Our painted sticks in a Waldorf vein.
A number of folks have asked me to explain Waldorf education and what I love about it, so I decided to write a little post which does just that and then offers a list of tried-and-true Waldorf activities.
In early childhood, the Waldorf “teacher” (or big person) creates a warm, nurturing environment in which learning takes place through imitation and experimentation. The big person engages in domestic, practical and artistic activities that the children can readily imitate, like baking, painting, gardening, crafting, building and handicrafts, adapting the work to the changing seasons and events. The big person also stimulates imaginations through storytelling and free play, or fantasy play.
Free play encourages kids to act out their own scenarios and experience various aspects of life at multiple levels. Natural toys are encouraged because they require more imagination than pre-fabricated toys with specific outcomes. Little people are also encouraged to collect natural materials and use them in play scenarios.
As children grow older, their brains develop to seek more abstract matters, including writing, reading, and arithmetic. In Waldorf, the process by which abstract thinking is discovered and cultivated matters more than the result. The little person engages in various cultural activities that draw on the imaginative faculties, including drawing, painting, poetry recitation, drama, singing, playing a musical instrument, and so on. A continuing sense of wonder and awe for nature and life underlies the teaching methods and activities. Waldorf-loving big people believe that this sense of awe and wonder will “develop into a feeling of reverence, laying a firm foundation for a respectful treatment of the natural environment in later life”. A sense of awe is always a good starting point for critical thinking.
In Waldorf education, each day of the week has an associated colour. Monday’s color is purple. Tuesday’s color is red. Wednesday’s color is yellow. Thursday’s color is orange. Friday’s color is green. Saturday’s color is blue. Sunday’s color is white. This can be a delightful organizing sensory theme for little people of all ages.
Since the imagination plays such a large role, toys tend to be simple items collected in baskets or jars that can be used however the child imagines. Any of the materials in the word collage below make excellent toys and crafting materials.
Certain tools, props, and ideas play a large role in Waldorf education.
- The concept of a daily rhythmn, a secure and constant imaginative framework, is central to Waldorf. A Woven Education’s daily rhythm is inspiring.
- Natural wooden doys and integrated playspaces encourage imaginative play at all times of the day. Take a peek at Bending Birches’ Waldorf-inspired home.
- Handwork, or crafting by hand, is part of daily Waldorf educating. Again, Bending Birches shares a beautiful handwork portfolio. You can read Rudolf Steiner’s Handwork: An Indication for free online.
- Waldorf dolls and animals are usually made from natural fibers and have very sweet, undramatic facial expressions. Our Ash Grove’s Mister Rabbit was made from an upcycled sweater and opens many doors for nurturing play.
- Knitted toys play a special role in encouraging and modeling handwork.
- Playmats, like this one created by 54 Stitches, offer open-ended opportunities for free play.
- Playstands, a take on forts.
- Fairy tents
- Baskets and jars are used and displayed to hold collections of natural items. We collect materials and add them to our nature table for the day or week and then sort them into respective baskets or jars.
- Various handmade and natural toys open the imagination of parents and children alike. Take a look at Waldorf Mama’s fantabulous play.
You can learn more about Waldorf at the Why Waldorf Works website and from the Waldorf curriculum. Now for a list of 24 learning activities and handwork that demonstrate the beauty and wisdom of Waldorf.
- Four-finger knitted headband (Frontier Dreams)
- Puppet theatre and puppets (Bending Birches)
- Little gnome and fairy books (Wee Folk Art)
- A hunt for fairy abodes (alina’s adventures in homemaking)
- Homemade prayer flags (Rhythm of the Home)
- Cookie tray play (A Handmade Childhood)
- Candle-illuminated paper scenes (54 Stitches)
- Nature printing with pinecones and rosebuds (Redbirdcrafts)
- Tidy up gnomes (Beneath The Rowan Tree)
- Corn husk dolls (Gardenmama)
- Raising singing children (The Magic Onions)
- Absolutely anything from Handbook of Nature Study, a personal favorite at the Coryell Castle
- Acorn cap jewels (Homemade Serenity)
- Dyeing naturally with eucalyptus bark (Natural Suburbia)
- Leprechauns revisited (Wee Folk Art)
- Rainbow silk (Bending Birches)
- Spinning a tale (The Magic Onions)
- Snack boards (Our Ash Grove)
- Stitching beads (The Little Red Hen)
- Winter Wonderland Curriculum for Preschool or Kindergarten, a free printable (Wee Folk Art)
- Waldorf style gnomes (Wee Folk Art)
- Gnome home (The Magic Onions)
- Nature crowns and cuffs (maya made)
- Rocks under rainbows and other story starters (alina’s adventures in homemaking)
- Flower sprite tube dolls (Mama Moontime)
- Wooden mushrooms (Wee Folk Art)
- Woodsy Wednesdays (Rhythm of the Home)
- Make your own Knitting Nancy
- Homemade play dough (Penny Carnival)
- Colorful lidded jars for collections (Redbirdcrafts)
- Yarn dolls (Wee Folk Art)
- Peekaboo sprites and nature vases (Bending Birches)
- The story of fairies and parsley (alina’s adventures in homemaking)
- Making your own Waldorf doll (The Magic Onions)
- Nature tables, our variation on the Waldorf version (alina’s adventures in homemaking)
- Tiny trinkets travel tote (Rhythmn of the Home)
- A family garden journal (54 Stitches via Rhythm of the Home)
- The village (A Handmade Childhood)
- Jars of summer (Gardenmama)
- Fairy garden (The Magic Onions)
- Spring and summer gnome home ideas (Wee Folk Art)
- Wooden tree toys (54 Stitches)
- Sun dyeing yarn (Natural Suburbia)
- Stick-bound booklet (Down to Earth NW)
- Waldorf inspired baby dolls (Wee Folk Art)
- Quick craft basket (Wee Folk Art)
- Wooden pine forest (Wee Folk Art)
- Storytelling stones: Mouse picnic (Redbirdcrafts)
- Felt and wood reeds (Wee Folk Art)
- 10 children’s songs you can play by learning just two guitar chords (Rhythym of the Home)
- Fabric buckets for gathering (Soulemama)
- Silk teepee (Syrendell)
- Four seasons nature box (Rhythm of the Home)
- Waldorf puppet plays (The Magic Onions)
- Gnome campfire (Wee Folk Art)