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The Minimalist Waldorf Baby

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*Most* Waldorf moms now have read Kim Payne’s books, Simplicity Parenting and Soul of Discipline and if you HAVEN’T, I couldn’t recommend them more. This post won’t be a cliff notes version, but consider it a personal testament to their wonder.

I have mentioned previously that I went from living in 680sqft with 3 bedrooms to 1280sqft with 3 bedrooms and 1.5 bath, to now about 800sqft with 2 bedrooms and a tiny little bathroom….and if there’s anything in the world that makes you want to buy ALL the stuff, it’s a new baby. Most women can relate to the feeling that all things teeny tiny are adorable to us, but especially so in pastels. Cheers to any fellow parents who have ever gone broke in Carter’s.

But we needn’t. After all, though babies have cognition, they don’t have adequate memory retention until around age 3, and so no child will ever claim that as a 6mo they were disappointed to learn that their parents could only ever afford used clothes or that they didn’t have copious amounts of toys littering the common living space. I’m not saying don’t do well for your child, but I AM implying that perhaps we go a little overboard. Ask yourself- when was the last time you bought yourself a new shirt, and would it be organic cotton from Hanna Andersson.

And so, in an attempt to share the joy of my newly found simplicity, I thought I’d share our list of necessities that I’ve compiled as the mother of 3 children, a Waldorf homeschooler, and a madwomen living in an itty bitty apartment.

1. Clothes. This seems like an obvious one, but what wasn’t so obvious to me is how sleep deprivation a) makes you not give a toss as to whether or not your baby is fashionable or matching and b) saps the mental energy of coordinating outfits and the energy of keeping them free of vomit. The solution? Get about 10-14 footed pjs and rompers. I suggest the footed pjs over the rompers because they have feet and no person ever under the age of 1 is willing or capable of maintaining those ridiculously tiny socks, and there’s no sense in feeding the laundry demons at $1/pair. I suggest cotton because it breathes and I suggest getting some onesies to layer them. Most of them in the smaller sizes have the little mitts on them so your baby doesn’t claw you like a newborn cat (and you’re not feeding the laundry demons), and do yourself a favor and get the kind with zippers because 1 billion tiny snaps at a 2am changing feels like Chinese water torture. If you live in a cold climate, make sure you also get a sweater or two. You’ll also need some cotton hats, about a dozen. Of course, if you have a baby like my second child, you may need more than this because some babies are tiny volcanos, and simply cannot keep anything INSIDE them. As your baby learns to eat finger foods, you might want to get some bibs or just strip them when they eat. Burp cloths are also helpful, but around here, we just make our washcloths do double duty most days. If you’re a social butterfly, go ahead and indulge in a couple cute coordinated outfits to show off the baby- but believe me when I say your baby could wear a sack and still be cute. *Footed pjs ARE ok for babywearing as long as they’re roomy and not pulling up on the toes.

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2. Blankets. Again, this amount largely depends on how much your child vomits, and you can always send someone to the store for more items if you discover you need more after the baby’s birth, but you should have about a half dozen receiving blankets and about 2 heavier baby blankets like small quilts. If your baby is sleeping in a cosleeper or another sleeping area that isn’t your bed, you’ll need about 4 fitted sheets. I also prefer cotton for bedding because it breathes, and I am head over heals in love with Aiden and Anais cotton gauze blankets. Target now carries 4 packs of similar quality blankets for half the price.

3. Diapering accessories. I don’t care if you put your kid in brand new $22 cloth diapers, biodegradable organic disposables or cheap diapers from Walmart, you will need a LOT. Cloth diaper estimates vary greatly depending on the age of your baby and how often you wash, and I feel more comfortable urging parents to do that investigation on a separate cloth diapering site. We washed every day and had two dozen newborn diapers. If you’re cloth diapering, you’ll also want to consider getting a diaper sprayer, a wet sack, and even a separate wet bag for travel. For wipes I used baby wash clothes from the dollar store and put them in a jar with Dr. Bronners baby liquid castile and water. I’ve also used disposables and organic wipes, and good deals are available on Amazon and at Babies R Us. Emily’s diaper cream claims to be cloth diaper friendly but I wouldn’t risk it, and though it’s superior, it’s also pricey, so if you’re not worried about gluten, I recommend Burt’s Bees. Sometimes corn starch is also helpful, but I’ve yet to use it with any success.

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4. Some gear. This will also depend on your location, but what I’ve found helpful is a stroller system (the infant carseat that snaps onto a folding stroller), two types of baby carriers (a woven wrap for long carries, and a soft structured carrier, a Mei Tai, for quick jaunts into the store- or a REALLY good carrier like an Ergo), a playyard for when baby starts to crawl out of the cosleeper, the cosleeper (or crib), and a bumbo. This seems like a lot, but they all serve their purpose. Babywearing mom’s DO use their strollers- sometimes we don’t want to wake up a sleeping traveling baby, or sometimes we want a break. I have found the woven wrap extremely helpful for when baby is sick or fussy, and when I want to do housework without the little one under foot. I also have been saved by a dreaded baby swing, which I have a very conflicted relationship with, and I don’t usually recommend it. Some mother’s swear by them, others wouldn’t ever indulge. I’m a single mother 4 days out of the week, so the baby swing has saved everyone many tears. I also own a bumbo so baby can practice baby lead weaning in a child appropriate seat. I don’t believe in high chairs because I think it’s lunacy to put a baby 3-4 feet in the air in a tiny tower chair and expect them to be safe. The closer your baby is to the floor, the safer they are, but you still need to supervise your baby in a bumbo so they don’t smack their head going backwards. Also, a night light is very helpful for late night changes. By now you’ve noticed a substantial lack of baby gear at our house and that is intentional- baby gear is bad for babies’ development AND their bodies. Instead, childproof your home with outlet plugs, baby gates if necessary, bolt your furniture down, and use doorhandle guards or locks. A freeroaming baby is an independent one. If you’re minimalist, there is little baby can get into.

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5. Stuff to wash your baby. For us, this didn’t mean anything until baby outgrew our sink and we don’t have a tub, so we bought her a little baby tub and a detachable showerhead to fill it up and wash her hair. If I had been in my old place, I would have just filled up the tub a little or sat in it with her, and used an old cup. Some people like to get baby wash cloths and baby towels but they’re not really helpful. If you like to use chemical soap on yourself, I suggest something milder for baby, and if you have an ashy baby, you’ll want some coconut oil or baby lotion. On the subject of baby toiletries, you’ll want a finger toothbrush for when teeth erupt, baby nail clippers, and a nasal aspirator for stuffy noses.

6. Medicine. Don’t be caught in the night with a screaming baby and a fever that is out of control. Studies are warning against using Tylenol on babies, but when your baby spikes a fever at 2am and needs a boost halfway between doses of Motrin, you’ll reach for the Tylenol. So have both on hand if you will, or the natural alternative. Also get a thermometer, and baby vicks (I diy from Wellness Mama’s recipe). Anything more than that and you need to consult a doctor. I personally chose to also get an amber teething necklace, because I believe that it aids in suppressing teething symptoms. Make sure you buy them from a reputable place and make sure they’re a safe size. We also have topical arnica on hand for bumps and bruises and some first aid items like antibacterial ointment and bandaids. I’ve also used colloidal silver and garlic oil for ear infections on my other children, but most breastfed babies do not experience them. I do not use teething remedies, as many have been recalled, and I have not used tylenol on my baby because I am skeptical of it’s safety, but I have not needed either. Make the choices that are right for your family. Something I have used and also found helpful is a humidifier, but they are not a necessity.

7. Mama items. You’ll want post partum items like breastpads (I strongly recommend washable bamboo, hemp, or flannel), post partum pads, something to sooth your lady bits like witch hazel, some belly balm, something for your nipples like coconut oil or lanolin, pain relief medicine, and Lanisoh gel coolies (they go in your bra). Bra’s are helpful if you’re well endowed, and Target has decent wireless nursing bras for under $20. As my baby has matured, I’ve switched to shelf lined camis, and I pull up my shirt and pull down my cami, so my belly isn’t exposed. I also recommend getting some new yoga pants. At some point the ones you wore during pregnancy will be too stretched out and since you will live in them, you owe it to yourself to get some new ones. I also really liked having a rice pack for aching shoulders and low back. (you can put rice in a clean sock and heat it in the microwave if you don’t have an electric hot pack)

play yard

8. A small backpack. I recommend this over a diaper bag because it actually stays on your shoulders. Most of them have water bottle holders, which you’re going to want because you’ll be thirsty all the time. Don’t overload it, but make sure you pack snacks for YOU.

9. Later baby items. As my baby has matured, I’ve found it helpful to have a few items such as a silicone teething necklace to wear while I’m babywearing, a carseat cover for cold weather (it goes over the carseat like a shower cap), baby leggins (for crawling and hiked up pants from babywearing), a few toys like teething rings, play silks, rattles, and balls all in a cloth basket, and a flash drive for photos. I have also really enjoyed having a rocking chair and a mobile, but they’re not necessities.

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10. Ten healthy meal ideas that can be made in 30min or less or can be prepared by other household members. This sounds like an afterthought but don’t let it be. Some ideas include: black bean burgers with a side (think salad or a vege), Dr. McDougall’s corn chowder, Happy Herbivore’s Chick’n pot pie over noodles or rice, spaghetti, breakfast (tofu scramble with toast and fruit, oatmeal with add-ins, waffles with sides, etc.), grilled daiya cheese sandwiches and Imagine tomato soup, stir fry, chickpea tacos, beans and rice with a side, giant loaded salads, baked/microwaved potato with steamed broccoli and daiya cheese, etc. If you can get 10-15 meal ideas to rotate over the month of cheap inexpensive staples you can keep on hand with minimal trips to the grocery store, you’ll conserve a LOT of energy.

cookbooks

*I did not include feeding accessories here because some women choose to breastfeed and some choose not to or cannot. If you breastfeed, you should consider having at least one bottle or cup on hand, and perhaps a breast pump and storage cooler for milk, depending on whether or not you’ll be pumping at work. Though I stay at home, I have a pump for when I leave baby with daddy. If you are not breastfeeding, you will want to look into different types of formula and bottles. I’d recommend about 4-6 bottles, and contrary to popular belief, they do not need to be sterilized.

Skills to gain:

  1. Research babywearing and learn about babywearing types and safety. Here’s the link to Babywearing International.
  2. Research baby lead weaning and learn baby first aid. Here’s the link to Baby Led Weaning.
  3. If breastfeeding, find a lactation consultant BEFORE your baby is born and get the LLL book.
  4. Learn about appropriate baby milestones such as sleep habits, feeding habits, and developmental milestones by reading books such as The Baby Whisperer or What to Expect.
  5. Research baby care from a medicinal standpoint and know your options involving dental care, vaccines, medicine, etc.
  6. Compile a list of activities that will encourage you to practice self care such as making time to read, nap, or get out of the house.

Recommended Fall Reading for Waldorf Kids

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Ahhh fall. The perfect time to snuggle up with some hot cider, a blanket, and a good story. Literacy and story telling are a huge part of our family life, and we both keep books in the home AND visit the library often. Having greatly minimized my son’s books, we’ve been slowly collecting prize-worthy titles, in the form of rewards and gifts.

I got a few of these title names from The Magic Onions, a blog on family Waldorf homeschooling, and I couldn’t recommend them more as a resource. I also did some independent research, but what I have found is that the library is going to be the best resource because few blogs actually discuss the content of the books in relation to age and comprehension.

Here I am. To do that for you! (just a little…)

Now, I’m aware that most Waldorf kids don’t learn how to read until a little bit later, but my son is 3.5 and reading 3 letter words. He also enjoys being read to. But…he’s 3. He doesn’t like to sit too long for involved stories. That is why I recommend Autumn by Gerad Muller, Pumpkin Pumpkin by Jeanne Titherington, and Every Autumn Comes the Bear by Jim Arnosky.

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This first book, Autumn, is for the child and parent to narrate and storytell together. It shows a variety of children participating in numerous fall and outdoor activities.

The second and third books, Pumpkin Pumpkin and Every Autumn Comes the Bear have one line per page and the story line is not complex. Pumpkin Pumpkin is about a boy who grows, picks, and carves his pumpkin. Every Autumn Comes the Bear is about a bear’s journey to transition into fall and winter. It discusses in basic terms how the bear is in nature with other animals and the environment.

The next book is one my son really likes, but the story line is a little more complex and the wording is lengthy. I wouldn’t typically recommend it for a child who was younger than 5. I think 6-7 would be a more appropriate age for this reading content. The title is The Apple Cake by Nienke Van Hichtum and it’s about a woman who makes a series of barters to eventually get apples to make a cake. Each trade enhances the person’s life substantially, and upon return to her home, she’s rewarded by the happiness of the good she has done in her community and her apple cake.

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The titles Wild Child by Lynn Plourde and Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert have amazing illustrations. Wild Child is a metaphorical story about mother nature putting her autumn child to sleep. The story is rhythmic and compelling, but because it is abstract, it would be too complex for a child under age 7-8. The same is true of Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf, which is about how a child grew his maple tree. The story seems simple enough, but it’s full of facts that are intangible to the intellect of a small child, such as how shoots are gathered by greenhouse workers, and the back is full of tree-harvesting and growing facts. IMG_20141003_155152733

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Lastly, Christopher’s Harvest Time by Elsa Beskow is a beloved and favorite work and author, but the story line is very drawn out, complex, and wordy. The illustrations are also muted and detailed. This is definitely a title for children aged 8 or above, as are most of Beskow’s works. However, this is not to dismiss the story line or heirloom quality graphics.

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Spring Banners

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I love Tibetan prayer flags. But they’re against my faith. So, the children and I decided that we would make spring banners instead to liven up the house.

I started by doing some ombre washes with watercolor on stiff watercolor paper, one for each color of the spectrum. Its very easy- you simply wet the paper, and brushing side to side down the page, you push a concentrated mark of color all the way down to the bottom. Watercolor washes are pretty basic. You can even add more than one color, pushing the lines into eachother.

Since my children are eight years apart, they had to have very different “assignments”. My two year old doesn’t exactly have his own ideas and my nine year old is “perpetually bored” which, in Waldorf terms,Β  is growing intellectually and hasn’t figured out how to manipulate her newest phase of development. The best play for this type of dilema with both ages is rote participation- laundry, dishes, housekeeping, cooking, etc. But occassional, I tire of such a thing, and want to create art, and that is how this project was born.

For my two year old, the assignments were structured on color learning and garden basics. Both children are participating in our potting outside. For my nine year old, hers was a bit more complex, but focused on spring and gardening. Here is each assignment:

For the two year old:

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Handprint tulip

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Garden of fruits- the 9yo drew the fruits he wanted and he colored them, along with his rainbow.

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Collage earth

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Ladybug- he colored the ladybug and glued on her spots

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Dandelions- he loved gluing these in place

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Fingerprint drawings- spots on the mushroom, fingerprint caterpillar, and flower

Each print was accompanied by counting, learning colors, attempted cutting, and a story.

For the nine year old:

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The spring fairy

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Fingerprint mushroom, etc.

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Garden design

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Garden gnome

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Red things on the farm (in spanish)

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Coastal creatures

These things were actually projects that she suggested with very little input, so I’m proud that she was able to come up with her own ideas, even though they weren’t completely cohesive. I let her follow her own interest, and she researches things weekly at the library that she finds stimulating.

We strung each banner up in the kitchen area using yarn. Each print has to be tied individually to prevent it from sliding down on the string. We knotted it carefully.

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Spring itself is a celebration here on the homestead, but helping children understand the changing seasons is the very beginning of being aware of the world around them. And they don’t look too shabby in our kitchen either πŸ˜›

DIY Waldorf Nature Table

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A nature table is a diorama made to reflect seasonal changes. It’s used by Waldorf method curriculum to help children learn about their natural environment and to understand the abstract concept of time. This nature table that I made shows wild flowers that we collected together outside, “spring” animals, such as the bunny, duck, and *currently chewed* chickadee, our felted egg and spring fairy, and a felted nest. The background watercolor is a stylized depiction of a classic spring story called The Root Children, and the fabric is a silky hijab (most people use small play-silks, but I have a gajillion hijabs, which happen to be the right size…).

The lessons to be learned here are copious. Eggs have beings inside of them. Animals nest- even bunnies. Animals make their appearance after long winters, in the spring. Spring flowers are different than summer flowers, and turn into fruit or leaves. Budding nature is in a muted pastel pallet. Buds emerge from the earth…and so on and so forth. The fact that the diorama is interactive and friendly to exploratory hands (i.e. can be played with) seems almost crucial.

I decided early on that I wanted OUR nature table to be interactive. I’ve read some perverse posts on other sites in which mother’s keep them out of reach to little hands. To me this defeats the purpose. Children gather information with all of their senses, not just their intellect, so why rob them of the opportunity? We keep ours in the common area to avoid mishaps with spills or things being put in mouths *ahem* like chickadees. My most chuckling apologies to the person that I told that my son was past the age of putting things in his mouth. Hello, molars.

I originally saw this nature table on another site for much more than I could afford, and I’ve secretly been plotting ever since on how to hack it.

nature table

Beautiful, right? Gah, the coveting. This is why you should never ever ever shop online at Waldorf stores. Unless your husband is a neurosurgeon. Or Channing Tatum. If your husband is Channing, you’d probably HAVE to shop at Waldorf stores…all the TIME. Because you’d have a million children. Handsome children. I digress.

So, anyway, being the sculptor that I am, I was like- Why can’t I make this out of cardboard? It doesn’t HAVE to be chintzy. I began with a box, and cut it to be like this:

IMG_6713Then I drew a curve and cut the sides. I used the first cutout to trace the same curve on the other side. I used scissors, but a utility or Exacto knife would work.

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Then I drew a tree design on one side, cut it out, and used the pieces to trace another design on the other side using an Exacto knife.

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Ok, that step was a little easier said than done. But its worth it. It looks AWESOME.

Then I painted the whole thing. I mixed white and a little bit of brown acrylic. I think a high-gloss household paint would work too. Don’t use tempera paint- it will be too wet. There’s a pleasant side effect to SOME warp that happens with the paint- it causes the sides to bow a bit, which looks really groovy.

IMG_6719Then I hot-glued these weird little plastic hook things on that I found in my toolbox, but you can get fancy one’s at the hardware store or one of the big-box stores.

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I added a hijab that I tied into bunches with string. Hijabs are Islamic veils for women, and generally cost about $5-7, and are exactly the same size and material as “play silks”, coming in a wider variety of colors and prints. I get mine at Alhannah.com.

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The pink one was nice, but it felt too gender bias. The green also better reflects the color pallet outside.

Then I made a watercolor of my stylized depiction of root children. I *could* have color photocopied a page, but I didn’t want it to be exact, I wanted it to be my interpretation. Granted, I am NOT a 2D artist, I’m a sculptor, but it’s not terrible. If you don’t like your own artwork and don’t want to photocopy things, have your kids make a backdrop.

IMG_6751We gathered wildflowers from outside during our playtime and put them in an old babyfood jar.

IMG_6742I added some carved Ostheimer figures.

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And I added a nest and fairy egg (because what is springtime without eggs?!).

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TADAH!!!!!!!

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For more information on how to construct a nature table and seasonal activities, I suggest:

  • Seven Times the Sun: Guiding your Child Through the Rhythms of the Day by Shea Darian
  • Earthways: Simple Environmental Activities for Young Children by Carol Petrash
  • All Year Round (Festivals and the Seasons) by Ann Druitt
  • The Children’s Year: Seasonal Crafts and Clothes by Stephanie Cooper
  • A Child’s Seasonal Treasury by Betty Jones

And other books:

  • Beyond the Rainbow Bridge: Nurturing Our Children from Birth to Seven by Barbara Patterson
  • Toymaking with Children by Freya Jaffke

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Carving Ostheimer figures: An art lesson with Ms. Kate

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These are called Ostheimer figures. They’re wooden figures designed for play by children to help make real world connections and for imaginative play. Sometimes they are animals, sometimes they are people or characters from folk tales. Most of them originate from Germany, as it is a German tradition. They are very expensive.

How expensive? This set right there would be around $60.

Well, there’s more to money when it comes to the value of Ostheimer figures. They are heirloom quality toys that are often passed on through generations. They are pretty impervious to destruction as well.

I said to my mother, “Gosh, I’d love to get Abe some Ostheimer figures, but they’re so expensive!” To which my Irish-German-born mother replied, “Well, see, those types of things used to be made by grandfathers. Grandfathers would whittle them as a treat.”

Ah. Leave it to my mother to get my creative juices flowing. But she is absolutely right. In olden days back in old country, they didn’t have mass-produced wooden figures made from scroll or band-saws. They had toys made from hand tools. I prefer hand tools actually, and never was able to articulate it until I read a book by Ianto Evans called The Hand Sculpted House, in which he describes the difference in rhythm and spirituality felt by working with hand tools instead of scary, noisy, and very dangerous electric tools that literally seem to vibrate the brain.

I thought this a perfect lesson to pass on, as I recently figured it out myself. My concentration for my BFA was in sculpture and ceramics, so I have quite the history of working with hand tools and wood. I thought I would start carving Ostheimer figures for my son and it turned out to be quite easy.

First you’re going to need to gather some hand tools. I recommend a utility blade with a NEW blade or a sharpened pocket knife, a hack-saw (any hand-saw will do, but this one has a fine blade), and a couple of grades of sandpaper (meaning medium, fine, and extra fine). For finishing, you’ll also need a small chunk of pure beeswax and a rag, and some high-quality watercolors. You may also want gloves if you’re accident prone.

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Now- I have to tell you, these are the tools that *I* prefer. You may want to pick up some other hand tools like wood chisels or linoleum print chisels. I do not prefer wood chisels because you then have to place your item in a sandbag and hit the chisel with a mallet. This is very difficult on small figures and I wouldn’t recommend it AT ALL if you’re working on something smaller than your hand. The chisels often need to be sharpened as well. For lino print chisels, they’re ok, but often not sharp enough. You can get wood-print chisels, which may be even more successful than a blade in some instances- BUT! They are EXTREMELY sharp, and you are more likely to cut yourself. I’m an experienced printmaker and even I abstain from using them (they go through gloves!). Here are some examples of each that I would recommend.

lino carving box

lino carving inside

woodcarving tools

Wood-print carving tools

Next, find a small piece of wood. I began with a stick. I recommend a soft wood like white pine, but if you haven’t any pine if your neighborhood, you may be able to get a small piece at your hardware store. The hack saw comes in hand if you see a stick that you like that is too big. Get a fallen limb- it should be dried out and not “green”. If it comes off the tree, it will be too full of sap. If its from the ground on a rainy day, bring it inside and don’t work on it until it’s fully dry.

I recommend that you start with a bird because they’re easiest. In Toymaking with Children, the author makes an excellent point- if you start out with a stick that is close to the shape you want, it is easier. For birds, I recommend a wide “V” shaped stick.

Now, the reductive process is one of it’s own- most people are used to the additive process, ie, adding things to what they’re making, such as building a dollhouse or piecing a quilt. Whittling is completely different because you’re creating a form by taking away. You will have better luck concentrating on one part at once, rather than working all around the figure, but everyone works in a different way. I began with the face. The beak and head are the hardest part of the bird, and if you completely mess them up and need to start over, you haven’t invested all of the time required for the body.

It’s also helpful to Google a few pictures. Sometimes I Google real images, sometimes stylized images, and sometimes I go back to the link above and look at actual Ostheimer figures.

Once you have your figure carved, it may look a bit like this.

chickadee raw

Sand it down, starting with a medium grit, and work until you get to a fine grit. The surface may have digs or marks on it, but this is about practice, not perfection. The beauty of the wood WILL show through, which is even more meaningful since these figures are made to help children make real-life connections. This item is made of wood, with love, from hands and blade. It has knots and veins in it because its made from the remnants of a living tree, which grows from the earth.

Next you can watercolor it. I prefer hard watercolor when I work, but many prefer liquid. I like the watercolor because the wood absorbs it, making it less prone to chipping, and because the colors are muted. I kept away from detail and made it simple to encourage imagination, and I abstained from including eyes for reasons of my Islamic faith. Start with the lightest colors FIRST. Add darker after, and if you want to accent grooves or transitions between limbs, you can add a bit of dark brown or black around the edges. You can see where this is evident in the ears of my rabbit. Make sure it dries well.

Lastly, you’ll want to coat it with beeswax. The method I recommend is something that is actually used in stone carving technique. Simply use the solid beeswax to rub all over the figure. Then take a rag and rub it in evenly. You may prefer more than one coat. Every so often you may prefer to put a new coat of wax on the toy to protect it from wear.

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beeswax bottom

The smell of fresh white pine and pure beeswax is intoxicating and beautiful.

For the next challenges, experiment. I tried a duck (easier said than done!) and then a rabbit. Each figure is up to interpretation.

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chickadee side

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duck side

duck bottom

rabbit side

rabbit back (2)

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rabbit front

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DIY Waldorf. For poor people.

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Ok, so maybe that’s not pc. We’re not called “poor people”. Maybe financially challenged. Maybe “ascribing to the poverty bracket”.

We’re perpetually broke. Welcome to parenting, right?

That is not the point of this post. The point of this post, actually, is to empower people to practice Waldorf on their own without inhibitions.

Of course, I’m being vague. A quick search of Ostheimer toys, Stockmar liquid watercolors, play silks, Waldorf playstands, birthday rings, Waldorf dolls, and anything felted will have you walking away thinking that you might need to take out a student loan just to pay for your child’s homeschooling. Think again.

I’ve done some research of Waldorf education and values, and here are the principals that I thought I’d highlight today:

  • Children learn through play and exploration
  • Sensory stimulation is both a form of play and education
  • Imagination is integral to learning and developing as a whole human being
  • Children learn life skills through working alongside us and pretending to do “real life” work
  • Television and advertising are naturally toxic for children and rob them of their imagination
  • Toys bought at most stores are based on entertaining a child, rather than allowing them to entertain themselves
  • Routine is crucial
  • Music IS math
  • Self-esteem is not built through praise, but subtle recognition and independence
  • Children have natural problem solving skills
  • A non-moving body is a poorly one
  • Ritual gives children a sense of order in a world based on the abstract concept of time which they do not understand

And I think that’s enough mind-blowing for today HA!

That being said, please, by all means, read all of these books which I gleaned FOR FREE from my library, which participates in the inter-library loan system:

IMG_6645 They are Seven Times the Sun, Toymaking with Children, Beyond the Rainbow Bridge, Well I Wonder, and Nature for the Very Young.

That is the first step to Waldorf, pobre style. Your library is your biggest asset. The minimalist in me reminds us that WE are not meant to be libraries, hoarding away books in our home that we only glance at every now and again- that is what libraries and sharing is for. Let’s share our books, and take notes if necessary.

Children’s books are necessary too, and you can also get them at the library.

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The second step is to never ever ever order a Waldorf catalog unless your husband is a neurosurgeon. You will cry at the beauty and break out your credit cards. Just kidding. The second step forward is to make things.

Unhealthy consumerist behavior aside, Toymaking With Children will exemplify that you should MAKE your children’s toys. This is the very ESSENCE of Waldorf- making with your children or around them (sometimes they’re too young, like mine). Think of the difference in lessons between your child receiving a $99 Ostheimer nativity set vs them watching you whittle it from branches in the back yard. This is a piece of old fabric that I dyed with liquid watercolors to make a rainbow silk. Look how it livens up the raw backyard!

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What if you’re not crafty? Learn. After all, these are lifeskills, and if you don’t learn, how are you going to teach your children? If they are grown, learn alongside them. You have nothing to be afraid of except failure- and failure helps us LEARN and GROW! What a great opportunity to realize how human you are and to teach your kids how to dust themselves off and get up again…

The third is to think objectively about what you need. This is a chipped pottery dish that I foraged at a thrift shop, along with these shells. For children, baskets (which are in abundance at most yard sales and thrift shops) full of feathers, stones (which you can even paint), shells, sea glass, interesting sticks, and other things from nature are integral to play, and lead to many imaginative games.

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Art is a must. It’s part of our daily activities. But I have a tiny apartment, and was really concerned about where I would put it. SO I used some twine and some pushpins to put up some lines in the kitchen.

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Notice everyone has their own little line because mom makes art alongside them.

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I don’t have fancy watercolor supplies, but I do have two artists boards, masking tape to tape the edges of watercolor paper (to prevent warping when wet), and watercolors. The kids didn’t notice…

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Speaking of which, here is the gluten free play dough I made for “baking”.

The other thing I have mentioned is that we can’t exactly follow some of the ritualistic aspects of Waldorf as far as the songs and such are concerned. I found some great songs on youtube by Dawud Wharnsby Ali, and this is a watercolor with the verses on it, which I have hung in our art area. It helps both me and my oldest to begin remembering the words, so that eventually, rather than all singing and dancing along, we can play it independently. I’m currently looking to buy a duff, an Islamic drum. We have shakers and such right now. I’ve collected quite a few neat little instruments for the kids. But if I hadn’t, I would have made some.

And my absolute favorite DIY Waldorf would be our “playstand”. I live in a 720sqft apartment with 2 children. Even if we could afford Waldorf playstands, I’m not sure where I’d put them. I always have allowed the kids to build tents in the common areas with various old sheets and tapestries, but the rainbow silk I made is nice because it lets more light in. Even better, when the day is done, helping the children understand that it’s cleanup time is easier. On days we don’t make our tent, the kitchen and washer/dryer toys are readily accessible in their usual stations.

IMG_6616Yep. That’s our entire livingroom.

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Our tv entertainment center is an old bureau, and I can’t keep the dvd player and such on this shelf because my son is Mr. Destructo, so instead, I let him keep household toys there.

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Indoor clothes racks are both collapsible and cheaper.

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If you use the couch, you’ve got an upstairs. This is Abe’s “room” where he is eating pizza.

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Of course, there’s his babies.

Well, and aside from following along with Toymaking with Children to problem solve making Waldorf dolls and carved figures, that’s really the basics! I’ll continue to touch more on the subject as we go along!

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A great spring toy for little ones, and learning about felt

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It is spring in Maine. As I have mentioned before, I have been reading a lot about Waldorf homeschooling my son to help educate him and tame his wild two year old behavior. After delving into minimalism for quite some time, we’ve gotten rid of all the toxic belongings in our home, and have started replacing them with more wholesome items. We have both time and space for crafting and imaginative play.

The problem with blending my Islamic faith and Waldorf practices is that Muslims are strict monotheists- that is, we believe in only one God. This means that anything that mimics another faith in spiritual practice is prohibited, especially if it’s a non-monotheistic practice.

Understanding the pagan roots in holidays like Easter and Christmas are an everyday part of our faith. In a lot of ways, it is like the Seventh Day Adventists, and other strict Christian sects. The reason this butts heads with Waldorf method is because of the ritualistic recognition of the seasons and the creation of chantings, songs, and alters through ritualistic practice. It’s borderline earth-worship.

Well, we’ve had no problem getting rid of those because they’re not a part of our everyday life, but what is left?

Symbolism and nature are left, my dear, and I’ve no issue with those.

We’ve kept our five daily prayers, which leave us with a pretty heavy sense of schedule and ritual, and I’ve added some nasheeds for us to sing by Dawud Wharnsby Ali (lovely videos online of course). Combined with playtime and art, it’s a full day.

So naturally, I am crafting up a storm to make my son some quality toys. I happened upon this blog from a genius mama, who had all sorts of suggestions. And I bootlegged her project for my son πŸ™‚ The link is here.

I am so new to felting that it’s not even funny. Why? Because I have ethical issues with wool. But, this wool was my mother’s, and it’s from local Maine, so I’ve naively allowed myself to think that these sheep are probably treated well by some small farmer. Ethical issues are a tricky one with veganism. On the one hand, you don’t want your kid playing with plastic and crap, but on the other hand, your natural fibers are wool, hemp, and cotton, and let’s face it- a great deal of natural child’s playthings are made from wool because it’s more useful. You can literally shape it into anything.

I should mention that I did not add a button to this one because my son cannot do buttons yet, and has had a bit of a time just putting the baby in and out of the egg. Someone mentioned on my last post about choking hazard, which is a legitimate concern if your child is still putting things in their mouth, and if that is the case, you could simply use a felted small animal to put inside, or even the original stone egg.

Without further adieu, here are the pics!

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