As soon as I discovered how unsafe and unhealthy most of the toys we own or buy for our children are, I immediately plunged into looking for alternative options. I was amazed at how differently I had looked at my children’s playtime. So as a parent, my go-to mantra is: less is more. I like to keep them preoccupied with basic simple things (that I grew up with) and not overload them with too many activities or toys. I cringe at parents making their little ones go from pillar to post, just to keep them busy. Sometimes just sitting and getting bored is okay too.
This is when I came across Waldorf toys. Truthfully speaking, I had never heard of this word before, and now I can’t seem to stop following it and being amazed at how simply and quickly my children have adapted to it. Here’s my lowdown on this unique way of playtime for children:
What is the Waldorf method?
Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf education, created this way of teaching to educate children as a whole and not just on academic development. Waldorf Education aims at teaching children through fun, art and creativity, at their own pace, and without putting any pressure. All children’s playthings should be largely UNFORMED to stimulate the child’s imagination.
What are Waldorf toys?
Simple, natural, and without detail. Waldorf toys aim to provide children with simple experiences, without much detailing so the toys can easily become more than one thing. Different sets of: Blocks, boards, circles, semi-circles, cones, etc. Basically, a rectangle-shaped board becomes a phone, a tree, a road, or a cooking stove.
Waldorf toys are handcrafted using natural materials with rich colors, adding to a sense of well-being.
How is it different from usual play-time?
The common saying “it is not the destination, but the journey that matters”, applies fantastically well to your child’s playtime. It is all about creating an environment where the child unleashes his imagination and feels proud of his creation. A remote-controlled car or a talking doll does not contribute to this thought process. For Ex. A Waldorf doll has minimal or sometimes no facial features, in order to encourage a child’s thought process. Children love to ape the surrounding around them.
So, a typical doll with a highly detailed face including a frozen smile, might not work if a child is playing “house” (ghar-ghar) where the baby is crying for milk. Real babies smile, but also cry. A Waldorf doll with only 2 eyes, lets the child be creative and change the expression as per the play.
Why we must switch to Waldorf Toys?
In today’s time, with everything ready-made and served on a platter to our children, they have little sense of basic things. For ex. My children were so used to eating mango cut and peeled, that during a classroom presentation on fruits, my son was shocked to know there was a BIG seed inside a mango. Not his fault, since he’s never seen it! Somewhere in this fast-paced life, we are robbing the children of simple pleasures. Through play, we can keep the children grounded and close to nature by igniting their imagination, and more so through natural toys.
Shifting to Waldorf toys doesn’t happen overnight. One cannot simply purchase all the toys, put them in the toy cabinet, and expect the child to immediately start playing with it. It has been a few months already and I am still working around it! Invest in just a few Waldorf or open ended toys initially and keep them in an easily accessible shelf. Try to engage the child for a few minutes every day and if no interest (which is highly possible), put it back. Within a few days, you will notice a change, the child will start approaching the toys and create something out of the blue.
To know more about how to engage your child using open-ended toys, click here.
To know about the top 5 open-ended toys in India, click here.