Friday, June 21, 2013

Bringing Nature In :: Part I :: The Playroom



Play is the mechanism by which children learn—how they experience their world, practice new skills, and internalize new ideas—and is therefore the essential “work of children”.
- Dr. Vivian Paley from her book, "A Child's Work: The Importance of Fantasy Play"


Through play, children learn
about the world and engage in activities
that encourage their cognitive, emotional, and social development. 


- Dr. David Elkind from his book, "The Power of Play: How Spontaneous, Imaginative Activities Lead to Happier and Healthier Children"


When people hear that I am a Waldorf homeschooler, the first question they usually ask is, “What is Waldorf “? The second most times is, “I love your toys, but why so simple? Why open ended? Do they really help”? Well, I am here to say that yes they do help and it's not just Waldorf teachers and advocates who say this. It's also prominent child developmental psychologists, former public school teachers, and linguists who say the same thing- that children need to play, that their play does not need to be tinkered with by adults, and that children need suitable, simple, opened ended toys to play with in order to get the most out of their play.  This is precisely where Waldorf, and other educational philosophies, get it right and do it well.


What then could be more simple that having a basket full of natural toys in your playroom? You don't need expensive blocks. You don't even need expensive toys. Really a basket of shells, rocks, and pine cones will do!


Children can get overloaded by too many toys. It overwhelms their senses and it can diminish their play and focus. I know we've all been there too when we walk in our bedrooms at night and have to tidy it up before our minds will calm down and sleep. It is the same for children.



Joan Almon, Coordinator of the U.S. branch of the Alliance for Childhood, and former chair of the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America, said that "children were most relaxed and played best if the space was fairly simple but pleasing to the senses. It should be calming and lovely, but not so beautiful and complete that the children hesitate to move anything or disturb the order". This is where we as adults can step in and help. We can create environments for our children that are relaxed, beautiful, and filled with natural and  simple toys. In a way that they will not be overwhelmed or underwhelmed.



We also need to make sure that children can easily clean up their playrooms. Almon goes on to say "Play is a messy business in the best sense of the word, for it is hard to create without making a mess. A good play environment invites you to come in and change it – but it is orderly enough that it is easy to clean it up again. There’s a place for everything and it becomes fun for the children to know where each object lives and put it back at the end of play time."



So this Autumn, as your child’s play turn inward and takes place indoors more often, why not try bringing more nature in? Reassess what toys you have in your home and how you have set them up. Does every toy have an simple home to sit when play is done? When you sit in the room do you feel calm or cluttered? If your answer is the latter, than your child might feel the same way too. Over and over again as I was researching why natural simple and open-ended toys were best, again and again, researcher after research said that the simpler the play materials, the more effective they are at stimulating play. And if play if the child's' most "essential work" then ensuring that we bring nature indoors for them and having open ended toys for should therefore be our essential work as their parents.


***********

19 comments:

  1. Lovely! :) Natural items are the BEST toys! :)
    Angela at sunnysweetlife.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Angela for visiting! I will check out you blog. :)

      Delete
  2. Where did you get the wooden interlocking blocks? The last "mainstream" toy we've held onto is legos and I'd love to replace them!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for visiting! I got them at Nova Natural. They are actually n sale right now. We got 3 sets of 48 so that'd we'd have enough to build big stuff like with legos. Here is the link to them: http://www.novanatural.com/interlocking-blocks.html Enjoy!!!

      Delete
  3. Nature toys are the best! We have some wooden blocks, but I want to make some branch ones this summer. The kids love to use pinecones as pretend trees with their little gnomes and fairies. They also use crystals a lot. Not only are they natural and colourful but kids are naturally drawn to them. And all the different colour ones can be used in so many ways in their pretend play :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is adorable about the pinecone trees. I love what kids dream up. Thank you for sharing!! Where do you get your crystals?

      Delete
  4. I've always naturally gravitated to natural toys with my daughter, and I've been asked more than once if I am a Waldorf mummy - thanks for finally explaining to me what they meant by that! I'll have to look a little deeper now

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jennifer! So glad my post helped! I highly recommend Rahima Dancy Baldwin's book, You Are Your Child's First Teacher, if you're digger a bit deeper. Another educational philosophy that I know only a little about but also had a large focus on natural materials is Reggio Emilia. Hugs and peace on your journey! <3

      Delete
  5. What gorgeous "toys"! I too like to bring natural materials and objects from nature into our play spaces.
    How is it that I'm just finding your blog now?!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just checked out your blog Ann, and love it! So glad we found one another!

      Delete
  6. Irish immigrants???? Oh my, I think we could sit and chat over a good cup of tea for a long time. Irish history and my ancestors immigration to America have long been favorite topics of mine.

    You just reminded me to pull our shells back out of hiding (we started rotating our "toys" a couple of years back) for the summertime. Thank you for sharing, again, on KCCO. I always love stopping by to see what you are up to!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aw thank you Nicole! I wish you still lived in VA. If you did we'd be pretty close :) My family is also Irish- which is the main reason I studied immigrant history. I actually had my paper published. I wrote about how the industriousness of the female Irish immigrants helped them assimilate into American society more quickly than other immigrant groups in the mid to late 1800s. While they were one of the more hated groups at first by Nativists, by the turn of the century the Irish had dominated the teaching, police, and organized labor professions throughout the North East. Go Irish women! We have a neat neat history. If your interested, I have lots of good non-fiction books to recommend. You might even read about one of your ancestors. :)

      I bet little L will LOVE the shells, and the girls too. We also rotate our toys. Best idea ever!

      Delete
  7. Great idea! My kids love nature, although we don't often bring it inside. They do a lot better with very few toys. We tend to just go outside and I let them loose to do whatever in the mud/woods etc. It seems to work well!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nice Heather!! Thanks for visiting! I still wish we had a bigger yard liek we did at our old house. Now we have a pretty sculptured yard but one day I hope to get my little farm and a few acres with lots of nature to go around :)

      Delete
  8. Fascinating! Thanks for sharing Nicole!

    ReplyDelete
  9. What great toys!! I love the Waldorf toys as well. Thank you for sharing at Sharing Saturday!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I've been wanting to redo my son's playroom. He is an only child and boy his grandparents send him a ton of toys. But, he gets so overwhelmed. I'm thinking about downsizing and using more natural items. Thank you so much.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hello! Great post! Where did you get the beautiful castle and treehouse toys?

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hello! Great post! Where did you get the beautiful castle and treehouse toys?

    ReplyDelete

I love to chat! Please comment :)