One of LO’s favorite toys is play dough (later I’ll post a picture of it). We’ve given him three colors so far, and he just ends up blending them all together to make one big blob of a color. One of the things I told him about play dough is that if a piece comes off, you can just put it back by pressing it back into the rest of the dough. So now he goes around the patio floor picking up bits of the stuff and putting it back in his big blob saying, “put it back.”
Recently he takes his bubble wands and makes indentations on the play dough. He’s also started poking the sticks into the play dough and realizing that other objects can pierce the stuff. And just this morning I saw him spreading the play dough out with his thumbs and flattening it down the middle.
I love open-ended toys like play dough. I’ve always heard that the less a toy does, the more the kid will use his imagination. Having toys that aren’t tied to media (e.g. Blues Clues, Barbie, Dora, etc.) are best because the kid can assign whatever characteristics he wants to those toys. So a generic puppy toy can be whatever gender, have whatever personality, and exude whatever special traits the kid wants it to have, whereas a Blues Clues puppy is already pre-defined (assuming the kid has watched Blues Clues). Most of LO’s toys aren’t media-related with the exception of Sesame Street stuff, and he doesn’t watch the show or doesn’t even know it’s a show. I don’t think it’s a matter of avoiding it completely; just lessening it.
He has a few battery-operated toys which are pretty cool, but again are probably not as good as plain toys that can be explained and observed naturally. After all, how do you explain to a kid why a button lights up when he presses the toy’s hand? Whereas if he has a hammering toy, he knows that the pegs move because he hits it with his hammer. And non-battery-operated toys don’t “perform” for the kids; the kids have to manipulate them much more.
His favorite toy right now is the newest one we got him: a Melissa & Doug latches board. It’s not too much of an open-ended toy, but it’s a puzzle that he likes to challenge himself with. He’s figured out how to open and lock all six of those doors! I’m amazed.
In addition to play dough, the best open-ended toys he has are his crayons and paper, dominoes blocks, chalk, finger paints and whenever we go to the beach or sand box. Eventually I’ll get him more pretend clothes so that he can also role play. We want to get him a play kitchen eventually!