About The Toys


What makes a toy a Waldorf Toy?

'Less Is More'

About the Quality of  Materials Used...

When I am asked:”How much time does it take you to make these…?”

Understanding  and Fostering Healthy Creative Play



What makes a toy a Waldorf Toy?

Every age brings its own and special way of playing, placing a demand on the toys offered. The older the child, the more defined the toys become. Any toy that stimulates the child’s natural ability to activate its inner creativity is a good toy. Essential for the first seven years of a child’s development is the way it experiences the world through its environment.

Unconsciously absorbed impressions deeply penetrate the organism and the unconscious. This is why it is of the utmost importance to offer a child high-quality materials. Animal-and plant matter when tampered with as little as possible, will retain its natural character. This plays a significant part in the awakening of the child’s desire to play. The use of all-natural materials ( wood, wool, silk, sand, pine cones, stones, grass etc) is essential for a healthy sensorial development.

Many of the “educational” toys that fill our homes and classrooms are not only costly but thwart the innate creativity of the child. The best toys are the simplest  those that allow the “player” to use his or her individual imagination, and can be used for many different purposes. For example, a basket of small stones can go into  building a wall or a road; they can be stirred into a “soup”; they can be counted as “money” for the shopkeeper; they can be “tokens”for a ride on an imaginary train or bus: they can be used for whatever the play situation demands. Besides the creative possibilities and the economic advantages they offer, toys from nature have the added benefit of being “real”, that is, they come from the Earth and not from the factory. They are durable, beautiful and interesting in their shape, form and colour. They are pleasing to see and to handle.

 When toys break, don’t throw them away!  Have a place, such as a big basket to collect things that are broken and need repair. Once every couple of weeks or so, take out tools, glue, toothpicks and so on. Bring the basket out, sit down and mend what was broken. You really will be able to mend most things, and again, the children will love to help. It gives them a wonderful sense of well-being to see things made whole again, and it helps them to develop a conscience about throwing things away.

Back to the top

'Less Is More'

Many figures are constructed quite intentionally in a plain and simple way, according to the principle, “Less is more”.

Every characteristic that is not formed, that is not represented, is supplied by the imagination of the children, and thus stimulates this faculty of imagination.

Our children need the imaginative powers, because these help them become able to deal with life.

Whoever possesses imagination and ideas will, in difficult circumstances in life and in problematic situations, always find a solution or a way out.

Back to the top


About the Quality of  Materials Used...

The silks and unspun  wool are all plant-dyed by myself.

The mobiles are made from pure unspun wool; no sewing involved, all figures are needle felted.

The wreaths are made from Hornby-grown willow.

The feathers are usually found in forest or meadows.

Soft dolls, finger puppets, animals( rabbits, foxes, dogs, penguins, cats, elephants, horses, donkeys, camels etc) are all made from non-toxic, natural fibers; filling is 100% wool. Polar-and Brown Bears: pure German mohair.

The marionettes : plant-dyed silk or velvet; their heads 100%  cotton-knit,stuffed with sheep’s wool.

The plant-dye consists of plants found on Hornby Island ( also in my own dyer’s garden) and neighbouring islands, or tropical dye-stuff, like cochenille, indigo, lac, sandalwood and many more...

All toys are hand-stitched ,except for the playdolls.

Back to the top


When I am asked:”How much time does it take you to make these…?”

… then thoughts such as these go through my mind: What a riddle Time is for our modern minds: The more we save it,the less we have it! It is modern technology and natural science that brought about our fascination with high speed; we can measure a fraction of a second that decides upon victory or failure. And our schedules do not give us time enough to breathe.

The concept of doing things fast in time-saving fashion so as to have more “free time” is an illusion and makes us ill. If we want to live creatively in time and towards the future we will need to learn and experience the difference between a quantitative or mechanical perception of time, as a sum-total of seconds, minutes and hours; and the quality of time when human inner activity can define time as something dreadfully boring that never passes, or something that is intensely filled with meaning; and then “Time Flies”!“ This does not mean , of course, that one should discard the necessity for a reasonable working schedule and a healthy structure of the family-day; but there is a difference between a full day and a fulfilled life time.

The famous poet and scientist J.W. v.Goethe said once : “Every moment is of infinite value, because it is the representative of timelessness “ When I, as an artisan consider the amount of time that I “invest” in my work ( 24 hours for a doll. 3 days for producing a plant-dye. 60 minutes for a tiny felt figure…) then my least concern is the monetary evaluation of my time .

Time is not Money in this studio !

In the same way as time needs to be ripe for a problem to be solved; a question to be answered - creativity, too, is a time-organism, almost like the 5 Acts of the Greek Drama: Only by going with courage and patience through the stages of Exposition – Acceleration and Contradiction – Climax and Retardation is it possible to reach a Solution. When acting too fast ( or too slow) one looses Momentum!

When many visitors also say to me, more as a statement than a question “You must have a good time when you make these…” then I say “Yes, I certainly do “. I do not measure the time it takes to make a toy, because it is the joy of creativity that fills me , and the love for The Child. Making toys sometimes feels as if I was working against time . But then – being a child, too, must sometimes feel as if growing against the storms of our times!
If I can help to create a protected space for the child, by laying one of my toys which I have made with my own hands into the child’s hands– then it was worth my time.

Back to the top

Understanding  and Fostering Healthy Creative Play

Play is a fundamental activity  of  childhood, and the playful child is generally viewed as a healthy , active child. After a child has been ill, parents will often describe the seriousness of the illness in terms of whether the child was still able to play. “She was really   sick  and could’nt play at all,” or  “He was sick but was up playing”,are comments often heard from parents. There is scientific research to support this view, showing that play is linked to children’s  healthy  physical, social, emotional and mental development. The absence of play  becomes a serious problem in children’s lives.

There are many  types of play, ranging from simple play where young children handle materials such as pots and pans  and other household objects, to make-believe-play where two or more children play  out complex stories together. This can be in a single play  session  , or over many   days. One sees  the same types of play  among children all over the world, and one can speak of  common language of play. Children from different cultures, for example, can happily play  together  without knowing a single word or one another’s  spoken language.
At the same time, one sees differences according to children’s age and development, their gender, and individual nature. Culture also plays a role. Among cultural differences , for instance , one sees that European children playing mother will push their dolls in prams, while in Africa they   tie their baby  dolls onto their backs with colourful cloths. Children imitate what they see around them and at the same time play  bubbles up from deep inner wellsprings.

Even in situations of war or poverty, most children continue to play, although children suffering from serious illness or trauma may  stop playing, at least for a time. What does it mean, then, that one hears in the U.S. and elsewhere that play is disappearing from childhood – that there is no time for play   or that children have forgotten to play  ? There are rising rates of physical and mental illness among children, and it may well be that this is  related directly or indirectly to the loss of play.  The World Health Organization, for instance, has sounded an alarm that mental illness among children may  increase by 50%  by  the year 2020. At the same time, many  countries  are concerned about the increases in childhood  obesity  and related illnesses.  Because play is so linked to children’s healthy  development, its absence must be taken seriously.

Waldorf  early  childhood educators have recognized the disappearance of play  from childhood for some time, but increasingly we hear  concern from other educators, psychologists and doctors. A child psychiatrist from the U.S., for example, recently wrote of a 50%  reduction in children’s play  over the past 20 years. Interviews with experienced kindergarten teachers in the U.S. brought forward two common answers: there was considerably less time in their curriculum for play  now than 10 years ago, and when they  gave children time to play  ,the children  did not know what to do. A professor whose area of study  is play  noted a similar response. She asked early  childhood educators in a workshop how many  had  children in their kindergartens who did not know how to play . About 90%  of the 200  teachers  raised their hands. Experts are beginning to speak out about these problems in an effort to alert parents, educators, doctors and government officials. Organizations are also forming which are focusing on the importance of play, such as the Alliance for Childhood.

One naturally   asks  why  play   is disappearing , and there seem to be several answers. One is the amount of media  children watch, and this includes television, films and computer time. The average time for a child in the U.S. to sit still in front of a screen is now between four and five hours  per day outside of school time. This is time when children are not engaged in play, but it is also time when  children  are absorbing  other people’s images. This limits the development of their own imagination.

Another factor is the growing  emphasis on early  learning. Using the U.S. as an example, five year olds are often attending all day kindergartens where they  may  spend  90 minutes a day  on early  reading, 60 minutes on mathematics, and devote time each day  to science and social studies activities, yet have no time for indoor play. Five year olds in many places in the U.S. are expected to enter kindergarten  knowing their alphabet, basic sounds, numbers and much more. To prepare children for this, most pre-schools focus on academics to three-and four-year –olds. Often, young children are tested on what they  have learned in these early  years, so the stress on academic achievement  becomes considerable.

A  third factor is the growing  amount  of  time young  children  spend  in  organized activities rather than in child-initiated play. Many  young children are taking  classes in gymnastics, sports, dance, music and other subjects. Some attend several classes a week after they  return from their regular pre-school programs, leaving  almost  no time for unstructured play.

Perhaps the greatest  consideration  is that parents feel a need to see their children get ahead in life and push intellectual awareness, and organized activities from the earliest ages, undervaluating play  and discouraging  children  from engaging in it. Early childhood educators frequently  complain that parents are insisting that  teachers push early  academics  even though they, the teachers , do not think the children need this push. Reaching the parents to help them understand  the critical role of play  in their child’s healthy   development is probably  the most important single step we can take in bringing play  back into children’s lives.

An additional consideration with play  is  the role of imitation in stimulating play. Children need to see adults engaged in meaningful work, for it inspires children to play. Yet today’s children see very little real work in their environment. When helping children who can’t play, it is astonishing how quickly play can be reactivated once children are exposed to real work, whether it is cooking, gardening, carpentry or the like.

The absence of play  can have serious consequences for the development of a child’s imagination and creativity.  Without play children are less likely to be able to form their own independent ideas. This in turn can have an impact on society, for democracies rely on  citizens  being able to think creatively   and independently. On the other hand, totalitarian regimes do not tolerate such independent thinking and strive to hinder it’s development. If one wants to prepare children for life in an active  and thriving democratic state, then it is critical that we help  them play  creatively   when they   are young.\ For all these reasons it has become very  important that people recognize  the vital role of play  and do all they  can  to bring  play  back into childhood. The experiences in Waldorf kindergartens can be a great help in awakening  an understanding of play  and in inspiring  us all  to work on behalf of play.

                                       (  By Joan Almon, founding director of the U.S. Alliance for Childhood )

Back to the top