One of Henry's toy baskets
My children have a very simple toy collection. I feel this in necessary for a variety of reasons--to build contentment in children, to discourage materialism, to encourage reading and imagination and keeping clutter at bay, to name a few! We try to avoid battery-operated (noisy!) toys at all costs, but my children have been gifted with a few, and that's ok. The problem with these kinds of toys is that it is costly to replace the batteries (have you priced batteries lately?) and they do not encourage a child to use his/her imagination. If my baby does have a battery-operated toy, I generally just turn it off. He really doesn't know the difference, and hapily plays with them anyways, sound or no sound! This is a bit more dificult with my older child, but I try to encourage him to do more reading or outdoor play.
So, what kind of toys do my children play with? I prefer wooden toys--they're more durable, thus able to be passed down the line to younger children, and they encourage immagination! My baby has a few plush animals, board books, wooden blocks for stacking, stacking rings, a piggy-bank with big, plastic coins (battery-operated, but we ususally turn the sound off) and a really cute wooden truck, a gift from his grandfather. He plays with them, but because his toy collection is small, he does a lot of crawling and exploring instead, developing his natural curiousity.
Brett's toy collection is a bit of a work in progress! I am currently in the process of narrowing down his toy box, getting rid of all the cheap, plastic toys from kids' meals and all of the toys he has outgrown. He really doesn't play with toys very much, and is more content to play with balls, play outdoors, read, paint and draw or play games. Brett never really even showed interest in toys when he was a baby! He does, however, have a mini John Deere motorized tractor that he loves to ride around on outside. That's the only extravagent toy he has.
Keeping the toy collection simple has an added bonus--less mess to pick up! Who really likes to see a child's room overflowing with toys? I keep each child's toys in old laundry baskets and plastic storage bins, and they are never overflowing. It's also been easier to train my children to pick up their toys because they are not overwhelmed by the task!
www.keeperofthehome.org/2009/08/waldorfinspired-real-play.html --nicely written article on incorporating the Waldorf method of real play, using simple, natural toys.
www.melissaanddoug.com --website offering a wide variety of beautifully-crafted wooden toys for all ages.
www.parentmap.com/content/view/124/433/ --article about creating an educational playroom environment.