What do kids actually really play with a lot? After over three years of having children I still can't really tell. Maybe I've always had overly high expectations of toys and the way young children play with them. I still remember how surprised I was that it took my baby months to become even the slightest bit interested in the simplest of toys. Somehow I had always had this irrational idea that babies start playing with rattles and such almost straight from the womb... I guess I'd sort of expected them to come into existence cheerfully rattling with a toy in their hands ;).
But none of my babies ever played longer with any of all the baby toys that we surrounded them with for longer than a few minutes. Actually they never enjoyed playing in the playpen by themselves at all, and always preferred personal interaction and being held far above playing with toys, no matter how well-designed or visually stimulating those were. God knows I tried: especially with Rosa I kept bringing in new things, because I kept thinking that now I finally must had found that one great toy that would keep her satisfied on her own for longer than thirty seconds. And then she looked at it once, pushed the buttons twice, threw it away and started calling for me again ;).
Now that they're a bit older the girls do play with their toys, in particular with dolls and with their shop, but still they hardly play with one specific toy for longer than a few minutes, and still they prefer me to be involved in their play most of the time. And though of course I'm pleased they find me such an interesting playmate (I seem to be extremely good at imaginary picnics and such ;)), sometimes I do like a few minutes to myself. And besides that, I think they have to learn that I can't be around constantly to play with them.
So though by now I learnt that this one miracle toy that will keep them busy for hours (or at least for ten minutes ;)) doesn't seem to exist, and that my girls are much more into fantasy play and social interaction than into very specific toys, I'm still keen to find nice and stimulating things for them to play with. And lately we discovered something absolutely great: kinetic sand.
Kinetic sand is a super nice material that you can play with indoors, I guess it can best be described as something inbetween sand, dough and clay. This little video gives an impression of what it's like. The sand feels super soft in your hands and is both loose and sticky at the same time. It's not tough or heavy as clay sometimes can be, so for young kids like Julie it's super easy to play with. And Rosa and all other kids that come to play here enjoy building and 'baking' with it, for hours literally!
We have the kinetic sand from Waba fun that's being shown in the video (we bought ours here), but I believe there are also other brands and types available with names such as moon sand, delta sand and kinetic sand. And apparently you can also make a similar type of sand yourself using simple ingredients such as flour, sand, water and baby oil. I haven't tried that yet, but some DIY recipes can be found here.
The mess it creates is not as bad as you might think: because the sand sticks together you can easily wipe all the sand together within less than a minute. Only the sand that ends up on the floor is slightly more tricky to recollect, because it easily mixes with crumbles and dust that's on the floor, and in our case a bit of it always ends up in the openings between the boards of our wooden floor. But after many hours of play we still have most of the kilogram of sand that we bought left, and when it's time to restock we'll definitely go for a five kilogram pack!
Just to make it clear, because it doesn't always seem that obvious anymore on blogs, I have no commercial interest whatsoever here, I'm just very enthusiastic about the way the girls and their friends play with this kinetic sand. And let's not forget about myself, this is by far the best 'kid toy' that I've been forced to play with for hours lately ;).