So today I did it. I took all of my kiddos toys away. I replaced them with 8 ordinary items that we already had in the house. I know, I have finally lost it!
Let me explain more-
In 2012 Ribena (a U.K. Juice company) did research into the effects of the modern world on children’s play. What they found is probably what you expected. Modern toys are based on parent’s needs, not what is best for our kiddos (In other words – if I plop my kiddos in front of something electronic, I get a few minutes of peace.) They did more research with “play experts” (I have no idea their actual qualifications – but this whole study is totally legit.) The experts came up with a list of eight everyday items that they say are all we need to entertain our kiddos.
I don’t like to believe what I read without my own experiment, so here’s what I actually did. In the last few days, I made each of my kids a pocket playground (there was no way this was going to be shared without a trip to the emergency room). Today, I had my big kids move all of their toys upstairs to our currently only vacant room (this really didn’t take very long because my kiddos don’t have a lot of toys anyway). (While Babyman was sleeping we moved his toys up their too.) My big kids didn’t really protest too much because I make them do weird stuff all the time. But when Babyman woke up and couldn’t find a Batman figure that he had when he went to sleep, we had a minor crisis. My husband had to back me up by repeatedly telling my kids that they weren’t being punished (that was the only thing they could believe as a reason to take away their toys). Then we gave them the “gifts” that we made them. And they really haven’t complained since.
Enter the pocket playground – here is the list that was published with my personal tweaks, because I decided up front that I wasn’t going to buy anything to do this experiment:
1. Coloured Threads (at least 3) – I followed this one choosing colors for each kiddo that I thought they would like
2. Coloured Paper – gave them each a little assortment of construction paper
3. Drawing/ Coloring Pencils – my little guys got crayons
4. Small wooden shapes and building blocks – I gave each of the kiddos some geometric shapes (they are plastic but the right size) and I left out a nice set of wooden building blocks for everyone to share)
5. Modeling clay or homemade playdough – One of my kiddos got a bunch of these little playdough tubs for Christmas so I just picked out the color that each kid got (we color code a lot of things to save stress and this works for playdough too).
6. Beads (under supervision) – Put together a bag of beads for each kiddo – with some pearls and gems for Fifi, letter beads for medium kids and bigger wooden beads for Babyman
7. Cardboard pieces – I went through our recycling and cut out a few each
8. Toy figures – I took the most liberty with this one as I gave each kiddo two peg people and two random schleich animals
Here is Fifi’s Pocket playground – she is at her youth group tonight so I was able to snatch hers for a picture. The silver can was a leftover from Christmas, and everything fits pretty easily inside it. She took one look at it and said what about my other art supplies? (She is a talented artist.) Then she rolled her eyes when I said “that’s all for now”.
My initial thoughts before I even gave this out, is that it looks too good to be true. I also felt that there was a terrible lack of critters (that’s why I added the animals – not sure if they are really considered figures or not – but hey, I make the rules here), and that there aren’t any wheels (no cars or bikes or anything that rolls!).
I also made some executive decisions – Only real music will be allowed (Fifi got to keep her records, record player, and iPod – L.L. gets to keep his CD player and CDs – Babyman lost his plastic “record player”.) My kiddos didn’t react as well as usual to a smoke alarm, so they all lost media time (computers, movies, video games) unless school related, until the SuperBowl – so that won’t be an issue either. School supplies stay – cause we still have to school (we are homeschoolers that practice child-lead learning, so I decided that the sewing, knitting, human anatomy take apart figure, and other resources we have strewn through the house are okay because they are school supplies for the way we do school.) Also books are books and therefore not toys so they are okay. I am also allowing our special needs kiddos to keep their sound cancelling headphones, and chew toys, but I am (at least for now) taking away their fidgets, also weighted blankets stay (we might all never sleep again without them). Because I felt really mean, and no matter what, I feel somethings should just be off limits – I allowed all of my kiddos to keep one dolly and one stuffed animal, just because I wanted to.
The nice people who were a part of this study also wrote a list of 50 things that can be done with just these eight items. I haven’t given the list to my kiddos yet. (I wanted to see what they come up with first.) So far today, there was necklace and bracelet making, super heroes fighting crime, the big boys made sheriff badges and “electronic swipe cards” for themselves which gave them the opportunity to arrest each other and Babyman, L.L.s pocket playground came to him in a small white cardboard box which he is decorating, Babyman made houses for his piggy and kitty out of blocks and fed them the shapes. Basically the kids played. No different really from any other day. We will see what tomorrow brings.
The Ribena report is no longer available online (I looked but even the Ribena website doesn’t have it anymore), but one family blogger, Life At The Zoo, shared its list of 50 things you can do with the pocket playground. (And I copied and pasted it here for you!)
1. Make a bracelet using thread and beads
2. Play ‘hot and cold’ by hiding toys and answering hot or cold to questions from other players trying to find them
3. Create your very own board games using cardboard, pencils and wooden shapes / people as pieces
4. Weave your own friendship bracelets using coloured thread
5. Long hair is perfect for braiding using the coloured thread
6. Play a game of cat’s cradle using thread
7. Design and decorate your own paper crowns
8. Create a town for toy people using the modelling clay to make trees, houses and streets
9. Create your very own game of snap using paper and pencils
10. Make paper airplanes and see how far they fly
11. Learn the art of origami and make a bird with flapping wings
12. Make masks with thread and paper and decorate them with beads and drawings
13. Make a concertina fan with paper and colour it in
14. Build a castle / spaceship / house with wooden blocks
15. Create famous landmarks with the blocks and modelling clay. Who can make the Eiffel Tower or the Angel of the North?
16. Build a house for the toy people using cardboard, modelling clay and pencils
17. Make impressions in the modelling clay with things from around your home, garden or things you have collected on family days out e.g. shells, leaves and tree bark
18. Take leaf, bark and coin rubbings with the paper and pencils
19. Push small items (match sticks, buttons, paperclips, paddlepop sticks, googly eyes) into the modelling clay to create faces or weird and wonderful sculptures
20. Create a modelling clay bakery. Make cupcakes, doughnuts and pastries
21. Create the alphabet or spell your name using moulded modelling clay
22. Build a tower with the blocks. How many blocks can be added before it tumbles down? Who can build the highest tower?
23. Shut your eyes and identify the shape of the blocks by hand. It’s not easy!
24. Create a dream catcher with cardboard, beads and thread
25. Create a ‘magic bird’ spinner – draw a bird on one side of a circle of card and a cage on the other. Make two small holes in the centre and pull through the thread, making loops for fingers at each end. Wind up each piece of string (by spinning the card round) and then, once wound up, pull the string tightly at each side – the bird will seem to appear in the cage!
26. Create medals for games, using the cardboard, modelling clay and string – first, second and third – and use these for whoever wins!
27. Make a rattle – attach beads to a piece of card using the thread and attach to a pencil. Then when you twist the pencil between your fingers, the beads hit the card and make a sound
28. Wherever you are, arrange some objects and draw a still life picture with the paper and pencils
29. Make a cardboard robot, using the thread to hold it together and beads for eyes. And give it modelling clay hair
30. ‘Names in the hat’ – everyone writes names of well-known people on pieces of paper, folds the paper and places in a hat or tub. Then take it in turns to pick a name out and describe that person without using the initial letter or any rhyming words. Go through as many words as possible in a time limit
31. Use the thread for finger knitting. Make mini scarves for the toy people
32. Make mini pom poms with the thread
33. Create an imaginary mini sweet shop using beads as sweets
34. Make your own beads using modelling clay and thread
35. Make a mini game of draughts
36. Create sculptures of your family using the modelling clay and beads
37. Write down some objects on pieces of paper and fold them over. Take it in turn to pick an object and mould it from modelling clay. The other player(s) have to guess what you have moulded
38. Make your own Bingo game using card, paper and pencils
39. Draw lots of circles on a piece of paper. On the first go one player draws an object – e.g. cat. The next person has to guess what it is and then draw another object in the next circle which begins with the last letter (so perhaps a tiger) and so on
40. Draw a well-known person e.g. a TV, celebrity, sports star or politician – everyone has to guess who it is!
41. Have a game of noughts and crosses or hangman
42. Make a fortune teller – folding your paper into a ‘rose’ and using it to tell the future!
43. Play a game of ‘Boxes.’ Draw dots randomly all over the paper. The first player draws a line between any two dots, and draws another dot in the middle of that line. The next player draws a line between any two dots, and puts a dot in the middle of that line. No lines may cross each other but they don’t have to be straight, so they can loop around other lines. Only three lines in total can emerge from any one dot. The dots put in the middle of the lines already have two lines connecting them to the two other dots, so they can only have one more line. The game continues until no more lines can be drawn. The person who draws the last line is the winner
44. Play ‘Why? Because.’ Each person writes down a question beginning with why (for example, ‘Why do dogs bark?’). Fold the top over to hide the question, and pass to the next player who, without looking at the question, writes an answer starting with Because (for example, ‘Because chocolate tastes good’). Then read out all the questions and answers – there’ll be some funny answers!
45. Play a game of ‘Monster Consequences.’ Draw a head on a piece of paper, then fold and pass on. The next player draws a torso and passes it on. The next person draws legs and the next draws feet. Open out the paper and see what monsters you’ve created
46. Play a game of ‘Written Consequences.’ Along the same lines as Monster Consequences but instead of drawing a monster, write down in turns: well known man’s name, well known woman’s name, a particular location, he said, she said and then the consequence. An amusing story should unfold!
47. Trace around your hand and adorn your drawn hand with jewellery, either drawn on or using the beads
48. Put on a play with the toy people and the objects
49. Make little drum kits with the wooden shapes and pencils
50. Play ‘Mini Boules’ with by rolling beads. Use the paper as your boules green
If that’s not AMAZINGLY SIMPLE toys – I don’t know what is!