Never underestimate the appeal of seemingly ordinary household objects as play objects for children. In fact, they remain some of the most reliable toys to add to a play environment to keep a young child cognitively engaged. Toys should be simple in order to stimulate a child’s imagination. According to Magda Gerber, "passive toys = active babies." So how can a vegetable brush become so alluring to older infants and toddlers?
Brushes for babies who are 7 months or older
A wooden vegetable brush with no handles, pictured above and available online, fulfills the number one goal for a play object: To be “open ended.” This means that it can have a number of uses without a prescribed purpose or end goal, so there’s not just one way to play with it. Through play with simple objects, infants begin the process of cognitive thinking where they explore shape, colors, cause and effect -- all in relationship to themselves.
More complex brushes for toddlers
With a toddler, try adding another brush of a different size, color, or shape to the play environment. The handled brush pictured below is more complex and harder to grasp, therefore making it appropriate for toddlers with more developed fine motor skills. Variations in the brushes will make for new challenges and take-on different meanings for the imagination of a child. The combination of these two brushes together will make for dramatic play that becomes more complex in nature as the child grows. It can become a hair brush or a cleaning instrument, or a child may simply enjoy the sound it makes when it brush against other objects with different textures.
Caregivers and parents: avoid showing your infants and toddlers how a toy "should work." If left alone, simple brushes allow children to explore freely where decisions are made without penalty or failure, helping children to start gaining control of their actions, feelings, and thoughts. This is what leads to self-confidence.