WALDORF TOYS

May 17th, 2010 | Sarah's Silks, Toy Safety, Waldorf Education, Waldorf Toys | Permalink | Comments (7)

Because the play silks and line of products from Sarah’s Silks are bestsellers at Bella Luna Toys, and being that my name happens to be Sarah, I am often asked if I dye the silks and make the line. The answer is no! That honor belongs to Sarah Lee, who founded her delightful company 16 years ago in Forestville, California.

Today, I am very pleased to introduce you to Sarah Lee, the founder and owner of  Sarah’s Silks. Sarah’s company is truly a pleasure to do business with and I am very proud to carry their entire line. Not only are their playthings beautiful to behold, but they also embody the qualities that I am committed to providing at Bella Luna Toys—toys that are nourishing to the senses and that engage the imagination. (Oh, and did I mention how incredibly nice Sarah and all her employees are?)

I got to know Sarah shortly after taking ownership of Bella Luna Toys last fall. I discovered a kindred spirit in Sarah. Not only did we share the same first name, but I also learned that she grew up just up the road apiece from me in coastal Maine. I thought it would be fun to interview her so that you could get to know her a little better, too. If you’re not familiar with Sarah’s Silks, when you’re done reading the interview, head on over to Bella Luna Toys, and take a look at the play silkstoys and dress ups from Sarah’s Silks. (Though sadly, photos on a website just cannot covey the rich, shimmering colors, and the wonderful tactile experience of silk!)

sarah baldwin moon child blog

When did you start Sarah’s Silks and can you tell us how your company came to be?

I started Sarah’s Silks 16 years ago, shortly after my middle son Noah was born.  I wanted to stay at home and nurse him, yet still be able to pay for my four-year-old to attend a Waldorf kindergarten.  Our local school, Summerfield in Santa Rosa, California, had a lovely teacher, Ellyn, who had play cloths in her classroom. I saw the creative play and use of the cloths and thought it would be wonderful to have some at home, too. I bought some silk scarves and dyed them with the help of my neighbor and our four-year-olds, while wearing Noah in a sling.

Friends started asking for some and soon I was selling them to the local Waldorf toy store. Then my four-year-old son, Josh (now 20 and an artist), wanted capes and tunics to dress-up in, so I expanded to dress-ups too. I made the first silk blanket for Noah. He loved the silky feeling, and I found silk wonderfully warm.

Voila! Sarah’s Silks was born.

Last February, I attended the NY Toy Fair where I saw many cute dress-ups for children, but noticed they were all made from polyester or other synthetic fabrics. Why silk?

Silk for no itch!  Many children are sensitive to synthetics; they may like the look of dress-ups but wear them only briefly, as they don’t feel good. Silk is also a renewable resource, encouraging Mulberry Tree farmers to plant trees in China. Furthermore, silk takes dye beautifully and flows well.

Where are Sarah’s Silks products dyed and made? Can you describe the process?

In the beginning all of our silk was dyed here in our home.  We still dye some items here, like most of the play silks.

However, cost became an issue and so my husband Mike went to China and worked closely with a man named Yue Fung, who has a degree from a Silk College!  He works with people in a small village who hand sew and dye much of our silks.  The rainbows are painted with a paintbrush.  Mike has visited the village, seen the women sewing in their homes, and carefully monitors the dyes for safety. We use non-toxic acid dyes, which are called acid because they use vinegar as the solvent.  It is much like dyeing Easter eggs!

toys boys girls maine wood

There has been much concern lately about toy safety and worries about toys made in China. How can customers know that Sarah’s Silks products are safe and non-toxic?

We employ small village workers who are closely monitored.  Also, all of our products have been safety tested to the highest European standards and the new U.S. CPSC standards by independent test labs.

Read the rest of this entry »

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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!

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April 19th, 2010 | Giveaway, Waldorf Toys | Permalink | Comments (0)

In celebration of TV-Turnoff Week, Bella Luna Toys is partnering with one of my favorite blogs, Simple Organic to offer one lucky reader a $100.00 GIFT CERTIFICATE, good towards anything at Bella Luna Toys! Use the certificate for any of your favorite Waldorf toys, natural toys, wooden toys, Waldorf dolls, play silksdress ups from Sarah’s Silks, and more.

This is the biggest giveaway that Bella Luna Toys has ever sponsored!

Simply visit SimpleOrganic.net for instructions on how to enter. While you’re there, be sure to explore Katie’s ideas for “Make Week,” lots of  fun ideas for alternatives to TV to keep your family busy all week long.

This giveaway will end Sunday, April 25, at 11:59 p.m. CST. The winner will be announced Tuesday, April 27.

Lots of  luck!!

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April 5th, 2010 | Play, Toy Safety, Waldorf Toys, Wooden Toys | Permalink | Comments (13)

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 26th, 2010 | Art, Waldorf Toys | Permalink | Comments (4)

I was so happy to finally get this blog up and running. I had so much to say, and couldn’t wait to move out from behind a static website and to be able to interact with all of you. Well, it seems that no sooner did “Moon Child” finally go live when Amanda Soule, my favorite blogger and creator of the most gorgeous crafting and parenting blog, SouleMama, made a lovely post about drawing and crayons.

Photo by Amanda Soule

Photo by Amanda Soule, used with permission

Well, ever since that post came out, I’ve had very little time to write, since all I’ve been doing is packing and shipping box after box of our beautiful Stockmar  beeswax crayons! Apparently, the photos of Amanda’s baby, Harper, grasping the Stockmar blocks, and colorful Crayon Rocks in his cherubic little hands proved simply irresistible, and suddenly I can barely keep up with the demand!

It’s really no wonder. The quality of these crayons is incredible. Made with pure beeswax, they smell wonderful and the colors are pure and vibrant. What’s best is that they last FOREVER. (Well, nearly forever!) We still have and use some of the same block crayons that my son Harper, now 18, got from his teacher years ago when when he was in first grade. (Can you believe Amanda and I both have sons named Harper and dogs named Nellie? Oh, and we both live in Maine!)

So, as soon as soon as I’m done packing all these crayons, I’ll be back to tell you a little bit more about the benefits of the different kinds of crayons available at Bella Luna Toys, and how I used them in my classroom.

crayon-rocks-2

In the meantime find a child, grab some paper and crayons, and sit down with him or her and have a lovely color experience. Happy drawing!

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