What Are Waldorf Toys?
What is Waldorf and what does it mean?
Have you heard the terms “Waldorf education” and “Waldorf toys” thrown around before? Have you wondered what that means?
Maybe, as you’ve shopped for your child, you’ve come across a simple toy advertised as Waldorf. You had no idea what that meant or if it was important.
It’s okay! Many people have no clue what Waldorf even means. But before we dive into what Waldorf toys are, let’s do a brief overview of what Waldorf education is.
Waldorf education is based on the principles and teachings of an artist and scientist named Rudolph Steiner. Waldorf education recognizes the needs of growing children by understanding human development.
Steiner’s belief was that children should learn through experience. Waldorf education cultivates intellectual, emotional, and physical development through hands-on learning and play-based activities.
“Through these experiences, Waldorf students cultivate their intellectual, emotional, physical, and spiritual capacities to be individuals certain of their paths and to be of service to the world.” — Waldorf Education
Through Waldorf education, there are four foundational, inner senses. These senses are:
Rudolph Steiner said, “The need for imagination, a sense of truth, and a feeling of responsibility — these are the three forces which are the very nerve of education.”
Simply put, Waldorf education is a learning process that engages the head, heart, and hands. Through this basis, Waldorf teachers strive to nurture and engage children. Waldorf education is a mixture of learning through academic teaching and practical skills.
I know that the philosophy of Waldorf education can sound pretty confusing if you’ve never heard of it before. But don’t worry — I simply included what Waldorf means so you’re familiar with the terms. There’s no need to remember every little thing — I’m going to break it all down for you below.
Now, with the basics of Waldorf education in mind, what are Waldorf toys? What makes a toy Waldorf?
Waldorf Toys Are Natural
Waldorf toys are created from natural materials such as wood, wool, cotton, and silk. One reason for this is to connect children to the life that surrounds us in nature and to create a warm and nourishing environment. Electronics and toys made out of synthetic materials like plastic do not capture the beauty of life found in natural products.
Natural toys are also much better for the environment. Waldorf toys are eco-friendly, sustainable, and often organic. The idea is that natural toys will provide more fulfillment to a child’s senses through touch, sight, and connection to the natural world.
While Waldorf toys can be beautiful, aesthetic, and fashionable, you don’t have to spend a lot of money giving your children natural toys. One place to start is by finding things in nature. Shells, sticks, rocks, pinecones, and many other items can make wonderful natural playthings.
You’ll be surprised at the imagination that flows from your child as they make a fantasy world out of small things found in nature.
Waldorf Toys Are Beautiful
The philosophy of Waldorf education is that sight is as important as touch — therefore, Waldorf toys should also be beautiful.
Waldorf toys help children value and appreciate the beauty that surrounds them. When we offer children attractive toys handcrafted from high-quality, natural materials, we are bringing life to their senses.
Your little one is bound to feel a greater appreciation for what he has when playing with a lovingly handmade Waldorf toy, than with a cheap plastic toy that easily bends and breaks in his hands. You’ll feel better about it, too!
Natural, beautiful Waldorf toys nurture a child’s “sense of life”, as Steiner puts it. As parents, it’s more pleasant to have simple, attractive, natural toys on your children’s toy shelf than piles of chaotic plastic toys.
Because less is more when it comes to Waldorf toys, you can enjoy a cleaner playroom with a couple of natural toys. For example, a basket of wooden blocks, some play silks, a simple puzzle, a doll, and some wooden animals are plenty of Waldorf toys to keep your child busy.
Imagine how much simpler that is for your child instead of overflowing containers of mixed-up plastic toys. Not only does it take away from the chaos, but it also adds simplicity and beauty to the environment. It makes clean-up so much easier, too, which is every parent’s dream!
Can you imagine your little one lovingly cuddling a Waldorf doll, softly stroking her hair, and wrapping her in some play silks? Or running little fingers over the smooth grain of a hand-carved block?
Waldorf Toys Are Open-ended
Waldorf education believes that toys should be open-ended. Waldorf toys encourage the use of creativity and imagination. Open-ended play allows children to take the lead by coming up with their own rules and solutions. Through open-ended play, children create their own outcomes by decision-making and problem-solving.
To encourage open-ended play, Waldorf toys are often simply-designed without a lot of detail. This gives children the freedom to use more imagination as they bring the toy to life.
Because Waldorf toys are so open-ended, it’s unnecessary to have many of them. A few simple Waldorf toys will suffice for anything your child might want to play.
Have you ever noticed that Waldorf dolls have very simple faces? Without the fixed smiling expression of a plastic doll, children can decide whether the doll is crying or happy.
A play silk may become a blanket, skirt, cape, or headscarf all in the span of an hour. A wooden block might be used for building, become a piece of food or money, or whatever else a child can imagine.
In nature a stick may become a person, flowers may be a bed, and grass may be food. With open-ended play, the possibilities are truly endless! Waldorf toys inspire and teach through simple design.
Open-ended toys encourage learning through:
Open-ended Waldorf toys help children learn through hands-on experience.
Having Waldorf-approved toys can feel like an overwhelming and expensive task when first starting out. Remember, your playroom doesn’t need to be filled with Pinterest-worthy toy setups right away. A few simple items will suffice, and you’ll be amazed at what options you can find in nature!