Toy-Free Room: Bring Imagination Back Into The Kids Room
Many of us have resolved to cut down clutter throughout 2019, and a toy-free children’s room is a great first start. Find out more about this concept and how it can set your kids up for lifelong success.
Why a Toy-Free Room?
So many parents want the best for their children, and a lot of times this love comes across in the form of buying them a lot of toys. But according to the philosophy of toy-free rooms, these toys don’t actually result in happiness. Instead, too many toys can cause waste and confusion.
The toy-free concept is based on the assumption that too many toys can have a negative influence on this child’s development. They can create extra chaos and clutter, inspiring children to turn to consumption when they’re bored, instead of developing their imaginations.
In Germany, the toy-free movement gained popularity in schools in the early 1990s. In 1992, German educators Elke Schubert and Rainer Strick developed the concept of a toy-free kindergarten. Schubert and Strick worked with a kindergarten to create their model. It was so successful that it soon developed into the idea of a toy-free child’s bedroom.
The starting point for this experiment was an addiction working group and the question of whether one can lay the foundation for the prevention of later drug or alcohol abuse, as well as other addictions, at kindergarten age.
They hypothesized that the instant gratification generated by too many toys and too much consumption among children could lead to additions later in life. If children always have their needs met with stimulation and general “stuff”, they don’t develop adequate coping mechanisms when they feel lonely, bored, or angry. So when they’re adults, they don’t have a positive way to channel frustrations. Instead, they turn to materialism, drugs, alcohol, gambling, or another way to escape their pain.
Implementation Of The “Toy-Free Kindergarten” Model
In order to preserve the children’s need for space and imagination, the toy-free model attempts to ban all toys from the kindergarten’s group rooms for a certain period of time. In this way, the little ones can learn to use their imagination again instead of playing with the toys in predetermined tracks. They clear the rooms for a period of three months so that only the furniture is left.
In addition, the teachers change their roles during this time. Instead of offering the children solutions prematurely, keeping them busy with handicrafts or painting materials, they take themselves out of the group activities and slip into the role of the observer. This point is important as it teaches children how to really cope with their boredom and not to need another person to make things happen.
Another important point when implementing the toy-free model is communication. Simply putting away all the toys would be pretty mean to the children. It is therefore important to prepare this project thoroughly and discuss it with the children. This also applies if you go for a toy-free kids room.
Toy-Free Rooms – A Concept For Success
In the last 25 years, toy-free kindergartens have celebrated great success in Europe. Countless daycare centers throughout Germany, Austria, and Switzerland have already carried out such project. In addition, the toy-free kindergarten concept has won several international awards. So it is no wonder that many parents also set up a toy-free kids room at home.
It is noticeable, however, that these discussions on social media hardly include the aspect of addiction prevention. Of course, almost all parents going toy-free write in forums and social media groups that they have chosen this path in order to put a stop to the mass of toys and the abundance of consumer goods. Most of the time, the focus is on the child’s imagination.
How A Toy-Free Kids Room Works
So what does a toy-free children’s room look like? The “toy-free” label is a bit misleading. In contrast to the radical cut from the toy-free kindergarten to really remove all toys, it is more about a reduction in the domestic environment.
That’s why most families have to do some decluttering of their homes first. This is also important for the children because the toys should not simply disappear overnight. Rather, the child should have the chance to say goodbye to things he or she doesn’t use any longer. In the end, most families leave out puzzles and books. Versatile objects such as building blocks, cloths, and blankets also can stay. The kids then use them to build stalls or caves, the cot becomes a pirate ship and the building blocks can become colorful cities with high towers. A toy-free children’s room gives wings to the imagination and there are no limits left to it.
What Does Montessori Have To Do With It?
If you dig deeper into the toy-free parents’ groups in social networks, you will notice the special closeness to reform pedagogy. Many parents design their kids toy-free room according to the pedagogy of Maria Montessori or the Waldorf movement. Free play, or in schools free work, is one of the main pillars in all approaches.
So it’s no wonder that Waldorf devices for playing can be found in many toy-free children’s rooms. These do not only promote individual play, but also gross motor skills. The climbing triangle from Emmi Pikler is one great purchase for an otherwise toy-free room. It’s especially for children with a high urge to move.
Another advantage of these simple objects is that the toys don’t get boring since there are so many ways to use them. They are also suitable for children of all ages. A lot of parents are turned off by the high price tags, but if you consider that children can play with them for about ten years, the purchase is always worth it.
Toy-Free: Experience A New Freedom
The bottom line is that a toy-free kids room offers many advantages. The reduced number of toys saves money. There is also less chaos and clutter in your home. At the same time, it can encourage children in several ways. It spurs their creative thinking, motor skills, and life skills. Plus, a toy-free room can also be an important building block for addiction prevention later in life.
Do you also want to try it out? Many families start with one day a week without toys before they make it a permanent condition. But you will notice that this one day will also be good for your child and boost her or his creativity.