Minimalist Toys for Toddlers – What’s Good, What’s Not
Minimalism–minimizing the things or “stuff” you consume and keep in your home–can contribute to a healthier life and healthier mind! But what about when you have toddlers?
Is it possible to not have toddler toys EVERYWHERE?
The answer is YES!
There are things to look for when choosing minimalist toddler toys and keeping the toys to a minimum.
Guidelines for Minimalist Toys for Toddlers
One of the unfortunate things about modern toys is that they do EVERYTHING! They light up, talk, and have extremely specific uses, which often takes away the imagination that is required for playing with simpler toys.
(Don’t get me started on video games! I love them, but they’re SO bad for imaginative play!)
The main thing you want to keep in mind when looking for minimalist toddler toys is that they should be simple. Let the kids do the work, not the toys themselves. If a toy doesn’t have more than one purpose or use–hard pass. Just say no. The only exception would be art supplies.
Consider Wooden Toys that Can Enhance Your Toddler’s Imagination and Skills
Not all of the gifts on this list are wooden, but in our modern world, we consume SO much plastic. It is more than worthwhile to consider wood as an alternative material to plastic toys.
So if you are looking for simpler toys with a wide range of uses to inspire the imaginations of your little ones, you’ll find some toys for imaginative play and development of skills!
Many of these toys follow Montessori or Waldorf guidelines.
What is Montessori? What is Waldorf?
Montessori, from Dictionary.com, is:
a system for teaching young children, in which the fundamental aim is self-motivated education by the children themselves, as they are encouraged to move freely through individualized instruction and physical exercises, accompanied by special emphasis on the training of the senses and the early development of reading and writing skills.
You can see some keywords here are “self-motivated”, “move freely”, “training of the senses.”
Montessori toys are designed to leave something to the imagination and help activate a child’s senses! If you’re looking for educational and active gifts for toddlers, Montessori and Waldorf toys are a great way to go.
Waldorf is very similar in the toys they encourage. They should be natural, beautiful, and should also inspire the senses! Waldorf and Montessori toys are incredibly healthy for a child’s development and helps provide balance in an otherwise hectic and shallow world.
These natural, non-toxic toys are a great way for your toddlers to play and use their imaginations!
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At 12 months, children can start to sleep with a lovey, or a stuffed toy. My first boy wasn’t interested in playing with stuffed toys, but with my second it was essential to get him to sleep on his own in his crib. We were gifted a beautiful, organic stuffed bunny, which he named “Baba”.
There are many options for simple stuffed toys on Amazon and Etsy alike. But you DO want to look for one that hasn’t been sprayed with flame-retardant chemicals like most non-organic stuffed toys made these days.
Whatever stuffed toy you choose: don’t choose one that sings or makes noise. Let the child’s imagination do the work!
A swing is fantastic for the vestibular motions needs of children. Basically, vestibular input is all about sensory processing and is super important for children’s brain development. Vestibular sensing happens in the inner ear and assists with balance and movement. Kids who seem to bounce around ALL THE TIME usually need more vestibular input, and a swing is a great way to get it!
The swing above is the one that we have picked out, but there are less expensive options, and of course, there are full swing sets too.
As a toddler gets older, they can have more independence with a swing, but especially when they’re still little, make sure you are there to monitor them.
I actually remember having something very similar when I went to preschool in 1989. We had a blast. It’s great for vestibular stimulation and balance like the swing above, AND it’s perfect for all kinds of creative stories that children like to make!
Rather have one that’s not as expensive? This one is a simple curved board that they can also flip to make a bridge.
Toys like this will last them for years and can adapt to all different kinds of play that your minimalist toddlers will engage in!
The simplicity of wooden bowls, colorful eggs, and scoops is perfect for the sandbox, some rice (as pictured in the second example), or just without anything lends itself perfectly to imaginative play! And although there are a few pieces that can get lost, these are definitely still minimalist toddler toys.
Besides, what toddler doesn’t like scooping stuff? M loves feeding the dogs every day, because he loves to scoop out their food. Now that D is getting older, one of his favorite things is to scoop dirt in the backyard.
Especially when they’re first learning to toddle around, a push-car is essential for a toddler to have. Even after they’ve learned to walk and balance on their own, a push cart is a great way for them to build gross-motor strength in their legs, try out different speeds, and even push each other around.
We, unfortunately, had two plastic ones that I would not recommend.
This Radio Flyer model has resistance wheels for those just learning to walk, is made of wood, and is great for carting around smaller items.
A Xylophone or Some Drums
We bought this for my niece when she turned 1, and she was still a little too small for it. But now, at two, it’s great!
And while it might sound cool to just get them something musical that plays songs and does all the work for you, THIS instrument allows for children to learn some percussion instrument technique (even if they don’t know it!) and to learn about highs and lows.
Musical exploration is natural and healthy for children of all ages.
These are for the boys and girls that love anything with wheels! These toys encourage pretend play. They purposefully don’t come with all the bells and whistles so that the child can create his or her own play!
We don’t actually have this exact set, but M has a set like this and he loves them. This set is from Melissa and Doug, which is a company that I wholeheartedly recommend.
You toddler can use this amazing Pikler Triangle to build forts, climb on, slide down, make hideouts, and build how he wants! I would have loved something like this when I was a toddler too!
The nice thing about this one is that it can form different configurations for different tasks and creations!
Sure, it’s a much larger and expensive gift, but if this is for grandkids or your own kids, spending a little extra isn’t a big deal.
The other big item that you may want to consider for your toddler is a tricycle. This can help him or her get great exercise and prep for riding a bike!
This particular tricycle is sturdy and well constructed. I also think the high back chair will be helpful for a child who is learning to peddle. It has excellent reviews and is designed for children between 2 and 4 years old.
This one is not something that you can buy. But it’s absolutely essential in a child’s development.
Nature is the ultimate minimalist toy, because anything can become a tool of their play. Dirt, sticks, leaves, pinecones, flowers, bugs, puddles…. any of these things are fantastic for sensory play and imaginative play!
Playing outside has numerous benefits, including:
- helps children be healthier
- contributes to socio-emotional skill development
- improve sensory skills
- increase attention spans
- boosts immune system
Besides, it’s FREE!
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Hopefully these items have given you some great ideas for minimalist toddler toys! Let them learn, express themselves, and be the active, healthy children they are!
Make sure you read:
How to Be a Minimalist Mom