Discovering Waldorf – ‘Boys and their Toys’

I am honored to welcome Rick Tan back to Discovering Waldorf.

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Boys and their Toys by Rick Tan

In my childhood, growing up with four younger brothers, no sisters, a good day meant spilling a box of Legos onto the living room rug. They crashed down with the sound that only perfectly molded plastic bricks and doodads could make! The sight of them, glistening in fiery red, hazard yellow, and royal blue, opened up our world to all sorts of possibilities. We would reach into the pile, scatter them about, and begin assembling, brick by brick, click by click, some feat of engineering marvel. Invariably, they became cars designed for crashing into one another. They sprouted wings and became airships. They gained handles and became swords. They grew eyes, fangs, and antennae, becoming alien creature robots.

I cannot remember if those bricks ever sprouted petals and became pretty flowers! Maybe if I had a sister, she would have made one. Boys and girls, men and women, we are drawn to different things. It is joyful to celebrate gender differences. Like the yin and yang, polarities bring harmony. We often do play with different things, or perhaps more accurately, we engage in play differently.

Boys and girls will play in the sandbox, enjoying the warm sand, sharing the shovels and buckets, but at the end of recess, Jasmine would have made a fairy garden decorated with acorns, Michael would have made a cave with a twig gate for his ogre army. Generalizations, exceptions, and political-correctness aside, it seems that our masculine and feminine natures are present and alive. The important thing is that we all respect each other, and be open to each other, allowing each to blossom freely and miraculously.

As a grown up with kids of my own, two boys and a girl, I and my wife strive for fostering a healthy balance of male and female activities in our children’s day. While my youngest son will wrestle with my oldest son, he will also let his sister dress him in a gnome hat and sing and dance together. Our little boy is the happiest guy I know!

A young child does not differentiate between masculine and feminine until around 8 or 9, or really until puberty at about 12. The gradual coming into male and female being follows a natural course in human development. Toys give the hands a way to interact with the world. With boys, encourage his imagination; let him play with toys that allow for creativity. Monitor the older ones, make sure the play acting associated with toys such as swords does not become too graphic or physical. A boy and his toys is all about a relationship that is unfolding, one where his will builds, and his spirit blossoms.

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Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and experience with us Rick. I have two children, a boy and a girl, and I am constantly amazed at the intrinsic difference between them. I enjoy the picture you painted of your son wrestling with his older brother and then dressing up as a night with his sister… that same old Waldorf idea of ‘a well-rounded child’ is what came to mind. How great for your son to feel comfortable in all rolls.
Rick has a super blog, full of Waldorf inspiration, called The Waldorf Way. It is a place of deep learning and reflection and I enjoy my daily visits immensely. Rick and his wife, Jennifer, also own a beautiful Etsy shop called Syrendell which is definitely worth a visit. It is pure enchantment.
Here are the other great posts in the Discovering Waldorf Series.
Thank you Rick, blessings and magic to you.


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8 Responses

  1. As our two year old was pointing at the trucks in the Nova catalog this morning, I remarked to my husband that Abraham really does like both “boy” and “girl” toys and that it is completely normal for a young child to show preference for both. He also loves to dress in pink and twirl around in a fairy skirt and then in the next moment will be digging in his sandbox with his backhoe.
    Such simple joys.

  2. I find myself in awe of the stark contrast in personalities between my boy and girl. I even wrote about it on my blog a few weeks ago! With all their intrinsic differences, I am equally awestruck by the many ways that they find to come together and balance each other in play.

  3. Thank you for such a wonderful post. Being surrounded by people who have never heard of Waldorf, there were some who looked at me a little strange because my 2nd son could engage in kitchen play for hours. After having my daughter, at least the questions stopped as to why we would have a play kitchen. I deffinately don’t feel it took away from his “boyness” and now that he is approaching his 8th year, his play has shiffted away from the kitchen, although he will still entertain his sister playing with it. :)

  4. I appreciate the honesty of childhood boy play described- sometimes I feel concerned that as mothers we want to ‘feminize’ the play of our boys and yet providing them a balance is what it is about. I appreciated the description of the masculine play here that honors the boys- but by way of open ended objects and play which allow the child to emerge with their own pictures and imaginations. Polarity brings balance- brilliant. Our girls need boy play, as much as our boys need girl play. Thank you.

  5. This post *so* resonates with me on many levels. My children, girls and boys, are homeschooled by their father. We are very aware of and like to honour “our masculine and feminine natures”. I’ve just posted on this topic on my blog and have quoted from Rick’s post here, with credit and links to both of your blogs. Thank you for sharing your honesty and perspective.

  6. And even among boys the way they view things is different. I have three boys. The two oldest have such varied interests. The one loves pirates, having his own garden, exploring nature – the other likes sports, reading books and sharks. Even my two year old is into Legos and rolling big words around in his mouth.

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