Monthly Archives

July 2010

Childhood, Play, Sensory Play, Waldorf Education

Sand Play: Who Knew It Could Be So Controversial?

On Saturday, I stopped by Free-Range Kids, one of my favorite blogs written by Lenore Skenazy, author of the book by the same name. I was delighted to find there a guest post by Mary O’Connell, a colleague and fellow board member of LifeWays North America. Mary offered an essay about the problem she has with sand tables being considered essential pieces of equipment in early childhood classrooms.

You can read Mary’s essay on Free-Range Kids here.

Photo by LaPrimaDonna

I was surprised at how many comments were left in relation to this post over the weekend, and astonished to discover how high emotions seemed to be running in defense of sand tables, and how much vitriol some people expressed toward outdoor sandboxes. Who knew? Readers defended the value of sand tables for giving children valuable sensory input (no argument there), but many of them also bashed sandboxes and playing in dirt as being impractical, messy and unsanitary. Having read most of the 90 follow-up comments, I thought many readers were missing Mary’s point, and offered the following comment of my own:

I am a Waldorf early childhood teacher. My take on the essay was not that Mary was condemning the sand table as detrimental for children, but rather that she was trying to raise our consciousness by asking if we are, in effect, replacing children’s outside play time in nature, by attempting to bring those experiences indoors.

Sand tables seem to have become de rigueur pieces of equipment in early childhood classrooms in recent decades. I’ve used a sand table at times, sometimes filled with sand, sometimes with beans, and the children enjoy it. There is nothing inherently wrong with a sand table (even though, Mary’s right that they DO make a mess!).

But I think that Mary’s point is that they shouldn’t become a substitute for the real thing. Children who are lucky enough to have plenty of time for outdoor play in nature will get all the sensory experiences they need in order to develop healthy brains and bodies — by digging in dirt, playing in sandboxes, wading in water, or climbing trees.

Some of us may teach in urban areas with no outdoor play space (but I wonder how many of us don’t even have a concrete playground with room for a covered sandbox). Some of us may live in apartment high-rises with no yard or outdoor space. If there is not even a park in your neighborhood where children can play outdoors, then a sand table could be considered a necessity. One might also want to have a sand table indoors during the cold winter months when the sandbox is frozen. But, in my opinion, sand table play is no substitute for being outside, digging, and making tunnels and mud pies in real dirt

And as to the animal feces argument against sandbox play, it is so easy to cover a sandbox with a tarp at the end of playtime. The children in my class would help with this task everyday. There are also covered sandboxes which are readily available. [Which I just so happen to carry at Bella Luna Toys!]

Just my two cents in defense of Mary’s original argument.

Dear Readers, have a look at Mary’s essay, and let me know what you think. On which side of the sand table do you stand?

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And the Winners Are . . .

The winner of Making a Family Home by Shannon Honeybloom (chosen at random) is Mia Cavalca who wrote:

While I am not a Waldorf-trained teacher, I have been fortunate over the 15 years I have been in the field of ECE to get to know and become friends with some amazing either Waldorf educators or ECE practitioners who grew up in a Waldorf setting. While my teaching philosophy is eclectic, I take a lot of inspiration from Rudolf Steiner’s ideas (nature, beautiful natural materials, rituals, just to name a few) and continue to read books that are somehow connected to Waldorf-inspired practice. Sharifa Oppenheimer’s book is one of my faves. I regularly follow Shannon’s blog and will add Moon Child to my list, for sure! Would LOVE to add Shannon’s book to my collection of resources and free is good right about now, as I have been without a job for nearly a year. (yay, for california’s budget cuts! not!)

Shannon Honeybloom

Making a Family Home

For those of you who didn’t win, please note that Making a Family Home is available from Moon Child‘s Bookshop listed under the category “Homemaking.”

Thank you to Shannon for the great interview, and for offering a copy of her book!

The winner of a Princess Dress from Sarah’s Silks is Hallie, who wrote (on Not Just Cute‘s blog):

I know two little girls that would just love to have the princess costume or playsilks…the imagination is endless with both!

Sarah's Silks

Princess Dress and Princess Hat from Sarah's Silks

And, finally, the winner of the pair of Play Silks from Sarah’s Silks is Barbara Houck who became a friend of both Bella Luna Toys and Sarah’s Silks on Facebook, and wrote:

Already was a fan of Bella Luna Toys on facebook, but I also just “liked” Sarah’s silks too, so hopefully that means we are also entered into the play silks giveaway!

Play Silks from Sarah's Silks

Thank you to Sarah Lee of Sarah’s Silks for generously donating the giveaway items, thank you to Amanda Morgan for partnering with me, and thanks to all of YOU who entered, visited Shannon’s and Amanda’s blogs, and left your thoughtful comments.

But wait the fun’s not over! There’s one more way to win a free play silk from  Sarah’s Silks. Become the 500th Friend of Bella Luna Toys on Facebook to win! If you become friend #500, leave a comment on our wall to claim your prize.


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The Importance of Fantasy Play (and Another Giveaway!)

Today, I’d like to introduce you to another of my favorite bloggers. Amanda Morgan is an early childhood educator and the author of Not Just Cute on which she writes about child development and early childhood education. While Amanda is not a Waldorf teacher, she recognizes many of the important elements of early childhood education that we Waldorf teachers do, specifically the importance of free, unstructured play for young children and the importance of their sensory experiences.

Amanda is a graduate of Utah State University who holds a BA in both elementary and early childhood education and an MS in childhood development.  She has a wealth of experience in classrooms ranging from preschool to sixth grade and has taught in private, public, and migrant schools.  In addition, she currently teaches preschoolers and works as a consultant and trainer for a non-profit children’s organization.

Author of "Not Just Cute"

Amanda Morgan, Author of "Not Just Cute"

This week at Not Just Cute, Amanda has been writing about the importance of fantasy play for children. I urge you to take a few minutes and read her wonderful and valuable musings on this theme:

Enchanted Learning: The Benefits of Fantasy Play for Children

A Part of Their World: Adult Roles in Child’s Play

Magic Words for Guiding Behavior: “Let’s Pretend”

In connection with her series on fantasy play, Amanda approached me about partnering with her to offer a Giveaway on her blog. Naturally, I was delighted! We decided to offer one lucky reader their choice of either a Princess Dress ($72.95 value) or Knight’s Costume ($31.95 value) from Sarah’s Silks; and another lucky reader will win a pair of Play Silks ($23.90 value) from Sarah’s Silks! Children’s costumes and dress up invite the kind of imaginative fantasy play  that Amanda and I both feel is so important for children, and play silks are perhaps my very favorite Waldorf toys to encourage open-ended play and engage the imagination.

Knight's Costume from Sarah's SilksSarah's Silks

To enter, visit Imaginative Play Giveaway for details. While you’re there, be sure to read Amanda’s posts on Fantasy Play and have fun poking around. Then come back here, leave a comment, and let me know what you think!

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