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Free play is a vital ingredient for human health and creativity especially in early childhood. Self-initiated and open-ended play as we know is wonderfully rich, allowing children space to imagine and explore while developing cognitive flexibility.

One of the most common questions we are continually asked is: How do I choose the best resources to support imaginative play?

It is very clear that not all wooden toys are the same when it comes to nourishing healthy child development. At Treelight Toys, we choose our resources based on the following criteria, and we believe this is a good place to start when making your own purchasing decisions.

Nourishing the senses

Children discover the world through all their senses: beauty, smell, touch, sound and even taste! You will find that most of our toys are handmade with soft forms and have simple shapes that draws the child naturally to play. Wooden toys such as Grimm’s that allow textures to be seen and felt enhance a sense of touch and connect children to the natural world through the materials. The purpose of a wooden toy is to allow the material to be experienced, so best to avoid toys that are too “finished” with bright paint or varnish. Our toys are enhanced with natural dyes, oils or beeswax, which allows a young child to place a toy in their mouth and to stimulate their sense of smell and taste. Wood in known to have anti-bacterial qualities too.

Our musical instruments are made by master craftsman and tuned to perfection – our glockenspiels and xylophones have delicate and pure sounds designed to support the developing ear to tune and tone, and our kinder drums by Trommus have deep resonant tones and are built to withstand all manner of play! Our doll range is also made of all natural materials such as wool and cotton, that are soft to hold and create a sense of warmth when cuddled. We are forever asking ourselves the important question: how will the child experience this?

Encourage imagination with simple forms

In the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Steiner (Waldorf) education, the development of the imagination in early childhood provides the foundation for creative thinking in adulthood. As we know, play allows children to use their creativity while devel¬oping their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cogni¬tive, and emotional strength. For this reason, you will find most of our resources are created with very simple forms which leave room for the child’s imagination to flourish.

When choosing a toy, we consider: does this toy have more than a single use? How will it be seen through the eyes of a child? Can it be imagined in more ways than one? Does a doll allow for the child to express their own feelings and emotions? Can the materials be used by a variety of age groups and abilities?

Our original Wobbel boards for example were designed using Waldorf principles to stimulate balance and strength, supporting physical awareness and gross motor skills. However, children will find many more imaginative uses in the process of play turning the Wobbel into a boat, a puppet theatre, a bridge, a slide, or using it to self soothe.

Sustainable and eco-friendly

As well as being handmade and using ethical labour sources you will find our resources are carefully selected for their environmental sustainability. We work with suppliers who have excellence in sustainable practise. The use of good quality sustainable materials and traditional craftsmanship also means these toys are made to last though the hands of many children at play.

Supporting a healthy environment

Our resources are free of harmful chemicals or substances like BPA and phthalates. We only choose materials that support sensory development in a healthy way.

As well as our play resources, we offer a range of natural art materials including watercolour paint, chalk and beeswax crayons, free of chemical “fillers. The smell of honey when using a beeswax crayon uplifts the senses and the quality and density of the colour is very satisfying to use. If you compare a beeswax crayon to a standard crayon you will experience the difference for yourself. Beeswax is natural and sustainable too!

Supporting diversity

We believe that all children should have access to materials that celebrate who they are and the world they live in. Identifying with the world around us is a crucial part of our human experience. Open-ended toys are naturally non gender specific and culturally inclusive.

Our handmade doll ranges come in a variety of skin tones, and Grapat’s “Together” set of figures in various skin tones and body shapes has won several industry awards. We are also proud of “All of Us” skin tone crayons, carefully hand-blended shades creating a wide range of colours to depict the diversity of humans on our Earth.

Treelight Toys is Australia’s specialist in open-ended and sustainable educational resources for the early years and welcome you to contact us. We are a 100% Australian owned and family run business.