12 Minimalist Toys that Entertain a Child At Home
The list of minimalist toys I have put together will give children the opportunity to explore materials in many creative ways, make discoveries for themselves and play out imaginative scenarios from their daily life.
Other items are typical Montessori items that will allow the child to refine their grasp, fine motor skills, eye-hand coordination, concentration, and dexterity and provide practice working with two hands together.
Some of the recommendations are more specific for toddlers like a balancing bike whereas others are timeless toys that can be used and revisited by older children too.
I recommend natural materials over plastic toys because toddlers and young children explore with all their senses. Natural materials like wood are safer for children to put in their mouth and attractive to look at and touch. And despite the fact that they are more on the expensive side, wooden toys are often more hard-wearing and can be found second-hand and then passed on once the child has finished with them.
Below are a list of 12 + categories of toys I believe can make a great addition to a household.
- Melissa and Doug cleaning set: The first toy set I want to mention is inspired by Montessori practical life activities. I have witnessed myself as a mother of two little ones that toddlers love to help around the home taking part in tasks that have to do with looking after themselves and their environment. Having small cleaning tools available, for example, a broom, a mop, a dustpan and brush, a spray bottle and watering jug allows the toddler to care for the home. Most toddlers adore helping to sweep, mop, dust, wipe and water plants.
- Arts and crafts materials: For young children arts and crafts activities are about creative self-expression, movement and experiencing a variety of materials. For young toddlers its best to buy crayons that move smoothly on paper. Chunky pencils are generally easier for younger children to hold and yield more colour than regular colour pencil. We can also add watercolours, scissors with rounded ends that cut very well and a glue stick. Chalks are also a lot of creative fun for toddlers.
- Books: Reading with our children is bliss when we find books we both enjoy. Look for books with realistic pictures. Children under 6 years old base their understanding of the world on what they see around them. Hence, look for books about going shopping, visiting grandparents, getting dressed, city life, bath time, colours, vehicles, daily routine etc. One of my favourite are Priddy Roger’s books.
DIY Montessori Activities: Toddlers are constantly refining their grasp and practising working with two hands together. Why not create your own DIY Montessori activities to help refine these skills while adding a personal and creative touch to the gift.
- Puzzles help develop basic skills such as shape recognition, concentration, goal setting, patience and a sense of achievement which will stand children in good sted for school. Peg puzzles with three to five pieces are perfect for young toddlers. The size of the knob is small to help refine their grasp. Older toddlers can move on to nine piece puzzles with smaller or no knobs. Jigsaw puzzels are then the next step for older children.
- Balls: Having different balls at home inspires rolling, throwing, kicking, coordination and of course fun.
- Blocks: Many early childhood educators believe that every classroom and I believe every home should have a full set of toy blocks. Building blocks come in many different shapes, colours and sizes, for example, magnetic building blocks, rainbow building blocks, standard building bricks etc. Whatever the case playing with blocks helps the child develop their fine motor skills, eye-hand coordination, their creativity, their spatial intelligence and not to mention they are plain ol’ fun.
- Balance bike, indoor swing or slide: We can inspire movement inside and outside for our children with these classic gross motor skill gifts. Once the child is tall enough, a balance bike without pedals can be a wonderful substitute to a tricycle. An indoor Pikler slide is also a great gross motor gift and can be adjusted as the child grows. They can enjoy climbing up and sliding down as often as they want. Personally we have an indoor swing and my toddler loves climbing into it and always asks daddy to push him higher and higher.
- Playdough, clay and kinetic sand are wonderful creative channels for children. We can add simple tools like cookie cutters, rolling pin, blunt knife, scoops to help mold the material in many ways.
- Musical instruments: I believe having a stash of musical instruments available in the home is invaluable. Making sounds with instruments can help awaking a love for music in our children and refine their hearing of musical notes. Example of suitable musical instruments for young children are shakers, xylophone, flute, harmonica etc. We also enjoy read along CD and books.
- Sensory box is a container filled with any kind of tactile material that kids explore with their hands. With a sensory container children use their sight, touch and smell to experience their world in a totally new way. It is a wonderful medium for children to absorb their senses and relax. What you will need is a drop cloth or bed sheet, plastic scoops or spoons of different sizes and shapes, small measuring cups and bags of beans, fine sand, water, shaving cream or any kind of tactile material you think your child will enjoy touching and feeling.
- Construction vehicles/ train set are great for imaginative play skills. Children have the chance to act out various situations such as making train noises, train stopping when there is a stop signal etc.
- Figurines are also a wonderful addition to a train set or toy house. Toy people or animals can be used to make stories. Children also practice emotional scenarios with figures. Maybe the girl hurt her leg and her mother needs to help and nurture her. Families of figures like these wooden dolls from amazon can encourage working through family conflicts and issues.
- Lego play has many developmental advantages for children a lot more impactful than just fine motor coordination. Even better we go on profiting from lego play as adults too. Personally, I really enjoy playing lego with my children and creating different things. Be sure to purchase a foldable lego bag to store the entire piece together and for easy use and clean up.
- Other toys that I recommend you look into are a doll, scarves and silks, wooden marble run and board games.