September 28th, 2014 | Art, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)


Stockmar Beeswax Crayons

Happy Autumn, Friends!

Things have been humming at Bella Luna Toys this back-to-school season, leaving me with little time to record new videos for you. But not to worry, more will be coming soon!

Every week I get questions from readers and viewers, so rather than answer each one privately, I’ll share them here because I’m sure many of you have the same questions.

Francesca Asks:

This week I heard from Francesca who wrote:

I recently bought the 7 string song of the sea lyre from you. So now I was wondering if you could recommend me a book to learn to play it! This perhaps sounds silly but would love to learn to use it in order to play it for my daughter and in turn teach her!

I was also wondering if you would recommend beeswax block or stick crayons for a two year old? Some say block some say stick so a little unsure. Also when is it recommended to start watercolour painting?

Sarah Answers:

Dear Francesca,

Always happy to help!

I highly recommend the booklet we sell Familiar Songs for Pentatonic Playalongs. It has some basic guidelines on how to play the pentatonic harp or lyre, and is a collection of familiar folk songs in the pentatonic scale. It will help you pluck the notes to familiar tunes even if you don’t read music.

Unfortunately, there aren’t too many resources on how to play the pentatonic harp, but the good news is that there isn’t much to learn. The hardest part is getting the harp in tune. For help with that, you might want to watch my video on How to Tune Your Pentatonic Harp/Lyre.

Once it’s in tune, you can either strum it, or pluck the strings lightly with the pads of your fingers. You can play familiar songs that are in the pentatonic scale, or just improvise. Because of the nature of the pentatonic scale, anything you play will sound beautiful and in tune!

As for crayons, I would recommend block crayons for a two-year-old because they are virtually unbreakable. 2- and 3-year-olds are likely to put too much pressure on a stick crayon which will break.

By the age of 3½ to 4, I recommend giving a child stick crayons which will help develop the child’s “triangular” or “pencil grasp,” which is important for building their pre-writing skills and actually aids brain development.

With a two-year-old, it is important to use Stockmar crayons with adult supervision because the crayons can cause permanent marks on clothing and unfinished wood. (Crayon marks can usually be easily wiped off of finished wood surfaces with a soft cloth and a little oil.)

There has also been some disagreement among Waldorf teachers on whether stick or block crayons are more appropriate for young children. You can read my view on subject in my blog post Block Crayons vs. Stick Crayons in Waldorf Education.”

It is possible to give a two-year-old an experience of watercolor painting, but I would start by giving the child just one color to paint with at a time, and to paint along side them so that you can model the technique for them. You especially want to model very light strokes with the brush, because most two-year-olds will press too hard on the brush, scratching their paper with the ferule (the metal part of the brush that holds the bristles).

You could tell an imaginative little story about dipping the fairy’s wings in the paint and show how the fairy lightly brushes the color on the paper with her wings.

For a tutorial on wet-on-wet watercolor painting as practiced in Waldorf education, you can view my two-part video via these two links:

Wet-on-Wet Watercolor Painting Tutorial – Part 1

Wet-on Wet Watercolor Painting Tutorial – Part 2

Hope this is of some help, and that you enjoy many years of making art and music with your child!



I love hearing your questions! Please leave your comments and questions here and I will do my best to answer as many as I can in a future video or blog post.


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August 11th, 2013 | Education, Music | Permalink | Comments (2)

Last time on “Sunday With Sarah” I shared my observations of my visit to a Waldorf school for Samburu children in the African bush.

This week, I describe a very different visit — this time to an urban school in the slums of Nairobi. The Gatoto Primary School is not a Waldorf school, but the joy, love and beauty I experienced here moved me in deep and profound ways.

After listening to my story, please click on the link below to hear the children of Gatoto sing!

And click the video below to listen to the children recite poetry under the direction of their elocution teacher.

You can find more video recordings of the children of Gatoto by searching YouTube for “Gatoto School.”

As always, I welcome your comments and questions. If you have any ideas on how I might be able to bring these children to the U.S. to sing for American audiences to raise money for the school and awareness of life in the slums, please drop be a line!

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February 24th, 2013 | bella luna toys, Music, Waldorf Education | Permalink | Comments (3)


Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf education, recommended thepentatonic harp or lyre (also known as a kinderharp or kinder lyre) as an ideal instrument for use with young children.

Its dreamy, quiet, and heavenly quality is calming and soothing for babies, toddlers and young children, and it’s simple enough for children and adults with little or no musical background to play.

Tuned in the five-note pentatonic scale (D, E, G, A, B, d, e), anything played on the instrument will sound beautiful and harmonious. There are no wrong notes!

I get phone calls and emails every week asking about the differences between the various pentatonic harps and lyres that we sell at Bella Luna Toys, so in this week’s video I demonstrate the differences between them, talk about the benefits of these instruments for in early childhood, and let you actually hear them.

Instruments Demonstrated:

I hope I’ve answered your questions, but if not, leave your comments and questions here and I’ll do my best to answer them!

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December 7th, 2010 | Music, Parenting, Waldorf Education | Permalink | Comments (13)

Today, I’d like to introduce you to a friend of mine, Amy Robbins-Wilson. Amy is a talented singer, author, and practitioner of mindful parenting.

Be sure to read through to the end for a special giveaway that Amy is offering!

Amy Robbins Wilson, Mommy Jingles

I’ve gotten to know Amy through our mutual association with Spindlewood Waldorf Kindergarten and LifeWays Center in Lincolnville, Maine, and Amy and I were both teachers this past summer at the northeast LifeWays training for childcare providers inspired by Waldorf education.

Oh, and Amy’s son Clayton happens to be one of the children who appears in the slideshow on the new Bella Luna Toys‘ homepage!

I invited Amy to share with us the interesting work she’s been up — finding a way to help mothers transform their days with children through song.

As a Waldorf early childhood teacher, I learned how effective singing can be in easing transitions, eliminating conflict, and how much joy and lightness it can bring to the days we share with the children. Amy has come up with a unique video course for parents who may not be accustomed to singing through the day, or those who think that they can’t sing (never true!), or don’t know any songs.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your family, Amy?

I am a singer, a storyteller, an author and artist.  I am the lucky wife of an amazing man who builds me up as we dream our way forward.  I am the blessed mother of a son who teaches me each day what it means to be fully present and full of joy.

What about your musical background? Can you tell us more?

I’ve always loved to sing and performed my first solo in preschool when I was three.  It was a song about mothers that I no longer remember but now seems like such an indicator of the future!  My life has been a journey of losing and finding my voice.  I actually stopped singing for about ten years to pursue “more serious matters” until I realized that music was an inescapable force in my life.  I studied music in high school and have performed professionally most of my life.

I received an M.A. in Ritual Song and Chant from the Irish World Music Center (now the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance) in Limerick, Ireland.  Once I became a mother, music became both a tool and a refuge for me.

You know that I’m a big fan of your book Transformational Mothering and your lullaby CDs, which I think offer a lovely calming and grounding experience to mothers of young children. What led you to create your latest project, “Mommy Jingles?”

I developed Mommy Jingles because I was looking for ways to connect to my newborn son, to teach him, to communicate with him and to keep my spirits up as I went through some serious baby blues.

Transformational Mothering

Clayton was born prematurely and his ears were so sensitive that he could not listen to a full lullaby for the first ten months.  He would burst out in tears when I sang which was a real ego deflater.  So I started out with humming and then made little jingles for our day that he could use as cues and markers and Mommy Jingles was born.

It was a revelation to me when he began to respond.  He knew that the getting in the car jingle meant we were getting in the car, he knew that the napping jingle was for napping.  It brought us even closer and I felt like such a great mother,  which was a rare feeling for me those first few months when I was feeling overwhelmed and a bit lost.  Mommy Jingles made our day fun and I realized just how brilliant even the smallest babies are.

Other moms started to ask me what I was doing and I shared songs with them. When I started to hear back from them about how Mommy Jingles helped, I was thrilled and decided to create our online course.  My passion is supporting mothers and this seemed a great way to do it.

Can you give us some ideas on how parents can use singing during challenging times of the day with young children. How can singing ease difficult transitions to, say, bedtime, or separating at daycare?

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May 26th, 2010 | Music | Permalink | Comments (10)

Below is reprint of an article I wrote a few years ago. I thought I would repost it here, since this is a perennial question that I am asked by parents of three- to seven-year-olds. Is there a perfect time to start music lessons? Here are my thoughts.

Shutterstock, Dmitry Naumov

I am a trained Waldorf early childhood teacher and have also completed training as a “Music Together” teacher (a music and movement program for preschoolers and their parents) through the Center for Music and Young Children in Princeton, NJ. In addition, I am a Suzuki parent and a strong supporter of Suzuki music education. I have been interested in comparing the similarities and differences between Suzuki and Waldorf pedagogy ever since discovering how much they share in common.

In spite of the number of similarities in approach, one fundamental difference between the two pedagogies is regarding the age at which a child should begin formal music instruction. Suzuki students are encouraged to begin instrumental lessons as early as age two or three. On the other hand, students in a Waldorf school do not begin lessons with string instruments until third or fourth grade. My personal opinion is that Suzuki, for many children, starts too early, and that Waldorf schools may start too late. Based on my research and observation, I believe that the age of seven may be a more appropriate age for most children to begin private music lessons — for many of the same reasons that make seven the ideal age for a child to begin formal, academic learning at school, according to Waldorf philosophy.

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