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Unique toys put play back in child's hands

Silas Repphun checks out the new water station toy delivered by Johnson on Wednesday, Dec. 21. 1 / 4
Whitney Maas plays with some of the toy pieces brought in as part of the toy drop off at Simply Giggle Childcare. 2 / 4
Trey Check reassembles the rubber bands on one of the center's new toys. 3 / 4
Simply Giggle Childcare Owner Angela Norvold and student Caleb Wekkin play with one of the new toys dropped off at the center by Jeff Johnson of Explorations of Learning. The toys are designed to be an open-ended play option for kids. (photos by Rebecca Mariscal)4 / 4

Within minutes of the toy delivery, shouts and laughter rang out as the children of Simply Giggle child care ran back and forth playing with their new toys.

Just in time for the holiday season, the day care owned by Angela Norvold received a toy delivery from Jeff Johnson of Explorations Early Learning as part of the Wisconsin YoungStar grant.

The unique toys are specially-designed to put kids back in charge of their own play, Johnson explained. The delivery included a rubber band game on a tree stump, a funnel stand and weaving station as well as log pieces and rock sets.

"Kids are naturally drawn to loose parts to open end materials," Johnson said. "So the things that have the flexibility of an empty cardboard box is what they're drawn to."

He explained that store-bought toys are often designed to a specific theme or topic, and take the flexibility of play away from kids.

"Kids get bored with that stuff pretty easily," he said.

Instead, the toys from Explorations Early Learning are made to allow each child to bring their own knowledge to the toy. The options for play are endless.

"They bring their knowledge of the world and their experience and their interests to the play," Johnson said. "And so when you can provide them an open-ended just basic stuff, they stick with it a lot more and they learn a lot more."

The toys are also designed with nature-based material to give kids, and adults, a break from all the plastic, Johnson said.

"We thought bringing a little bit of nature back into the playroom might be kind of a fun thing to do," he said.

These new toys will eventually be placed outside, Norvold said, but have taken up residence inside the child care center until the snow melts.

Norvold said the nature aspect was one of the pieces that drew her to these toys, and led her to use the grant on them after attending a presentation by Johnson last year.

"I believe in more nature-based, bringing nature back into the classroom," she said.

Most importantly, it comes down to the play. Norvold said her child care is a play-based program.

"Keep them playing," Norvold said. "They're learning so many social skills when they're playing and doing this — teamwork and creativity and happiness."

Rebecca Mariscal

Rebecca Mariscal joined the Hudson Star Observer as a reporter in 2016. She graduated from the University of St. Thomas with a degree in communication and journalism. 

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