When I first started looking for eco toys, I found that the Europeans were much more aware in their selection of materials and design than American companies. European toys are often made of wood and are designed with an understanding that children need to play creatively in order to learn. According to Russian pyschologist Lev Vygotsky, play is the leading activity for preschoolers and kindergarteners. Play promotes cognitive, emotional and social development, but not all kind of play is equal in leading to higher mental functions. Modern children’s toys actually can hinder this development with their lack of imagination and inspiration; however, European toys offer parents an alternative choice for promoting play.
Comptoir d’Enfance is a new online store started by a French mother who recently moved to North America. This store features French wooden toys, accessories, and babywear. One featured toy company is Kapla. Kapla creates safe, ecological, innovative alternative toys. The wooden planks inspire hours of imagination and learning, accompanied by the pleasure of accomplishment, discovery and creation.
When I do shop for toys for my family, I always seek out family run companies that match my green family values. Comptoir d’Enfance is one such company:
We also put all our attention into the respect of environmental and social conditions of the fabrication of our brands’products. For Earth Day, enjoy 10% discount on our green products: Kapla wooden toys, environmental stickers and our cute organic babywear collection.
The importance of childhood play cannot be understated, and quality eco-toys help promote sophisticated play in children. As Howard Chudacoff, a cultural historian at Brown University explains, today’s children’s toys focus on things rather than activity:
It’s interesting to me that when we talk about play today, the first thing that comes to mind are toys. Whereas when I would think of play in the 19th century, I would think of activity rather than an object.
Today’s toys do a great disservice to children, in that they do not promote the activity mentioned by Chudacoff. As discussed in “Old-Fashioned Play Builds Serious Skills”, Chudacoff explains how modern toys have contributed to a deficit in children’s play:
But during the second half of the 20th century, Chudacoff argues, play changed radically. Instead of spending their time in autonomous shifting make-believe, children were supplied with ever more specific toys for play and predetermined scripts. Essentially, instead of playing pirate with a tree branch they played Star Wars with a toy light saber. Chudacoff calls this the commercialization and co-optation of child’s play — a trend which begins to shrink the size of children’s imaginative space.
Quality wooden toys, such as Kapla Blocks, bring the quality of play back into children’s lives. We need to protect our children from the commericalization of childhood and bring imaginative play back into their lives. We will have smarter children as a result!