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About Playing with Wooden Toys

  Tanja Markies     03/03/2019     Comments (0)

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?

WHAT?
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.

HOW?
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.

WHY?
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
autonomy.

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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About Creating a Seasonal Tableau

  Tanja Markies     01/02/2019     Comments (2)

What are a seasonal figures, how are they made and why do many Steiner/Waldorf schools
choose to celebrate the seasons?

WHAT?
A seasonal figure can be an animal, a human form, a fantasy figure or an object that gives
substance and form to a seasonal tableau or a seasonal corner at home or in school.
Such figures can be detailed and elaborate, very simple and basic, or a combination of both.
Making and using them can be a way to experience the changes in nature during the seasons
as well as a way to celebrate seasonal festivities.
There are no set rules, it is up to you how simply or elaborately you want to employ your
creativity.

HOW?
A small hand-made flower child, a vase with a flower or a branch on a table or a shelf can
bring the atmosphere of the seasons inside.
You can create a special corner or make or purchase a seasonal table and decorate it with for
instance thin cotton or fine silk cloths in the colours of the season.
Adding home-made figures or animals made of felt, wool or modelling beeswax, or treasures
found outside to it can all be a contribution to experiencing the seasons inside the home or
at school.
A bookstand with a picture book on it, a postcard or a poem can help create a special atmosphere
as well. The possibilities are endless, and it can be fun to think of new things to find or create
together.

WHY?
When you give your attention to the seasons and what is happening outside, collecting items
in nature to add to your seasonal tableau, you learn to perceive your environment in a different
way. By creating your own seasonal figures and looking for things you can put on display or create,
a connection is made between what you see and experience and how to go about finding or
creating your own rendition of it.
You become more aware of the processes in nature and thus you are more consciously
connected with it.
Your imagination and enthusiasm are awakened, and you want to create something beautiful.
Simple as well as more complex projects are wonderful to work on, alone or together.
By engaging in creating a seasonal tableau, you can connect with the time of year in an easy
manner. This gives especially children a sense of security and belonging.

By trying to work out how to create something you have thought up, you develop new skills,
and this helps you experience the seasons internally as well.

And working together to create figures or going outside to find beautiful things to make a special
and beautiful place at home can be a wonderful way to connect socially as well.
Actively experiencing the changes in nature challenges your ability to be flexible and adjust and
adapt to changes around you and inside you as well.
By letting go of the old and welcoming the new you get to practice these abilities in a playful way.
Both simple and elaborate projects are wonderful to be engaged in together.
It stimulates the imagination and enthusiasm to want to make something beautiful.
Children especially benefit from experiencing transformation not only in nature but also at home.
And everyone can join in!
Steiner/Waldorf schools celebrate the seasons actively. Usually each classroom and the main hall
in most schools have a seasonal corner to help give expression to and experience the seasons
and seasonal festivities. Thus giving the year a logical and natural sequence.
And that in turn can bring about a feeling of connection, of safety and of confidence.

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About Mandala Drawing

  Tanja Markies     31/12/2018     Comments (1)

What is mandala drawing, which materials are needed, how is it done and why is it practiced in
many (Waldorf) schools?

WHAT?
The word Mandala comes from Sanskrit and it means circle or wheel.
A mandala drawing consists of circles, lines and a myriad of forms on a square piece of paper.
Mandala’s can either be very simple or incredibly intricate and everything in between.
Generally a mandala is started from the center of the page and then fans out equally to all sides.
This can be done in quarters and eighths etc. or in thirds and sixths etc.
Everyone is of course free to create their own variation.
In Waldorf/Steiner schools mandala drawing is part of geometry lessons in the upper half of
the lower schools.
 
HOW?
You can draw a mandala freely by hand, use a ruler and compass, or colour in an existing
mandala drawing of course. Materials you could use are:

 


Techniques used largely depend on both age and dexterity.
A mandala can simply be a circle in the center of the paper with a few lines and figures
fanning out to the corners, or an ever more intricate drawing with many figures or symbols.
The purpose is not to draw the most intricate mandala necessarily, but to draw something
meaningful and enjoying the process of creating something beautiful.
The creation of a lovely simple mandala and then colouring it in can be a very satisfying
thing to do.

One starts off by drawing a circle or a geometric pattern in the middle, and then one can move
on to adding all sorts of more complex forms.
There are all sorts of examples to be found on the internet, and also in our
webshop. 
Eventually a combination of different figures can be combined into a gorgeous mandala.

WHY?
Drawing stimulates inner flexibility as well as the ability to experience pure form.
And one develops sensory as well as fine motor skills along the way.
Drawing creates a strong basis for writing skills as well. Creating forms within a square
shape is a playful way to become familiar with geometric shapes.
And drawing geometrical forms creates a wonderful basis for mathematical abilities.
      
Drawing develops the imagination as well as creative thought.
Imaginative powers are conjured and the ability to visualise is awakened.
 
When you are creating form, you learn to perceive your environment and nature through
different eyes.
As you gradually develop your drawing skills, the character of the forms
you draw is experienced internally.
What happens when they are drawn separately?
Or when you combine different forms?
Or even draw one form within the other?
      
Children are well capable of experiencing the essence of form.
The very young start with maybe a small circle and the lines both straight and curved.
Then planes can be created through mirroring and symmetrical excercises.
Planes develop into circles, ellipses, squares and oblong forms.
All in harmony within the square shape of the paper.

From age nine children can draw circles by hand and divide them into two,
three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven and twelve equal parts.
Within those forms new forms materialise through mirroring and symmetry.

The hexagon and the six-pointed star within the hexagon are very special.
From those two forms all geometric forms except the square can magically be created.
Then all these complex forms can be used to create a well-balanced mandala.
Slowly the perceptual capacities that have been formed through the previous years now
come to fruition.
Thus the inner experience of form, from simple to complex, arises and creates the ability to r
elate to complex processes and dilemmas.
Mandala drawing by hand is of course the preferred method for reasons described above.
However, our
series of hand-drawn mandala’s by Lisa Borstlap can be a wonderful alternative.
They are lively because they are hand-drawn, and they make the activity of simply (or more
intricately) colouring in wonderful and satisfying.
Drawing Mandala’s on black paper is magical too. Suddenly you conjure colour out of darkness,
like on a chalkboard, instead of adding colour to a white plane.

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About Festivals of Light

  Tanja Markies     02/12/2018     Comments (0)

What are festivals of light, how can we celebrate them and why are they celebrated
so widely in Steiner/Waldorf schools worldwide?

WHAT?
When the days become shorter, the nights longer and the weather colder, we slowly
turn inward, in many different ways.
We have a tendency to be less exuberant, we dress warmly to withstand the colder
weather and we make our homes warmer and cosier.
We light more candles and huddle around a fire if we have a fireplace.
We literally as well as figuratively turn inwards for warmth and light.

In the olden days people felt as though the sun had stopped functioning as her heat
became less and less and the days grew shorter, almost as if she had abandoned her
work.
They would stop working and observe a period of rest out of reverence for the pausing
sun.
A cartwheel covered in fir green with candles in it was used to tide them over and
chase away the gloom.

HOW?
Saint Martin, on November 11th, is the first light festival.
Saint Martin’s gift of half his cloak to a beggar suffering from the cold symbolises charity
and empathy.
It is celebrated by children singing songs and walking from door to door with hollowed
out pumpkins or sugar beets or other tubers with candles inside them.
The lanterns symbolize the light shining from within.

Advent is celebrated in schools by creating an advent garden.
A spiral of fir green is laid out on a floor and 24 (glass pots with tea lights or) candles
are positioned along the spiral, one for each of the 24 days leading up to Christmas.
Or (often at home) by making an advent wreath with four (dark blue) candles in it.
On the first Advent Sunday the first candle is lit and if you have a nativity scene, stones
and gems may be placed around it.
The second candle is lit on the second Advent Sunday and plants and greens can be
added.
On the third Advent Sunday the third candle is lit, and the animals arrive.
And on the fourth Advent Sunday Mary, Joseph and the shepherds arrive.
On Christmas Eve baby Jesus appears in the crib.

Some people make a wooden advent ladder with 24 rungs and a star on top, along
which the angel descends with baby Jesus in his arms, one rung a day.
On the 24th day baby Jesus arrives in the crib. The arrival of Christ symbolises the divine
light reaching the earth.

The arrival of Saint Nicholas on December 5th in the first Advent Week invites those
who celebrate it to become one with our inner child.
You could say this brings one a step closer to the birth of the Christ child.

Santa Lucia, celebrated mosty in Scandinavian countries, arrives on December 13th.
She is a martyr who is said to have given the light in her eyes to her blind brother.
This festival is celebrated by children wearing a wreath with candles in it on top of
their head.

Christmas is celebrated during Winter Solstice. The sun has reached her lowest point
and moves towards longer days and stronger natural light.

On January 6th the Three Kings festival is celebrated. Symbolising the arrival of the
three kings at the manger, bearing valuable gifts for baby Jesus.

Candlemas on February 2nd is the last of the Light Festival days.
The days are longer, the sunlight becomes stronger and we are well on our way
towards Spring.

WHY?
When the days become shorter and the nights longer, when the temperature drops,
and we have more inclement weather, we have a tendency to turn inwards.
This turning inwards can have a contemplative character but is can also cause an
emotional darkness or heaviness.

Festivals of light can really help us bring light into our inner being and help us experience
warmth and togetherness.
And of course also aid the rekindling of our creativity.
Christmas helps us welcome the divine light to earth through the birth of the Christ child.
We often celebrate Christmas with family and friends, candlelight, special meals and,
if we are so inclined, religious festivities.

We can feel our inner light warm us and bring us closer together.
And that in turn can help light our way inward.

In Waldorf/Steiner schools Light Festivals, like all seasonal festivities, are celebrated
abundantly. Through plays, songs, handicrafts and more.
This helps children become grounded in the rhythms of Nature, the year and,
ultimately, themselves.

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About Waldorf

  Tanja Markies     31/10/2018     Comments (1)

Waldorf; what is it, how is it used, why do we believe Waldorf/Steiner education to
be a contribution to a healthier world and why is our shop filled with items inspired
by anthroposophy?

WHAT?
Almost 100 years ago the first Steiner School (Waldorfschule) was founded by Rudolf
Steiner in Stuttgart, for children of workers at the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory.
Since then over 3000 schools and kindergartens were established worldwide, all
committed to the healthy development of children in all aspects.

This philosopher and scientist’s insights inspired what has become a worldwide
movement of schools that uphold and promote universal human values, educational
pluralism and meaningful teaching and learning opportunities.
Steiner/Waldorf schools are always co-educational, fully comprehensive and take pupils
from three years of age to ideally eighteen.
Children of all abilities and from all faiths and backgrounds are welcome.

HOW?
The aim of Steiner/Waldorf education is to provide an unhurried and creative learning
environment where children can find the joy in learning and experience the richness of
childhood rather than early specialisation or strictly academic development.
The educational program is a flexible set of pedagogical guidelines, founded on
Steiner’s principles that take account of the whole child.

Equal attention is given to the physical, emotional, intellectual, cultural and spiritual
needs of each pupil and is designed to work in harmony with the different phases of
the child’s development.
The core subjects are taught in thematic blocks and all lessons include a balance of
artistic, practical and intellectual content.
Whole class, mixed ability teaching is the norm.

Steiner/Waldorf education has proved itself adaptable. Almost 100 years after the first
Waldorfschule was started, this education continues to inspire people from all walks of
life and in all parts of the world.
Steiner/Waldorf schools have a reputation for producing well-rounded and balanced
human beings who are able to cope with the demands of a fast-changing and
uncertain world.
Their graduates are highly sought-after in further education and work place for their
unjaded interest in the world and their resourcefulness.

WHY?
If one starts from the premise that each child is born with their own unique personality,
character, talents and abilities it would only seem logical to aid the development of that
uniqueness and allow everyone to become their own unique contribution to the world.

When we look at the development of for instance a caterpillar into a butterfly or a seed
into a plant, the elements of time, peace, nourishment and protection help it to develop
into maturity.
We could then conclude that it is essential to facilitate and stimulate all elements
contributing to a healthy development of all (human) beings.

The importance of observing and perceiving what each individual child needs in order
to mature into their own unique maturity is of the essence.

When we look at what a tiny seed needs to become a mature plant, what a caterpillar
needs to become a butterfly and what a child needs to become a healthy adult, the
larger perspective suddenly becomes important too.
How do we approach and care for the world within us as well as the world around us?

When we use sustainable materials, buy sustainably produced products, (hand) made
with love and attention and preferably produced close by, made by people who receive
proper payment for their work, we can contribute to a healthy world, even in a small way.

Our choice to offer durable, often hand-made and sustainable products in our webshop
is driven by our wish to offer children natural and durable materials to work and play with.
May that be our contribution to a healthy world.


Source: Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship

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