It’s a Toy If He Says It Is

This acorn is a natural toy

My son has pockets full of garbage. He keeps important broken pieces of electronics, pieces of paper, rocks, sticks, string, and so on—along with whistle, golf pencil, compass, play person, ball, and wallet chained to his belt. At least a couple of times a day, he empties his pockets and examines his stuff. He plays with it, incorporates it into a town or school or camp or island or other creation he’s made. Then, the stuff all goes back in his pockets, though it might be different stuff in than came out.

I love that he has such a clear desire to carry his stuff and that his stuff involves so much that is just incomprehensible to others as toys.

But, these are his toys. A rock or a piece of string is as much a toy for him as a ball or a pencil. He gathers toys from the recycling, from the garden, from the garbage, and from interesting mysterious bits that accumulate in the bottom of toy boxes. Anything works as a toy if it intrigues him.

As I was reading through The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections, from the Baby by Nature store, I love the emphasis on natural materials. Author Amanda Blake Soule definitely endorses the anything goes approach to toys.

Among her suggestions are Toys from Natural Materials

  • from trees – found sticks and pieces of wood as wooden blocks
  • from scraps – a basket of fabric scraps of any size or color (I keep special threads for my children as well. Glowing thread was a big hit this week and has already been incorporated into a special birthday gift from one child to the other.)
  • from fibers – yarn and string (though be sure to supervise young children)
  • from outdoor collections – rocks, pinecones, and shells

She also suggests Natural Art Supplies

  • from the pantry – “beyond the pasta necklace” to seeds and grains of a variety of colors and textures
  • from nature – rock, leaves, nuts, bark
  • from the garbage – calendars for collage, newspapers for papier-mache, old electronics (like my son loves so much!)
  • from thrift shop – dishes, fabrics, or anything that catches their imagination

Recipe for Natural Glue

Combine a 3:1 ratio of flour and sugar in a saucepan. Slowly add cold water until a paste forms. Stir over heat until the mixture thickens. Add 1 teaspoon of white vinegar. This glue will keep in the refrigerator for a few weeks. Allow the glue to warm to room temperature before using it. ~“Alternative Art Materials,” page 39

Image © Melissa Dockstader |

Please follow and like us:

1 thought on “It’s a Toy If He Says It Is”

  1. My son’s favourite toys (he’s 7 months) are the tags on clothing and pieces of string. Indeed–why buy toys if they’re going to either make their own fun or play with the box it came in anyway.


Leave a Comment