This is sort of an oddball topic, I suppose, but today as I was looking around at the children I work with I started to realize some of the opinions I have about Waldorf wearables. In the Waldorf world we’re always wanting to care for the children’s well-being — whether it is so they can pay attention better, move with greater freedom or stay warm — it is all about creating optimal conditions for children to learn. What children are wearing can definitely be a part of this picture.
Generally children are not warm enough just in socks. Every kindergarten teacher I know requires that their children have some sort of footwear on in the classroom, and often this requirement extends right into 3rd or 4th grade. Over the course of my years in the classroom I have definitely formed some opinions about what works and what doesn’t. Most teachers agree that the footwear needs to have a back (so the child can walk backwards) and, depending on the child, it should provide some level of support. Things I have seen that do not work? Ballet slippers. Crocs. Things that I think work best? Lightweight sneakers (like Keds or Converse). Velcro sandals (with socks, of course). I think it’s better to err on the side of providing too much support, rather than too little. And those beautiful handmade wool felted slippers are often too hot, soak through if they get wet, and don’t hold up to daily wear. Think “indoor shoes” instead of “slippers.” Oh, and if your 1st or 2nd grader has slip-on or velcro outdoor shoes make sure his or her indoor shoes have ties.
You want to provide your children with as much experience of the natural world as possible. At the same time you want to protect their senses so they do not get too cold or wet and uncomfortable. For little ones this means finding proper outdoor wear, including rain pants. I know that when I was a child we never wore rain pants, and only rarely could our parents talk us into putting on that uncomfortable rubber slicker. We’d rather stay inside, thank you very much. But things are not so uncomfortable anymore, and getting outside is essential.
The best rainpants are easy to get on and off and close off at the ankles, as well as at the waist. Years ago LL Bean made a pair that had quite wide legs and closed with velcro at the ankle. They made all of our outings painless as it was a so easy to get them on over boots but still came off with ease. When I taught preschool I made them mandatory. Short of the vintage LL Bean’s elastic at the ankles will work and if you can find a pair with suspenders and loose elastic at the waist, all the better.
I consider undershirts essential. My children wore them as babies and even still my 11 year old wears them (heck, even I still wear them!). When my children were babies they wore woolen undershirts and leggings everyday in the winter. I got such mileage out of them that I didn’t mind spending the money to get good quality woolens, and for the little ones whose senses were in such need of protection, I felt it was important.
One of those old “Steiner says” adages requires that children keep their heads covered all the time while they’re babies (maybe even up to age 3, I think?). Providing your child with warmth is an important part of protecting her lower senses when she’s little. Warmth ensures proper development, which sets the stage for learning. If you’d like to read more about the importance of warmth for children, especially in early childhood, read this article.
I remember it took me awhile to find the right kind of hat that wasn’t too hot, that didn’t always come off, that wasn’t silk, European and expensive. Until I found the Hanna Andersson pilot cap.
I loved this little cap for my babies. They could wear them year-round (under a warmer hat in the winter) and these hats were so affordable I didn’t cringe at the thought of losing one. At $8 a piece I bought a few in different colors and rotated them. Definitely an infant wardrobe staple.
What are your Waldorf Wear Essentials? (Sounds like a brand name — maybe I should trademark it!)