Nourishing Spaces: Part 2, Natural Items and Play

Updated: Oct 4, 2020

As a parent you might have come across (or may soon will) at some point the age old irony, of the child presented with a new toy, who would rather play with the box it arrived in. In these modern times in a Capitalist world where we are sold everyday images of the perfect life directly into our homes via TV, to our phones via social media, childhood has become big business.

An endless array of toys that promote early development and the early intellectualisation of children that flash, light up, sing the alphabet whilst displaying shapes and colours of all kinds tell parents ‘its ok you are busy, it’s ok the system leaves you with little time to play whilst you work all day..we’ve got you covered. As the age of hand held technology has arrived, there has become other ways to help keep the minds (and bodies) of children occupied whilst we frantically try and fit in everything that us ’expected of us’ whilst trying to retain some kind of sanity knowing that one day - when we are retired we will be able to sit back and take in this life.

It is no coincidence I feel that one of the United States Steiner~Waldorf Schools is in Silicon Valley, home to the worlds leaders in technological development, you may wonder why when these companies are pouring out apps and programs to millions of parents around the globe, they themselves it seems are placing their children in an educational environement where screens are not promoted or endorsed in childhood and where the focus is on creativity, human interaction and deepening the imagination.

With technology though has also come information. Technology however has its benefits, knowledge is power, parents have read, researched and found their way through the modern ‘packaged childhood’ presented to us by huge corporate companies and have found their way to understanding how they want to live and how they want their child to experience the world, a much softer and gentler approach where academics can wait, where toys are quiet and imaginations are big...and these toys are beautiful, from forward thinking companies who look after their workers, pay fairly and create sustainable and environmentally friendly products which the world needs right now more than ever) obviously with all this comes a higher cost, which some parents cannot afford.

Waldorf Education itself strives to deepen the childs connection with the natural world and many of the toys you see in Kindergartens are not from expensive stores but from nature. Open ended ’loose parts’ as they are now known provide opportunity for play which a ‘mass manufactured’ toy simply cannot...the potential of a pine cone that can be a gnome, a tree. A shell that can become a plate, a phone, a boat. Stones become mountains and a basket of plums, pieces of wood become bridges, caves and bread. The only limit to these toys is the imagination of the child. The child chooses an item, and using their own deep thinking incorporates it into play, bringing other children into their world creating magic which as adults we can only touch upon.

I remember watching the children’s film ‘Hook’ a little while ago with my eldest two, I don't know if you have seen it? the scene where all the lost boys are sitting down for a feast with Robin Williams, for him to be perplexed at where it all was, when he found his inner child he was greeted with the most spectacular feast you could imagine. Open ended items are the food for the child's imagination and these simple items in their playspace can replace almost everything else they play with.