Toys in a Waldorf Kindergarten
When we started One Earth Toys, we did a lot of research to determine what an excellent Waldorf toy should look and feel like. While doing this, we realized that first, we need to understand what goes in the Waldorf kindergarten and how they tend to use the toys most.
A typical day in a Waldorf kindergarten begins with self-initiated indoor or outdoor play, during which they also have resources available to do any artistic or handwork activity. This free play time is continued for an hour, during which the teachers get a chance to prepare for an activity that they plan to do next. The children are also allowed to help the teacher. Playtime may involve any purposeful activity like tidy-up or washing something; basically, any activity that encourages imitation from our actions in daily life is welcome.
The children in a Waldorf kindergarten are provided with relevant toys as support material to make these purposeful play opportunities possible. These toys are:
Made from Natural Materials:
Our modern culture and practices give limited opportunities to children to experience different senses. Kids sometimes spend long hours sitting and looking in one direction in schools or at home, like in front of a television or mobile phones. In a Waldorf early year education, the focus is on developing the senses of touch, movement, and feeling of wellbeing or eagerness to do something in children. Therefore, the toys made from natural materials are used to give a diverse sensory experience to children. For example, a wood piece would have a different feeling than a stone, and a ball of wool would have a different feel than a plastic ball.
Inspired by Real Objects:
At this age, the children learn while playing as it offers an opportunity to kids to express their creativity to the world. Secondly, they learn by imitating the people, their behavior, and their relationship with the objects around them. Hence, the toys need to be items that are inspired by real things. For a child, wooden blocks can be bricks, a doll can be grandma, a long piece of cloth can be a dupatta or sari.
Encourage Imagination: A Waldorf kindergarten is not filled with toys. A few available are open-ended and can transform into multiple objects in a child’s mind. For example, typical resources in a Waldorf kindergarten may include a basket of pine cones, pebbles, logs of various sizes, wooden blocks, shells, etc. Moreover, some pieces of silk or pure cotton in different colors and cloth dolls and wooden or knitted animals. All these toys are designed so that kids can use them in multiple ways. For example, wooden logs can be made as houses by creating a boundary or a shop. A doll can be a mother one day and can become a friend next week and wooden blocks will be bricks for one child while another child may want to use them as vegetables in his soup.
Hence, Waldorf Toys are the toys that can be as sustainable as possible: made from local natural materials with open-ended and simple designs. These qualities increase the life of the toy and hence put less stress on the environment.
Photo credits: Palumba, Farwa Tassaduq