Playthings

13 Jun

I love toys. But my idea of “toys” is terribly far from the rows of plastics at Walmart and even Toys “R” Us (Though TRU DOES have some pretty awesome stuff- I used to work there). I like imaginative play things, simple dolls, playsilks, balls, wooden blocks…. Things that can be all sorts of things. I remember one winter, my family got a big screen tv, now, this was way before flat screens, so this thing was enormous. Anyway, our favorite part of this was the box. We played with that HUGE box (and some littler ones and blankets) for MONTHS until it fell to pieces and became painting “canvas.” That box was a house, a rocket ship, castle, fort, tunnel, boat and jungle gym. It was the site of play sieges, battles, puppet shows and masquerades, exploration of unknown planets, and a refuge during storms (literally, it was a year of many blizzards, so it kept us busy on many a snow day).

Now… Kids want what’s in the box. The TV, the video games, the movies…. I’m not anti television. I love mine, I love my movies and shows (Bones, Firefly, Glee… I’m as guilty as any one). Now the electronics have come to kid’s toys in the guise of “education.” Really, does a 2 year old need a “laptop” with flashing lights? I’m not so sure. I’m not a doctor, I’m not a mom (yet) and I don’t have my degree in education (yet- I’m working on it….) but I wonder if it’s necessary? What does it say when the tv breaks and mom has to go out immediately and buy a new one so the toddler doesn’t “Freak out” and “have nothing to do”. This terrifies me.

There are a few kids that I babysit regularly, and I’ll be nannying full time come fall, so I’ve been doing a lot of research into early childhood learning, toys, and activities. I’ve been going shopping for things to entertain the little ones in my life, and am consistently dismayed. Is EVERYTHING made of plastic? Don’t get me wrong, plastic is pretty impressive stuff, but isn’t it great for kids to have things made of natural materials? Things you don’t have to worry about containing BPA or other chemicals? Things that will last for a long time, and help your child learn for several years?

Well, etsy has a bunch of options. I accidentally found “waldorf toys” and LOVE what I’m seeing. Simple, open ended toys. I don’t know much about the Waldorf school system, so I’m not talking about that, but I love the Waldorf inspired toys, and the prices on etsy are comparable to what you find in the store for the plastic bits. BUT, if you are crafty… there are tons of things you can make yourself. Possibly my favorite “toy” is the play silk- bright colored silk scarves that can be anything- blankets for baby doll, costumes, table cloths for tea parties, walls for a fort, a sling carrier for dolly… All sorts of things! AND these are the easiest to do yourself (instead of paying 10 per scarf!) Here’s how I made mine…. (I wish I took more pictures during the process….)

You will need…..

silk scarves, Haboti or “china silk” is just what you are looking for. (I LOVE these from Dharma Trading, http://www.dharmatrading.com/html/eng/1741-AA.shtml?lnav=scarves_silk.html I didn’t use these this time, but I used the same silk from them (out of my stash) and just serged around the edges. Next time, I’m going to order at least a dozen from them and make some for more of my little friends.)

Dye: I used wiltons food coloring gels from Michaels- they are what I use for cake decorating so I always have an assortment of colors.

White distilled vinegar: to set the dye

glass measuring cup


Glass dishes: for mixing dye colors

Gallon sized plastic baggies


Microwave

Latex gloves: option if you don’t mind having colored hands for the day.

Alright…
So. First you should prep your scarves by wetting them down with water. Place each scarf in a plastic bag, I folded mine in quarters then gathered in from the center of the square to play with color effects. If

Next, prepare your dyes, mix 1 part vinegar with 2 parts water with some dye- it takes a bit of playing to get the color saturation right, but just go with it. It all turns out cool.

Now, if you are doing “solid” silks, you can just dump dye in the bag, smoosh it around and nuke it for 30 seconds. If you want multiple colors, “paint” the dye on in certain areas, let it blend and then nuke it. Take care not to use too much dye with this, or your colors will get very muddled.

Remove from the microwave, let cool, then rinse with cold water until it runs clear. I then threw all my scarves in the washing machine on the “hand wash” setting and hung them to dry. Viola! Play silks!

I thought I took more pictures, but I guess I didn’t, so I’ll have to update this again later. But they came out amazing. I made this felted wool basket to put them in too, plus an assortment of other felted bowls, baskets and even a few balls. Instructions for those to follow….

Felted basket for the scarves
Felted ball

felted containers

I’m really looking forward to setting up the play space upstairs for the little ones!

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