What is a Waldorf Toy? image

When choosing what to put in our shop there are important questions that we ask ourselves, like: Is it beautiful? Does it invite you to play? Does it feel nice? Is it natural, sustainable or recycled? Is it something we would love our own children to have, or to see in our homes?

You might see different versions of us saying yes to all these things in the descriptions of the products we stock, and amidst them sometimes it will say 'Waldorf Toy'. This particular description is very dear to our hearts, as making these products available is part of the reason Conscious Craft was founded. But what does it mean?

You'll see things described as Waldorf Toys, Waldorf Art & Craft Materials, Waldorf Educational Tools... it sounds like a school! Well, that's because it kind of is. Over a hundred years ago Rudolf Steiner was asked to create an educational curriculum for the children of the workers of the Waldorf tobacco factories in Germany, and these became known as 'Waldorf Schools'. Ever since, schools offering a Steiner curriculum have been described as Waldorf, but the word has also taken on a life of its own, being attributed to a certain aesthetic, lifestyle choices and the values underpinning them.

So what are these values? The Steiner educational model is based on the natural phases and transitions of a growing child, with a curriculum designed to nurture the needs of every developmental stage. Not rushing through any stage is integral to the delivery of the curriculum, which is why the word 'Waldorf' is often associated with allowing children to be children for as long as possible, and why people are often attracted to Waldorf materials for the early years of childhood.

Beautiful & Gentle Showing your child a world of beauty, or creating a beautiful environment, offers them a sense of security and is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. Avoiding harsh colours and hard edges is one way of contributing to this, and we have so many materials to support and encourage this level of interaction with the world.

Impossible to be anything but beautiful and gentle, playcloths are such a wonderful resource for children and have so many uses. Drape them over a baby's cradle, create dens for small children, then watch them run and dance with a cloth streaming behind them. Perhaps the cloth will become a sling or a flag in role play, or part of a landscape for small world play and nature tables.

Natural & Open-ended It seems that the toys most commonly thought of as 'Waldorf' are wooden figures and blocks, but why is that? There are two reasons that stand out to us, the first one being that they are made from a natural material. The sensation of touching soft wood is so much more nourishing for a child compared to the feeling of metal or plastic.

Secondly, it's about encouraging a kind of play which allows for endless creativity. The more simple a toy, the more options there are for what it can become in your imagination. Play is open-ended, rather than limited by what a toy might present itself to be for. The wooden shapes of an infinite number of towers, houses and castles become food in shopping baskets and even characters in small world play. When moving onto more defined figures the contours and colouring of Waldorf toys remains minimal, to leave a child's imagination as free as possible.

Nurturing & Loving People often think of Waldorf Dolls as not having faces, and can find this quite disturbing! In fact, Waldorf dolls offer the suggestion of facial features, without a fixed expression. This allows the doll to be or 'feel' anything a child needs it to when they are engaging in, and perhaps processing things, through role play. As a consequence these dolls most often become favoured companions of children. Being made from natural materials such as organic cotton and wool also makes them soft, breathable and lovely to hold.

Dreamy & Imaginative Take a glimpse into a Waldorf kindergarten and alongside the playcloths, wooden toys, soft dolls and treasures from nature, you will see beautiful, distinctive paintings on the wall. These dreamy images are created by a technique called wet-on-wet painting, allowing children to enjoy the experience of watching colours spread out and blend with each other across the paper.

This technique gives children the opportunity to develop a relationship to creativity based on colour, shade and wonder, enabling them to use pens and pencils to their full potential when their fine motor skills are ready.

More About Nature & Its Materials

Fundamental to all things Waldorf is an awareness that human beings are at their healthiest and happiness when connected to nature - both in the meeting of developmental needs and, quite literally, being in physical contact with the natural world. Being in tune with the seasons is not only nourishing for the senses and levels of wellness but also helps children find their place in the world, by gaining an understanding of natural cycles and the passing of time. A beautiful and meaningful way of deepening this relationship is through the celebration of seasonal festivals.

Nature tables, displays and celebration rings are a wonderful way of making seasonal changes a focal point of family life, providing the opportunity to create a reverence for nature. As well as treasures found whilst spending time outdoors, such as leaves, pine cones, feathers and shells, you can create scenes with gnomes and flower fairies! There are also many books considered to be Waldorf in their approach, personifying elements of the natural world and strengthening connections through empathy.

An affinity with the natural world can mature into a deep level of respect, and a desire to do everything possible to maintain the health of our planet. This is why products supplied by a company manufacturing goods with Waldorf principles in mind might also be described as 'eco', 'sustainable', 'organic,' 'non-toxic' and 'natural'. Good for our planet, and good for our children!

Thankfully there are many toys, materials and tools in our world to spark our children's imaginations and engage them in healthy activities, but, if you are seeking invitations to open-ended play and to foster a connection to nature, you will find what you are looking for in a Waldorf Toy. We are proud to be able to make these products available.

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