Getting Started with Waldorf

1. How do I get rid of the plastic toys?

Just do it! Have the children go on an outing and while they're gone, remove everything which is plastic or which otherwise doesn't fit with the Waldorf philosophy. See what's left. You may be surprised! Leave wooden, fabric and metal toys, silk scarves (the ones hanging in your closet), cotton or linen cloths (remember those fancy napkins -- are you using them?), books, a large cardboard box or a coffee table, the china tea party set. Pine cones can be gathered from outside or purchased at the craft store. Bring in some potted plants; hang sheer curtains on the walls. Set up a mirror and dress-up chest of old clothing, hats, shoes, and so on. Bring bookcases into the room (secure to walls with anchors if tipping is a problem) and place the toys simply on the shelves; put things in baskets if you can. Again, you may be surprised at how many little baskets you have around the house.

Keep it simple.

If your children complain? Don't worry about it. You're the parent. You know best.

Kyta, of recommended being very cheery and positive when the chidren walk into their transformed room; you might even tell them a story about the toy fairy. If you have a leery spouse, just tell him you're packing the toys away -- not throwing them away -- and if he honestly thinks the children aren't playing better (that's playing longer, more happily, and more imaginatively) after three weeks you will bring the plastic back. Then, after about 6 months have passed, donate or throw away the bins.

2. Where do I find Waldorf toys?

Visit the Parent Resources section of our website and look under Waldorf Play to find recommended vendors. Have catalogues sent to friends and relatives who may be buying your children gifts. Nova Natural has a beautiful full-color catalogue, with plenty of pictures of creative happy children; looking at their catalog is like a little glimpse into a Waldorf preschool. It will help your family and friends to get an idea of the kind of home environment you are trying to create.

3. We're ready to start preschool but I don't have much money. What are the essential things to buy?

Our Preschool curriculum takes you through the process of starting with Waldorf step-by-step. Each unit gives you recommended toys to make or buy and parent reading to help you slowly accumulate a library of Waldorf books over time. Don't try to learn everything all at once. Not only will you spend a fortune but you run the risk of burning yourself out. It's better to do something that's not exactly Waldorf in the beginning then to get so frustrated that you give up completely!

Let's say you have a hundred dollars:
For art supplies, you'll want watercolor paints (I prefer the kind in tubes), brushes (a 3/4 inch brush is a good size for a preschooler -- get one for yourself as well) and watercolor paper. These are all available at a local craft store. More Waldorf-y art items include beeswax crayons (a set of 8 crayons is fine, get the block type) and modelling beeswax.

Think about how to save money. You probably have classical music tapes somewhere in your house; you can always listen to the radio. Books are great but storytelling is always better! You can find plenty of suggestions for things to do with your children here at Waldorf Curriculum; cook with your child (this is fun and doesn't cost any extra money), take Nature walks and start a Nature table in one corner of your home featuring objects you have picked up, sing and dance together. Have your child help you around the home (read our Helping article for suggestions). Do Art and Handwork (craft) projects including making your own toys. Gather sticks and shells for the play room while walking outside or take a field trip to the woods or the beach. If your child really wants to build, gather logs and other large chunks of wood. You can always cut them down to size when you get home and sand them (sandpaper is not expensive and it's good exercise for your child) to smooth the edges. Keep the bark on if you wish. Throw some cushions on the floor of the playroom to sit on. That's basically a Waldorf curriculum!

Remember, the goal of the Waldorf kindergarten envronment is to mimic staying home with Mom. You will learn as you go along, of course, and you'll definitely want to learn more about the Waldorf philosophy so that you and your child can get the most out of it, but you have already made a good start.

So, you should still have some of your $100.00 left, probably about half. Spend this on the materials you'll need to make new toys. Wool felt and plain unspun wool for stuffing toys is an excellent place to start. Call your local library or tourist resource center to find a list of farms in your area; with agritourism becoming big business, many counties print Agricultural Guides with farms which are open to visitors. If at all possible, purchase your wool at a farm and take your child along with you to see the sheep. You should be able to get a plastic grocery bag stuffed with wool for about $9.00. Now you can make felt balls, gnomes, and so on.

If you have extra money buy some silks for puppet making, decorating the Nature table, dress-ups and imaginative play. If you can't afford silk buy cheesecloth at your grocery store and dye them yourself (natural dyes can be made quite easily with materials from your own kitchen and it's another fun project for your child to help with).

You may notice that we've put together a little online order for you here (beeswax crayons, modelling beeswax, wool felt, and silks) -- all these links go to Nova Natural. There are many other Waldorf companies which specialize in school and play materials; however, for these four items Nova Natural has it all in one place and buying it all together saves on shipping. I also find their website the easiest to use when adding and subtracting things from your cart to keep it within your budget -- there's a little picture of everything in your cart, with handy color swatches for the felt and play silks, and the shipping is immediately calculated for you so the real total for your order is always right there at the bottom of your screen.

Please feel free to contact me for more suggestions or to have someone to talk as you work your way through the transition. You don't have to do it alone! To meet other Waldorf families, some just starting out and some veterans, join our Yahoo Group:

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