Zach loves to cook and play chef. He has since he was a tyke. Of course, it seems in any household these days a play kitchen is a must have item for the wee ones. Whether it's the big plastic kind that rings and buzzes, or the insanely beautiful and insanely expensive wooden ones that are labeled "heirloom" to ease the blow of the price tag... neither would fit anywhere in the boat. So from an early age his "play kitchen" has been the galley (the regular kitchen). He's always been right along side me, making a complete mess, sabotaging my recipes, and dumping ingredients all over the counters.
(Both of these photos are about age 1 1/2)
Sure dinner takes longer sometimes and clean up is always a bear, but we get it done. When he's not playing in the real kitchen, he often makes "food" out of other toys. Kukui nuts, acorns, shells, and rocks become food without a second thought, proving once again that although hand knit or wooden play food at $6 a pop are gorgeous, they are not necessary for natural, open ended kicthen play.
(My kitchen boy has grown, but he still wants to be in the thick of it. I let him play with the stems and ends of greens I was using. And of course, now he wants to use the knife, which is fine by me.)
(Making "fairy soup" out of stems and ends)
The same dilemma popped up with painting. Paint boards and beautiful little glass jars in a hand crafted wooden holder are all well and good, if you have $50+ to spend on one slice of art supplies. I put off trying wet-on-wet watercolor painting for the longest time because I just couldn't stomach the expense and the space taken up by the "proper" supplies. So I found high quality water colors and thick water color paper on sale at a local art store and imrpovised the rest. Rather than a paint board, we're surrounded by wooden planks afterall, the dock and the picnic tables around the marina. And I've got plenty of small glass wear items for holding paint.
I am not going to pretend I don't go the distance buying nice, quality toys for Zach whenever I can, but like all families we pick and choose. With Zach's birthday around the corner, it's easy to get caught up in beautiful castle sets like these for my knight loving child (look ONE piece of the castle is $100), but then I see him create things like this....
It's so easy to blog surf and get caught up in keeping up with the Joneses. And even when the Joneses are naturally minded, crunchy, Waldorf inspired, thrift store loving, crafty, do-it-yourselfers... that doesn't mean they or anyone NEEDS all that stuff. Regardless of where it comes from or how it's made, it's still "stuff". I try to book mark items for a long, LONG time and see if we can do without or improvise or substitute with what we already have before deciding to buy something. For us, we'd rather spend the money on travel or experiences and of course getting the boat ready to sail away. Because being together and seeing the world means more than being surrounded by things, even beautiful things.