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Playroom Elements that Ignite the Imagination of the Young Child

Natural Kids: Playroom Elements that Ignite the Imagination of the Young Child

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Playroom Elements that Ignite the Imagination of the Young Child

Rudolph Steiner, the originator of Waldorf Education believed that for young children, play is their work. This is true not only in the sense that they love imitating the actual work of adults, i.e., cooking, cleaning, sewing, folding, toy-making, but also the work of growing through imaginary play. Many of the toys on the market today are plastic, toxic and force the child into a passive role by electronically playing for the child. Parents have an alternative, however; a playroom can be a wonderland filled with safe, natural, handmade and open-ended toys that ignite the imagination and invite the child to enter into active play and create their own world of enchantment as well as a world of imitative work.

Children love "pretend" cooking. This is one of the best-loved imitative play activities. But instead of one of those giant plastic kitchens that detail every aspect of a real kitchen, and therefore, remove any possibility of the kitchen assuming a new role and identity, a natural pine kitchen, like this one from Willowtoys leaves room for the child's imagination to complete the picture or change it from a kitchen to a store counter to the cockpit of a spaceship!

When stocking the kitchen, it is lovely consider items that are also as natural as possible, such as Ohtoseethesunset's wood and wool tomatoes.... They are soft and hard at the same time, stimulating the sense of touch. Additionally, they can become apples, cherries, little red bugs, buds, etc...

These lovely buttons by Unwaiveringfaith can be a long coveted potato chip! Or how about play money or a resting spot for a traveling gnome?

A silk scarf, can be turned into an astronaut's cape, a broom for cleaning or the wings of daughter, Eva, now almost four, has found no limits to her use of "rainbows," such as these from Oritdolls.

Of course an important part of imitative play is doll play. Providing soft, natural dolls, such as FaerieRebecca's or one of Auntboosbabies' Waldorf dolls provides soft, natural babies for hours of practice in nurturing as boys and girls change them, feed them, love them.

Other types of imitative pretend play connects children with nature through animals and mythical creatures from stories, such as gnomes, fairies, etc.

How about forest animals made from soft, needle felted wool, like Woolcomesalive's magnificent black bear.

Or the kind and mischievous creatures they share the forest with, such as Fairiesnest's pixie...

or Haddy2dogs gnome...

Giving these mysterious beings a place to dwell is also fun for the child, like Littleelfstoyshop's mushroom house play set....Today it is a gnome's house...tomorrow, something else.

In the hands of a child, these creatures and their dwellings come alive and inspire new stories and myths created by the children themselves.

Sometimes children feel inspired by seeing beautiful beings fly through the air, like Nishale's mobile...

or my Nushkiedesign needle felted tapestry of "A Fairy Sleeping By a Tree"

It is interesting to note that all the Waldorf dolls, fairies, gnomes and other creatures featured here have been handcrafted with a minimum of expression. This allows the child to project his or her own emotion onto the toy. All of these elements in a child's playroom leave subconscious questions in the child's mind about how to complete the toy. What is the doll's real expression; is the gnome friendly or prickly; are those buttons or sleds for my tiny baby; are those nobs for cooking or steering a boat? The stories children will create enhance their communication skills, leadership qualities and social interaction skills. The tactile feeling of the natural toys are soft, scratchy or hard to the touch, providing sensory integration for young children, while subtly bringing them closer to nature, even if they live in an urban environment, as my daughter does.

One toy at a time is all it takes to build the elements of a playroom that will enchant a child. With toys like these, are they playing or working, these children? It doesn't really matter; they're simply having fun, naturally.

All pictures courtesy of the identified artisans of the NaturalKids Team.

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Blogger TheSingingBird said...

Rebecca, I know everything you've said is true with my own children's play, and one of the reasons why my husband and I have also tried to teach them how to make their own toys from natural materials. Even today at 14 and 17 they will take their younger cousins by the hand and show them how to make fairy huts from twigs and leaves in the backyard or elfin beach huts from grasses, shells and driftwood at the shore.

It's been a joy to see how these simple things have led to a love of learning and crafting with more and more skill throughout their growing years. I've purchased many of these artist's items and am thrilled with their quality and the joy they bring to our family.


June 6, 2008 at 3:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a terrific piece about the importance of a beautiful play space. I think we get so caught up in wanting "things" that we forget the feeling that comes from having a beautiful, reverent space for children. Thanks so much for pointing out lovely items to buy, but also for capturing the essence of a Waldorf play space!

June 7, 2008 at 12:02 AM  
Blogger WoolComesAlive said...

This article is so inspirational to me and really states beautifully and clearly the things I feel in my heart!

June 7, 2008 at 9:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree, even my older children still love natural playthings and I see them enjoying the time with their younger siblings...teaching them how to make tents with playsilks and how to make fairy beds out of walnut shells. This is a really great article and has some lovely photos. Thanks for including me!

June 7, 2008 at 12:37 PM  
Blogger oritdotandolls said...

Thank you so much for bringing these words-it is so importent that poeple will know that and will try to give their children "free play" time

June 10, 2008 at 5:31 AM  
Blogger Rebecca V said...

Thanks for your lovely comments!!!

June 11, 2008 at 1:08 AM  

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