Toys and equipmentThe Waldorf environment
All the toys, furniture and equipment that surround the children in a Waldorf playgroup have been chosen with care and we aim to meet certain standards:
The toys should as far as possible be made from natural materials - wood, cotton, wool, metal, ceramic, silk etc.
Colours are simple, muted and mostly found in nature (e.g. no neon)
The toys are not perfect "replicas" of objects but simple representations which leaves the imagination free to adapt to the child's purpose. E.g. rather than a perfect plastic replica of a cell phone the child may use a wooden block of similar size and "pretend" it is a phone.
The surroundings and toys should be aesthetically pleasing - and considered so by both adults and children!
Books that are available to the children are chosen for their quality and beauty - no cartoons, no disney and the books tell simple, appropriate stories.
Although there is a certain amount of specific toys e.g. brooms, wooden stove, some pots and pans, iron, cars and trucks we aim to have available a wide range of unformed materials with which the children can create anything they wish e.g. wooden blocks, shells, various nuts, little stones, coloured silk and muslin cloth, woollen chords, pegs etc.
All the toys are arranged in baskets and are always tidied away to the same places to facilitate easy finding and order.
Toys made of natural materials are easier to maintain, clean and care for than man-made (e.g plastic) toys and children are involved in taking care of the toys.
Most of our toys are hand-made - either by Barbara, Madeleine or Tom or sourced from individuals and projects.
See below for more information on the principles our choices are based on:
Why do we use only natural toys?
There are several aspects of childhood development in the child under the age of 7 that has led to us choosing toys with such care.
All children are sensitive but none more so than the child under 7. As they grow older they develop the self-consciousness necessary to protect them to some extent from the influences of their environment. The young child takes everything in - sees everything, hears everything, touches everything - and it makes a deep impression.
We take great care in the environment that surrounds the child. We try not to overload or overstimulate these delicate sense organs and wish to expose the child to healthy and balanced sense impression - a wholesome nourishment of the senses.
Wood, cotton and wool are products of a remarkable living process - unable to be reproduced by man. The quality of these processes is present in the way they look and feel and smell- and provides the ideal "sense nourishment".
The imagination of the young child is a marvel to behold! All that he meets has the possibility to be created anew and their reality can be constantly reinvented. During these years they "practice" and work this important human faculty - this is what gives us resilience, initiative, creativity, vision.
The toys in the Waldorf playgroup is chosen to call on and stimulate the imagination. None of the toys are exact replicas of objects and there is a multitude of blocks, shells, cloths etc. available with which children can create whatever their imagination calls for.
When a wooden block changes from a phone, to a boat, to a car, to a camera etc. the child is exercising her imaginative power to transform all she meets. The world is her oyster and all is possible.
The young child learns through imitation and movement. It takes in the world and then "practices" it by imitating and playing it. This is an unconscious force of which only a fragment remains as adults (e.g. in yawning). We are able to copy - but this is a conscious activity and something quite different.
Imitation is how the child develops skill, processes information and learns. We can see what the child experiences strongly in the world by that which he chooses to imitate.
Certain themes run through all childrens' play - cooking, caring for baby, cars and cleaning. The Waldorf playgroup will provide corners with stoves, dolls in their cribs and cars and trucks. But there are also many things children are exposed to that have more of an individual significance. With the help of imagination and a multitude of "building materials" the chil