The flashing, beeping, attention-sucking gadgets of today are not doing our children or their developing brains any good. Toys that simply require a child to push a button to elicit a response don’t leave any room for the child to explore, learn, or practice social skills. In the past, children played with open ended toys that invited them to fill in the blanks with their imagination. Simple, natural toys are making a comeback as more parents choose to give the power of playtime back to their children.

What are Open Ended Toys?

We’ve all heard it at some point from our parents or grandparents: Some things were just better in the old days! This can certainly be said for children’s toys. In the past, kid’s playthings were open ended toys, meaning they can be used in multiple ways. This enables the child to use their imagination and creativity as a platform of play. When children play with simple things like blocks, balls, and teddy bears their mind has the freedom to create and grow. 

Open Ended Toys Aid in Healthy Childhood Development

At a young age, simple toys like blocks help a child to develop fine motor skills and practice problem solving as they stack, build, and design from trial and error. Toddlers can use simple plush toys to begin to hone life skills they’ve learned from mom or dad. Feeding their teddy bear at a tea party or getting them ready for bed allows the child to practice taking care of someone, skills they will someday use to take care of themself. 

As mom influencer Elizabeth Homen told us about her daughter and her Bears for Humanity Bears, ‘She is at the age where she mimics everything that we do…She loves to tuck them into bed, feed them, put clothes on them, pretend to read to them and give them lots of hugs and kisses. It’s really rewarding as a parent to watch your child grow up to be a caring person, watching her mimic the way we show her love to her bears is a pretty amazing feeling.’

Another key element that makes open ended toys great for kids of all ages is that they promote social interaction. You’ve probably seen what happens when just one child among a group has a tablet. The other children gather around wide-eyed and mouths-agape as the whole group is hypnotized by a screen. This same group of children would behave much differently were they given a ball or some art supplies. 

Simple Toys are Better for Mom and Dad’s Wallets

Markers are smart, and they know that parents want the best for their children. Electronic toys are often advertised to help children learn faster, master new skills, or achieve more. These toys come with hefty price tags and promise a lot, but researchers have found that electronics are not a good substitute for hands-on learning. In this study, scientists discovered that electronic “talking” toys actually decreased the quality and quantity of a child’s language input compared to activities like reading a book with mom or dad.  

Many families share the beautiful tradition of passing vintage toys down from generation to generation, be it teddy bears, blankets, or a beloved set of blocks. This says something about the lifespan of an item made from all natural materials, versus typical mass-made toys that may survive a year of toddler wear-and-tear. In the past, when toys broke they were repaired or sewn back together. Today, you’re most likely looking at buying a brand new toy, spending more money and creating new plastic waste. Don’t forget the added cost of batteries, extra parts, and upgrades. 

Open Ended-Toys Can Be Adapted for Different Ages

Open ended toys meet a child at their own level of play and development, making them a long-lasting and cost-effective investment. As a child grows, the toy evolves with them and offers new challenges and lessons to be learned. 

Think of those 3D puzzles with long, thin tracks of metal weaving in and out of each other and trails of beads that run along them. A baby can practice racing the beads along the tracks, fine tuning their motor skills. A toddler can look at the beads and begin to identify the different colors and shapes. A few years later, the same child begins to count the beads, then add and subtract them. One simple toy can serve as an effective method of exploration and learning for a child as they grow.

Making the Most of Playtime

Playtime is a child’s time to grow, explore, discover the world, and themself. These days, parents are bombarded with a million different kinds of toys to choose from for their kids. Most of these toys beep, light up, or otherwise demand a child’s attention while removing their ability to truly interact in a hands-on way. If you want to give your child a toy that prompts them to get creative and use their imagination, the simpler it is, the better. 

Looking for an all natural, simple plush toy your child will love? At Bears for Humanity, we craft cuddly animals that are designed to last as your child grows. Check out our collection of 100% organic, herbal-dyed bears here

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