I just read a great blog post called "The 5 Best Toys of All Time" by Jonathan H. Liu at Geekdad. The toys?
4. Cardboard Tube
I had to laugh, and write my own testament to the wonders of these "toys" (and a few others). The toys I would add:
6. Rock/Pine Cone/ Leaf/ Berry/ Grass/ Flower
Yesterday my 13 year old son spent the better part of an hour shaving the
bark off of a stick with his pocket knife. Meanwhile, the little girls (ages 6 & 3) were arranging smaller sticks into a pattern to decorate the front stoop.
My 10 year old son loves to stab a box over and over again with a pencil, covering its surfaces
with puncture holes.
The children have enjoyed many hours of
play with "kites" made from a plastic grocery bag tied by the handles to
a piece of string. They also like to tie string to door knobs and extend it across space to desk legs, drawer pulls, or other door knobs.
The little girls have discovered that if you get a toilet paper tube wet, it will separate into two diamonds of brown cardboard. A paper towel tube, on the other hand, is just one long skinny diamond. Either way, they religiously turn all of our empty tubes into these unlikely jewels.
For an entire school year my boys' obsession was their "digging club". Members of the digging club spent all of their outside recess time creating and enlarging a particular hole in the ground, using sticks as tools. At home, they worked on a hole in the middle of our lawn, which their dad later made them fill in.
If you add rock, pine cone, flower, and more to your list of toys, you can decorate anything. You can make nests, fairy houses, or 4 course meals. The girls recently filled
one basket and one glass vase with grass and red berries and then
placed two eggs from the fridge in each "nest" and arranged them near
our apple tree. My 3 year old wanted to know when the birds were going
to hatch? She didn't seem to understand what I was
saying about the eggs not being fertilized...
The Nichols Arboretum here in Ann Arbor has designated a certain grove of pine trees (near the peony garden) as a fairy wood. Children and adults go there and build the most spectacular miniature structures and gardens with sticks, pine cones, pine needles, rocks, flower petals, bark, and leaves. We spent a glorious afternoon there this past spring admiring what others had built, and trying our own hands at fairy building.
And finally, I would like to put a plug in for bringing these toys home as gifts when you travel. A few years ago we were vacationing in San Diego sans les enfants. I was trying to decide what I would bring them as presents. I kept noticing beautiful flowers, leaves, seed pods, and other bits of nature littering the ground that were nothing like the things we find in Michigan. I thought how much the kids would love to see some of those things, but I ended up bringing home an obscene amount of candy instead. The next time we went away (to Florida this time), I brought home a much more modest amount of candy, as well as some shells we had found on the beach. Now I have started collecting shells, rocks, and pretty bits of wood whenever I go on vacation. I have a lovely little collection on my dresser, and it brings me a great deal of joy.
Since the girls always want to play with my collection, and the 3 year old has already broken three of my favorite shells, I brought home a much larger collection of rocks from our vacation to Lake Michigan in June. I put my favorites on my dresser, and put the rest outside in a pile in our yard. I have been pleased to find the girls doing all kinds of creative things with those rocks, the sight of which brings back extremely pleasant memories of our trip.
If you are interested in making such things a greater part of your child's life, you can find some great images and ideas of things to do with rocks and sticks on my pinterest board "Even I Could Make This." Enjoy!