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early childhood

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Archives, bella luna toys, Childhood, Education, Family, Parenting, Storytelling, Sunday With Sarah, Waldorf Books, Waldorf Education

Storytelling from the Heart

Sarah Baldwin, Waldorf educator and owner of Bella Luna Toys, explains the importance of storytelling for children and gives parents ideas on how to make up their own stories, and tell stories “by heart” in this “Sunday with Sarah video.”

TRANSCRIPTION:

Hi, I’m Sarah Baldwin. I’m a Waldorf teacher, an author, the mother of two Waldorf graduates. I’m the owner of Bella Luna Toys, and I’m also a storyteller.

And guess what. So are you!

Today on “Sunday With Sarah” I’m going to talk to you about storytelling and why I think it’s so important to TELL children stories–from memory or from the heart, or stories that you make up–as opposed to just reading them from a book.

Now books are great. We sell a lot of picture books and chapter books at Bella Luna Toys. I don’t want to discourage you from ever reading to your child or encouraging your child to read, but when we can take the time to TELL a child a story–eye-to-eye and heart-to-heart–there is no greater gift. Children love it!

Now you may think “I’m not creative, I don’t have any ideas. How do I possibly make up a story?” Well, it’s not that hard, and the more you start exercising that storytelling muscle, the easier it becomes.

The easiest way to get started, I think, is to just start telling your child stories of when you were a little girl or you were a little boy. Children LOVE to hear stories about their parents when they were little, and remembering the adventures they had or the trouble they got into!

You can also tell a story reviewing the child’s day. Now, reviewing the day before sleep, in bed, is a wonderful, relaxing way for children to let go of the day and drift off to sleep.

And you can disguise the child. You can change his or her name, or it could be a story about “Squirrel Nutkin” or another little animal, but then use the events that child’s day to help them review the day and soon they’ll begin to recognize themselves in the story. “Oh, that’s what I did today!” and they’ll get really excited to hear a story about themselves.

For instance: “Squirrel Nutkin woke up early one morning and his mother had made him a bowl of oatmeal. And after they ate their oatmeal, they washed the dishes together and took a walk to the park…” and so on, reviewing what the child had to eat that day, who they saw, what activities they did.

So, if you need more ideas, one of my favorite books, and we offer it at Bella Luna Toys, is called Storytelling with Children, written by Nancy Mellon. Nancy is a master storyteller who has taught teachers and given workshops, and it’s full of great ideas.

And stories don’t have to just be told. They can also be told as a puppet play with little figures. Nancy gives lots of ideas in this wonderful book.

So I really encourage you to start, if you don’t already, making up stories. You can also memorize a story, like a fairy tale, and try telling it by heart. I like saying “telling it by heart” rather that “memorizing.” It just is warmer.

A fairy tale you know well, like “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” or “Little Red Riding Hood.” You know what happens in the story! Tell it in your own words and when your child makes that eye contact with you and has that heart-to-heart connection, they will just warm right up, and you’ll enjoy it, too.

So, leave a comment! Let me know if storytelling something you do regularly. If not, and you decide to give it a try, let me know how it goes. Let me know if you have any questions. Happy storytelling! See you next time.

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Book referenced in video: Storytelling with Children by Nancy Mellon

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Waldorf costumes dress-up play
Archives, Childhood, Dress Up Play, Education, Halloween, Play

10 Benefits of Dress-Up Play for Children

Children throughout the ages have enjoyed dressing up in costumes and engaging in dramatic roleplaying. Whether your child is a dragon, a princess, or a fairy, your child’s brain is going into high gear when she puts on a costume!

And although it may appear to you as just play, when your child dons that cape, crown, or pirate’s eye-patch, his brain is developing in more ways than you can imagine. As early childhood educators know, play is the work of the child, and children benefit cognitively, physically, socially, and emotionally through dress-up play.

Here are 10 developmental benefits of dress up play for kids:

1. Brain Building

Dress-up engages your child’s brain and memory. Dramatic play requires kids to remember what they’ve seen or heard. They remember how their mother behaves when performing household chores when they are imitating her. Or they recall the details of a fairy tale they’ve heard before acting it out.

2. Vocabulary Building

Dress-up play builds vocabulary as a child decides what his or her character would say. It gives them a chance to expand their vocabularies with words and phrases that they might have heard in stories, but wouldn’t ordinarily use. Children may then begin to use these new words in conversations.

3. Problem-Solving

Who’s going to be the doctor? Who’s going to be the patient? Children must make decisions when they engage in dress-up play. They practice problem-solving problems when deciding on what costumes elements and props each character needs to act out a scenario.

4. Empathy

When a child is engaged in role-play, it helps her see the world through another’s eyes which increases empathy – whether pretending to be a parent nurturing a baby, a doctor taking care of an injured patient, or a firefighter putting out a fire. Dramatic play helps children understand the role that helpers play in in our lives.

5. Emotional Development

Children are constantly confronted with scary situations that they don’t understand – whether witnessing an accident in real life, or seeing violent images on TV. Children process their fears through play, which helps them make sense of the world, and overcome their feelings of helplessness.

By allowing children to act out their fears through dress-up and role playing, we are helping their emotional development.

Wooden Toy Bow and Arrow - Bella Luna Toys

6. Motor Skills

Children develop fine motor skills by putting on dress-up clothes, whether buttoning a shirt, zipping up pants, or tying on a pirate’s bandana

They use their large motor skills when engaged in role-play, whether they are jumping like a superhero, running like a baseball player, or twirling like a ballerina.

7. Gender Exploration

When children choose costumes and characters to be, they are able to explore different gender identities and the behaviors of those characters.

While boys often want to be superheroes, firemen, or pirates, and girls often want to be fairies and princesses, it is normal and healthy for children to try on different gender roles as they learn about the world. A child should never be ridiculed for pretending to be a different gender.

8. Imitation

Children are naturally imitative creatures. They learn about the world by imitating the lives of the adults and others around them. Through dress-up and dramatic role-play, children explore the lives of other people by imitating their actions, feelings and words.

9. Socialization

Dress-up play encourages cooperation and taking turns. Children learn how to negotiate as they agree on stories and rules. They develop interest in others and learn how to give-and-take.

10. Imagination

Children’s imaginations are limitless, and have not yet been hardened and constrained by the “realities” of the world. Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf education, believed that imaginative play in early childhood is the key to creative thinking during the adult years.

When children engage in dress-up play, their imaginations are given free reign. There is no limit to who, where, or what they can be.

Wishing the children in your life many hours of fun dress-up play!

Warmly,

sarah-signature-blue-125x64

 

 

 

Here’s a list of recommended items to include in your child’s dress-up basket:

  • Play Silks can become capes, veils, a pirate’s head band, a belt, or a baby blanket.
  • An elastic waist Fairy Skirt can become a fancy dress or a veil when worn on the head.
  • Our knight’s Sword Holder Belt can hold a wooden toy sword or a tool like a hammer.
  • Sunglasses, long gloves, strands of beads, and headbands add glamour.
  • Hats of all kinds– a cowboy hat, a fedora, a Robin Hood hat, a tall cone-shaped princess hat.
  • A chef’s hat and child-sized apron.
  • A doctor’s scrubs, and face mask.
  • And don’t forget to add your child’s Halloween costumes to the basket when the holiday has past!

What items are in your child’s dress-up collection? Please add your suggestions in the comments below!

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Boys and Doll Play
Archives, Childhood, Parenting, Waldorf Dolls

Boys and Doll Play

KYLA B. WROTE TO ASK:

I am a single mother to a nearly 15-month-old little boy. I was wondering if you might be able to give me with some information on boys playing with dolls. I was hoping you could address the benefits of boys playing with dolls. I have had some disapproving comments and looks from other parents when I try and discuss this with them.

People are concerned that my son has too much of a female influence in his life,  as my son has no father and we live with my parents, but my father is a wonderful role model for my son and they have a very close bond.

People are also under the impression that boys play with trucks and girls with dolls. But I think all toys are for everybody. I thought dolls would help teach my son compassion, caring and even the beginnings of responsibility.

Please help me, Sarah. I’m feeling a little confused as to how to incorporate dolls into my son’s daily play and also how to respond to the critics. Am I best to purchase a weighted doll as my son’s first doll and put his current doll away for later? Or is he not ready yet for dolls?

SARAH RESPONDS:

There is a fear among many men that playing with dolls will make boys less masculine. Sadly, there are some women who also share this belief.

We’ve been conditioned for so many decades to think that boys play with trucks and cars and girls play with dolls and too many boys have been told that playing with dolls is for “sissies.”

This thinking needs to be changed.

Giving a boy a doll gives him the opportunity to explore his nurturing and caring side, and can teach a boy as much about being a father, just as dolls teach girls about motherhood.

Children imitate the adults around them in their play. When mothers and fathers model nurturing, caring behavior, boys and girls will imitate this in their doll play and this is healthy! It teaches children about relationships and empathy.

If a boy spends his days at home with his mother (whether she is a single parent or not) he will want to imitate her activities. This is normal.

This is natural. This is good. He is practicing parenting.

Times have changed. Today’s fathers tend to me much more involved in child-rearing than they were decades ago. It is not uncommon anymore to see a dad with a baby in a sling, or pushing a stroller.

Since children are imitative, it is natural for them to want to carry a dolly in a sling or push one in toy carriage.

And it’s curious how culturally it seems more acceptable to allow a girl to play with traditional “boy toys.” Most people don’t think twice watching a girl playing with building sets, Legos, or toy cars. In fact, many parents are now encouraging their daughters to play with these so called “STEM toys” and teaching their daughters that they can grow up to be a mother and have a career.

So why do so many adults seem alarmed when they see little boys playing with dolls or “playing house” and pretending to cook in a play kitchen? Don’t we want our sons to grow up to caring fathers and capable of cooking a meal?

We need to change our way of thinking and educate others that doll play is important if we want boys to grow up to be nurturing, caring fathers. It doesn’t make them any less masculine.

I believe that all parents of boys should give their son a doll to love. I recommend giving a boy his first doll between 18-months and three-years-old, before he has gotten the memo that boys don’t play with dolls. A one-year-old will probably have little interest in a doll other than to explore it with his senses as he would any other object.

But at 18-24 months he may start snuggling with and be comforted by a favorite soft doll. But it is around age 4-5 when children really begin imitative pretend play with dolls.

It can also be very helpful to give a boy a doll when a new younger sibling is on the way, and can help prepare your child emotionally for the new arrival. Our Heavy Baby Dolls (with their weight that makes them feel like a real baby) are wonderful for this purpose!

What if you give your son a doll and he shows no interest in it? I get this question a lot. I would advise you not to worry. Not all children are going to respond to all toys the same way. If he is too young for it, keep it around and he may show interest in it later.

Some boys become very attached to a special doll, other boys show little interest. Children are unique, just as adults are. There is no one-size-fits-all toy.

The important thing is to give provide your son with a doll and give him the opportunity to develop his nurturing and caring side through play. But remember that there are many ways that children learn to become nurturing and caring adults – the primary way is by being cared for by nurturing parents.

Finally, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite memories as an early childhood teacher as I observed the children in my class during free play. I will never forget the day when Wilson, a little boy in my class who was always full energy and joy, was pretending to nurse a dolly that was tucked under his sweater. He held the baby securely with one arm while he brandished a wooden sword in the other, engaged in a lively sword fight with another boy.

Wilson is a wonderful reminder that boys can play with dolls and be no less of a boy!

Are you the mother of a boy? Have you given your son a doll? Does he play with it? Please share your comments!

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