I'm a freelance writer and primary school teacher living in SE Melbourne. I love finding adventures for myself, my husband and our four kids to enjoy. Come along! Heart my articles, subscribe to the fun, follow along on www.facebook.com/WNMelbourne
Published December 23rd 2014
Slow down and get excited
You have heard about "slow food"; now there is a slow toy movement. Thierry Bourret, French toy distributor, was inspired in part by the slow food movement, and began to look for (and award) "slow toys": Toys that are "well made, good quality, and most importantly give freedom for creativity and encourage traditional play, without the distractions of flashing lights and electronic music." The coining of the term "slow toy movement" is accredited to Bourret, and has been articulated and perpetuated by his annual award program.
With four small children of my own, a pursuit of "slow toys" was motivated by an overseas move. What is worth keeping? What will last? What will stand the test of time and be most effectively shared between the ages and genders of my own children?
My quest began by a relentless cull of our existing collection of toys. My next step was to find a toy library that I love, and to become an annual member. Yes, my children do play with toys that are plastic that have batteries and lights, and even have (limited) iPad time. This quest, for our family, is about balance, reducing our carbon footprint as a family, and keeping the clutter to a minimum in the humble three-bedroom bungalow that the six of us live in.
My search continues, and I need to share ten terrific toys that fit the "slow toy" bill; many even contribute to reducing your carbon emissions by offering online shopping, not requiring you to drive to a store and find a place to park.
In alphabetical order, ten terrific slow toys (and shops) to add to your shopping list, are:
Coccinella Eco: Renata offers quality items from her native country of Poland, as well as from around Europe and the USA. Coccinella Eco offers completely natural and eco- friendly, chemical-free toys and body products. The product we reviewed is the Adventure Passport kit, Orient and Africa edition. This "geo-discovery activity kit" is suitable for 5-10 year olds, and comes with letters from your "pen-pal friends", and helps your kids explore the world in a creative way. We love that this kit comes with a passport that kids can customise. We don't love that Sienna, one of the "pen pals", is portrayed as a bit of a "picky eater".
Eco Toys: "By giving a child an eco toy, you are helping to protect the child's future", says Melinda, owner and mother of three. We tested the rainstick tower and the kinetic sand. We loved the versatility of the rainstick tower; didn't love that the sound wasn't as "rainy" as we expected. Kinetic sand is an amazing product for all ages; even therapeutic for adults. We loved that kinetic sand never dries out, and never sticks to your hands. We didn't love that it promised to be "mess-free", but in reality it can be quite messy without due care and caution. See our more detailed review and enter a $50 voucher competition here.
Gardening 4 Kids: Erica's goal for her company is to connect kids to nature through the joy of gardening. We enjoyed using all pieces of the beginners kit that we tested, as well as the watering can. We love that the watering can is small enough for little hands, but big enough for a decent amount of water. The only thing I didn't love is that I didn't order four watering cans: one for each of my kids! and enter a $50 voucher competition here.
The Little Wood: The Little Wood is passionate about providing beautiful, quality items for your precious little ones. The first range of toys is the 2014 'Blossom' Collection, including Baxter and Ella bunnies, Ollie the Owl, Charlie the clever cow, Mia the sheep, and more. We tested "Ollie" the Owl. We love that this gorgeous owl is the softest soft toy we have ever hugged. We don't love that the fuzzies were initially quite loose. Give Ollie a good rubbing before presenting to a baby, to get the loose fuzzies off, so that they don't present a choking hazard. See a more detailed review and enter our $50 voucher competition here.
Made by Marnie: Marnie's items are breathtakingly beautiful by their simplicity. The facial expressions are left much to the imagination of the beholder, and the various disproportionate body sizes only add to the charm and character of her creations. Marnie sells her items at markets mostly, but she can be contacted via her Facebook page for prices, custom orders, and even to follow her next market location. My daughter kid-tested a pink unicorn with a beautiful soft mane and tail. We love the one-of-a-kind bespoke nature of this toy, and her movable limbs. I didn't love that the mane and tail seem a bit "fragile"; they could fray and even be separated without much effort. Recommended for a gentle four-year-old or older (Marnie does have items that do not have loose or fuzzy bits as well, that may be more appropriate for babies).
My Little Caravan: Christina is a teacher at heart and a teacher by practice. Mabel, her little caravan, is converted into a perfect quaint and kitschy little craft room. While not technically a toy, nor a toy store, the "crafternoons" most certainly fit with the philosophy of the slow toy movement. Contact Christina to book a party, class, or arrange for gift vouchers.
Little Seb is an incredible little local business with high quality fabric items that facilitate imaginative play. Check out Hayley's gorgeous car rolls, pencil rolls, covered journals, soft toys, and more.
My Playhouse Adventures: Kirralee creates fabric cubby houses which fit over your dining table, to transform it into a wonderland for pretend play. Inspire your child's imagination, and create a treasured place for them to play, that's quickly folded away when adventures move elsewhere. Stay tuned for a full review, coming soon on my profile page.
Toot Toot Toys: I have a confession. Toot Toot Toys is my favourite. I know; no favourites, alphabetical order, unbiased journalism. But people: they have coffee. Are you with me? Toot Toot Toys is no longer just a toy store; they are a cafe too! With train tables for the kids! So go and say hi to Jon; he's very unpretentious and knows a lot about toys. Toot Toot Toys offers a huge selection online and in store; more than just trains. We kid-tested the Brio Safari Railway Set. We loved the little safari man, the zebra, and especially the monkey that can either hang from the tree or magnetically attach to the box car. We didn't love the plastic bits (I wish they were wood), and perhaps the set could have come with a larger track configuration.
Slowing down does not have to mean compromising on fun, creativity, or excitement. In the hustle and bustle of gift-buying, slow down; less can be more. I hope you find a way to give the gift of creativity and freedom.