June 26th, 2010 | Childhood, Links, Natural Toys, Play, Storytelling, Toddlers, TV and Media | Permalink | Comments (3)

I have been hard at work this week on creating the new and improved site for Bella Luna Toys. Unfortunately, it’s left me with little time for writing. So while I plug away at the new site (and, oh, I can’t wait for you to see it!) here are a few links to posts from the blogosphere this week that I found of interest, and hope you will, too!

Toddler Storytelling from Code Name: Mama

The Other Toy Story from BeliefNet.com

TV on SCHOOL BUSES? Why Not Just Set Up A Deep-Fryer & Throw Kids’ Brains In? from Free-Range Kids

Let Your Kids Get Dirty from SimpleMom.net

child playing in dirt image

Photo Courtesy of SimpleMom.net

Have a great weekend!

xox
Sarah

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June 23rd, 2010 | Archives, Handmade Toy Alliance, Handmade Toys, Natural Toys, Toy Safety, Waldorf Toys, Wooden Toys | Permalink | Comments (9)

One year ago, I was ready to take a break from teaching. I felt a need to spend more time at home with my family (ever hear the expression “Waldorphans?” Those are the children of Waldorf teachers), and I was yearning for a way to put my knowledge and experience to work in a new way. I made the bold decision to resign from my position as a Waldorf early childhood teacher, not knowing what would come next.

It seems that no sooner had I made the decision than I learned that Bella Luna Toys was for sale. I had long been aware of Bella Luna Toys as a wonderful online resource for wooden, natural and handmade toys, inspired by Waldorf education. The idea of working from home, selling the kinds of toys I loved and believed in would be an ideal situation for me. I was excited by the possibilities of using the website, not only to sell beautiful and unique toys that would inspire creative play, but also to share my experience and knowledge.

Then I got cold feet. I learned about the recently passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), which in its noble mission to prevent dangerous toys from being imported into the US, was written in such a limiting and restrictive way that it threatened to put many small toymakers in the U.S., Canada and Europe out of business. Since most of the suppliers of the toys sold by Bella Luna Toys are made by indvidual woodworkers, crafters and small businesses, I worried about whether I would be able to sell the kinds of toys I wanted to. I nearly abandoned my dream of becoming the new owner of Bella Luna Toys.

Before I raised the white flag, someone suggested I call Dan Marshall, founder of the Handmade Toy Alliance and owner of Peapods Natural Toys and Baby Care in St. Paul, Minnesota. I called the store and Dan picked up the phone. He spoke to me for a long time. I learned about the important work that the HTA is doing to amend the language of the current laws in order to allow small batch manufacturers of handmade toys to continue producing the heirloom, natural and handcrafted toys that we all believe in and love. Dan probably doesn’t remember our conversation, but he convinced me that this is a great business to be in, in spite of the challenges. Knowing that there were such committed, caring business owners like Dan and the other board members of the Handmade Toy Alliance gave me the courage to follow my heart and take a chance with Bella Luna Toys.

Dan Marshall, Handmade Toy Alliance

Dan Marshall, Founder, Handmade Toy Alliance

The week of June 21 is the first annual Handmade Toy Alliance (HTA) Blog Week and I am happy to be participating. Here is some further information on the history and mission of the HTA from their Website:

In 2007, large toy manufacturers who outsource their production to China and other developing countries violated the public’s trust. They were selling toys with dangerously high lead content, toys with unsafe small parts, toys with improperly secured and easily swallowed small magnets, and toys made from chemicals that made kids sick. Almost every problem toy in 2007 was made in China.

The United States Congress rightly recognized that the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) lacked the authority and staffing to prevent dangerous toys from being imported into the US. So, they passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) in August, 2008. Among other things, the CPSIA bans lead and phthalates in toys, mandates third-party testing and certification for all toys and requires toy makers to permanently label each toy with a date and batch number. All of these changes will be fairly easy for large, multinational toy manufacturers to comply with. Large manufacturers who make thousands of units of each toy have very little incremental cost to pay for testing and updating their molds to include batch labels.

For small American, Canadian, and European toy makers, however, the costs of mandatory testing, to the tune of up to $4,000 per toy, will likely drive them out of business. And the handful of larger toy makers who still employ workers in the United States face increased costs to comply with the CPSIA, even though American-made toys had nothing to do with the toy safety problems of 2007. Toy makers won’t be the only ones impacted by the CPSIA, the thousands of US businesses who offer clothing, jewelry and other gifts for children –in essence– the entire children’s industry will be as well.

The authors of the CPSIA simply forgot to exclude the class of toys that have earned and kept the public’s trust. The result, unless the law is modified, is that handmade and small batch children’s products will no longer be legal in the US. The Handmade Toy Alliance represents these toy makers, manufacturers, importers and retailers. We actively lobby the House of Representatives and the Senate for CPSIA reform and also serve as a collective voice to the CPSC. Thriving small businesses are crucial to the financial health of our nation. Let’s amend the CPSIA so that all businesses large and small are able to comply and survive!

Handmade Toy Alliance

Bella Luna Toys is proud to be a business member of the Handmade Toy Alliance. Please become a fan of the HTA on Facebook, and visit their website at http://www.handmadetoyalliance.org to learn how you can support their work to keep handmade toys legal in the U.S.

Do you love handmade toys? Leave a comment here professing your love! Do you have a blog? Then please join me in spreading awareness of the Handmade Toy Alliance and add a post to support HTA’s first annual Blog Week!

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June 20th, 2010 | Photographs, Waldorf Toys, Wooden Toys | Permalink | Comments (1)

I spent today with my friend Russell Kaye, a photographer, who was helping me take new photographs of some of the wooden toys from Bella Luna Toys. We especially had fun photographing these Branch Family gnomes. Aren’t they cute?

Branch Family Dolls from Tree Blocks

Branch Family from Tree Blocks

More to come. Stay tuned!

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June 17th, 2010 | Festivals, Photographs, Waldorf Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

My past two weeks have been filled with so many end-of-year events and celebrations that it’s been hard to keep up with the blog! On June 5, my older son Harper graduated from high school. He was one of only two graduates at his tiny but wonderful high school, the Watershed School in Rockland, Maine. Harper and Josie were poised and eloquent, filling the assembled group of family, friends, teachers and classmates with much pride. It is heartening to think of these two thoughtful and talented young adults going out and sharing their many gifts with the world. (Incidentally, Harper is a Waldorf school graduate, and Josie attended a Waldorf kindergarten prior to home schooling through her elementary years.)

DSC_0041One week later, Harper’s younger brother William graduated from the eighth grade at Ashwood Waldorf School. William has been at Ashwood since he was four years old, and has been with the same amazing teacher, Jacob Eichenlaub, since first grade. William and his classmates are truly like brothers and sisters, having been together for so long and having shared so many adventures (including their recent eighth-grade trip to Costa Rica!). I don’t think there was a dry eye in the crowded Rockport Opera House as we witnessed the students saying goodbye to their teacher and to each other, before heading off to enter various high schools in the fall.

DSC_0203If those two major events weren’t enough celebrations for one week, sandwiched in between were several more festivities. There was the early childhood “Bridge Crossing” at Ashwood, at which the first-grade-ready children cross over a wooden bridge festooned with fresh flowers, wearing gold capes and crowns. As they cross, they each receive a special gift from their kindergarten teacher (in this case, a necklace). They are then followed by the younger children, who wear different colored capes and cross the bridge into “Summerland,” receiving a flower from their teacher on the other side.

DSC_0091

This festival is usually celebrated outdoors, but a rainy day moved the festivities inside. Beautiful, nonetheless!

After the Bridge Crossing, we barely had time to catch our breath before running down the hill to the grade school to witness The Rose Ceremony, which is celebrated in many Waldorf Schools. Back in the fall, on the first day of the school year, each eighth grader welcomed the new first graders to the school by presenting each with a single long-stemmed red rose. Now, on the last day of the school year, each first grader gave each of the graduating eighth graders a rose, sending them off with good wishes as they move on to the next leg of their life journeys.

DSC_0110

But wait, there’s yet more! Ashwood also had its final assembly of the year, at which the middle school students performed an impressive play, all in French.

Ashwood Waldorf School Assembly

Every moment of each of these celebrations was magical, and I can tell you that my supply of hankies was thoroughly exhausted by the end of the week.

Now things are quieting down. The boys went sailing with their dad yesterday for the first time this season, and are looking forward to long, lazy summer days in Maine before heading off for their new horizons of high school and college in the fall.

After a whirlwind couple of weeks, I turn my attention back to my work with Bella Luna Toys, content and filled with gratitude that we have made it this far, and amazed at how quickly we have gotten here.

Here are some more images from my busy week.

First Graders Perform at Assembly

Bridge Crossing 1

Bridge Crossing 3

How is your June going? What causes for celebration have you had?

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June 9th, 2010 | Play, Waldorf Dolls, Waldorf Toys | Permalink | Comments (15)

After writing my recent post on Waldorf dolls, I remembered a photograph I took at the New York Toy Fair last February. (Yes, those are dolls in the top photo!) Who, I wondered, would ever buy such a distressed looking baby doll for a child? It would be hard for even the most imaginative child in the world to imagine one of the dolls in the top photo being happy!

Realistic Baby Dolls

Now look at the doll in the photo below. I ask you: Which doll is more human?

There is a big difference, I find, between being lifelike and being human.

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