If you were to ask me to recommend my one favorite Waldorf toy, I would have to tell you the Rocker Boards!
You might be surprised, because rocker boards may not yet be thought of as classic Waldorf toys. They are, in fact, a relatively new addition, but I’m confident that in very little time rocker boards will become synonymous with “Waldorf toys”—just like Waldorf playstands, Waldorf dolls, and play silks.
My Introduction to the Wonder of Rocker Boards
I’d been teaching early childhood classes in a Waldorf school for many years, but had never seen nor heard of this toy until one of my colleagues brought two of them back from the East Coast Waldorf Early Childhood Conference in 2006.
When I first saw this unusual plaything–a piece of high quality, thick plywood, about three feet long and one foot wide, curved into a perfect quarter-circle arc–I wondered how interested the children would be and what could be done with them.
I knew how beneficial rocking is for a child’s development: it stimulates the vestibular (balance) system and aids a child’s sense of proprioception (the awareness of being in one’s physical body). It seemed like a good toy for allowing rocking indoors.
I knew how important balance is for a child’s brain development, and it seemed like a good and possibly therapeutic toy for certain children.
What I didn’t yet know was how much children love this toy!
Rocker Boards in the Classroom
We introduced the rocker boards in our classroom in February of that year, and the children wasted no time in finding them and putting them to use.
I was amazed at all the ways they found to play with them. My limited adult thinking assumed that this was a toy for children to stand on, with one foot on either end, on which they could rock back-and-forth.
I didn’t yet realize it could be so much more!
Right away, these boards became the most popular toys in our classroom. They were the first toys the children would go to as soon as snack time was over and play time began.
Yes, children would stand on them and rock, but they found so many other uses for them:
- The rocker board would become a slide, with one end propped up on a Waldorf playstand.
- Tipped over, it became a bridge. The children would act out stories, like the “Three Billy Goats Gruff” and trip-trap over the bridge.
- It became a sailboat, carrying fishermen off to sea as they cast their nets.
- It was a pirate ship sailing through mighty storms.
- It was a cradle for a mama (a 5-year-old) to rock her baby (a 3-year-old) to sleep in.
More Boards, More Fun
Every day the children found new imaginative uses for the rocker boards. The trouble was, we only had two.
The next year it was my turn to attend the Waldorf early childhood conference in Spring Valley, NY where a local woodworker was selling the boards to Waldorf teachers. I came back with two more rocker boards.
Now that we had four boards in the classroom, there was less competition for them among the children, and less time spent waiting for turns to use them. And the children found even more uses for multiple boards:
- Put four side-by-side to create an airplane.
- Put four end-to-end to create a train.
- Put four together to create a perfect circle, in which to make a little house.
Several years later when I left my teaching position and became the new owner of Bella Luna Toys, I knew right away that I wanted to introduce Waldorf Rocker Boards to families. So I contacted Larry Fox, the woodworker in New York who sold those first rocker boards to early childhood teachers.
He could not commit to making the boards in the quantities I was looking for, so I kept searching, talking to various woodworkers and manufacturers, hoping I could find someone who could help me bring this toy into the lives of more children and families.
After almost two years of searching, I was ecstatic when a young mother in California, whose children attend a Waldorf school, contacted me about a new product that she and her husband had created – the Curvy Board – after seeing rocker boards in use in their children’s Waldorf School. She wondered if I would be interested in offering them through Bella Luna Toys.
In the summer of 2001, a partnership was born and now this wonderful open-ended toy is in homes all over the world, helping to develop children’s core strength, balance and brain development, but most importantly, inspiring creative and open-ended play!
Not only have the rocker boards quickly become one of our bestselling toys, but they have also garnered glowing reviews from our customers.
Have you observed children playing with Waldorf Rocker Boards? In what ways other creative ways have you seen them used?