What Children Learn Through Homemade Toys
Welcoming a precious, beautiful life into the world is one of life’s most extraordinary experiences. And reflecting on the sheer GROWTH they will experience in the first year of their life will boggle your mind with the fantastic achievements written into each tiny person’s human body.
From the moment that a baby is born, their brain contains roughly 100 BILLION brain cells. They will continue to develop and grow those neural networks at a breathtaking one million neural connections every second!
Don’t let that thought scare you, especially if you are a new parent. One of the simplest and best things you can do to nurture your newborn is to snuggle with them.
Talk to them.
Sing to them.
Feed them and keep them clean.
The human race has developed remarkable minds and people throughout the ages without using scientific articles and fancy toys. The builders of the Egyptian and Mayan pyramids, Plato, Hildegard Von Bingen, Aquinas, Galileo, Beethoven, and many, many more great and unsung minds of men and women from all cultures and races alike, were all developed without the help of modern appliances, gadgets, and baby-rearing philosophies.
But the advent of modern science has also given us wonderful tools that we can use to help develop and foster a sweet baby’s physical, mental, and emotional growth. The sheer volume of information and resources can overwhelm a new parent. So our intention here is not to overwhelm you with information but to share a few simple tools that you can create with your own hands to help that delightful child grow.
Before we jump in, remember. The best thing you can do for your baby is LOVE them. Be present for them. Do simple things to interact with and show your child you cherish and adore them. The relationship you build with your child is invaluable and irreplaceable. And that relationship is more important than any toy you could create.
Why MAKE Toys?
In this blog, we will walk you through the many benefits of handmaking educational toys for your child. But why would you want to MAKE toys for a child when ready-made toys are so convenient?
It all comes down to relationships and our human need for symbolism.
Symbolism has played an enormous role in every human culture; symbols root us in our heritage, give meaning to life, and become essential teaching tools. And handmade toys can be POWERFUL symbols that quickly transcend the immediate purpose that they serve. But how is that possible?
Consider the western tradition of using wedding rings to symbolize a marriage. If we were honest, nobody really needs a wedding ring. You can certainly get married and remain faithful without those pretty decorations. But wedding rings serve a much deeper purpose than being merely decorative. They represent someone’s undying commitment to their lover. They are imbued with a deep and rich cultural and spiritual heritage that signals a deeper meaning to a relationship in a way that transcends what the couple could bring merely by themselves.
Very briefly, the tradition of wedding rings goes back to the ancient Egyptians, who embraced the ‘circle’ of a ring as a symbol of eternity. Since then, multiple cultures have adopted the wedding ring, embedding their unique twist into the tradition. The Greeks and Romans believed that a vein in the fourth finger led straight to the heart, which is why wedding rings are worn on what we now call the ‘ring’ finger. Different jewels in the Middle Ages represented different values that the lovers wanted to share: diamonds, for instance, represented ‘steadfast strength.’ Thousands of years of ancient wisdom are poured into the symbols of the wedding ring, transforming objects from mere decorations into heirlooms and symbols that become infinitely more precious because of the deep meaning we have assigned to them.
We could continue, but let’s cut it short. Ultimately, symbols imbue our lives, helping ordinary objects transcend their immediate purpose to become messengers of life’s most important lessons.
Now, how does all this apply to toys?
Children, with their stunningly fast development, need toys. Toys play a crucial role in the life of small children, who use them to learn, develop new skills, practice social cues, and develop their emotional health through the joy of play. In a sense, toys are children’s language. Before they know how to read or speak, a child can and will communicate with the world around them through their interaction with their toys.
That is why when you make a toy for a child, you are using one of the things that are MOST important in their lives to send them powerful and symbolic messages. You can convey deep concepts to your little one that they may only be able to understand or articulate once they are an adult. But through their play with your Made-With-Love toys, they will absorb those lessons, making them part of the fabric of their heritage, stories, and lives.
What Are Some of Those Lessons?
First, is that you are giving your child the gift of PLAY.
Life is hard. There are many bitter moments, and as adults, we can name a myriad of terrible happenings that can overwhelm and embitter even the most resilient spirits. Children cannot be sheltered from that darkness forever, but we CAN give them the tools and permission to help them endure and THRIVE despite those significant obstacles.
One of those tools is the gift of PLAY. Play is not a waste of time. Play is when a child learns how to laugh freely. Laughter and smiling communicate the immediate joy of living, helps to develop positive social bonds, and also flood the brain with endorphins, assisting the brain in wiring its neural networks to help a child create a lifeline for mental resilience and joy.
When you create a toy for a child, you are imbuing that ordinary object with a meaning that transcends its immediate purpose.
You are telling this beloved child that you WANT them to play.
Through handmade toys, you communicate to a child, in a way they can understand, that you want their lives to be full of laughter, joy, fun, and friendship. When a child watches you make a toy or becomes aware that your very hands made them, they not only receive the message that play is a good thing and that a beloved adult desires them to enjoy and thrive in it, but also that they are worth the time and effort of creating that toy.
Second, you are giving your child the gift of LEARNING.
Children learn through their toys. Interacting with their toys, like when they build a tower of blocks, will naturally teach them the world’s limits and simple physics – things like balance, friction, and gravity. They absorb these lessons, building upon lessons that toys teach them to form more complicated and sophisticated ideas. Einstein’s elegant theories did not come from a vacuum but were formed through his interactions and observations of the world, starting from a play-filled childhood.
Educational toys help children to find joy in learning. They fall in love with learning about the world around them and increase their desire to grow in knowledge and understanding.
When a child knows you made them an educational toy, they know that you – a beloved adult in their lives – are investing in their education. They absorb the idea that education is important enough to spend time and energy developing and that the result can be FUN.
Third, you are giving your child the gift of BEAUTY.
Humans need beauty. In a harsh, brutal world, beauty helps the spirit transcend itself, giving it hope and something to strive towards.
Children are naturally drawn to beauty! They delight in flowers, bright colors, forms, and shapes that delight the eyes and the senses. Scientific studies have revealed that multiple brain regions are activated and engaged when something beautiful is viewed. The opposite happens when something ugly is viewed; in that instance, only the visual cortex is stimulated!
Fill a child’s life with beauty by giving them beautiful toys. This is not an exercise in vanity or an Instagram competition for who can have the most beautiful playroom. Beauty, which has been dissected in art, philosophy, and spirituality, teaches children valuable lessons about the world. They learn about form, pattern, harmony, symmetry, and balance when contemplating and playing with art. Beauty is not only a tool for learning, but through its mere presence, brings calmness and joy to the perceiver.
Fourth, you are planting the seeds of love for the natural world.
Wooden toys begin to teach children how to respect and love nature. Not only is there a natural beauty found in the wood itself, but a child will absorb lessons about this material through their play. They will study the toy closely, observing the wood grain and its growth patterns. They will heft it in their hands, feeling the weight of the material and how it differs from other materials, such as metal or plastic. They will learn that they can dent and harm the toy if they abuse it. Children quickly learn how to respect their toys as they experience the natural consequences of their actions.
As they get older, you can sit down with your child and tell them the story of their wooden toys. Point to growing trees outside and explain how the toys are made from the same material. Show them the knots and stripes in the wood and tell them stories about the little sticks, insects, and storms that created those marks. Explain to them how important it is to help trees grow and the wonderful ways they serve us.
If a child knows you took the time to create a wooden toy and that you care deeply about the trees from which it came, they absorb the lesson that how we care for the environment matters.
Last and most important, a child learns they are worthy of being loved.
A child learns that they are loved in a myriad of ways. A homemade toy is just one of the many ways they absorb how much they are loved.
But toys are a POWERFUL tool to communicate your love to a beloved child.
Remember, toys are the language a child speaks! Children LOVE toys. They find great delight when a beloved adult gets down to play with them, investing their time and energy into their happy games and playtime. So, when an adult makes a toy just for them, you will see their eyes go wide with joy! A loved one is MAKING them a toy!
Children instinctively know that you are giving them the gift of play. They know that their play, which is important to them, is also important to you.
And, as those same children get older, the beautiful toys you made for them will continue to send those messages of love. But as their minds grow and they begin to articulate deeper and more abstract concepts, they will start to absorb more profound lessons through the symbolic toys you made for them.
BridgeWood toys are designed to last. They will last through hard play with thousands of color towers and tumbling castles. They will survive dirty fingerprints and mouthing children. They will continue communicating messages of play, learning, love, and beauty long after a child has finished playing with blocks.
But the symbolic meaning of the toys you created for them will endure, grow, and deepen. Your toys will help your child collect a lifetime of memories of play, family, friendships, learning, and laughter. And, because they will endure, your little child may someday pass those same beloved toys down to their children, giving them the same messages of love.