Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Making Toddler Toys

I've been doing some "research" into the Waldorf method of education because one of my favorite current books is The Creative Family by Amanda Blake Soule and the reviews I've read of the book referenced Waldorf. I'm interested in how it's different from Montessori education. This interest is largely academic because the likelihood we'll homeschool our daughter is small. I have some issues with standard education, though, and plan to at least supplement her education. And I'm her only teacher right now. My problem is that my local library doesn't carry any books specifically about Waldorf education. I did read a book on starting Montessori education from birth and I found that it works against my attachment parenting beliefs - at least for infants and toddlers.

What I have managed to gather about Waldorf education is that the first seven years are sacred and that children should be free to use their imaginations. Having lots of electronic toys that only do one thing is discouraged. So far, so good. I've also learned, though, that even dolls shouldn't have much of a shape until children are about 5 or 6 and they shouldn't have faces. I'm not so sure I agree with that theory.

I grew up loving dolls and I still collect them when given a chance. My mama and grandma made dolls both for my cousins and me and to sell. I've tried making a few dolls and I've never gotten very far, but now that I have a little girl I do intend to try and succeed.

To that end, I checked a book out of the library called Toymaking With Children by Freya Jaffke. The first few chapters are an explanation of the Waldorf play theory and what ages to introduce different kinds of toys to children. For instance, animal toys "should not" be introduced to children under three. The reasons for this have to do with the development of imagination and creativity, which I'm all for developing. I'm just not sure that it's realistic that my child wouldn't have toys that were representative of animals by birth (I can't count the number of stuffed animals we already had by the time I was seven months pregnant - that had been purchased for us). I'd hate to see what the author thinks of our large collection of hand-me-down toys (which, admittedly, even I'm overwhelmed by).

One of the suggested toys for toddlers is a large knotted doll, and there are instructions in the book on how to make one (confusing instructions). The directions call for a large square of soft fabric, stuffing for the head, and something to tie the head with. I do have a collection of fabric but haven't sewn in years, so it's still boxed up from our last move. Then I remembered the ridiculously large collection of baby blankets I have, and found a wonderful pale pink square flannel receiving blanket. My child is a furnace so it's unlikely that she will need flannel in the near future.

I didn't have any stuffing (the author recommends raw sheep's wool but I didn't have any of that hanging around either). Then I remembered the box of my husband's holey socks that I keep for dusting. Two of those rolled up together made a great head, which I tied with a pink grosgrain ribbon (scrapbooking supplies come in handy all the time). You put the stuffing (socks) into the center of the square, pull up the corners, and tie the ribbon around the "head." Next, you tie a knot in two of the opposite corners for "hands." You can also pencil in eyes and a mouth (I used ball point pen because I had one within reach).

The book indicates that the mommy needs to show love to the new baby doll for the toddler to understand what it is and to love it herself (or himself, because we are all about boys playing with dolls too). Well, I've tried showing love to this doll, and my daughter does snuggle it for a few minutes, but she is showing a definite preference for the baby doll with the plastic head and hands and a real face.

In an effort to get her to appreciate it, I let her take it with us when we went out to dinner with friends. She's not allowed to have her plastic handed baby in the car because she chews the hands and feet and we'd rather her not do that. I thought if she was allowed to have the new doll in the car that would endear it to her. Unfortunately, she needed a nap so she threw the doll on the floor and conked out until we reached the restaurant.

I was so impressed with my ingenuity, though, that I let her take the doll inside to show to our friends. Our friends were less than impressed, though. The doll has now been dubbed the "creepy octopus ghost" and I don't believe it's going to be invited back to dinner. Abigail will hardly play with it now, either, and I'm not sure that she's affected yet by the opinions of others.

This is just my first attempt. I'm researching doll kits and doll patterns. We'll see what happens.

1 comment:

Drew&Samsmom said...

I want to make one of these for drew and sammy. Drew loves dolls - he also loves his stuffed animals. As a matter of fact, I walked into him nursing boo boo bear on his bed the other night! He said, "hims hungwey"... It was precious!