The Importance of Play
We all know toddlers’ job is to play, play and more play, it is the nature and need of the children development. (To understand your toddler more, you can find out who they are here.) It is so important to include playtime in their toddlerhood, but have you ever thought about what they are playing with?
Roland Barthes, a French literary theorist, philosopher and critic who described plastic and metal as “graceless” and “chemical.” On the other hand, characterized wood “is a familiar and poetic substance, which does not sever the child from close contact with the tree, the table, the floor. Wood does not wound or break down; it does not shatter, it wears out, it can last a long time.” Okay, let’s be frank, though I am not that strict about banning plastic toys (some of them are great fun, oops Barthes!); deep inside my heart, I am a big fan of natural wooden toys. Being a mom who supports Waldorf education concept and cares much about my child’s wholesomeness, I know well, natural wooden toys are far better than any plastic toy materials. If I were to be given a choice to select only one kind of toys to stay in my household, I would choose the natural wooden toys.
What is So Amazing about the Natural Wooden Toys?
Here come the answers! First of all, the natural wooden toys do not contain high levels of chemicals and toxins; they are safer and more environmentally friendly. Not only known as the “green toys”, they are called the educational wooden toys for toddlers to promote open-ended play. It opens the child’s boundless imagination and creativity to create endless possibilities. Thus, it makes sense when the toddler does not feel bored playing the educational wooden toys. Why? The toys are not thinking for him (serving a fixed purpose of play), but he himself. The child is the creator, he can learn to build, socialize in the imaginative play and develop cognitive skills that he will carry throughout the rest of his life. Besides, an interesting point is that holding or touching something made of natural material such as wood has positive effects on humans. You will find that your toddler stays calmer in an environment with the natural wooden toys than in a room with blinking lights, loud sounds, battery-operated plastic toys.
Why Choose Mentari, Tender Leaf Toys?
I believe it would be wise to know the company and its concept before buying any products. Tender Leaf Toys is the exclusive U.S. distributor of Mentari (means “The Sun” in English), a distinguished wooden toy company in Indonesia that has specialized in designing and developing the educational wooden toys for over 25 years. I think Tender Leaf Toys has chosen the right manufacturer in this industry as Indonesia is a tropical country and has plentiful of rich forest. Therefore, Mentari can produce their toys from several different high quality wood sources, including natural rubber wood harvested from (SVLK- Timber Legality Assurance System) certified timber. In fact, I like the concept that they replant a tree for each tree used for production. This helps to preserve an unharmed natural forest and protect the child’s future. Moreover, Mentari is the only manufacturer where production is centralized and never outsourced. Based on this, you can trust that each production channel adheres to the most stringent quality standards and detailed craftsmanship. Every step of the production process – from wood cutting, drying, polishing, down to fine detailed painting (non toxic) of each product – is closely monitored to ensure the highest standard of quality.
The First Impression
So, Tender Leaf Toys sent play market (two different sets) and mini workbench for my three-year-old-plus toddler, Jaeden. The first impression of receiving the parcel was beyond satisfaction. I normally judge a company’s sincerity and customer care based on the way the company handles the packaging and international shipping. The parcel was shipped fast and I was provided the tracking number. It arrived at my doorsteps within a week. What pleased me – it was professionally packed with bubble wraps, recycled materials and used soy ink for printing, the wooden toys were protected well. Jaeden was overjoyed looking at the attractive boxes of his new wooden toys and rushed me to open them for him.
My Views on Play Market
I received two sets of this theme, play market – cutting food set and play market – cutting fruit and vegetable set. The first is a wooden storage box filled with five different foods for your child to explore and cut. This includes a cutting board (cover of the box), wooden knife, lemon, eggplant, mushroom and zucchini. The latter is the same box filled with five colorful fruits and vegetables. This includes a cutting board, wooden knife, cucumber, carrot, mushroom, strawberry and tomato. Both of these sets use the concept of cutting through the Velcro, listening to the “Crunch” sound when sliced and attaching back together with the Velcro. Tender Leaf Toys are called the educational wooden toys as they encourage role playing, imagination, fine motor skills and introduce the concepts of wholes, halves, fractions and names of the foods, fruits and vegetables.
The results were instant, Jaeden used the wooden knife to cut all the foods, fruits and vegetables into halves and portions. He imitated to play cooking like how I cooked in the kitchen. I reminded him that he had to use the cutting board, “oh, cutting board,” and so he has learned a living skill – “when I cut something in the kitchen, I must use a cutting board”. He started to cook, add flavor, make the sound effects himself, then told me that the food was ready. He served the food using the storage boxes (pretended as bowls?), added a spoon for each.
“Mommy, be careful, it is hot!”
“Let’s have some fruits,”
“Here, vegetable…vegetable is good,”
“If I take vegetable, I won’t have problem to poop,”
“I can become big, strong and tall like Iron Man!”
Jaeden even made a picnic-style lunch and prepared the setting (mat, pillows to sit, plates, etc.) to invite me to have lunch with him the next day, using the play market sets. SEE, the imaginative and creative play using real-life context. Every child has that. They just need the right toys.
Apart from the top-notch wooden quality, only one tiny thing that I am concerned with, the Velcro may not last long due to the frequency of slicing and attaching back the half together. Mentari might want to find a way to ensure the durability of the Velcro concept. But if the Velcro ever comes off, we can always glue it back without any big issue.
My Views on Mini Workbench
What first attracted me to this mini workbench were the bright colors. The workbench has every tool your little builder needs to construct his creation. It comes with a drill machine, affixed circular saw, hammer, wrench, screwdriver, nuts and bolts, and a storage shelf for tools and supplies. My husband helped to assemble the workbench for Jaeden using a driller and the diagram attached. The assembly instruction is clear and easy to follow, so Jaeden helped his Dad while learning what to get for him. He was involved in assembling the workbench. After setting up, I was blown away by how detailed and solid the parts are, what I can tell is great craftsmanship. I especially like the bolts that thread perfectly into the nuts and they can be used to fasten the wooden boards.
Jaeden was thrilled to build something on his workbench. He tried out all the tools and learned the names of each tool like “hammer”, “wrench”, and “screwdriver”, “nuts”… Before this, he knew nothing except the driller. He also made an imaginative play, again.
“Mommy, I send you to school now.” (Reversed situation)
“Are you ready, mommy? I need to get back to work” (Work??? He might be thinking about he has a workstation that he can earn money now, lol.)
So Jaeden pretended to send me to school. Then, he went back to his workbench and “worked”. He tried the drill machine to drill the holes for the wooden boards, making sound effects by himself, again. Then he continued to play with the nuts and bolts, this activity is good to improve fine motor skills and color recognition. For example, screwing the orange bolt into the orange nut. Jaeden also utilized the hammer to knock the bolts into the workbench holes. The knocking sound can be heard. To take out the bolts, he used the screwdriver or the wrench. The size of the design was just fit. Jaeden also learned how to put things back in order when a storage shelf is designed. There is a tool organizer to keep the hammer, wrench and screwdriver as well.
If I were to pick a weakness, it is only about the inconvenience of having to assemble the workbench. However, it just needs basic carpentering skills like drilling and reading diagram. My husband took about 15 minutes to assemble that with Jaeden’s help. It is an awesome workstation for your little builder to learn the names of each tool and how they are used. This encourages creativity, logic skills, and fine motor skills.
Without any bias, honestly I would rate the Play Market Sets 4.8/5.0 and the Mini Workbench 4.9/5.0. All in all, these Mentari wooden toys for toddler are not only qualified as the educational wooden toys but also highly recommended gifts to make the earth a better place for children to live! Go HERE to shop for the Tender Leaf Toys now!