What Is Waldorf Education
Many people are wondering what is waldorf education. Waldorf education also known as Steiner education is an educational philosophy that was developed by Rudolph Steiner. Waldorf education and schools use a certain kind of toy, Waldorf toys, such as dolls, blocks and play silks. Simple toys made from natural materials.
Waldorf education focuses on the human as a threefold being of body, soul and spirit, with learning and play designed to enliven physical, social, intellectual, artistic, creative and spiritual capacities. There is a focus on development that motivates the individual to serve humanity.
Waldorf principles also focus on the gradual development of the human from child to adult. Children are not hurried into learning that is beyond their years and the focus is on encouraging individuality and building relationships as much as following any kind of curriculum. There is also a strong focus on our relationship with nature and the cycles and seasons.
With a rise in environmental consciousness there has also been a rise in the number of companies making wooden and environmentally friendly toys. Waldorf and Steiner schools have always used toys made from natural materials including wood, wool, and cotton as well as other natural objects such as shells and pine cones.
One of the reasons for using natural materials is the sensory experience they provide. Natural materials have warmth and texture to them that is very different from plastic. Waldorf principles work to the idea that toys should be nourishing to the senses providing a sensory experience for children as they play.
It is a very different experience cuddling a soft cotton doll with wool hair than a hard plastic doll with synthetic hair. It's not just the look of the doll but the feel of it and how it makes the child feel. A soft and even weighted doll is calming and comforting in a way that a plastic doll just isn’t. Equally the natural texture, grain and warmth of wood leads to a very different sensory experience than if the exact same toy was made of plastic.
Toys made of natural materials also tend to be more pleasing to the eye. They are naturally beautiful and add to the sense of wellbeing that comes from being in a beautiful environment.
The other premise of Waldorf toys is that they should be simple in their form. The idea being that the more formless the toy the more playing with it relies on the child’s imagination. A set of natural wooden blocks can be used to build with but they can also be play food or toy cars. A set of silks can be the ocean and mountains, a cape or fairy wings.
Waldorf dolls and animals tend to have less defined features than regular dolls and figures making it easier for children to imagine them in different states and with different emotions as they play. And in fact, Rudolf Steiner suggested you could simply tie the four corners of a piece of cloth into knots representing hands and feet to create a simple doll.
Next Up: When Should a Child Have Their First Waldorf Doll