PLAY

April 23rd, 2010 | Childhood, Play | Permalink | Comments (2)

Lenore Skenazy, who inspired the “free range” parenting movement when she allowed her 9-year-old son to take the subway home by himself and then wrote about it, has proposed that May 22 be declared “Take Our Children to the Park … and Leave Them There Day.” She quotes some important statistics that our fear of crime is rising while, in fact, the crime rate has been steadily declining for the past 20 years. Are our children paying the price of our fear by losing the freedom of free, outdoor play?   Read Lenore’s recent post from her blog, “Free Range Kids” which was republished this week in the New York Times.

DSC07055

Don’t bother me, I’m playing!

In another article published this week, librarian Barbara Fister challenges some of her colleagues who believe that children should be using Twitter, Facebook, and other Web 2.0 applications in order to become technologically literate.   Barbara points to the important neurophysiologic and developmental benefits of active free play for young children, and defends play as a “basic human right” of childhood. Read her article “Playing for Keeps” at libraryjournal.com.

Will you spend time outdoors with your children this weekend? What are their favorite places to play outdoors?

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April 5th, 2010 | Play, Toy Safety, Waldorf Toys, Wooden Toys | Permalink | Comments (14)

We love wooden toys because they are safe, natural, and durable, but also because they are nourishing to a young child’s senses. They feel good and, with their variety of natural colors and grains, are beautiful to behold! Not only will wooden toys provide many years of play for your children, but with proper care, they will also be enjoyed by your grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Wooden Toy Cement Truck

But how should one care for wooden toys to make them last? Because they are made from a natural, living material, they need special care and loving attention.

Simple cleaning with a mild solution of soap and water (I like Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap) or a vinegar solution will keep your wooden toys safe and germ-free. Vinegar has mild disinfectant properties. Be sure to avoid bleach, detergents or abrasive cleansers, which will dry out the wood, leading to cracks and breakage, and will also lighten the surface. Use a damp cloth, soft brush or a sponge to wipe clean. It is best not to submerge wood in water (and never put it in the dishwasher).

Wooden Toy Dish Set

Wood needs to have its natural moisture replenished in order to prevent it from drying out, warping or cracking. The best way to keep your wooden toys hydrated and well-nourished is with a natural oil or wax, like plain mineral oil or beeswax polish, like Three Beautiful Bees. Beeswax polish is not only completely non-toxic and safe for children, but it also smells like honey, further adding to the sensory deliciousness of wooden toys!

beeswax-polish

Like all wood, wooden toys can be affected by changes in temperature and humidity. Be careful not to leave them outside overnight or for extended periods of time. Heat, sun and humidity can all affect the appearance and shape of wooden toys, and worse, lead to cracking, swelling or breakage.

With proper care and feeding, the wooden toys you purchase for your child today will be enjoyed for generations, delighting other children and families decades after the plastic toys end up sitting in the bottom of a landfill for all time.

What are your favorite wooden toys? Leave a comment and let me know!

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March 31st, 2010 | Childhood, Play, Waldorf Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Early childhood educators understand the importance of sensory play for young children. As a Waldorf early childhood teacher, I came to an even deeper understanding of how profoundly important it is to provide a young child with materials and playthings that will nourish his senses.

Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf education, once described a baby as being “wholly sense organ,” That is, she learns about the world and takes it in through all her senses (furthermore, Steiner claims we have twelve senses, and not just five, but that’s the subject for another post!).

As Waldorf early childhood educators, we seek to provide sensory stimuli that is soothing and nourishing to touch–materials such as natural wood, the soft wool of a lambskin, silks, dolls made of cotton and wool, smooth river stones, and so forth. Outdoors, a child’s senses are stimulated and nourished by playing in sand, water, mud and soil.

Little Hands in Water
What current research shows us is that a child’s sensory experiences are aiding his brain development. Trillions of neural pathways are being formed and strengthened by his repeated sensorial experiences. This is one reason I am committed to carrying playthings and materials at Bella Luna Toys that will nourish and gratify a child’s senses.

For more information on the importance of sensory play, here’s a great blog post from Amanda Morgan, another (non-Waldorf) early childhood educator.

A Handful of Fun: Why Sensory Play is Important for Preschoolers

(This post is part of the Backyard Mama Wednesday link-up.  Visit www.backyardmama.com for more information and to participate)

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March 27th, 2010 | Childhood, Play | Permalink | Comments (2)

Yesterday’s New York Times featured a sad but important op-ed piece by David Elkind, author of the books The Hurried Child and The Power of Play, among others, about the newest threats to childhood and play being imposed on our already over-scheduled children.

New York Times: “Playtime is Over” by David Elkind

Whit on Tire Swing

He states that many schools are now employing “recess coaches” to oversee children’s play time. (Yes, you read that right. Recess coaches!) The traditional culture of childhood is quickly disappearing. I urge you to read this article, then visit The Alliance for Childhood’s website to learn what this organization is doing to protect childhood in the world, and to preserve a child’s freedom to play. Sign up for their free alerts to learn ways you can help.

“Play is the only way the highest intelligence of humankind can unfold.” ~Joseph Chilton Pearce

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March 18th, 2010 | Childhood, Play, Sarah's Silks, Waldorf Education, Waldorf Toys, Wooden Toys | Permalink | Comments (6)

Are all Waldorf teachers asked to describe Waldorf education “in a nutshell” as often as I am? I suspect so. One of my esteemed colleagues, Nancy Foster, a veteran teacher who taught at  Acorn Hill Waldorf Kindergarten in Silver Spring, MD even wrote a book entitled In a Nutshell, answering parents questions about Waldorf education.

Even though it’s a nearly impossible task, given the muti-faceted nature of Waldorf education and the almost-too-many-to-name  aspects that differentiate a Waldorf classroom from the educational mainstream, I did my best to give a “nutshell” picture of a Waldorf early childhood program recently for the wonderful crafting blog, Wee Folk Art. Here it is, reprinted in its entirety, with thanks to Kimara for asking such great questions that were a pleasure to answer!

Interview with Sarah Baldwin of Bella Luna Toys
By Kimara – Originally posted at Wee Folk Art on 14 February 2010

Sarah Baldwin, Waldorf teacher and owner of Bella Luna Toys

Kimara: In a nutshell, what distinguishes a Waldorf classroom from a more traditional educational environment?

Sarah: There are so many facets and layers to Waldorf education that it is nearly impossible to describe it in a neat, tidy package, even though I am frequently asked to do so! Since I am an early childhood teacher, I will highlight three of the key elements that distinguish a Waldorf early childhood classroom from that of a more mainstream preschool.

Read the rest of this entry »

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