Monthly Archives

June 2010

Festivals, Photographs, Waldorf Education

Festivals and Celebrations!

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.

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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.

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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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Play, Waldorf Dolls, Waldorf Toys

Waldorf Dolls: Lifelike or Human?

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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Waldorf Dolls, Waldorf Education, Waldorf Toys

Waldorf Dolls: An Introduction

A Waldorf doll may be the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of “Waldorf toys.” I often receive inquiries about Waldorf dolls and how to choose one. Here, I share with you some of the common questions, and my responses.

Q: What exactly is a Waldorf doll?

A: A Waldorf doll is a type of doll used in Waldorf education. They are usually handmade of natural fibers, like wool and cotton, using traditional European dollmaking techniques. The facial features of a Waldorf doll are intentionally minimal (for example, two embroidered eyes, and a hint of a mouth) or they may have no facial features at all! This is to allow a child to develop his or her capacity for imagination and creativity. Without fixed facial features, a child can imagine the doll to have any expression. It is equally easy to imagine such a doll being happy or sad; crying or laughing—unlike a hard plastic doll, with a fixed, permanent expression.

Q: When is a good time to introduce a doll for the first time? Which dolls would you recommend for different ages?

A: One can introduce a doll to a baby during the first year! I always recommend a Blanket Doll as the perfect first doll for a baby, and up to the age of two. It’s a cross between a favorite “blankie” and a doll. Babies love to look at the human face, and this doll has a formed head covered with cotton knit skin and hand-sewn simple facial features. It has an unformed, soft flannel body, and simple hands and feet sewn into the four corners. The cotton flannel body is warm and soft, and nourishing to a baby’s developing senses. The hands and feet invite gumming and chewing, and the materials are safe and non-toxic.

A toddler at the age of two or three can more easily grasp the concept of “doll,” and at this age I recommend a Cuddle Doll. This type of Waldorf doll (which is also known as a “Bunting Doll”) is more huggable, and squeezable. The body is pillow-like and squishy, making it easy for a young child to hold and grasp. The knot at the end of this “baby’s” stocking cape invites gumming and mouthing, and like the Blanket Doll, is safe for doing so.

For a child age four or older, I recommend a beautiful and classic Waldorf Dress Up Doll. The “dress up” doll typically has skin made from cotton interlock knit fabric and wool stuffing. The trademark long hair  on the girl dolls is usually made of mohair or boucle, and can be braided. It has flexible arms and legs, allowing the doll to be dressed in different changes of clothing, and to assume natural postures.

It is between the ages of 4 and 6 when children really start to play imaginatively and out of imitation. This is the age when playing “house” usually begins, and children of this age love to dress and change clothes on these dolls, feeding them, having tea parties with them, and so forth. These dolls are ideal for a child who has developed the fine motor skills needed to button and change clothing. In doing so, children further develop these skills of manual dexterity.

Q: My daughter’s doll has some dirt stains on her face and body. Can you tell me how to safely wash a Waldorf doll?

A: Waldorf dolls are generally surface washable only. The best way to wash them is to gently spot clean with a mild soap (I like Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap, used very diluted in water) and a soft terrycloth rag. Allow the doll to air dry away from direct sunlight. Never, ever put a Waldorf doll in a washing machine or dryer!

I love hearing your questions! Have a question about Waldorf toys or Waldorf education? A perplexing parenting problem? Wondering about your child’s development? Leave your question here and I’ll do my best to answer in a future post.

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