How to have a plastic free Christmas

With Christmas fast approaching, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the thought of your house quickly filling up with new plastic toys that are not only expensive, but often go out of favour quickly too.

At Tops Day Nurseries, we focus on natural resources and heuristic play. Early Years lecturer Bernadette Burnett offers some ways you can integrate natural play into your Christmas, and cut down on the plastic clutter too!

Television adverts, YouTube videos, bus station posters, magazine advertisements, flyers… our children are bombarded with an selection of new plastic playthings on a daily basis. It can be easy to fall for the advertising lure, especially coming up to Christmas.

But have you ever noticed how a child is often drawn to playing with the box or wrapping a new toy arrives in? A box has the potential to be anything the child wishes- a plane, a car, a hideaway- you name it! The open-ended nature of the box encourages children’s creativity and lets their imagination take flight.

Heuristic play is a type of ‘natural’ play. First coined in the 1980s by Elinor Goldschmeid, heuristic play is where babies and young children are given opportunities to explore real world objects, that are made from natural materials. Items such as wooden spoons, pegs, pine cones, scraps of materials, natural sponges, stones, and so much more, offer toddlers huge benefits when they are able to explore independently.

Treasure baskets are a fantastic way to gift the natural experience. A treasure basket is a container (usually a basket, but but boxes also work) filled with natural materials that are safe for babies or toddlers to explore independently. It’s important to have as wide a range of materials and textures as you can find, but there are so many items that can be included, such as;

  • Metal or wooden utensils
  • Egg boxes
  • Toilet roll tubes
  • Loofahs
  • Fleecy fabric
  • Citrus fruit
  • Leather bags or purses
  • Metal keys
  • Nail brushes
  • Shells or stones

If you’re gifting a treasure basket, you could decorate the container with recycled paper or card. Maybe even pop in a note explaining the concept behind your gift.

It’s important to remember to check the objects over for safety on a regular basis, and swap items out to keep the child’s interest. Some children might not enjoy this type of play, and that needs to be respected. If they demonstrate an aversion to sensory play, they’ll often grow out of it as they develop. If they don’t, however, it’s worth mentioning this to your GP or Health Visitor.

Lots of parents these days are trying to minimise clutter using the 4 gift rule- ‘something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read’.

It’s super simple to stick to this ‘rule’ using natural materials. Consider a wooden toy, colouring pencils, a woolly jumper, and a book, for example.

Don’t forget though, the most natural and beneficial gift you can give your child is YOU!

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