WALDORF EDUCATION IN THE EARLY YEARS
WHAT IS WALDORF EDUCATION?
The Waldorf educational philosophy was created by Rudolf Steiner in Germany and the first Waldorf school opened in 1919. The aim of Waldorf education is to develop a child's intellectual, artistic and practical skills in a holistic manner.
In the early years, Waldorf education is not academic in nature. Waldorf educators strive to provide children with a warm, welcoming environment in which they can learn to live and play. There is an emphasis on maintaining daily and seasonal rhythms that provide children with a sense of security. Practical work like cooking, baking, gardening and handwork like knitting, sewing and doll making are part of the child’s learning experiences. There is a focus on hands-on artistic activities like painting, drawing, modeling with beeswax etc. Classrooms offer simple, open-ended toys made of natural materials like wood, cotton and silk. that encourage imaginative, self-directed play.
According to Rudolf Steiner, “In the child’s play activity, we can only provide the conditions for education. What is gained through play, through everything that cannot be determined by fixed rules, stems fundamentally from the self-activity of the child, The real educational value of play lives in the fact that we ignore our rules and regulations, our educational theory, and allow the child free rein.”
There are now several Waldorf schools all over India, but even if your child does not attend a Waldorf school, it is easy to incorporate these activities with your child at home as well - art, involving children in chores and tasks around the house and following daily rhythms, especially when it comes to mealtimes and bedtimes.
We, at The Nestery, strive to provide your children with eco-friendly and sustainable toys and given Waldorf’s focus on natural, eco-friendly play materials in the early years, we have a Waldorf Toy collection in our store including the most popular Waldorf toys like stackers, blocks, peg dolls etc.
WHY CHOOSE WALDORF TOYS FOR YOUR CHILD?
According to the Waldorf philosophy, play is the work of a child. So a lot of careful thought is put into the creation of these toys and the impact they will have on the child's development.
Some benefits of using Waldorf toys include:
- Quality - Waldorf toys are handcrafted with care and are very well made. They are also very durable.
- Safe for use - Waldorf toys are non toxic which makes them safe for children to use, even babies who may mouth these toys!
- Sensory development - A child's senses are stimulated by touching and experiencing the surface, shape, volume, weight of any Waldorf toy.
- Creative and imaginative play - Waldorf toys are simple and created without a lot of details. This makes them inviting to children who can transform them into anything using their imagination and creativity. Since they become so involved in the play, children stay fully engaged and focussed.
- Peer interaction - Waldorf toys are a hit at play dates! They encourage children to engage in pretend play together, where the children collaborate and imagine scenarios together.
- Storytelling - These toys can be used by parents to create beautiful stories for their children, immersing them in a world of fantasy and make believe.
- Less screen time - Since Waldorf toys are so inviting and can be used in new ways every day, they are a great way to keep children engaged without the use of screens.
According to Kim John Payne, Waldorf teacher and author of the book Simplicity Parenting, there are a few things we should check before we purchase a toy for our children:
- Is this a toy my child can pour their imagination into or is it "too fixed"?
- Does it "do everything" or can a child change it, manipulate it, dream into it?
- Is this a toy that "does" so much that my child's main involvement will be pushing buttons?
All the Waldorf toys we list at The Nestery are open ended - children can pour their imagination into them, change them up in any way they want and they encourage the child to actively play, rather than passively sitting back while the toy entertains them. These toys can be totally transformed through play.
For example, the Plain Wooden Blocks by Endow Toys and the Zen Blocks by Bloon Toys can be used for stacking and building but we have also found our children cooking with them, using them as currency and making shapes and patterns with them.
The Wee Family Folk peg people by Bloon Toys can be used in any pretend play scenario. They don't have any features, so children can let their imagination run wild. They are also gender neutral which is a big plus. We love using these for storytelling as well.
As Kim John Payne says about Waldorf toys, "The less they do, the more they become, in play." Rather than investing in limiting, unsustainable and poor quality plastic toys, our focus as parents should be on hand picking quality toys that truly encourage open-ended, creative, imaginative and collaborative play.
If you are interested in incorporating elements of the Waldorf educational philosophy at home, switch up the environment of your home, engage your kids in practical and artistic activities, have set routines for daily tasks and of course, don’t forget to add in Waldorf toys and materials to truly experience the transformative impact they can have on your child's play!
To shop for Waldorf toys, you can check out The Nestery's Waldorf collection here - https://thenestery.in/collections/waldorf-inspired-toys
Aparajita Kumar is a mother of two who is passionate about gentle, respectful parenting. She loves sharing information and ideas about gentle parenting in an endeavour to support and inspire her fellow parents.