Most new parents of their first child can be characterised as having the eagerness and desire to do the best thing for their child. This might be eating only organic food during the pregnancy, choosing non-toxic paint for the baby's bedroom and playroom, making all the growing toddler's meals from scratch and taking their child to all kinds of children's classes and groups.
By the time the second or third child comes along, most parents have relaxed their standards and expectations due to a combination of exhaustion and the realisation that a few crisps and the television isn't going to damage their child.
Choosing the right toys is one area where it is easy to do the right thing for your child without breaking the bank or your back.
You can divide children's toys and the way they play into several areas. The first, which is the most common and the one that children fall into playing the most naturally, is make-believe play. Once upon a time this would have been regarded as a waste of time - or even worse, caused children who indulged too frequently or too whole-heartedly in make-believe play to be regarded negatively.
The truth, as we now know, is that make-believe play is essential in helping a child's creativity, imagination and social skills develop. It is also seriously used to help children who have been through stress and trauma to 'act out' their negative emotions in a safe environment. At home, make-believe play can be encouraged relatively cheaply. All children need is a few props and accessories. To discourage them going through your wardrobe, buy them a dress-up box filled with items from charity and second-hand shops. Swap things around now and then to keep them from being bored and watch them overflow with creativity before your very eyes!
Blocks of wood, such as hardwood blocks, are exactly the kind of kids toys recommended by movements such as the Steiner philosophy. They do not recommend kids toys that do not allow a child's imagination to flourish, so blocks of wood would be regarded as ideal. While it may seem like the strangest, least fun childrens toys, take a moment to think it through: a doll's house is just that - a doll's house, it won't be anything more or less. But wooden blocks can turn into a doll's house, and a zoo, and a school and a tall tower of blocks...
You see? This kind of play stimulates a child's imagination, creativity and spatial awareness. It encourages them to play with other children as a team, to talk through problems and to carry, lift and use their bodies in ways that other, less interactive childrens toys don't require them to do.
Physical play is vital for children, especially in the Western world where obesity is a problem not just amongst adults but amongst children too. Getting your children to play outside will not only make them healthier now, but will get them into healthy habits that will last them well into their adult years. Team sports may not be every child's cup of tea, but don't let that discourage them from sports at home or at school. Sport teaches children the skills of teamwork, determination and the important lesson that you can't always win.