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Why Simplicity Often Prevails in the Natural Toy box

Don’t worry. This isn’t one of those posts that goes on and on about how you HAVE to buy wooden and natural toys and how all plastic toys are bad, bad, bad. Okay, well maybe there is a hint of that, but really I just had to share my fascination and complete surprise over the popularity of a truly simple toy that entered our semi natural home this year and how it reminds me that simplicity and toys go very well together.

To squash all ideas that I have ALL natural toys in my home, I would like to assure everyone that there are plenty of plastic toys to be found in our abode. We actually have two small bins of miscellaneous plastic crap that I like to believe accumulates in everybody’s house. Then we have nicer plastic items, many purchased second hand, ranging from an educational cash register to a huge box of animals and the beloved Strawberry Cafe and even Diego’s Tree House.  So as you continue to read this, know that I go for balance over zealousness.

The simple toys that I have seen playing more roles in our house than any other? The Pegs and Cups. Who would of thought, right? Even when I was purchasing this item from Urbanhomesteaders on Etsy, I was thinking, “Am I just throwing 15 bucks away?” Well, while they obviously weren’t the highlight of Christmas morning, they have served more roles in playtime than you can imagine. And I have no doubt they have a lot more roles to play.

simple toys for kidsThese little pegs and cups have been used for simple sorting and color matching, they have been friends of the gnomes and a family all on their own, they have been nail polish, perfume, a million other sprayers and creams used in a variety of scenarios and as you can tell in some photos, even the dog found a way to love this natural toy (the kids could care less that one is chewed and obviously it was not purchased in that condition). I have found these little cups in the play kitchen, in doctor kits, in dollhouses, spread out on tables and well, everywhere. Smaller children come in to the house and immediately start to put pegs in and out of cups.

I often reflect now on what makes these toys and similar ones we have that are timelessly popular so much fun and I think it is the fact that they are so very simple. There is no flashing light or strange sound confusing the situation. These toys are only what the child’s imagination wants them to be and this gives a sense of accomplishment that makes for happy confident children. Curious by nature, children presented with a clean slate can make great things happen. Don’t believe it? Just give them a blank piece of paper and see what they can create.

I try to be conscientious of the items I place in the play area. Again, balance over zealousness. When looking at a toy I often ask myself, does this toy encourage imagination? Will my child interact with this toy or will the toy interact with my child? Then I move down the list of can I buy it used or is there a natural alternative to this item. The more a toy does, the less a child must do; keep your toys simple and set your child’s mind free.

I would love to see some of your favorite toys and hear about what makes them popular at your house.

Fruit – A Natural Choice for Dinner?

I had a flashback of being at a friend’s house, long before I had children of my own, and helping prepare a meal for their child. I picked up some kind of fruit and began to add it to the plate and the mom in charge said, “Oh no, if I give her that, she won’t eat the rest of her dinner”. At the time, I remember looking down at the plate which consisted of fairly healthy items and, probably out of the desire to not rock the boat and for my own lack of opinion on kid’s eating habits, I went along with the plan.

Now that I have children of my own, I have had to revisit this situation on more than one occasion with my life partner in love. There appears to be some kind of stigma in the world against serving raw unpackaged fruit for or with a child’s dinner. Some unspoken tradition passed down for generations that says a child must first eat his more processed, less raw products before reaping the benefits of some whole foods. It’s very confusing for me.

fruit for dinnerI look at the plate, which we generally try to fill with quality food, but most of which has been prepared in some fashion and has diminished nutritional value compared to its whole food counterparts, and I feel good about having some fresh raw, unpackaged fruit included. My life partner in love looks at the same plate and expresses concerns that the fruit will get eaten and not the other food and it is here that our discussion takes a turn towards debate. I chime in with the nutritional value of the fruit being far superior than anything else on the plate. Fruit provides fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and is an excellent tool for detoxification. The reply is often that they need more calories than that fruit will provide. Touché.

My thoughts are that children are very instinctual when it comes to eating. Even if they are full from the fruit on their plate, their bodies will tell them to eat more because it has not yet gotten the fuel it needs. Actually that needs corrected because I did come to an epiphany recently that there are kids who eat because they love food and there are kids that eat simply to live. My one daughter eats because she LOVES food and will continue to eat because it tastes so good. My other, not so much love involved but understands she needs food to survive and stops eating when she feels full. In either case though, they are free to make the decision about when they are full and how much and which items they want to eat from their plates; fruit included.

Does a line need to be drawn and should the fruit be saved for desert? I have actually found that when you dice fresh fruit and add it to the plate with all the other helpings and make fruit regularly available at all meals, there isn’t a rush to eat it all at once. Sure it’s the first thing they go for, but it generally is not the only thing they eat. We do the same with fresh raw vegetables, but for some reason they are not questioned as much as fruits even though the benefits of both raw foods are fairly equal.

Ultimately when deciding if fruit is the right choice for your dinner plate, you should consider the eating habits of your own children. There are plenty of people who suffer from digestion issues and fruit can trigger these effects. This may be true for your child. Obviously, children with diabetes have different fruit for dinner considerations as well. However, if your child has no real issues with combining fruit with other foods, then let the fruit fly raw and free on the dinner plate, lunch plate and anytime in between.

5 Advantages To Shopping At Thrift Stores

Many natural families know that how you spend your money matters.  With this in mind lots of folks have begun shopping at thrift stores and enjoying quite a few advantages from their new choice.

Never thrifted yourself?  Here are just a few of the reasons you should start shopping at thrift stores.

Eco Friendly

Shopping at thrift stores is incredibly eco friendly.  You’re reusing items instead of buying new.  This helps keep others unwanted or unused items out of land fills, reduces the amount of energy used to produce and transport the things you do need and use, and eliminates new items needing to be produced for you in the first place.

Easy On The Pocket Book

Shopping at thrift stores makes buying clothing, housewares, shoes, and more cost less than purchasing these same items new would.  Many shops even have bag days or half off sales, volunteer for discounts man with bag of money saved thriftingopportunities, and other ways to save even more on your thrifted treasures.

Support Non Profits Instead Of Big Box Giants

While not all second hand stores are a funding stream for non profits, many are.  Organizations that represent charities from animal welfare, to domestic violence, to places of worship, and countless others use thrift stores as one of many ways they fund their programs.  Goodwill and The Salvation Army are two of the most well known charities that have used second hand stores to help keep their charity work going strong, and these funding streams have become even more important as social service agencies face intense budget cuts at the local, state, and federal levels.

Be Certain What Your Hard Earned Money Is Supporting

Many companies today produce new items under very questionable circumstances.  Whether they’re polluting the environment, abusing their workers, or even using child labor, you can avoid all these ethical issues by shopping at thrift stores.

When thrift shops aren’t owned by charities as described above,  they’re usually owned by the person working there or at least someone local and near by.  And, because of the way they operate (selling reused items), your money is never going to support any of major fun award graphic for thriftingthese or other unethical practices often used by companies that make new products.

Fun and Exciting Shopping Experience

If all these fantastic reasons to shop at thrift stores isn’t enough, all the fun and excitement of finding some amazing deal or some beautiful piece is the cherry on top!  The high of thrifting is something that’s hard not to work for once experienced.  It usually requires time and repeat trips, but, the rewards are so neat and special that it’s all worth i!

There really are so many advantages to thrifting, please take a minute to share with the rest of us natural mammas and pappas why you enjoy patronizing your local thrift shops, and if you’re up for it, post some pictures of your favorite thrifting finds!  We always love hearing from our readers and, it makes switching to a more natural family lifestyle even easier and inspirational the more we share together!