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Natural Kids

Natural Kids: July 2008

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Instructions Not Included Part 2

Two weeks ago I began this blog topic. It is such a powerful idea to me, that children should be allowed to play without parental direction or instruction, that I decided to do the article in two parts. I am focusing on only one of the ways parents can step back and let their children do what they do best and naturally: play. That is, to provide them with toys they can figure out, which are open-ended, meaning the child can use her or his own imagination to complete the toy. It is difficult for some parents to understand this concept and choose a natural toy when they are bombarded by advertising from so many big "name" brands. In the first part of "Instructions Not Included," I gave several examples from my fellow artisans from Etsy's Naturalkids Team. I'd like to invite new readers to start with my last post. In this current post, I will continue to offer suggestions in this area with additional links.

Here's something to consider:
I read somewhere that invention is not necessarily creating something new with a purpose, but giving a new purpose and way of using to an existing item. Take the item pictured above from Fairiesnest. Yes it is a wand...or is it? If so, is it for a wizard, a fairy a princess? The answers to these questions will be completed by the child. What new way of using this timeless toy will be invented, what enchanting scenarios may be created? And since it is not licensed or branded by a multinational corporate identity, the possibilities are truly endless.

"Waldorf dolls, such as those made by Bellawinter,
Germandolls or
Woodcreations'....convey little expression. Like the "Mona Lisa," they are enigmatic and allow the child to decide their emotional state.

In imaginary play, this aspect of allowing the child to complete the toy by deciding if the baby is sleepy or awake, sad or exuberant, not only exercises the child's imagination, but may also be therapeutic, allowing the child to work through emotional struggles. When Eva was 2, she slipped off the step in our pool. One second later, I lifted her out. This upset her nonetheless. The next day, she had her baby in the bathtub and was teaching it to
swim. Clearly she was working out her feelings about water. Mommy's only job was to wring the toy out later and allow it to dry!

Here is a gnome by Oritdotan. Who is he? Where did he come from? Is that a shell really a cauldron with stew? This playset does not offer any solutions to these riddle. Instead, it offers endless possibilities for the child to imagine.

Beneaththerowantree's gnome is quite different...almost a he friendly or shy, abiding or mischievous? The child can decide what adventures to send him on, what his future in their present will be.

And who are the gnome's or the doll's friends?
Perhaps a needle felted bird, by Thesingingbird...

...or some tiny Purplemoonfibers.

How about a snail from Woodmouse?

...or Freedomrainbow's custom order cat...

Is it a really a cat or a woolly forest creature or someone from another universe. this is for the child to decide.

The conversations and adventures these creatures could have with each other are endless, because they come free of history, branding or any other known fact.

There are so many examples I could give from my colleagues on's Naturalkids Team. But I hope these few examples will give readers a taste of the endless play their children could delight in with toys made from natural materials as they project their fantasies onto them. Like Cozycottage's strawberries, the sweetness is there, ready to be enjoyed by all the senses, and it begins with the imagination.

In my next blog, we'll explore another aspect of the playroom. Til then, be well.

By Rebecca Varon-Remstein

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Thursday Treasuries

Happy Thursday! Enjoy these gorgeous treasuries curated by our members and featuring our very talented artists!

Click on any hyperlink or image to be taken to that treasury

First, one of our more frequent treasury makers, WoolComesAlive, has found some of the more Subtle Hues offered by our team members.

Next, TheSingingBird's eye has landed on some enchantment in The Light of the Forest.

LittleElfsToyshop takes us Over the Rainbow for a glimpse at the beautiful colors and hues of nature.

Finally, Birdie got a chance to snag one more Treasury over at Treasury West and offers us Someone to Love. Go grab one of these cuddly friends today!


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tuesday Treasuries

Oooo, there are lots of sweet treasuries featuring fantastic NaturalKids artists. Enjoy!

Ready to be spooked? It's time to look ahead to Haunts and Harvest curated by WoolComesAlive.

Fairiesnest wants you to have Fun the Natural Way, and how can you resist?

Happy shopping :) Be sure to click and enjoy all of these beautiful pieces!


Monday, July 28, 2008

Mini Monday: Bratsacks Baby

This morning's Mini Monday is a long-time team member, Bratsacks Baby! Here's a bit more about this creative mama...

Hi, I'm Jessi and I live in the beautiful Northwest Georgia Mountains. I've been sewing since I was big enough to sit at my grandma's sewing machine, but I earned most of my experience sewing clothing so that I could go on Grateful Dead, then Phish tour back in the early 90's. Besides being a WAHM dog groomer, I sew in my "spare" time. I accidentally stumbled across the back-pack craze when I was stuck at home and needed a gift for a friend's 2 year old's birthday. He loved it, and then another mom asked for one, then another, then another. Before I knew it I was on my 50th backpack! I really do enjoy finding vintage and faded clothing to use in my work. I find colors that you wouldn't otherwise see!


Friday, July 25, 2008

Friday's Interview with Little Elf's Toyshop

Tell us a little bit about yourself and how and when did you get started with arts and crafts?

Well let’s see, my name is Kelley Zdziarski, though most people call me either Elfie or Elf and I live on a Christmas tree farm in northern Oregon. I have always loved making things for as long as I can remember, whether it was mud pies when I was a really little girl, or building tables and bird houses with my Dad when I was about six. I wanted to become a toymaker after seeing a Christmas cartoon about Santa growing up and making a bunch of toys to give to all the little kids. I saw that when I was little and wanted to make toys like Santa. Hahahaha. On my seventeenth birthday my Mom and Dad got me a Waldorf doll kit from Magic Cabin and that’s how I got started making natural dolls and toys.

What is the main thing you make and sell in your store? What else do you make and/or sell?

My shop is kind of split right now between needle felted items and Waldorf style dolls. The needle felted animals are the main items right now, but I plan on having more dolls done soon. I also have crocheted balls and pouches made of wool yarn and some wood working things as well, it’s really a mix of everything.

Who if anyone has been instrumental in helping you hone your craft?

My Mom and Dad have always been very supportive of me, which has helped a lot. If it wasn’t for Mom showing me how to work the sewing machine, I probably would not be where I am right now. I am mostly self taught, I’ve learned how to make all the dolls and felted critters just from reading books.

Where do you get your inspiration?

Children’s books, old fairy tales, video games and nature are my biggest inspirations. I know, video games and Waldorf doesn’t seem to fit very well, does it? But there are a lot of lovely backgrounds in games and some of the cutest little critters as well. They are very fun to try and make.

What are your favorite materials?

Oh, I love working with wool. There are so many different colors to pick from, it’s just wonderful. I also love cotton velour; it is my favorite material for making dolls. Most of the velour I use is a high cotton content blend as it’s very hard to find it in 100% form, though I do have some of that as well.

What advice would you give other Etsy sellers and those interested in opening up a shop?

If you already have a shop, just keep at it even if sales slow down. Keep making more and more things, have a positive attitude and don’t be afraid to try new things and ask questions. Be willing to take constructive criticism to help you do better, and remember, you can do anything if you put your mind to it.
To those who are interested in opening a shop, I say go for it. Try and take pictures outside in natural light to get the best pictures possible. If you have questions or don’t know something, don’t be afraid to ask. When things sell, try and ship them as soon as possible as customers really like a speedy delivery. Try and package things so they’ll be memorable, using tissue paper and ribbons so it’s like your buyer is getting a present in the mail. It’s more likely you will be remembered if you make the customer feel special, so include a thank you note as well to let them know you appreciate their business. And again, be willing to take constructive criticism to help you do better.

What advice would you give to beginners in your main craft?

Get as many books as possible. That is how I learned and I am still finding more and more things I didn’t know in books. From new techniques to patterns and different ideas, books are a wealth of knowledge and if you put the time into it, you can make so many different things just by reading about how to do it. Also, asking people who make the same things you make or want to make helps. They can give you wonderful pointers on things you may not have thought of or ways to make what you do better. Be willing to ask questions, that’s how we learn. ^_^

What is your Etsy shop address and name? Where else can we find you?

All of my dolls and toys can be found at Little Elf’s Toyshop at

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Natural Kids Sponsored Contest

Natural Kids paired up with Make Baby Stuff and sponsored the Natural Nursery and Playroom Contest!

Just look at some of the beautiful prizes from the Natural Kids Team!  If you love natural materials for your family, clean up your nursery or playspace, snap a photo and come on over and enter!  

You just might win a prize lot like the one pictured!  Three prize lots and two honorable mention prizes will be awarded.  Contest ends August 15th, 2008.  

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tuesday Treasuries

We have a plethora of beautiful treasuries today, all made by our hard-working curators! Click and enjoy--some expire today, and others expire later in the week. But all are here for a limited time!

The SingingBird brings us two beautiful treasuries today. First, she's All A-Flutter for you and showing off birds and flying creatures...

Next she's gone all soft and squishy on us with her Soft and Subtle treasury.

LittleElfsToyshop is watching to world turn and brings us a collection of The Changing Seasons to enjoy.

Finally, WoolComesAlive is offering a NaturalKids Spectacular!


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Role Play, Dressing Up and Make Believe

The dress-up box is a unique and always changing aspect to the waldorf child playroom. The playsilks, fairy skirts, magic wands and hooded cloaks; the elfin headbands and the knight costumes with swords, shields and bows and arrows all bring about such excitement and imagination. As one item is outgrown and passed down to the next child, new garments must be added for the older children. They want to be an elf this time, not a knight, so new garments must be sewn or obtained.
Five of my six children are old enough to dress-up. They start doing this at a very young age. They interact and play well together. Their love of costumes and role-playing inspired them to write their own play. My oldest daughter (the tall elf  with the bow and arrow in the last picture) is quite a talented writer. She has written a wonderful plot for their story and each child is a different character, with the oldest boy being two characters.

They have included cousins and friends, to play other parts. They have asked me to film their play. They will gladly act it out for anyone interested. They practice daily, dressing up and pretending to sword-fight or running through the hills of our property on a quest. This just goes to show how very creative role-play and dressing up can be. They also want to join in period piece role-play at the local civil war re-enactment. My middle girls love their prairie costumes and bonnets. They also use these outfits in their play for they are village maidens and the costumes work well for that also.

In role-play, the child(ren) can be whomever they choose, making their costumes as elaborate or simple as they prefer. They can be knights in the middle ages or fantasy elves and gnomes. My children often act like they are the characters from the Lord of the Rings novels, with the four year old being the dwarf, since he is indeed rather small.

These are magical times, filled with adventure in the great outdoors. Play silks and play stands become fairy homes or hidden rooms. Ponds become oceans, trees are sectioned off into the Elf Realm here and the Troll Forest there. 

Here are some lovely dress-up things you may consider for your children, from my lovely friends here at the NaturalKids Team:
These boots from FeltedwithFlourish may very well be elf boots! They would fit my ten year old daughter perfectly!

This beautiful rainbow silk cape from DesertDyeworks would make a lovely fairy cape!
This felt crown from mycakies would look beautiful on a little princess!

Every noble knight or dwarf needs one of these, from birchleafdesigns ...Three of my children have one (in the photos above) and they are truly beautiful! 

This beautiful hemp child's dress from consciousclothing would look lovely on a village maiden!

I can really see a little village baby wearing one of these from shelleycaskey ! My children love to dress up their baby sister and carry her around. She is the baby hobbit in our play! :0)

This felted wool cuff from  tizib would look really awesome on an elf-princess, don't you think? 

And lastly, this beautiful flower bouquet would look sweet held by a little flower girl at a fairy wedding! 

I made this (it's available in my shop) and have made similar bouquets for my daughters in the past. They are very well-loved and played with for all sorts of different make-believe scenarios.

Throw everything into a big wooden treasure chest toy box or a cedar chest and let their imaginations run wild! Capture what you can on film, for their play is sweet and their time with us fleeting.

~Here's to heroes and heroines, noble knights and fair princesses, dwarves and elves~

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Super Saturday Treasuries!

I missed getting to the computer on Thursday to post treasuries to the blog, so I'm making it up to you with some terrific Super Saturday Treasuries. These are brand new, just posted treasuries which will be up until Tuesday. Be one of the first to look and make sure you get a chance to comment before all the comment slots are filled!

Red is the color of the day in Orit's new Kids treasury. It's not surprising--Orit has a terrific eye for color, as she works with beautiful dyes and creates lovely wool in gorgeous palettes.

Who can resist these sweet faces? CozyCottageCreations has put together the cuddliest treasury of natural dolls, all ready to be taken home and loved.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Instructions Not Included

I'll never forget one day at a neighborhood playground about two years ago, when I was sitting on the sidelines watching Eva, now four, play in the sand. Next to me was a woman who was on her hands and knees in the sand telling her two-year-old how to play with his toy. It was a complicated sort of gizmo the use for which, only the mother, evidently could decipher. It begged several questions in my mind; Who's toy was it, really? How necessary was it to get using it correctly right? Was there really only one way to play with this toy.

I've said it before in my blogs, but every time I look around, I see how deep the truth of this idea of Rudolph Steiner's is...that the child should be able in some way to complete the toy; it needs to be open ended. (Eva, pictured here, dresses herself and two of the needle felted dolls I made for her in silk. She has cast herself and the others in a "puppet" show.) Eva wears her play silk, or "Rainbow" as she refers to them, as a "wedding dress." But her silks have become baby slings, rainbows, flags, vaccuums, ropes, etc...

There is no correct way to play with these; no end to what this simple square of color can become, such as with Birchleafedesigns's play silks shown
here. These are not only beautiful but processed with low-impact dye, making them and most of the other items featured environmentally friendly.

I'd like to explore the ways in which toys can be simple and open ended, using images from my Naturalkids Team colleagues for examples. With Winsomehollow's endearing gnome play set, there are no rules. There is no "branded" personality for him...or her. The little island can be anywhere the child chooses. His or her story will be new and original.

Although Woolcomesalive's toy set, pictured here is described on her site as a barn with sheep and bails, all of those pieces can have new identities in the mind of the child. For, they are not so specifically formed and have no back story created by marketing executives.

Oritdotandolls' fairies are light and ethereal. Literally, faceless, the child can project whatever image they like onto it. Though Orit names this one a "blessing," perhaps it is a "gifting" or "singing" fairy to the child...or just "Lucy." Refreshingly, nothing about this fairy disproves any of the child's notions.

We see that Littleelfstoyshop's daffodil girl holds a yellow flower...but what is the rest of her story...and can that daffodil be a flag or a horn? Sure. And her expression, like most Waldorf-inspired dolls is enigmatic, leaving her attitude up to the imagination of the child who plays with her. Here is another example of that open expression from Auntboosbabies. One might think that this lack of expression may feel cold to a child. On the contrary it is inviting. When you combine that with natural materials, like recycled cotton and other natural fibers, as many of our Naturalkids Team team members use, the doll is even softer to the touch...even more loveable.

I would like to continue with these examples and feature additional sellers from our team in my next "Part Two of Instructions Not Included" next time. In the meantime, I invite you to click on their links on the blog site and visit the wonderful and creative worlds these folks inspire through their artistry.

I leave off with the image featured at the top of the page from Dosidough. This team member creates a natural version of playdough - a toy which defies all rules and for which instructions are neither included or requested.

By Rebecca Varon-Remstein

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