When people ask me about my job, I often explain that I used to be a Waldorf teacher and now sell Waldorf toys. However, many people are still unclear about what exactly a Waldorf toy is.
Whilst many shops thankfully now provide wooden, eco-friendly, and organic toys that are often referred to as "green toys," there's still more to Waldorf toys than simply being environmentally friendly.
Waldorf schools, which date back to the 1920s, have always provided children with toys made from natural materials, such as wood, silk, wool, and cotton. These types of toys are not only good for the environment but also good for children.
One of the key features of a Waldorf toy is that it should be nourishing to a young child's senses. For example, a Waldorf doll stuffed with wool and covered in cotton with a head of soft mohair provides a calming and soothing effect on a young child, as opposed to a rigid, hard plastic doll with synthetic hair.
In addition to being sensory-nurturing, Waldorf toys should also be beautiful to behold. Sight is as important as touch, and by surrounding children with beauty, we can contribute to their sense of well-being and aesthetic appreciation.
Toys that are made from natural materials, with rich, natural colors, and that are lovingly handcrafted are inviting and contribute to a child's "sense of life." A child is more likely to feel reverence for a beautiful handcrafted toy and care for it accordingly than a mass-produced plastic toy.
Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf education, suggested that children's playthings should be largely unformed to stimulate their imagination. Simple toys without a lot of detail, such as baskets of tree branches, play silks, stones, pinecones, and shells, can be transformed into a myriad of objects.
By giving children objects that are not highly formed and detailed, they can easily become more than one thing, and give children's imaginations free reign. Waldorf dolls, for example, often have minimal facial features, or no faces at all, to encourage the child's imagination and cultivate their "inner picturing" abilities.
Children naturally want to imitate adults and their daily activities. Waldorf teachers strive to be adults "worthy of imitation" by bringing consciousness to their gestures as they engage in daily tasks.
Providing children with child-sized versions of household items, such as a play kitchen, wooden play dishes, and tools such as a broom or dustpan and brush, allows them to fully engage in their imaginative imitation of daily life and build real-life skills.
Choosing toys for children is not just about finding "good toys" versus "bad toys." It's about bringing new consciousness to selecting playthings. Is it beautiful? Does it feel good? Does it leave room for the imagination? Will it inspire imitative play? If the answer to these questions is yes, then the toy is likely to provide your child with all the tools needed for years of healthy play.
We hope this has helped you to understand more about the natural beauty and simplicity of Waldorf Toys!