What Are Waldorf Toys?

At Bella Luna Toys, we take pride in the fact that our company was the very first online source for Waldorf toys and supplies. Since 2002, we have been in the business of providing high-quality toys with an emphasis on Waldorf toys. But for those new to the world of Waldorf, you may ask, what exactly makes a toy a Waldorf toy?

Nourishing to the Senses

Since families have become more eco-conscious in recent years, toymakers are producing many more eco-friendly and natural toys to meet the increasing demand. But Waldorf schools, which originated in the 1920’s, have always provided children with toys made of natural materials, such as wood, silk, wool and cotton. 

Yes, these kinds of toys are good for the environment, but most importantly, they are good for children! Sensory experiences in early childhood are vital, so one important hallmark of a “Waldorf toy” is that it be nourishing to a young child’s senses. For example, when a young child cuddles a Waldorf doll stuffed with wool and lavender, covered in cotton with a head of soft mohair, the softness and comfort of this doll will have a calming and soothing effect on a young child. 

Nourishing to the Senses:  | Image of child holding a simple Waldorf Doll

Beautiful to Behold

Waldorf toys should also be beautiful to behold, because sight is as important as touch. We want to nurture children in a beautiful environment and their playthings should be beautiful as well. By surrounding children with beauty, we are not only contributing to their sense of wellbeing (or “sense of life,” as Rudolf Steiner referred to it), but also developing their aesthetic awareness and appreciation. 

Toys that are made from natural materials, with rich, natural colors, and that are lovingly handcrafted are inviting, and contribute to a child’s “sense of life.” A child is likely to feel reverence for a beautiful handcrafted toy and care for it accordingly. As Plato so eloquently recognized, “the most effective kind of education is that a child should play amongst lovely things.” 

Inspiring the Imagination

Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf education, suggested that children’s playthings should be largely unformed in order to stimulate a child’s imagination. What does this mean? Waldorf toys are often simple, without a lot of detail. 

Waldorf teachers believe that toys should be simple and open-ended. Baskets of tree branches, play silks, stones, pinecones and shells all can be transformed into a myriad of objects. During a typical morning in a Waldorf kindergarten, one would likely see shells becoming money; wooden blocks becoming food; a small piece of tree branch becoming a telephone; silks becoming skirts and veils; and so on. By giving children objects that are not highly formed and detailed, they can easily become more than one thing, and give children’s imaginations free reign. 

Inspiring the Imagination | Image of rainbow colored wooden toys  by Grimms

If you are familiar with a Waldorf doll, you no doubt have noticed that such dolls have minimal facial features, and sometimes no faces at all! As is the case with most aspects of Waldorf education, the reason is not arbitrary. Waldorf dolls have minimal or no faces in order to encourage the imagination of the young child—to cultivate her “inner picturing” abilities. 

Children want to imitate real life. Real babies smile and laugh, but they also look sad or cry when they are hungry or need changing. If a doll has just two eyes, and a suggestion of a mouth, the child is more easily able to imagine this baby expressing a range of emotions, living richly in her imaginative life. For the same reason, Waldorf puppets have only the barest suggestion of faces.

Imitation: Play is a Child’s Work and Toys Are Their Tools 

Children naturally want to imitate adults and their daily activities. As people who incorporate the Waldorf principles through education and parenting, we strive to be adults “worthy of imitation” and bring consciousness to our gestures as we engage in the daily tasks of living, such as cooking and cleaning. Knowing that children will imitate our activities we attempt to work in an unhurried and careful way.

Bringing consciousness to one’s daily activities at home, and providing children with child-sized versions of household items such as a play kitchen, wooden play dishes, and tools such as a broom, or dustpan and brush will allow children to fully engage in their imaginative imitation of daily life, and build real life skills as well.

One of the guiding principles for us at Bella Luna Toys, as we help people choose toys, is that it is not about “good toys” vs. “bad toys.” Rather, it’s about bringing new consciousness to selecting children’s playthings. Is it beautiful? Does it feel good? Does it leave room for the imagination? Will it inspire imitative play? If you can answer yes to these questions, you will be providing your child with all the tools needed for years of healthy play! 

Have a question about Waldorf toys? What are your favorites? Bella Luna Toys is always  expanding its inventory, and we’d love to hear your ideas!