I prefer our daughters toys to be natural, organic, fair, sustainable, toxin-free and handmade. I choose to curate her toys, offer her a select amount to not overwhelm her. Many kids own way too many toys, have difficulty choosing what to play with and thus end up whining and not wanting to play at all. I carefully select materials that are ‘friendly’ and close to nature, like wood, organic cotton, linen, burlap, silk and wool. These materials nourish a child’s senses. I love for her to play with toys that are ‘open’ – meaning they spark imagination and can be used in many different ways. Like a pot and a spoon, which is part of her kitchen as well as her coolest drumkit. Imaginative play really is the key to creative thinking later in life. Children naturally copy what they see. This is how they learn and develop. With a mama who cooks and photographs and a dad who composes music it comes as no surprise how much Lou loves making risotto icecream, taking pictures, singing along with First Aid Kit and playing her (fathers) ukelele.
Natural gift giving
Over the years I have found that holidays prove to be a real challenge when it comes to gift giving and gift receiving. Often times we are pressed for time and end up buying ‘the easy and widely available option’, at the larger chains. We do not carefully curate but buy conveniently. We do not keep the needs or character of the person we buy for in mind. To turn (gift) buying from ‘kind of okay’ into a loving and considered act, I ask myself the following questions.
QUESTIONS BEFORE BUYING:
Does (s)he really need this?
Does it enrich? For example his/her play.
Is it essential to his / her joy and wellbeing?
Does it add beauty to the home or environment?
Has it been made fairly and lovingly?
Is it durable and time-less?
Why is this all so important?
Now, you may ask yourself: Why is this all so important? Why would you put so much thought into toy or gift buying? Toys are just objects to have fun with, right? Yes, but not really. Children learn, about themselves and the world around them, through play. Toys are a part of their world of play. When you choose the right toys, they act as tools in developing personal and social skills, attitudes and values.
They help your child develop, grow and flourish. In other words, play should be fun but not something to take lightly. Making conscious decisions about what your children play with is key as they will leave a lasting imprint.
When buying or choosing a gift keep in mind the questions mentioned above. I have a tiny list of small (local) retailers that offer natural and bespoke toys. Sometimes I run into something new that makes my (and/or Lou’s) heart skip a beat. I then add this to the list. Feel free to create your own list of carefully chosen favorites. This double enquiry allows buying to be done thoughtfully.
I know the first steps are often the most difficult ones, so to get you started I have made a selection of our favorite natural, toxin-free and organic toys, makers and shops. They may en up on your list, or they may not. But hopefully they will spark a desire for natural play and for consciously choosing what will become a part of your (kids) world.
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'Children learn about themselves and their world through play.'
5 FAVORITE ORGANIC, NON-TOXIC & NATURAL TOYS
Truck by JUKKA*
Jukka is a Finnish family run company, founded in 1923. They make all sorts of gorgeous and sturdy toys from Finnish birch wood. They are known for their high quality, natural and safe materials. Lou loves this truck and its drivers I found, second hand, at an online marketplace called Marktplaats, similar to Craigslist. It cost a mere 10 euros.
Camera by TUKTUKTOYS*
I was looking for a wooden camera for Lou, searched online and looked for a local maker. This is how I found Ruth and her company TukTukToys, conveniently situated a few kilometers from my home. Ruth crafts pretty toys from natural materials like wood, felt and wool. You can find her shop over at Etsy, one of my favorite places to find handmade goods from passionate makers. The camera cost 15 euro’s, ex shipping.
Doll by STELLABYROSA***
Rosa, a mother of two daughters, makes the most delightful dolls I ever did see. Her ‘Stella’s’ are inspired by traditional waldorf dolls and made from the finest naturally dyed materials such as (carded) sheepswool, mohair, Swiss tricot and linen. Stella’s cheeks are colored with beeswax crayon. Both the dolls, as well as their outfits are carefully designed and crafted by Rosa. Each doll is different and unique and takes about 4-5 days to make. Rosa gets her inspiration from music (Charles Aznavour and Portuguese Fado) travel (Morocco, Ibiza and Andalucia), folklore (India e.o.) and nature (forrest and sea). You can follow Rosa on Instagram and buy one of her Stella’s on Etsy. If you do, which I highly recommend, be prepared to receive the most lovingly wrapped gift. Stella costs 75-85 euro’s, ex shipping.
Tipi by GRAYLABEL*
We gathered the money we were gifted for Lou’s first birthday and bought one large and time-less item, this incredible tipi tent. Kids love small spaces (must be similar to mama’s womb) hence their tendency to end up in baskets and cart-board boxes. Small spaces add safety to a child’s world. Playtents, tipi’s, treehouses and a crib or bed with a canopy are all great examples. Lou loves to play in this tent by Dutch brand Gray Label. It is made from thick organic cotton and untreated wood and costs 110 euro’s, ex shipping.
Balancing blocks by AREAWARE*
Wooden blocks are perhaps one of the most versatile toys ever. You can build an endless amount of structures with it, but its fun doesn’t end there. Lou also uses her blocks as ‘vegetables’ and cooks them in one of her pots. These balancing blocks by New York based design company Areaware are one of our favorites. They look like gemstones, are made from faceted oak wood and water-based paint and come in a cute cotton drawstring bag. The balancing blocks cost approximately 50 euro’s, ex shipping.
We also love these beautiful wings by Studio Escargot, this stackable tunnel by Grimm and this brush and dustpan by Iris Hantverk, to help with cleaning ; ) For more inspiration: I abolutely adore what Jenny Mustard has to say about gifting.
All images and text (c) by kyra. at kyra’s kitchen.