Now, one of the things that I have always tried to avoid with our children is buying toys for them. That sounds pretty extreme doesn’t it? No toys. How sad!
It’s not really sad. Because we focused on giving our children tools instead. Children need tools, more than they need toys. The tools allow them to do their work of growing, learning, discovering and enjoying this amazing, wonderful world we live in.
For example, plain, wooden building bricks which can be made into a town, buildings and a thousand other things are better than several cute little plastic toy houses, shops, beds, et cetera. A single good quality doll or teddy is better than a shelf full of cheap fluffy toys – more likely to get used, more pleasant to play with, more likely to keep its looks and ‘live’ a long life.
So tools don’t need to be boring or ‘educational’. You give your children a rich choice of useful things to play with, and space to develop their imagination. You’ll also spend less and you’ll have more to show for your money.
So what would a home-education-inspired Christmas list look like? Here are a couple of ideas to inspire you:
A Home Educator’s Christmas list
Wooden building blocks. Go for good-quality plain wood. They won’t be cheap but they will be worth it. And they will last and last. In fact we are still using thirty-year-old wooden building blocks that have had so much use over the years. They are fabulous. If you had them yourself as a child, you will know their value. If you didn’t, then just trust me and get some. You’ll be glad you did.
Building sets of all types. You can choose one type for your family and build your collection. So you might have Lego or Meccano or some other favourite type. There’s hours of fun and learning in these sets. And if you do go for something like Lego, then it’s a good idea to stick with the basic types and allow the children to develop their imagination into space models or building site models or whatever.
Science kits. You can get simple little kits and tools like bug- magnifiers, right through to electricity kits and chemistry sets.
Ride-on vehicles of various types. Choose carefully, buy quality and teach your child how to take care of them. And here’s a comforting thought – your child doesn’t need to own every type of wheeled equipment available
Gardening tools. Child-sized trowels, spades, rakes and gardening gloves are all good choices.
Seeds for easy-grow flowers and veggies.
Dress-up clothes. Go for generic dressing up clothes. Old sheets, scarves, hats, shoes, jackets go well here. Have a hanging rack or a spacious box to store the clothes.
Papercraft supplies – glue, stickers, paper, card, paints, stamps.
Craft supplies – yarn, knitting needles, crotchet hooks, fabric, scissors, needles, threads. You can present these in a pretty box or tin to make it very special
Building supplies – wood offcuts, nails, hammer, tape measure, and more. Have these in a small tool box that can be carried by the young builder. And keep it with other tools (not on the toy shelf), so that it comes out at appropriate times, and is used under (light-handed) supervision.
Bird feeder. You can look for a bird feeder or even get a kit to make up together. This gives a great sense of achievement and togetherness.
Field guides. These can be really useful for children particularly interested in nature, and also to develop an interest in nature for your child. Put it with a magnifier or bug catcher to make it more fun.
Puzzles. You can go for family jigsaws if your children are older, and you can also look for jigsaws of famous places, maps and famous paintings.
Games. Excellent for family times, and as children are always growing, they are usually growing into a new level of board game playing.
Books You can look for second hand books as well as new ones.
Musical instruments. If you have a musician in the family you would be investing here. But also there is a place for learning an instrument for the simple fun of it in the short term.
Music CDs. Quiet music is great for bedtime routines and upbeat music helps to get things going with the morning routines.
Story CDs. Fabulous for in the car. Also, head phones (not ear buds) are a good investment and can be useful for keeping children quietly entertained when you need time to work with another child or just need five minutes of ‘silence’.
Binoculars. Always fun and interesting.
Bubble making set. Should this really come under ‘science’?
Balls of various sizes and density.
Bats, racquets, sticks and hoops, skipping ropes, marbles.
Happy Christmas Shopping!