I had an unpredicted amount of time ahead of us, unpredictable living spaces, and Pickles as predictable as the rising and setting sun looking for things to do! So what did I put in our box?
I first determined my personal goal:
"The toy box should serve to accentuate creativity, not dictate it"
and so I chose from that criteria.
I opted for brain powered, and not so many battery operated toys. I did include the battery-operated little blue drill. My Pickles loved that toy 'til it could drill no more! That drill was great for tooth extraction, tickling feet, mixing pretend cake batter, and I think maybe even pretending it was actually drilling just a few screws. It had earned rank for creativity, so it survived the selection cut.
[And just to be clear, I am not opposed to batteries and electric based toys/tools. For this time in our life, I chose toys that had as much versatility and open-endedness as possible. We just saved our toys with batteries for later.]
Books-- In our family, reading is like a security blanket and re-reading Pickle favorites has the same comfort factor you get when pulling into your home driveway after a long trip: You just belong there. I knew books were heavy for toting about in a box, and that we could access libraries easily, but I chose to keep our favorites out and available. Since we wouldn't have a place to dig in deep and call "home" for awhile, I chose to fill a generous corner of the box with our comfort books. "Go Dog, Go" was one Pickle's absolute favorite. I chose two treasuries that contained a good varied selection of children's literature and illustration variety. (The Pickles were 4, 3, and 1 when I made selections). We had their children's Bible. A few baby board books (I loooove the color pop of Bright Baby books!). And have you read "We're Going on a Bear Hunt"? Great rhythm, imagination, and a hilarious relatable ending. Beatrix Potter and A. A. Milne treasuries also made the cut. We read books during all parts of our day. Since books and stories feed creative minds, they got a hefty corner of the box.
--Our drawing packets. We traveled a lot during this time: back and forth for job interviews, we'd pack up for car rides to just think, drive for a day of visiting. And our drawing packet pockets would be filled in preparation. But we also doodled at the kitchen table too. Lots and lots. And Lots!! Drawing became our go-to activity every single day. Not always on the notepad included, but sometimes just using the drawing packet to keep our markers and pencils handy. I loved that it kept everything contained and was perfectly sized for them to tote about. Or even for me to jot a quick grocery list. Versatility was a key component to my box selections.
--A doll or two and a few clothes/blanket/food accessories. Also our stuffed fabric cat made by my sister. He'd been with us always--he couldn't go in a box now. He was #1 adventure companion and tea party attendee.
--Cars and trucks. Not many. Not that big. But enough to adventure some good stories.
--Blocks. I'm honestly trying to remember if it was Duplos or regular wooden building blocks. My memory fails me exactly on this one, but when you have building materials, your creative possibilities are limitless. Truly--You just build what you want to play with. This is a key "feeding creativity" concept: give them the tools to make what they dream of, and watch them blossom in creative, problem-solving skills!
--A ball or two. Because, yes. Hand eye coordination and all that jazz...plus it doubled for outdoor play.
I know there were just a few other Pickle favorites to fill out the box, but I cannot remember exactly which ones. (It has been a while.)
So that was the gist of our box. And we were never bored. We enjoyed our toys with open-ended play (guess what kind of new a Feeding Pickle Ltd product I'm working on that I'm DYING to tell you about!). Toys that allowed for imagination and creative use--that was my selection criteria for our box. And it became my new criteria in life in selecting toys/tools for the Pickles as they grew.
If the box didn't offer ideas one particular day, we just made our own fun. We didn't want to depend on "things" so heavily to entertain us. The toy box only served to accentuate our creativity, not dictate it.
Lest you might feel concerned that we were too limited during this time, keep in mind that we also had opportunity to play with grandparents' toys, friends invited us to play, and we spent time at parks. Cooking was play time. We played with dough in the kitchen. Dishes were fun for little hands to learn to dry. And soapy sinks, even better!
A selection of toys/activities looks different for everyone because we are all full of unique differences, and interests, and abilities. This was just what I selected from what we had to use for a period of time.
In that time, I learned that we loved the simplicity of not having so many items to pick up and take care of on a daily basis. Guess you might say it was my first taste of the minimalist idea and we rather enjoyed the freedom it offered. No matter the size of living quarters we were in, it didn't feel overrun with "stuff." We loved the selection of what we had available to use and didn't have to sort through excess to access it. This opened up the idea that maybe we could live with less--in more areas. This time in our life was when I began to make it a practice to think through what we have and choose to keep things that were intentional about helping us in life: Things we would actually use and appreciate and help us in the direction we wanted to go.
So right in the middle of those 17 months of not knowing where exactly we'd be settling, I riffled through all our boxes and we had a huge garage sale! Want to know what we got rid of?
That will be Part 3.
I love talking about creative play! What are your favorite open-ended toy items?
Always be creative,