NATURAL TOYS

July 23rd, 2010 | Childhood, Inspiration, Natural Toys, Photographs, Play, Waldorf Toys, Wooden Toys | Permalink | Comments (5)

Right now I am spending every free moment working on the new Bella Luna Toys website, about which I’m all aflutter. I can’t wait for you to see it! As a result, I’ve had very little time to write blog posts.

So here today, inspired by SouleMama, I am sharing Amanda’s Friday ritual. A single photo, no words, capturing a moment. (And, in this case, a sneak peek into what I’ve been working on!)

Wooden Toy Train from Bella Luna Waldorf Toyscopyright Sarah Baldwin, all rights reserved

Wishing you a wonderful summer weekend full of play!

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July 1st, 2010 | Giveaway, Natural Toys, Photographs, Sarah's Silks, Waldorf Toys | Permalink | Comments (2)

I have been hard at work for the past month on the new and improved Bella Luna Toys website (which I can’t wait to show you!). Since I currently run Bella Luna Toys single-handedly, it has been taking nearly every waking moment to input all the new products, descriptions and photos into the new system. As a result, I’ve had very little time to write as much as I’d like on the blog. I do have two exciting Giveaways planned for the next two weeks in connection with two of my favorite bloggers, so stay tuned!

In the meantime, I thought I’d share with you this lovely image of a happy Bella Luna Toys customer, playing with her Silk Streamer from Sarah’s Silks, one of our bestsellling summer items. Thank you to Cindie Y for sharing this lovely image of her beautiful daughter!

Silk Streamer from Sarah's Silks

Do you have a photo of your child or children using playthings from Bella Luna Toys? Send it to support [at] bellalunatoys [dot] com for a chance to win a $25 gift certificate!

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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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May 3rd, 2010 | Education, Natural Toys, Play, Waldorf Dolls, Waldorf Education, Waldorf Toys, Wooden Toys | Permalink | Comments (23)

 

When I am asked by a new acquaintance what I do for a living, I explain that I am a former Waldorf teacher and that sell and share my love of Waldorf toys. I am frequently met with a blank stare, in which case I know that more explanation is needed.

I will go on to explain that the kinds of toys we carry are wooden, eco-friendly and organic toys. You know, “green toys.” This gives most people a better idea, but there is so much more to it than that. Beyond simply being natural toys, what exactly makes a toy a “Waldorf toy?”

Waldorf Flower Fairy Dolls

Nourishing to the Senses

Since families have become more eco-conscious in recent years, toymakers are producing many more eco-friendly and natural toys to meet the increasing demand. But Waldorf schools, which originated in the 1920’s, have always provided children with toys made of natural materials, such as wood, silk, wool and cotton.

Yes, these kinds of toys are good for the environment, but most importantly, they are good for children! I’ve written previously here about the importance of sensory experience in early childhood, so one important hallmark of a “Waldorf toy” is that it be nourishing to a young child’s senses.

Imagine the sensory experience of a toddler cuddling a rigid, hard plastic doll with synthetic hair, and then cuddling a Waldorf doll stuffed with wool, covered in cotton with a head of soft mohair. Not only is the Waldorf doll more aesthetically pleasing, but its softness and warmth will having a calming and soothing effect on a young child.

Beautiful to Behold

Waldorf toys should also be beautiful to behold, because sight is as important as touch. We want to nurture children in a beautiful environment and their playthings should be beautiful as well. By surrounding children with beauty, we are not only contributing to their sense of wellbeing (or “sense of life,” as Rudolf Steiner referred to it), but also developing their aesthetic awareness and appreciation.

Toys that are made from natural materials, with rich, natural colors, and that are lovingly handcrafted are inviting, and contribute to a child’s “sense of life.” A child is much more likely to feel reverence for a beautiful handcrafted toy and care for it accordingly than he is for a mass-produced plastic toy. As Plato so eloquently recognized, “the most effective kind of education is that a child should play amongst lovely things.”

Inspiring the Imagination

Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf education, suggested that children’s playthings should be largely unformed in order to stimulate a child’s imagination. What does this mean? Waldorf toys are often simple, without a lot of detail.

Waldorf teachers believe that toys should be simple and open-ended. Baskets of tree branches (like our Tree Blocks), play silks, stones, pinecones and shells all can be transformed into a myriad of objects. During a typical morning in a Waldorf kindergarten, one would likely see shells become money; wooden blocks become food; a small piece of tree branch become a telephone; silks become skirts and veils; and so on. By giving children objects that are not highly formed and detailed, they can easily become more than one thing, and give children’s imaginations free reign.

If you are familiar with a Waldorf doll, you no doubt have noticed that such dolls have minimal facial features, and sometimes no faces at all! As is the case with most aspects of Waldorf education, the reason is not arbitrary. Waldorf dolls have minimal or no faces in order to encourage the imagination of the young child—to cultivate her “inner picturing” abilities.

DSC_0069

Again, think of a hard, formed plastic doll, with a highly detailed face, and a fixed, frozen smile. If a young child is playing “house” and caring for this baby, it is hard to imagine this baby to be sad or crying. Children want to imitate real life. Real babies smile and laugh, but they also look sad or cry when they are hungry or need changing. If a doll has just two eyes, and a suggestion of a mouth, the child is more easily able to imagine this baby expressing a range of emotions, living richly in her imaginative life. For the same reason, Waldorf puppets have only the barest suggestion of faces.

Imitation: Play is a Child’s Work and Toys Are Her Tools

Children naturally want to imitate adults and their daily activities. As Waldorf teachers, we strive to be adults “worthy of imitation” and bring consciousness to our gestures as we engage in the daily tasks of living, such as cooking and cleaning in the classroom. Knowing that children will imitate our activities we attempt to work in an unhurried and careful way.

Bringing consciousness to one’s daily activities at home, and providing children with child-sized versions of household items such as a play kitchen, wooden play dishes, and tools such as a broom, or dust pan and brush will allow children to fully engage in their imaginative imitation of daily life, and build real life skills as well.

Playing House

As I’ve tried to stress to parents over the years, choosing toys is not about “good toys” vs. “bad toys.” Rather, it’s about bringing new consciousness to selecting children’s playthings. Is it beautiful? Does it feel good? Does it leave room for the imagination? Will it inspire imitative play? If you can answer yes to these questions, you will be providing your child with all the tools needed for years of healthy play!

Have a question about Waldorf toys? What are your favorites? In the coming months, Bella Luna Toys will be greatly expanding its inventory, and I’d love to hear your ideas!

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