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Kids simply don’t need (many?) toys

Apr 11, 2019

I always wanted a toy kitchen for my kids. They love toy kitchens everywhere we go. So one day last December, despite we were selling everything we own, I gave in the temptation and got them a toy kitchen.

They used it—not as much as they do in family cafes or kids places, but they did use it. They put Duplos in the cupboards, used the oven as a house for the baby, the stove as a tray for making puzzles on; sometimes they also cooked, although most often they used the food as part of their Duplos constructions.

As I observed them play, I thought that they didn’t need a toy kitchen to do what they were doing. I started second questioning my decision.

When we moved into this AirBnb, I had decided to take the their kitchen with us, as we were going to have very few toys, but we left it at the office for a couple of days while getting organized in the apartment.

One day, shortly after we moved in, I saw Emily taking a tray made out of Duplos, putting it on the low shelf of the sofa table, and saying, “Here you go, Oli, I cook pizza for you”.

The toy kitchen stayed at the office and I regretted buying it in the first place. Live and learn, right?

This is just a quick (self) reminder to say:

Kids don’t need many toys. They don’t need many clothes. They don’t need much stuff. It took me about four years to realize it, but it’s now very clear to me: especially when they have siblings, all they need is each other, books (always books!) and few, selected toys and tools for activities and free play.

Their imagination will always do the rest (and will actually have more chances to develop).

We adults think children will be more entertained if they have more toys to play with, but even though we try to provide them with wooden toys that don’t have lights and sounds to encourage imagination and creative playing, the simple truth is: children don’t need many toys. They’re happy to use pieces of a puzzle as olives on a Duplo pizza; to ride a teddy bear pretending it’s a motorcycle; to build a tent our of sofa pillows; to use books as plates and Duplos as food.

I love toys—especially wooden ones from sustainable brands—I love playing with them with my kids, and I love when brands send me toys to review. But after the toy kitchen episode, I decided to change my habits and avoide (buying or accepting) toys.

I now resist the urge to fulfill a new interest by buying something new: often, stuff that you find around the house will be just as good. Cheaper and more eco-friendly!

I focuse more on activities like coloring, arts & crafts or constructions—which can be made with literally anything, a cork found on the ground, a toilet paper cardboard, my house robe belt… and everything that nature has to offer, of course!

I simply let my children get bored so they can truly unleash their imagination.

Not only Oliver and Emily are happy bees with the few toys they have now, they even play much better with each other and in a much more cooperative way. It’s no coincidence. It could be due to their being slightly older now, understanding more about respect and boundaries, being more willing to share and actually play together with toys, valueing each other’s company more, but I do believe that having fewer toys has helped a lot with the process.

The lesson I learnt? Less is more (it seems to be a constant in my life lately). Less toys = more creativity, more imagination, more reading, more outdoor time, more playing with each other, more partnering up to fight boredom.

Ps. Oliver and Emily in this new apartment have:

  • Duplos and Legos (we’re switching to Legos for our travel. And yes, it’s plastic, but it’s long-term, fun-filled, creativity-triggering plastic, so I’m happy to make an exception)
  • Puzzles (4 or 5)
  • Books (many! Not sure how we’ll do when traveling! I guess we’ll use libraries more and more)
  • Magnetic World Map from Janod (we love it and have used it a lot, but even with this amazing toy we haven’t played as much as I’d like to)
  • Grimm’s Wooden Square (which we’ve had for three years and they still use sooo much, I think we’ll take it around the world with us!)

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The blog

I write mainly about Montessori, parenthood, and multilingualism. Here are some recent posts.

Montessori
One day a few years ago my husband came home and said, "Why don't we put a mattress on the floor in the baby room? It'd be much more natural". "Never" was my reply. That's how our Montessori journey started. Since then we've been living, breathing and applying the philosophy at home day in and day out, starting from ourselves. Because educating children starts from the parents.
Bean and seed mosaic
I'm not perfect. I'm aware
DIY yoga cards for kids
Children at the restaurant: let's recalibrate expectations
Don't ask your children to share their toys
Those "good job" that erode our children's confidence
Our Montessori birthday
Two alternatives to screens that my kids love
Using fear and threats to control children is never right!
"Stop crying!" doesn't work
Living sustainably
Living sustainably for me doesn’t only mean to have a more eco-friendly lifestyle. It means to make decisions that are sustainable for our planet, the people on it, but also for our life, our lifestyle, and our happiness. It means to take any daily chance to evolve and be happier, healthier, kinder, more responsible and more caring human beings—the only sustainable way for a meaningful future.
Face yoga is an act of self love
Why you should wear the same outfit twice on Instagram
The power of creating habits (and why you should do it, even if you then break them!)
Responsible eating is the diet of the future (Would you like to teach it to your kids?)
The power of NOT complaining: can you do it for a whole month?
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Infographic: 8 steps to switch to cloth nappies (a guide for reluctant parents)
A personal note on happiness
A personal note on social media
A change of life always widens your horizons
New to La Tela?
I’ve prepared collections on various topics that I’ve written over the years. Perhaps you’ll find one that interests you.

Travel

We sold everything to travel the world for two years. We're currently in New Zealand.

Books

In 2020 I wrote 4 books for the Italian collection “Gioca and Impara con il metodo Montessori” curated by Grazia Honegger Fresco. The collection is a project by Il Corriere della Sera and La Gazzetta dello Sport.

We also implemented the workshops of the last 15 volumes of the collection with Oliver and Emily.

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On my podcast, “Educare con calma”, I talk about various topics, from Montessori to sustainability. Only in Italian!

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Why La Tela di Carlotta?
I dreamed of the name La Tela di Carlotta. One morning I woke up and in my dreams I had created a blog named just like the American novel (Charlotte's Web). Many years and endless ups and downs later, this web of thoughts and stories is my work. It took me a long time to understand what kind of online presence I wanted and today I know: I'm transparent, I show real life, I don't advertise, I only recommend sustainable brands (and not only because they pay me) and I believe in the value of my blog and my courses—because if we don't believe in the value of our work, no one will believe in it for us.
Carlotta
Carlotta dreaming of La Tela
I know! I don't want it to be over yet either.