Imagination: Why boredom is important for your kids

In a world full of articles on how to raise your children, social media telling you how to do this, and how not to do that, parents can get a little caught up on trying to be perfect. Sure, there is great advice out there, but here’s some food for thought:

If you constantly follow the “rule” book, how do you explore new things, develop new ideas, and find more efficient ways to do things? Imagination of course!

In today’s modern society, children have thousands of opportunities to thrive with complex toys, technology, activities, out-of-school activities and a full schedule of constant things to do. An increasingly talked about topic online is the idea that sometimes you just need to let your children be bored, and I think it’s a crucial skill to learn. According to an article in Psychology Today, “In many ways, boredom is a modern luxury (Spacks, 1996). Boredom was literally nonexistent until the late 18th century. It came into being as the Enlightenment was giving way to Industrial Revolution. Early in human history, when our ancestors had to spend most of their days securing food and shelter, boredom wasn’t an option.”

A great way to encourage imagination (and let your children work out how to be un-bored) is by letting them be with other children and providing simple toys with no exact “this is how you use it” options. Exploring Montessori and Steiner inspired education styles will show you that there’s plenty of reasoning behind letting children play by themselves and learn by playing.

Some of the biggest buzzwords in the toy industry at the moment are “critical thinking skills” and “encouraging independence” which both essentially mean the same thing, encouraging kid’s to solve their own problems, which is another reason why imagination is so important!

What are your thoughts on letting your kids explore their imagination? We would love to hear about it!

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Article by Sarah Crowe

Wooden Vs Plastic Toys: Which is best?

With such a huge supply of ever-changing toys on the market these days, many parents often have the question “Which is better for my child, wooden or plastic toys”? Let’s explore some of the perks and drawbacks of each material.

Wood

Pros: Wooden toys are durable, last a very long time, and are generally much better for the environment when compared to their plastic counterparts. Did you have a family heirloom toy that’s been passed on for generations? Was it made from wood? At the end of the day, when a wooden toy finally does break or become unwanted and is sent for landfill, it will degrade quickly compared to those made from plastics (or also become recycled wood, or used as firewood in the home). Wooden toys can also be beautiful, traditional alternatives to other toys, especially in our ever-increasing tech-savvy world. Give a child a set of wooden blocks, and their imagination will thrive.

Cons: Wooden toys tend to be a little pricier compared to plastics, and great care should be taken when deciding which wooden toys should be purchased. Always make sure your toy manufacturer uses sustainably sourced timber, and that their toys pass all safety standards. No one wants your little one getting splinters while they play!

Plastics

Pros: Plastic toys are simple to manufacture, they’re easy to obtain, and they’re usually relatively cheap. Another great thing about plastic toys is their ease of cleaning and sterilising. Most plastic toys these days have been rigorously safety tested, and are available at almost all toy retailers.

Cons: Plastic toys can be extremely dangerous if they snap, as plastics can be quite sharp. It’s also important to check what kind of plastics the product is made of. Sadly, some plastics can take over 1000 years to decompose, and we certainly don’t want to be leaving that around for future generations to deal with.

The Verdict:

Although plastic toys are considerably cheaper and easier to produce, when they’re no longer wanted they do a lot more damage to our planet when compared to their wooden alternatives. Wooden toys are sturdier, last longer, and can become family heirlooms passed down from generation to generation. But at the end of the day, the main priority is that whatever toys you choose to provide for your children should be fun, educational, encourage their imaginations to flourish, and provide hours of interaction so you get your money’s worth. The ambiguity of simple, classic wooden toys provides so much more than the gimmicky “new plastic thing” on the market most of the time, but of course, kids thrive when they’re challenged and are learning, so that’s the most important thing to consider.

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Article by Sarah Crowe

Montessori: 5 Ways to Encourage Educational Play

Montessori style education gets quite a lot of attention on social media and the internet nowadays, but what is it, and what benefits does it actually give to your child’s development?

To keep it simple, the Montessori concept is about letting your child develop with a love for learning by providing an environment that lets them naturally respond to their tendencies to create, socialise, play, develop and build confidence as a person. Montessori style classrooms are usually set up in a way so each child can explore the things they are interested in, compared to traditional schooling when everyone learns the same thing. This approach offers young minds the ability to explore and develop their interpersonal skills alongside their traditional “education” ones.

So how can you bring this style of education into your play at home? It’s quite simple actually! By providing the right toys, games and equipment for your child, you can offer them the freedom to explore, build, make and learn in their own unique way. Here’s some simple ways you can bring Montessori concepts into your child’s day to day activities.

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Toys for Imagination

Providing your young ones with toys that spark creativity, imagination and problem solving are one of the most important ways you can introduce self-directed learning to them. Aim to find things like blocks, counting tools, simple puzzles and toys that encourage sensory exploration. Wooden toys are usually the best for this, as they are simple, timeless and also great for the environment compared to their plastic alternatives.

Let them play with older and younger kids

The recommended age range for Montessori is a three year window, it provides a way for younger children to learn from the older ones, for kids to socialise in different ways and to respond to children at different maturity levels. Another fantastic perk for this is that it allows the child to learn in a non-competitive environment, and it better replicates our society as well.

Appropriate furniture for the space

For children to learn optimally, they need a space that’s size appropriate for them. Imagine yourself walking into a workplace that has badly placed furniture that’s uncomfortable and too small or large for your body. It would make you less productive, right? The same thing happens with children too. By giving them size appropriate furniture, and storing their toys in easy to reach places, you’ll encourage them to utilise their environment more, and to direct themselves to the activities they want to learn more about.

Order and Structure

Particularly with older children, maintaining a system of where everything is stored is a very important part to Montessori style spaces. It teaches organisation skills, and replicates real world learning and work spaces. When your child knows where everything belongs, they will find it easier to decide what to play/learn with, and it’s also a great way to encourage them to keep things tidy and clean.

Take play outside

With so many young children using technology these days, it’s important to give them time to explore the great outdoors. Getting their hands dirty, exploring nature and learning about the world gives them a head start in life. It’s also a great opportunity to learn about science and about the importance of looking after our planet. Using things you find in the garden like leaves, sticks, stones and plants also inspires creativity and imagination. There’s plenty of great ideas online for outdoor activities you can do with your children too!

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In general, the keys to using Montessori style education in your everyday children’s play is about giving them the opportunity to explore in their own way. If you provide the right environment for them, they will be more inclined to get creative and start their own activities, projects and to explore their passions and interests from an early age.

You can buy Qtoys Montessori Style toys here.

Article by Sarah Crowe