My play philosophy, by Modern EvePhoto source: Janette Crawford of Fashion Loves People

Now that we’re out of the early infant stages and survival mode, I’m starting to think a lot about Beckett’s development and education. Seeing my daughter discover and gain new skills is the best part about being a mom for me. I am truly giddy about helping her move toward independence, express herself creativity and grow in knowledge of the Lord and His creation.

I’ve been reading a lot about various educational approaches and find myself really attracted to many of the principles in Montessori and Waldorf methods. I don’t see myself being a purist in any one approach, but I do appreciate many of the philosophies behind these schools of thought. I love the idea of using “play” to teach practical independence skills (a key characterization for Montessori), and also as an opportunity to encourage creative expression through art, music and role play (an important value for Walforf proponents).

My play philosophy, by Modern EvePhoto source: Rebecca Gallop of A Daily Something on The Goods blog by Uncommon Goods

My play philosophy, by Modern EvePhoto source: Jade Berreau on The Glow

The preschool years, from birth to age six, is what Montessori calls the formative period of the Absorbent Mind. It’s this period in a child’s development that forms the foundation for later intellectual and psychological development. This website defines the Absorbent Mind as “an unconscious, creative and non-selective process by which the brain takes in everything from the environment, like a sponge, forming neural pathways and connections”. I’m not a scientist or child psychologist, but merely observing my daughter, this idea makes a lot of sense to me.

My play philosophy, by Modern EvePhoto source: Ana Kliz of Bluebird Kisses

My play philosophy, by Modern EvePhoto source: Gabrielle Blair of Design Mom

For that reason, all aspects of our environment have become extremely important to me. And while it’s also important (especially from a spiritual level) to recognize our inability to control everything (perfection is not the goal), I want to be intentional – intentional with our purchases, with our activities, with our design, and most importantly with how we spend our time within our environments.

Many of my friends and family have joked about my pickiness when it comes to toys for Beckett. And while it may come off as pretentious or materialistic, my motivations are spurred by a deep value for simplicity (in both quantity and function, encouraging imagination and open-ended play) and long-lasting quality (and aesthetic beauty). Quality over quantity. Both function and form.

As I start curating lists of my favorite toys and learning materials (starting with Early Learning Toys next week), these are the underlying values that inform my selections.

My play philosophy, by Modern EvePhoto source: Merrilee Liddiard of Mer Mag

One of the major negatives to this approach is the financial cost. The truth is cheap, plastic toys cost less money. And they’re more readily available, meaning they’re more accessible to friends and family for gifts, they do not require as much planning or research to purchase, and they’re more heavily advertised. Basically, they’re the fast food of the toy industry.

My play philosophy, by Modern EvePhoto source: Michelle Sterling of Avery and Augustine

Let’s be clear – plastic is certainly not evil. And toys with flashing lights and battery-powered nursery rhymes won’t necessarily cause harm. But they also don’t promote the same intentionality and commitment to natural discovery and imagination that I hold as important values. More often than not, they encourage entertainment-oriented play. I want Beckett to actively and deeply engage with her “toys”, instead of passively absorbing stimuli. I also want to limit her exposure to unnatural, potentially harmful materials.

My play philosophy, by Modern EvePhoto source: Joy Cho of Oh Joy!

But it’s also an important value for me to be a wise steward of our financial resources and to live within our means and budget. So, how do I resolve this? Instead of having three or four inexpensive toys, I’d rather have one quality toy for the same price. In fact, I see owning fewer toys as a welcome secondary result, not a consequence. Curious why? Read this article on Becoming Minimalist on why fewer toys will benefit your kids.

Photo source: Amy Parker of Parker Etc. on Little Hip Squeaks blog

If you’re a mom, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Does anyone else have similar feelings regarding your children’s toys?