I’m looking to populate my sidebar with links to other great Waldorf resources. If you’ve got one that you love leave it in the comments below!
The best past-time for a young child is to immersed in the world of imaginary play. Games, though, offer a great opportunity for adults to interact with children in an honest way, playing with them, without becoming part of the imaginative game. Some parents and adults enjoy engaging in the imaginative worlds of their children, but others are less comfortable and find a game to be the best way to engage. Here are a few games that can help with that.
The Snail’s Pace Race from Ravensburger is a great cooperative game. In this game the players cheer six snails as they make their way from the start to the finish line. On each player’s turn, he or she rolls the 6-colored die and then moves the snail of the corresponding color one space. Sometimes children will choose one snail and root for that one to win, but more often they change their chosen snail part way through the game, rooting for the underdog, hoping that all the snails move along together without any one taking the lead. It’s been a longtime favorite in my house and I’ll never forget the time when my teenage son and his friends all gathered around the younger kids playing and they all rooted for the snails, making up cheers and loudly expressing reactions to the rolls of the die. Fun stuff!
Harvest Time is another great game that has the players working together towards a common goal. What is lovely about this game is that it has imaginative content to support the game. It is also completely pictorial so no number or letter recognition is required. It’s a great game made by Family Pastimes which has a collection of wholesome cooperative games.
Memory games are another great way for parents to engage with their children and even the youngest children can play a memory game with minimal competitive edge. Though the traditional way of playing memory includes competition there are many ways that a parent could change the game to minimize the competitive aspect. Perhaps one player chooses the first card and the other chooses the second. Maybe you collect the matches together in one pile. There are so many ways that this simple game could be adjust for different players.
There are also lots of different versions of Memory out there. I like this one made by eeBoo. The pictures are simple, pleasing and natural. It would also be quite fun to work together to make your own memory game. Parent and child could each draw a picture of the object to match them up. Or, to bring some letter practice in for older children, one card could be the picture and the match could be the beginning letter. There are so many ways to bring life to this simple game.
From the time a newborn baby’s vision becomes clear enough to distinguish them, human faces are the baby’s most frequently studied form. The blissful gazes that the newborn bestows from the crook of her mother’s arm (when that distance is the exact measurement of the baby’s limited focal length) let every parent know that what the baby needs most of all is interaction with the human form. Studies show that when given the option of two different photographs, the baby turns his or her head towards the photograph of a human face two to three times more than any other image. Even my two-year-old nephew, whose most adored objects are toy cars, prefers the cars from a well-known Disney movie, because they have eyes, mouths and expressions like humans.
From the moment she arrives on the earth, the baby makes it her business to learn what it means to be human. This natural fascination with the human face is how even the youngest baby can begin to learn about the world. It is no wonder, then, that the most natural first toy for a baby would be something based on the human form — the doll.
It is through play that children not only learn about the physical world, but they also develop and shape themselves. Experiences that they’ve had are worked through and transformed in their play so that they become integrated into the constitution of the child. In this way, we can see play as supremely important as it literally creates the child.
This process is never more tangible to me than when I am watching a child play with a doll. The doll can be a very transparent way for parents and teachers to observe the development and becoming of the child. I’ll never forget one day when I was teaching preschool and the children were completely engrossed in the world they had created with the dolls. The more interested they were, the richer the ir world became, and the more dolls they suddenly realized they needed. I watched with astonishment as the children bustled around the room gathering all of the blankets and cloths they could find, creating dolls by bundling up a cloth to create a head and then putting an open cloth over the top to create the body — instantly giving life to the simple materials. As I watched them literally create the physical bodies of these dolls I thought of the work that they must do to create their own physical bodies everyday. The makeshift quality of the “dolls” didn’t bother them in the least, and the physical and imaginative work that was required was of tremendous benefit.
Typical Waldorf dolls have this simple, undistinguished quality, to allow the children to create and form the details with their imaginations. Though this simplicity is important for preserving the imagination, the creative work required of the child allows her to work upon her own development. There are many companies that sell Waldorf dolls or kits for making them. Here are a few of the sites I am familiar with.
Holli’s Dollies — I’ll begin with this one because not only is Holli a friend of mine, but she also creates the most beautiful Waldorf dolls I have ever seen. Though she keeps the details on the dolls themselves simple, she creates beautifully simple clothing with an eye for detail. Truly beautiful.
Joy’s Waldorf Dolls — Though I recall that Joy retired a few months ago, her website is still up and promises that soon her dolls and the supplies for making them will be sold by other well-known companies. Joy has been a Waldorf doll institution for years, providing dolls themselves and doll-making supplies (including the ones I used to make my first Waldorf doll 12 years ago).
Kathe Kruse Waldorf Dolls — Kathe Kruse dolls (sold here on the Waldorf Treasures website) are beautifully simple. Their faces seem a bit more formed than some other Waldorf dolls I’ve seen but they are solidly made and readily found.
Magic Cabin Dolls — Though the catalogs that have been arriving at my house from Magic Cabin these days have been displaying toys that are much more formed and developed than I remember seeing in the catalog when my children were little, I was pleased to find that they do still carry those very simple toys. They carry several different styles of dolls and kits with everything you need to make them yourself. I made a starbaby doll from one of their patterns years ago and found it very easy to read and follow.
There are so many beautiful dolls out there, that it is easy to be swept away by the magic, forgetting that the intention of the doll is for the child to do the forming himself. It is best to start out as simple as possible. Some teachers suggest that the child receive a small bunting doll at age 2 1/2 or 3 and not receive a complete doll with arms and legs until 6 or 7. This approach would follow the development of the child whose physical awareness enters into his or her limbs and extremities last of all. I have seen dolls of all types loved and played with by children of various ages. The important thing is that the doll be free enough to be a vehicle for the child’s imaginative, creative work.
Naturally beautiful, Waldorf toys are designed to inspire the imagination in an open-ended, creative way. The best toys are inexpensive, simple and made of natural materials. In her book Work and Play in Early Childhood, Freya Jaffke depicts the child simply playing with whatever is around. Ironic, then, that such an industry has arisen around Waldorf toys. There are, though, toys that are worth spending money on. Here you’ll find reviews of the Waldorf toys that are worth spending money on as well as ideas for making toys of your own.
When I first began teaching at a Waldorf school I quickly found that there were resources for teaching that everyone used. Usually the not-to-be-missed resource titles were passed down from teacher to teacher, as each one of us shared with the teacher of the class behind us what worked, what didn’t, and what resources we couldn’t have lived without. All through I was so grateful for the benevolence of those teachers who shared the fruits of their labors with me and I was more than happy to share my experiences with the teachers who were behind me.
I wondered, though, if there might come a time when I would be undertaking an adventure through the grades again, perhaps this time without the support of a veteran teacher just one step ahead of me. Because of this fear, I made every effort to take detailed notes all the way through (sometimes more successfully than others) making sure that even if I wasn’t so good about taking notes on the exact content we studied, I at least had the titles of those few valuable resources.
In recent months I have become a part of a Waldorf homeschooling community that is composed not of teachers following each other in a neat little line, but of parents, doing their best, with limited resources, to provide this phenomenal education for their children. I’ve realized how lucky I am to have my little store of notes, however cryptic or sketchy they may be.
I’ve realized also, though, that there are a lot of people out there with a lot of really good information, and they’re all too willing to share.
It is with all of these thoughts in mind that I begin this blog. My intent is to post my own recommendations for books, toys and curriculum resources and hopefully to collect some of that worldly Waldorf wisdom that is out there into one place. I’d love for people to offer to contribute — writing up a little summary of their resources at the end of each block.
These will be real reviews written by real people who have real lives that have been shaped by the resources that we post here. Our advice is tried and true and it is offered to the community of Waldorf mothers, fathers, parents and teachers.