Discovering Waldorf – ‘The Kintted Toy’.

Please welcome Linda, from Natural Suburbia, as our Guest Blogger on Discovering Waldorf today. Linda is a superb knitter and spends many hours a day knitting delightful toys for her children and her Etsy shop. She has four sweet kids, all of whom are homeschooled. Linda’s homeschooling is Waldorf inspired and you have just to visit her blog to see what gorgeous little people she is raising. Please enjoy Linda’s post on ‘The Knitted Waldorf Toy’.
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The Knitted Waldorf Toy

The knitted toy plays a large role in a child’s play experience within Waldorf philosophy. There are so many knitted toys out there that are wonderfully made, but I think the ones that Waldorf families gravitate towards have certain subtle elements that encourage people to have these particular knitted toys in favour of others.

The knitted Waldorf toy is beautiful in its
simplicity. It is this simplicity that draws this type of toy into the consciousness of the child’s play. When we look at other toys that are available for children to play with, most are plastic and bright and have loud sounds emanating from them. Waldorf inspired thinking sees these types of toys as being over-stimulating. They might hold the attention of a child for a while but the child soon becomes over-stimulated and, thus, bored. As it usually has only one play purpose, when this has been fulfilled, it is no longer attractive to the child as all play possibilities have been exhausted.

A knitted Waldorf toy is not shiny or noisy. It has no sharp edges and has an almost organic sense to it. It is soft and natural and usually has a very simplified shape and appearance. I believe it is this gentleness that resonates with the heart of a child causing the child to want to experience this toy over and over again and hold it close. The knitted toy is open ended, meaning that it’s simple nature lends itself to so many play possibilities. It requires imagination and this is what makes it so attractive to children in so many different play scenarios.

The majority of toys have just one facial expression, usually a happy, smiling face, with large eyes and a smiling mouth. Knitted toys that are considered Waldorf, may have a very slight expression on their faces, two eyes and a mouth that is neither smiling nor sad and others that have no facial features at all. This allows the toy to exhibit whichever emotion the child may wish the toy to portray at that particular moment. The child’s imagination is free to change the toys emotions as the moment takes him. However, with a fixed expression of a smiling face, how could the toy ever be anything else…

The way a knitted toy is made is magic in itself too. The materials that are used to create knitted toys are a gift from the sheep. The transformation of fibre to yarn, yarn to delightfully knitted toy, is a wonderful journey that is lovely to watch. The wool from the sheep is sheared and cleaned, it is usually very soiled and greasy when the wool is sheered. The grease is a substance called Lanolin, which has many uses. After the wool has been cleaned it can either be hand carded to make it easier to work with, removing all the knots or it can be sent to a mill to convert all this lovely wool into roving that can easily be spun into yarn on a spinning wheel. If one would like to add a dye to the wool, it can either be dyed as a roving or as yarn after the yarn has been spun. The yarn is still in a skein at this point and is then wound into a ball that is ready to be knitted into a beautiful treasure for a child to play with.

A wonderful story that you could read to your child is ‘Pelle’s New Suit’ by Elsa Beskow… it follows the story of wool from the sheep to a completed item of clothing.

Here are some wonderful knitting books for knitted Waldorf toys:

A First Book of Knitting by Bonnie Gosse and Jill Allerton
Knitting for Childern A Second Book by Bonnie Gosse and Jill Allerton.

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Thank you Linda.
I know from watching my own children that it is the shiny, loud toys that are quickly discarded while the gentle, handmade toys are loved forever. I have often wondered if it is worth the extra expense to buy my children the more expensive handmade Waldorf toys. My conclusion is that I actually spend less if I buy heirloom toys as they will be played with far more often, last longer and even be handed down from child to child. Fewer, better made, heirloom toys are the way we have chosen to go.
Thank you to Linda for explaining the simple beauty of knitted toys. More of Linda’s adorable creations can be found in her Etsy shop, Mamma4Earth. Linda’s blog, Natural Suburbia, is inspirational. I so enjoy following the daily adventures of this sweet family. Pop in for a visit… you’ll be glad you did!
For other Waldorf inspired toys, have a look at the shops in the Natural Kids Store.
Thank you Linda and blessings and magic to all.


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12 Responses

  1. Such lovely creations. We are late to the entire Waldorf idea and I feel like it is perhaps too late. But I am taking bits and pieces of these ideas along with others and making “improvements” in our home and our family. Thank you Linda and Donni.

  2. Oh that was a wonderful, wonderful article from Linda. We own several of her knitted treasures and I honestly can say that they are my girls *very* favorite toys (that and the waldorf snuggle doll I made for them). Particularly Linda’s rabbits (Lily and Sadie) are the most beloved. The animals really do have a living quality about them. The wool warms to the touch of the child and the animals are smaller, which makes it easier for them to be handled, and to go with the children everywhere while not cluttering up the house. I knew my girls would take to Linda’s knitted animals, but I really had no idea how much they would love them. Lily and Sadie are the first ones they grab whenever we go somewhere and if they aren’t in the beds with them at night, an all out search begins! I can’t recommend them enough!

    And Ivy, it’s never too late for Waldorf…Begin right now (baby steps) and you’ll never regret it :D

  3. Thank you for another wonderful Waldorf post! The more I read about it, the more drawn to it I am. And I totally agree with everything Linda said. I find my home to be more peaceful and lovely when my children have quality toys to play with. Let’s allow their imaginations to work and their true spirits grow. I am heading to her blog and Etsy shop right now :)

  4. Linda does make such beautiful knitted toys. We’re lucky enough to have a couple in our home. It’s so true that the simple, well made toys hold a child’s interest much longer.

  5. I enjoyed this thoughtful posting so much. It showed a lot of insight into how young children play and what is truly important in a toy. Something I frequently think about when reading about Waldorf is boys….I think boys and girls do enjoy some of the same kinds of toys up to a certain point, but I have a seven year old and he is fascinated with robots, rockets, airplanes, and how things work. His “art” table is covered with wires and screws and the parts of broken electronics he has taken apart. Does his interest in science and engineering fit in at all in the Waldorf way? Thanks! love, Beth

  6. Thanks for all of your interesting comments. I am enjoying this series very much too. I am finding it lovely to see Waldorf philosophies through the eyes of other families. Seeing it ‘at work’ is inspiring. Thank you, Linda.

    Thanks for that question Beth. Yes… boys play does fit well into the Waldorf spectrum. I know what you mean… I have a little boy who has just spent the last 30 minutes throwing the little ‘bendaroo’ rocket ship his sister made for him, all over the house… that kind of play has never interested his sister. I’d love to do a post just on this… great idea. I think the Waldorf spin on this is to encourage all types of exploration but let it be child-driven. Instead of ‘teaching’ intricate mechanical relationships, let the boy discover them for himself… with parental involvement, encouragement and help, of course.

  7. Namaste Donnie,
    I tried to find your post about the documentary “Race to No Where” — I saw the movie last week and it was unsettling to say the least.
    Could you send me the link to your post – I would love to chit-chat about it. I would also like to know what happened to your Waldorf school.
    Last but not least – why do you think Waldorf education is so expensive – 10K for half day kindergarten!!!
    Look forward to hearing from you.

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