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About Dressing Up

  Tanja Markies     05-10-2019     Comments (2)

About Dressing Up

Dressing up. What is it, how does one go about it, why is it an important part of
the development of the imagination and why is dressing up such an important
part of Steiner/Waldorf education?

Dressing up can be done almost anywhere and under many different circumstances.
By simply cloaking oneself in a play silk one magically becomes a prince, a princess,
a witch or a magician.
Or more elaborately creating or buying a costume to become a favourite fantasy figure.
There are no set rules, it is up to you how you want to give expression to it.

There are endless variations to dressing up, and it can be done either alone or together.
You can pick a theme like a fairy tale or a legend, a seasonal celebration or any story,
and give expression to it through dressing up.
The possibilities are endless, and it can be fun to think of new things to create together.
You can keep it very simple by using a few play cloths or you can make it more elaborate
and use all sorts of attributes.
We used to have Kinderkram play cloths (now called decorative cloths) at home for
our children to play with and they were particularly useful because they are loosely woven
and thus semi-transparent.
Layering them is almost like mixing colours. Kings and queen, witches, fairies, trolls,
even Mother Earth and Miss Thaw all effortlessly appeared just through the use of
a few cloths and an old umbrella and broom.
You can make or buy fancy costumes in order to play out a story, or use simple items
as described above, but the essence is the same; dressing up creates a whole different
range of experiences for children and can even bring them into a different state of being.
That being said, it may be good to realise that children’s imaginative powers are best
stimulated through the use of simple items.
Not that giving them elaborate clothing and attributes is wrong, but simplicity stimulates
a child to use one particular item like a cloth in different ways, thus encouraging them
to be inventive and think up different approaches.

Dressing up stimulates and awakens one’s imagination and enthusiasm and one’s
capacity to be sensitive to one another.
And it allows you to try on different personae and playfully explore what it is like to
put yourself into another person’s or figure’s shoes and experience a different point
of view and different roles one can play.

Dressing up and role-playing can be useful in helping children process complex emotions
or experiences as well.
And it can be very interesting to see through their role-play how they perceive their
family situation and environment.
And when children can immerse themselves in different roles, alone and especially
together, they are often more tuned in to themselves when they finish playing.
It stimulates their capacity for relating to both themselves and others, and it gives
them endless possibilities to express themselves.
Thus playfully developing their respect for others as well as a deeper consciousness
and experience of themselves versus the world around them.
Delving into another role and experiencing the freedom it affords you can be a wonderful
contribution to a healthy development.

You can experience that the world is larger than just your own perspective and inner
world and immediate environment and you learn to find your own place within it.
And role-play not only allows you to expend energy, it also increases your ability to be
flexible and adjust and adapt to changes around you and inside you as well.
Which can be so helpful in learning to face other challenges life throws at you.

Steiner/Waldorf schools use dressing up as support of part of their curriculum.
Plays, seasonal festivities and all kinds of celebrations can thus all be ways to stimulate
the powers of the imagination, developing all kinds of skills and abilities that are essential
for a child’s well-balanced development.

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About knitting

  Tanja Markies     01-09-2019     Comments (0)

About knitting What does knitting entail, how can you go about learning it and expanding
on your skills, why is it not just fun to do but also a wonderful contribution to
the healthydevelopment of children and why is it an important part of Steiner/
Waldorf education?

Knitting entails creating something beautiful and useful using your own hands
and wool or another type of yarn, two or more knitting needles, with or without
the use of a pattern.

Patience and imagination are important aspects when learning how to knit.
Children usually start learning how to knit in a playful manner, for instance by
forming loops, creating chains and then unravelling them until just one loop
is used to start casting on.
It is very important for young children to learn how to hold knitting needles the
right way.
Thus also playfully stimulating their awareness of left and right.
After casting on is mastered one can start to knit.
When children are ready to learn to knit from a pattern, they usually start with
fairly simple projects like a hat. After that the possibilities are endless.
One can make knitting as simple or as complicated as one wants to or can handle.
Young people can derive great pleasure and satisfaction from knitting their own
clothes and even creating and executing their very own designs.
And knitting together can be such a cosy and satisfying thing to do.
Knitting, whether taught at school or learned at home, is a skill for life.

There are two sides to the human brain, and both must be stimulated.
Knitting is one of the skills that can accomplish that, because it combines mathematics
with artistry while engaging the hands purposefully.
Rudolf Steiner, who started Waldorf education, favoured handiwork because it
“introduces the world of mechanism and brings movement, while it also trains the
power of attention.”
When you look at the movements involved in knitting you could say children
develop the ability to open up to and close themselves off from the world around them
A eurythmy teacher puts it this way: when you knit, you create the letter E by moving
in, connecting then detaching and letting go.

Creating something with your own hands develops the imagination as well as creative
Knitting helps the brain weave connections between the neural pathways that connect
what the eyes see and the hands feel.
Specifically, knitting helps with coordination, motor skills, sensory perception and
tactile feedback.
Imaginative powers are conjured and the ability to visualise is awakened. 
And when you use warm materials derived from nature, and you create something
with your own hands, a connection is made between what you see and what you
experience and consequently create on a three-dimensional basis.
It conjures enthusiasm and the warm feeling of accomplishment when you see a
lovely result.

An important aspect is being able to create something that can be of practical use
as well.
Also, it’s often impossible to finish a knitting project in a day, so the process of
coming back to a task – day after day – in order to achieve a goal is another side-effect
of knitting.

The diligence required to stick to a pattern to produce the desired outcome is a
great experience for children, especially when they can then use or wear that item –
it links the labour with the reward.
This creates a wonderful feeling of achievement and satisfaction.

You’d be surprised how mathematically complicated knitting is, and how many different
mathematic disciplines it draws on, beyond the basic counting of stitches.
Learning patterns is an important part of mathematics, and when kids have to factor
in not just rows, but columns and sequential colour changes, you have more than just
first grade addition or high school algebra.
It also teaches geometry on a very high level, and although the mathematical application
of ‘rubber sheet geometry’ may not actually be taught until they are far older, the
abstract concept can find its foundations in knitting.

Steiner/Waldorf schools employ knitting, as well as a lot of handicrafts and crafts
from a didactical point of view. Knitting at home has the same effect, even though it
is usually done mainly for fun.
Either way it can be incredibly satisfying and bring some peace in our often-busy lives.

With special thanks to!

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About silhouettes

  Tanja Markies     02-06-2019     Comments (0)

About silhouettes What is a silhouet, what do you need to make one, how is it made and why are they so
often made both at home and in Steiner/Waldorf schools?

A silhouette is a translucent picture made out of layers of rainbow tissue paper glued onto
a sheet of tracing paper and mostly framed in a (black) cardboard double edge.
It is usually hung in a window or situated with a light source behind it.

Materials to use:

How to do it is strongly dependent on both age and skill. Young children can start off by
tearing off small pieces of coloured tissue paper and sticking them onto a sheet of tracing
Green grass at the bottom, blue sky at the top, small bright coloured pieces for flowers;
beauty is easily achieved through simple means!

However, one can make the most intricate and complicated silhouettes as well.
You can cut a silhouette out of (black) cardboard, or even figure-saw one out of thin plywood
(for the more advanced artist) and then attach a silhouette made with rainbow tissue paper
on tracing paper to its back, or between two layers.
Figures can be hand-torn or cut and even geometric patterns cut out of folded sheets of
rainbow tissue and positioned on top of each other can create depth in for instance the
figure of a(n) (ice) crystal.

Please click here for inspiration!

Creating silhouettes is a wonderful way to develop observation skills as well as a way to
experience nature and the world around them, especially for young children.
As you ponder how to create something you have thought up, and how, by adding layer
upon layer of paper you not only create a darker shade of the colour you are using but
also depth, you simultaneously stimulate and develop your inner flexibility as well as
your experience of form.
While at the same time developing sensory and motor skills.

It is also a wonderful way to experience the ebb and flow of the year as well as the seasons.
As you are in the process of creating something, your imaginative powers are awakened
and your thinking becomes more flexible and livelier.
And because you are involved in creating something, you connect with what you are doing.
You internalise the rhythm of nature as it were. And that gives a feeling of safety and belonging.

Thus you learn to perceive your environment, both internally through your imagination, and
externally through working on something tangible in a different way. A connection is being
made between what you see and experience, thinking of ways to translate it and subsequently bringing it into form.

In practicing new ways to create something, you experience form in an inner way as well.
And each step brings you to a new world of possibilities.
Thus the inner experience of form, from simple to complex, arises and creates the ability
to relate to complex processes and dilemmas.

With special thanks to Juul van der Stok and Mabel Slangen and all those who have created
the work we have borrowed from Pinterest and cannot find the names of!


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About Waldorf 100 and a personal story

  Tanja Markies     01-05-2019     Comments (0)

About Waldorf 100 and a personal story Waldorf 100: an occasion for a personal story.

The celebration of 100 years of Waldorf/Steiner education and anthroposophy
has caused me to ponder my personal love for the anthroposophical work fields.
After seeing Waldorf 100 The Film parts I and II I feel the need to not only share
these wonderful short films with those who have not yet seen them (at the
bottom of this page), but to share a few of my personal reasons to start Waldorf
Toys some 20 years ago.

I have always wanted to contribute to a better world for all and I feel that
anthroposophy in practice is a wonderful way to do my part.

Let me introduce myself: my name is Tanja and I was born in London in 1958
to an Australian mother and a Dutch father.
My mother and I moved to Amsterdam when I was 1 year old and when I was
4 years old I went to a Waldorf/Steiner kindergarten in Amsterdam.
I will never forget how I was chosen to be Mary in the Christmas Play and how
proud and pleased I felt.
My primary and secondary education however were in regular schools.

As soon as I finished secondary school I went to live with my father and his
family in Forest Row, England. My brother and sister went to Michael Hall,
a Steiner/Waldorf School, and they lived in Michael Fields, an organically
designed community with gorgeous copper roofs close to the school.

Again I encountered anthroposophy and I became inspired. After about a
year I got a job at Philpots Manor School, an anthroposophical institute
for mentally and socially challenged children. Soon I was house mother to
10 children.
I loved the children and I loved the work but I felt too young at 18 to be so
seriously settled.
A friend and colleague of mine wanted to go to America to visit a friend and
asked me to come along. We spent a month in Florida, where I met Stephen,
director of the United Farm Workers Union there. We fell in love and I
decided to go and live and work with him. Through him I came into close
contact with the African American culture in the USA. This was a totally new
experience for me. Both our work and our lives were strongly political as well
as pacifistic in nature and we were all volunteers. It was a deeply inspiring
and moving time and in 1980 we welcome the birth of our daughter Aisha.
Stephen and I sadly grew apart and I decided to bring Aisha back to Holland
with me.
When Aisha was a toddler and I went to investigate the schooling options for
her, it was clear to me that Steiner/Waldorf education would afford her the
warmest and most secure education.

When Aisha was 5 years old I fell in love with Peter, who had a 5 year old
daughter as well; Sonja. Peter and I have been together for almost 34 years
now and we consequently had Jennis (27) and Nadine (24) together.
Jennis was born with the Williams Syndrome and he moved to an anthroposophical
institute close to where we live about six years ago.
Before that, he was in anthroposophical day-care.
Nadine, like Aisha, went to the local Steiner/Waldorf school from when they were
toddlers to the 13th year of the upper school. Sonja lived mainly with her mother
and went to a Montessori school.

I was a stay at home mom and deeply involved in the school. I knew that my
active motherhood would be deep and for a prolonged period of time.
The desire to start doing some work from home grew. Since I was so enthusiastic
about Steiner/Waldorf education, the atmosphere, so recognisable in all the
different work fields, the wonderful materials used, the seasonal celebrations,
the high quality of everything, I decided I wanted to do something with those
wonderful materials and thus, about 10 years ago, I took over Waldorf Toys
from its creator and proceeded to learn the at the time very complicated ways
to maintain and build my web shop to what it is now.

I started out with our stock in the attic and the computer in the bedroom,
then moved to our renovated garage and finally, about 2 ½ years ago, I moved
my stock to Dipam Beeswax Candle Makers in Driebergen.

My enthusiasm for Steiner/Waldorf education continues to grow.
As a mother I would have dearly loved more background information.
I could feel and finally knew that there are reasons behind everything that is
being done.
So I decided to start making short films about anthroposophical work fields as
well as writing a monthly blog for Waldorf toys, in an effort to share some of the
philosophy behind things.

I am so very grateful to see through the Waldorf 100 films how Steiner/Waldorf
education is making its warm and cohesive contribution to individuals and
communities all over the world and across many cultures and religions.
That diversity is so naturally embedded gives me hope for a better future for us all.

Please click here to see Waldorf 100 Part I
Please click here to see Waldorf 100 Part II

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About Playing with Wooden Toys

  Tanja Markies     03-03-2019     Comments (0)

About Playing with Wooden Toys Play; what are the healthiest choices, how can we help our children play well, 
why is what they play with so important and why is play such an important
part of Steiner/Waldorf education?

Playing is fun and important for the healthy development of children and fun for
all ages as a way to relax and interact socially.
It is generally known that wooden toys are the preferred choice in many aspects.
The educational advantages of playing with natural materials are manifold.

There are countless ways to play, alone or with others. In an organized or planned
manner or as you go. Building a castle with wooden blocks, racing cars across the
living room floor, building a play house for yourself or for your dolls, the possibilities
are endless.
When we offer our children wooden toys to play with, as well as allowing them to
play with man-made materials, they get to feel the difference and experience a
freedom of choice as well.

Toys that leave room for fantasy and imagination without being too detailed or
sophisticated in both form and functionality lend a liveliness to play that is also in
a child’s nature.

Children have a flexible inner world by nature and when they play with natural
materials and simple forms, their imaginative powers are stimulated and awakened.
A simple block of wood can be a brick to build with, a castle wall, a doll seat, even
a loaf of bread.

And also, wooden toys last much longer as well as often gaining character through
repeated use.
Making a wooden toy together with children can be great fun as well.

When children play with natural materials such as wood, there is an intrinsic
recognition; both the child and wood are natural.
Wood has a pleasant temperature and its texture is recognisable through touch.
Toys that are not too detailed will stimulate children to determine what they want
to do with them or how they want to use them and thus help them to develop

When playing outside, children will easily conjure a person from a small branch
or a delicious item of food from an acorn.

When you play with something that is not specifically one thing, play becomes
more fluid. All kinds of stories can be acted out with a few blocks of wood and
they can be used in different ways each time.
A simple wooden car can either be a racing car or a family vehicle.

Children develop their fine motor skills increasingly as times goes by as well as
an increased attention to and an eye for detail.
When they have to use their own skills to create more detail with basically simple
forms, they often come up with the most creative solutions.

When children are offered highly detailed and elaborate toys, their fantasy
stagnates and they get bored much more easily.
This also happens when children play computer games a lot.
There is a kind of emptiness in their attention, because neither their imagination
or their liveliness is stimulated.

The choice of wooden toys is a responsible one from an environmental standpoint
as well.
The ecological footprint is much smaller than that of plastic or other man-made
materials. On the one hand because it is longer lasting, on the other because it
is biodegradable and is thus given back to nature eventually.
The use of bio degradable, non-toxic paints, oils and varnishes is standard and of the utmost importance as well.

Experiencing a feeling of freedom while endlessly using your imagination and ideas
is a wonderful contribution to a healthy development.
When we think of something and are then able to create it makes us feel part of a
world infinitely larger than our own inner world and that in turn can really help us
feel embedded in the bigger whole.
And the fact that we cannot guarantee a perfect result helps us develop our ability
to move with change in a playful manner. And that can really help us deal with the
challenges life can throw at us.

Waldorf/Steiner schools work almost exclusively with natural materials.
Playing alone or together helps children’s social development as well as teaching
them all sorts of necessary abilities and skills for a balanced development.
That way, both social and cognitive abilities are awakened and stimulated in
a playful way.

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