Toys That Encourage Open-ended Play

Painting as Open Play for a Child

In open play, a child’s imagination guides use. Simple, open-ended toys can be much more than one thing to any kid. A child’s early education involves play, imitating adults’ actions around them and exploring their surroundings—including their toy box.

Single-purpose toys with pre-determined limitations and outcomes keep a child busy, but they do not engage the child in creating their own worlds.

Open-ended play means a child has freedom to create their own rules within the environment and transform all objects as their become part of experience. Toys in an open-ended environment are simple enough to have many uses—any use the child can imagine. Yes, blocks can be used to build or they can be food. Yes, play silks can be wings or they can be baby doll blankets. Yes, a doll can be a baby or a doll can be an audience.

Open play encourages abstract thinking and active creativity and problem solving. The characteristics a child brings to this world are given free reign. Children also learn as social and emotional skills are needed, meeting each challenge as it arises. They develop fluency in the ideas and materials of their world.

As parents, we—Nature Mom and I both—have made the way clear for our children to create their own play spaces by giving them simple, natural toys that can be transformed in play. To help you do the same as a parent, in the bynature.ca store, we make every effort to support open play with the children’s products we carry.

Dress up Toys

Silk reversible cape for a child

Silk cape

An overflowing dress-up box enables a child’s self transformation. Simple pieces can be worn many ways.

Building sets

Maple wood blocks toy

Colored maple wooden blocks

With blocks and building sets, you can choose cubes or shapes; stackers, magnetic blocks, or no connection at all; beautiful colors, story blocks, or just simple, beautiful wood without embellishment.

Dolls

Waldorf doll big friend

Waldorf Doll

The dolls a child needs as a baby, a squeezing bonding doll, differ from the dolls a child needs as they begin to imitate life. Choose dolls as well as the doll baby carriers and diapers that encourage your older child to take care of their baby doll.

Musical Instruments

Wooden musical instruments

Wooden musical instruments rhythm set

Music and rhythm instruments give a child the power to create a variety of sounds. Children are delighted when they discover this power.

Art Supplies

Glob natural paints for kids

Natural paints

Natural ingredients, particularly the colors, in the art supplies distinguish the bynature.ca collection.

More on Open-ended Play

Cultivating Compassionate Kids

Child sitting quietly

How can we help our kids be kind to others? Beyond telling them, “Be nice,” which seldom reaches past the surface, science shows us that there are specific practices in cultivating compassion that can change our brains and our actions. If we help our children learn these practices, we help them learn kindness and compassion on a deeper level.

I’ve been writing a bit lately on mindfulness and meditation as it can be applied by us, the adults, in simple ways in our busy lives. This comes from my own seeking. I’ve been calling it my Happiness Project for myself and my family.

As part of this project, I’ve recently been taking a course through edX (online MOOC, massive open online course) called The Science of Happiness, taught by two scientists from the UC Berkeley Great Good Science Center.

It’s easy enough to express a vague wish to be happier or to help my children be happier, but understanding the science of happiness helps motivate me to take clear steps forward. I know what works and why. No barrier left.

Over the next couple of months, I will share with you some of the work of the Greater Good Science Center on children, parenting, and marriage. I figure, if you find that cultivating this kind of peaceful focus is working well for you as a person, as a parent, as a partner, it makes sense to want to share this with your children.

Today, I want to share an article and short video from the Center suggesting that when you want to start meditating with children, an option is loving-kindness meditation (metta). This is a specific kind of meditation in which we repeat a few phrases that express our desire for safety, health, and happiness for ourselves and for others.

Read instructions for the meditation and watch the video here:
Christine Carter, “Greater Happiness in 5 Minutes a Day: How to Teach Kids Loving-kindness Meditation,” Raising Happiness blog, Greater Good Science Center, 10 September 2012.

Research on loving-kindness meditation is interesting. A little bit (7 minutes) can increase your feeling of connectedness, and a lot (10,000+ hours practice for those studied) can change your brain.

One of the researchers into this neuroplasticity, Dr. Richard Davidson, has also been active in finding application of the research through mindfulness and meditation training to cultivate well-being. I keep meeting him through articles and videos, so I’m sure I’ll mention him to you again.

In a couple of weeks, I’ll come back with ideas about how to teach your children gratitude.

Resources

  • “The present study demonstrated significant effects of loving-kindness meditation on both explicit and implicit positivity toward neutral strangers. Even a brief (7-min) exercise in cultivating positive regard was sufficient to induce changes of small to moderate effect size.” Cendri A. Hutcherson, Emma M. Seppala, and James J. Gross, “Loving-Kindness Meditation Increases Social Connectedness,” Emotion 8:5 (2008), 720-724. http://spl.stanford.edu/pdfs/Hutcherson_08_2.pdf

Image © Eleonoraos | Dreamstime.com - The Girl Meditating On The Beach Photo

Family Halloween Party Ideas

Kids carving pumpkins

Are you throwing a Halloween party? I love gathering with friends on Halloween, just a few families for dinner and wandering the neighborhood.

We have friends who live in a neighborhood that is crazy for Halloween decorations and lights. We arrive at their house when it isn’t quite dark, and we all eat dinner. As the sun goes down and the lights come up, we join the rest of the neighborhood in wandering from house to house.

I’ve pulled together a few ideas for games you can play while it’s still light then more traditional activities that ease your Halloween into a Samhain celebration of the end of harvest.

Finish the Harvest

Before party time, gather the last of the food from your garden and clean up the yard. Make a wreath from your own garden. Mine will include a lot of grapes from this year’s bumper crop.

Fun Halloween Games for Kids

You don’t need more than two or three games for kids. If they are in costume, they can make their own fun. Here are a few simple games to bring them back to occasional focus.

Bones relay. Cut out simple outlines of bones to create a full skeleton. Put a piece of tape on each bone. Depending how many children will be at the party, you could have more than one set of bones. Start each skeleton with a skull on a wall or a large board. Put the pile of bones at least 10 feet away. Have one child start by picking a bone and running to the board with the skull to add the bone. Then, the child runs back to touch the next person, who chooses a bone and runs to put it on the board. The relay continues until all of the bones are stuck on the board.

If the kids don’t know how a skeleton fits together, it’s OK. Guessing works just fine. The fun is in seeing how wild the final skeleton can get.

Any party game involving the harvest is perfect for this end-of-harvest-season celebration.

Bobbing for apples. Fill a metal tub with slightly warm water. The cold weather will cool it down, and you want people to stick around long enough to get an apple. Have kids gather around the tub. One at a time, have them hold their hands behind their back and bite at an apple using only their mouth. It gets very wet!

Squash bowling. Put 10 tall, flat-bottomed squash at one end of a lawn in triangular, bowling configuration. Butternut squash are perfect for this. Then, give each player a small round squash (like a pumpkin), small enough to hold with one hand, and let them roll it across the lawn to knock down the squash pins. You don’t need to keep score because everyone has fun with this one.

Carve a Traditional Jack-o-lantern

If your children are going to prowl the neighborhood for treats, how about using traditional jack-o-lanterns?

Carve jack-o-lanterns not just from pumpkins but from turnips and beets as well. You could do this activity earlier in the day or even the day before. (They dry out if you do them too far in advance.) Suspend the small lanterns by strings hanging from sticks. You can either put a tea light or a battery light in each. Carry these around to light your night. Leave them lining the walk when you get home to light the way for the ghosts who return that night to find their way home.

End with a Bonfire

When the kids get home and the parents just want to sit in a circle and talk, it’s a perfect time for a bonfire. Tell stories. They don’t need to scare the children, but it is traditional to tell stories about your own dead friends and relatives.

Be sure to leave an extra, empty place setting inviting the dead to join you. Welcome the dark half of the year with the fire. The fire is orange; the night is black.

Have a bountiful end of harvest.

© Ilona75 | Dreamstime.com - Boy Busy Carving A Pumpkin Jack-o-lantern For Halloween Photo

Handwoven Wrap Carrier

Neobulle Woven Baby Wrap carrier

 

Looking for a special gift for a new parent or for yourself? We love the new Neobulle Woven baby wrap for ease, softness, and beauty.

With the tools, the stuff of parenting, simple works perfectly. We don’t need a lot of extras. If you are managing to keep your needs for baby gear simple, you might want to splurge on a few special items.

Because we wear our babies hours a day, every day for the first two or more years, a baby carrier is a perfect place to treat yourself to something especially nice. For me, buying the best baby wrap is one of those rare gifts for myself.

Our favorite woven wrap is a new product to the bynature.ca store: Neobulle Woven Baby Wraps.

  • Easy to use, even for beginners
  • Big range of carry positions
  • Birth to toddlers (up to 45lbs)
  • Beautiful colors, from bright to subtle to print
  • High-quality weave
  • 100% Certified Öko-Tex cotton, stringent testing for harmful chemicals
  • Rave reviews for amazing support
  • Sturdy material gets softer with washing and wear

Hand-woven Wrap

Neobulle handwoven baby wrap France

One of our favorite things about this wrap: it’s handwoven. I love knowing that I’m supporting the work of artisans who create beautiful fabrics like these. Neobulle is designed and woven in France to the highest standards.

Handwoven wrap baby carriers are becoming quite popular. We see that in our store, and we have started to carry more styles and brands to give parents choices.

We hope you love this wrap as much as we do. Stop by the store or sign up for our Better Babywearing Clinic for Woven Wraps on the first Wednesday of each month to learn more about baby wraps in general and Neobulle in particular. Feel for yourself how soft and stretchy it is.

 

 

Our New Favorite Baby Carrier: Onya

Onya Baby Carrier

 

Onya Baby Carriers combine the basic approach of an onbuhimbo (Onbu, Japanese carrier a bit like a mei tai carrier) with structure and ease of a buckle carrier. What you will love the most: Onya is also a baby seat. Wear your baby on the go, then harness to a straight-backed chair once you arrive. The carrier has been on the market for a few years, but it is new to the bynature.ca store.

Onya Baby Carriers

All Onya carriers hold the baby inward-facing, in the froggy M-shape (with high knees). The carrier can be used for front, back and side carry. You can breastfeed using the carrier, because the hip strap dips low under the baby to distribute the baby weight evenly on your body. High body of the carrier supports your growing baby.

You have three choices with the Onya: The Cruiser (100% brushed cotton), The Outback (water-resistant, rip-stop nylon with air-mesh lining), or The NexStep (100% recycled soft polyester twill with air-mesh lining). Onya carriers are made fairly in the Philippines.

The Cruiser
Onya cotton baby carrier

The Outback
Onya Baby Carrier Outback

The NexStep
Onya Baby Carrier Next Step

Notice all of the zippers. Useful features of the Onya include two zippered pockets, toy loops, and a D-ring clip to attach your keys. Sleeping hood with built-in sun protection can be tucked away into a pocket when not in use.

Each of the Onya carriers can be used as a baby seat when attached to a straight-back chair.

Onya Baby Seat

You can use the Onya carrier for a newborn when you snap-in the organic cotton terry Baby Booster, which gives support before your baby has head and neck control.

Onya Baby Carrier Newborn Insert

When your baby starts chewing on the carrier, and you know you babies will, you can add the organic cotton terry Chewie Teething Pad.

Onya Baby Carrier teethers

We also sell the Onya and accessories bundled together for a savings.

Onya Baby Bundle

Learn Babywearing in Person

At bynature.ca we provide trained and certified babywearing instructors to be sure that you get the baby carrier that fits your needs then you know how to use the carrier safely once you decide which is right for you and your baby.

If you are new to the idea of babywearing, try our Babywearing 101 workshop for new and expectant parents. The workshop lasts about 1.5 hours at the Parenting by Nature store.

All baby carriers purchased from bynature.ca include a complimentary 30-minute lesson on use at our store. If you want to take the lesson before you buy, you can apply the private consultation fee (up to a maximum of $20) to your baby carrier purchase within 7 days of the consultation.

To give you ongoing support, we hold a Better Babywearing Clinic every Wednesday, cycling between Wraps, Slings, Soft-structured Carriers, and Back Carry. You can pay for one clinic at a time or buy the whole series for a savings. Bring your own carrier or try a completely new style.

This past week has been International Babywearing Week, to celebrate and bring local attention to babywearing. Parents have come together wearing their babies at local events around the world. We love supporting our customers in wearing their babies.