WALDORF DOLLS

August 18th, 2013 | Natural Toys, Play, Sarah's Silks, Sunday With Sarah, Waldorf Dolls, Waldorf Toys, Wooden Toys | Permalink | Comments (27)

I am often asked by parents who are waiting to transform their child’s playthings from commercial plastic toys to more natural Waldorf toys for my recommendations of the most essential Waldorf toys. This week on “Sunday with Sarah” I share five of my top picks and discuss the play value of each.

Keep in mind that if you are limited by budget some of these toys can be handmade or built oneself!

Video Highlights: 

1:00  Heavy Baby Waldorf Dolls
2:30  Play Silks (Playsilks)
4:00  Ostheimer Wooden Toys
5:16   Waldorf Play Stands (Playstands)
6:35   Wooden Play Kitchens
7:23   Waldorf Rocker Board
10:09 Upcoming Giveaway – Win a Waldorf Rocker Board!

Giveaway!

Mark your calendar and be sure to come back next Sunday (August 25, 2013) for a chance to win a Curvy Board Waldorf Rocker Board from Bella Luna Toys.

Do you or your child have a favorite Waldorf toy? What would be on your top five list? Anything you think I’ve omitted? Please share your thoughts, comments, and questions here!

 

Add comment
  • Bookmark and Share
July 25th, 2011 | Waldorf Dolls | Permalink | Comments (15)

Have you heard about the new Breast Milk Baby doll?

It’s a toy stirring up lots of buzz and controversy. It’s been the topic of much discussion on Bella Luna Toys’ Facebook page in recent weeks, as well as on major news organizations websites, salon.com and on a number of popular parenting blogs, generating hundreds of comments.

Breastfeeding Doll

The Breast Milk Baby doll originated in Spain as “Bebe Gloton” (yes, that translates to “glutton”). It’s a baby doll that allows little girls to pretend to breastfeed. When a child holds the doll up to the flower-shaped nipples on the enclosed “fashionable” halter-top, the doll makes realistic sucking noises and wiggles.

Berjuan Toys, maker of the doll, states on its website (which, interestingly, claims that “God supports The Breast Milk Baby“:

“The doll lets young girls express their love and affection in the most natural way possible, by simulating natural nursing.”

So, what’s not to like about a doll that seeks to promote breastfeeding as normal and natural?

Well, lots, if you ask me.

Some critics claim that it encourages the early sexualization of young girls, and that it isn’t appropriate for them to be breastfeeding dolls.

I think that it’s normal and healthy for children to imitate breastfeeding (especially if they have seen their mother nurse a younger sibling), and I have observed many children, both girls and boys, doing so over the years. But at the same time, I don’t think that a young child needs to become aware of the mechanics of breastfeeding, or conscious of the purpose of her nipples at such a young age.

I recall one sweet boy who was a student in my nursery class many years ago. This boy loved to pretend to nurse one of our Waldorf dolls, which was frequently tucked under his sweater (even while simultaneously sword fighting with a friend!). I think of how the necessity of wearing a nipple halter-top to nurse his doll might have precluded the nurturing gesture of his play.

Plus one should ask the important question, “What else can this doll do besides breastfeed?” Babies don’t always eat. The less formed a doll is, the more a child can use his or her imagination to pretend the baby is laughing, sleeping, crying, playing, and so forth.

Now, I breastfed both my children until they were nearly three-years-old and you won’t find a bigger proponent of breastfeeding anywhere.  But I don’t think that children need a special doll to normalize breastfeeding. Just give a child a beautiful baby doll.

Waldorf Dolls

She doesn’t need a nipple halter-top and real sucking noises. All she needs is her rich imagination.

What’s your opinion? Love it? Hate it? Or are you somewhere in between?

Add comment
  • Bookmark and Share
June 9th, 2010 | Play, Waldorf Dolls, Waldorf Toys | Permalink | Comments (15)

After writing my recent post on Waldorf dolls, I remembered a photograph I took at the New York Toy Fair last February. (Yes, those are dolls in the top photo!) Who, I wondered, would ever buy such a distressed looking baby doll for a child? It would be hard for even the most imaginative child in the world to imagine one of the dolls in the top photo being happy!

Realistic Baby Dolls

Now look at the doll in the photo below. I ask you: Which doll is more human?

There is a big difference, I find, between being lifelike and being human.

Add comment
  • Bookmark and Share
June 7th, 2010 | Waldorf Dolls, Waldorf Education, Waldorf Toys | Permalink | Comments (8)

A Waldorf doll may be the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of “Waldorf toys.” I often receive inquiries about Waldorf dolls and how to choose one. Here, I share with you some of the common questions, and my responses.

Q: What exactly is a Waldorf doll?

A: A Waldorf doll is a type of doll used in Waldorf education. They are usually handmade of natural fibers, like wool and cotton, using traditional European dollmaking techniques. The facial features of a Waldorf doll are intentionally minimal (for example, two embroidered eyes, and a hint of a mouth) or they may have no facial features at all! This is to allow a child to develop his or her capacity for imagination and creativity. Without fixed facial features, a child can imagine the doll to have any expression. It is equally easy to imagine such a doll being happy or sad; crying or laughing—unlike a hard plastic doll, with a fixed, permanent expression.

Q: When is a good time to introduce a doll for the first time? Which dolls would you recommend for different ages?

A: One can introduce a doll to a baby during the first year! I always recommend a Blanket Doll as the perfect first doll for a baby, and up to the age of two. It’s a cross between a favorite “blankie” and a doll. Babies love to look at the human face, and this doll has a formed head covered with cotton knit skin and hand-sewn simple facial features. It has an unformed, soft flannel body, and simple hands and feet sewn into the four corners. The cotton flannel body is warm and soft, and nourishing to a baby’s developing senses. The hands and feet invite gumming and chewing, and the materials are safe and non-toxic.

A toddler at the age of two or three can more easily grasp the concept of “doll,” and at this age I recommend a Cuddle Doll. This type of Waldorf doll (which is also known as a “Bunting Doll”) is more huggable, and squeezable. The body is pillow-like and squishy, making it easy for a young child to hold and grasp. The knot at the end of this “baby’s” stocking cape invites gumming and mouthing, and like the Blanket Doll, is safe for doing so.

For a child age four or older, I recommend a beautiful and classic Waldorf Dress Up Doll. The “dress up” doll typically has skin made from cotton interlock knit fabric and wool stuffing. The trademark long hair  on the girl dolls is usually made of mohair or boucle, and can be braided. It has flexible arms and legs, allowing the doll to be dressed in different changes of clothing, and to assume natural postures.

It is between the ages of 4 and 6 when children really start to play imaginatively and out of imitation. This is the age when playing “house” usually begins, and children of this age love to dress and change clothes on these dolls, feeding them, having tea parties with them, and so forth. These dolls are ideal for a child who has developed the fine motor skills needed to button and change clothing. In doing so, children further develop these skills of manual dexterity.

Q: My daughter’s doll has some dirt stains on her face and body. Can you tell me how to safely wash a Waldorf doll?

A: Waldorf dolls are generally surface washable only. The best way to wash them is to gently spot clean with a mild soap (I like Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap, used very diluted in water) and a soft terrycloth rag. Allow the doll to air dry away from direct sunlight. Never, ever put a Waldorf doll in a washing machine or dryer!

I love hearing your questions! Have a question about Waldorf toys or Waldorf education? A perplexing parenting problem? Wondering about your child’s development? Leave your question here and I’ll do my best to answer in a future post.

Add comment
  • Bookmark and Share
May 3rd, 2010 | Education, Natural Toys, Play, Waldorf Dolls, Waldorf Education, Waldorf Toys, Wooden Toys | Permalink | Comments (21)

 

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!

Add comment
  • Bookmark and Share

children kids waldorf education families blogs child




Receive blog updates by e-mail
My Shop
waldorf wooden toys child development play imagination
My Book
waldorf wooden toys child development play imagination
Blog Archive
2014 (5)
April (2)
March (3)
2013 (23)
2012 (9)
2011 (11)
2010 (48)
Loving
Subscribe by e-mail
  • Subscribe2
Recommended Reading
Pinterest
Facebook Fans
Twitter Updates
children waldorf toys creative play