This post is in response to some requests I’ve gotten. I hope it is helpful.
First off, I have to confess, I’m not quite a minimalist. It’s a work in progress, and hind-sight is 20/20. However- compared to the majority of Americans, I AM a minimalist, and even if I’m not there yet, I’m darned close.
I feel also that I should confess to bias in the area of children. I spoil my children and I’m an art teacher, so they have everything AND they have constant entertainment. The important thing to stress is that the concept of entertaining your children is actual parenting. You’re supposed to interact with your children nearly all the time. Children play independently sometimes, but for the most part, they are playing with other children or their parents. Parents have replaced their role in children’s play with tv’s, video games, Ipads, computers, etc.
It’s quite possible that many parents now don’t KNOW how to play with their children. For those parents, I recommend some light reading. There are a lot of books online that can teach you how to play with your child in a way that helps them grow and feel secure about the world. It’s important to follow your child’s lead when playing with them.
So here is my list after a couple years of research, a decade of parenting, and teaching. The list is irrespective of gender because I don’t believe in gender grooming:
A doll that can be dressed/undressed, with a nappy, and a blanket. Accessories like a cradle, sling carrier (on etsy), or change of clothes are purely optional and based on space, but I recommend them. Some children prefer bears or things. I don’t see any harm in both owning a doll AND a stuffed animal. But Americans tend to overdue it on stuffed animals.
Kitchen play items- it can be as simple as a bowl, cup, and spoon, or as complicated as some wooden or felt fake food and a play wooden kitchen. I’ve seen some great kitchen’s made from cardboard boxes.
A set of waldorf dollhouse size dolls like these. They stand up because their feet are flat and they’re completely bendy but sturdy. You can also get this dollhouse instead, which comes with 11 pieces of basic furniture and 2 figures.
Homemade playdough (which is gluten free) or modeling clay
Items from the recycling bin for “hacks and mods”
An old sheet and some buffalo clips (those huge black clips you get at staples) for tent building
Books (we go to the library weekly but we keep favorites at home for storytime)
A shovel and pail (sidewalk chalk is great too)
A musical instrument (I recommend a percussion instrument for younger children and a more complicated instrument for older children)
A couple of cars
Aaaaadddd…that’s really more than any child needs. Obviously some of those toys are a little advanced (like scissors), but most of them can be utilized by my son who is two, and older children who are driven by imagination. Older children tend to have more role-playing games and functional crafts, while small children are more driven by cause and effect and discovery. You will find a couple of these items in the “pocket playground”, and here is a link with 50 ideas for the use of the 8 items recommended by the people who created it.