’ve noticed that if multiple toys are within her reach, she becomes easily distracted and distraught. She’ll pick up one for a few seconds, then go to another, then go to another—none seem to satisfy her for very long. If I give her only one toy at a time, she’s more focused, and plays more quietly and contentedly. It’s fascinating to see this reaction to “too much stuff” at such an early age, and makes me ever more determined to keep her play environment simple and uncluttered.
So what’s your opinion: am I short-changing my daughter by limiting her toy collection? What are the few must-haves for a minimalist under 1 (any favorites from your own childhood)?