Showing posts with label waldorf playroom. Show all posts
Showing posts with label waldorf playroom. Show all posts

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.


Friday, May 24, 2013

Pure Play and Our Knitted Farm Mat

The Sun with loving light
Makes bright for me each day,
The soul with spirit power
Gives strength unto my limbs,
In sunlight shining clear
I revere, Oh God,
The strength of humankind,
Which Thou so graciously
Has planted in my soul,
That I with all my might,
May love to work and learn.
From Thee stream light and strength
To Thee rise love and thanks.
~ A Waldorf Morning Verse~

We've been busy here since our last post. Homeschooling is quite consuming, in a good way. Interesting I feel as if our days flow more easily now that we have a stronger rhythm. Even on days when I have no special crafts or stories to do, the children still crave our school rhythm. We also have gone totally TV free at home for the past 3 weeks. It has been a long time coming here. A gradual wean of sorts. While we've never been big on TV here, I have come to realize that we really have no need or place for it when it comes to the children. Apart from the occasional family movie night, they haven't watched a drop. A say this not as a combination for anyone who is not there yet or doesn't want to be there, rather as an encouragement to those whom want to reduce. It is possible. 

On that note however it means that we all have had more time. With that time I have used it to simplify our play space a bit and rework it. Since they kids are playing much more, it made sense. I also have been reading a lot more on how children learn and play- which inspired a few changes of my own. 

I reworked our playroom so that there was more open space to play in. We moved out our black play bench, play kitchen, and cleaning set. We set the kitchen and leaning supplies up in the dining room- near our own kitchen- so that they could be playing kitchen while I was cooking. They also can then easily clean up after their meals. I was worried at first that if I moved it out of the play stand, which they use primarily as their house, then it might hamper their house play. Rather, they just moved it. Now their house is under the table. We also set up our nature table in the dining room again after having it up high in the playroom. It did not work out well there since it was not as interactive. 

In place to the kitchen in the play stand, Craig and I made a play bookshelf. I have to say it was a super fun project- one of my first wood working ones. I have been admiring the palumba simple bookshelf for age. However the price was a bit high for me. Instead of $169, all it cost us was $40 in wood, stains, and brushes. It looks nice, right? On the book shelf we set up of gnomes house and all their furniture. 

In the now free corner we put the children's school table there. They kids love it so much more there. It is not as cramped. It's light and clear near the window. 

I moved the sling book case to where the table used to be and added our old rug. It's a nice little reading homeshcool corner. Many many times I have come in there now and have seen the kids laying down there skimming our books. 

In the far corner of the room we now have our baby doll corner, castle, and our new farm! We are farm people at heart. I have been skimping and saving up for the farm for years now. We also added a baby doll changing table. What really tipped the scale sin being able to add these treasures to our playroom was EBAY. I went through all our toys and purged. And then purged some more. And then went through the garage and even their old clothes. Not only were we able to get these goodies but we also were able to make a bunch more which went to other things (like bills!). 

With it I finally sat down and finished our knitted farm mat. Back almost a year ago I participated in a knitted farm swap hosted by Carrie over at Crafty Moms Share. Those lovely squares sat and sat. I just did not know who to bring them all together. Some of the sizes ended up not being 12x12, while others were. So after playing young with it in my mind for a bit I decided I would just sew it together like a quilt. That's right, I used my machine. I joined up each row and then stitched them all together. Then I basted, backed, and binded them! I used the sweetest vintage flower fabric for the backing that make sit look like a field of flowers. I am so pleased with the finished product. (By the way I knitted the dark green cable fields- you can even tuck veggies and chicks into the cables!)

So that's our new playroom, dining room, and farm mat. It is really just the tip of the what we've been doing. More fluff and fun that substance. However I have been reading more Steiner and some other great books and my love of Waldorf has been deepening. If you haven't dug into Steiner yet but are intimidated. Please don't be! I promise to be back soon to share some of what I am learning.

Blessings and Light,