Discovering Waldorf – ‘Playscapes for Imaginative Play’

Please enjoy a Discovering Waldorf post from the archives…

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I welcome Lori from Beneath The Rowan Tree to Discovering Waldorf today. Lori is an exceptionally talented needle-felter with a hugely successful Etsy shop. I adore her creations! Her topic for discussion is the needle felted playscape.

Last Christmas, I said to K that I would needle felt for her anything her heart desired for her gift. She thought for a moment and then said, and these were her words… she’d like “a little green meadow with a hollowed out tree stump for her animals to play in, a pond, a flower garden, a few toadstool and, very important, stepping stones.” As usual, she knew exactly what she wanted! I had been thinking of making her a playscape for ages and was so excited to get started. I have to say that I enjoyed making it immensely.

K was utterly delighted with her ‘Magical Meadow’ on Christmas morning and has played with it just about every single day since. I am so excited to share Lori’s post with you!
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Playscapes for Imaginative Play by Lori

Felted Waldorf play mat

Not everyone knows what a playscape is, what a playstand is for or what a playsilk does. The word ‘play‘ isn’t always a giveaway ~ so dependent have we become on toys that direct the child that we find it hard to trust that our children will know just what to do with these alternative toys!

These toys, arising out of the Waldorf educational philosophy, are intentionally open ended, simple and made with natural materials. They are created to nurture the wonder of the early years of childhood by allowing children to move smoothly into the world of play and imagination while determining, for themselves, the course and nature of that play.

felted hedgehog waldorf inspired playscape for imaginative play
Most mainstream toys limit a child by determining how the child shall play through their built in cause and effect types of features (push the button, it makes a sound). While cause and effect is an important skill, it doesn’t leave much to the imagination, nor does it allow the child to practice problem solving or to live out their rich inner life! Not to mention that
Felted gnome playscape plastic (aside from environmental and health concerns) is cold and lifeless.

Natural toys warm in a child’s hands. You can easily explain the cycle from sheep to wool to toy and connect the child with the earth and the ideas of inter-connectedness and sustainability. They allow the child to lead the play and move freely through their imaginative ideas. They are wide open space instead of a cattle chute!needle fleted playscape Waldorf inspired

I wanted to take a moment for the playscape~ essentially a play mat, an environment for natural play. Most playscapes are felted (wet and needle felting OR processed wool felt) and made of wool and other natural fibers.

They provide a scene or setting for the child’s play. They also provide lots of open space for that play to unfold. Popular themes are fairy, gnome and folk tale based. Natural environments being Waldorf needle felted play matmost common: farm, seaside, forest and more. Sizes vary, as does scale. They can be populated with many simple things~ acorns, stones, crystals, bendy dolls, natural found items.

We love to create playscapes and many other natural toys at Beneath the Rowan Tree, as do a number of other members of the Etsy Natural Kids Street Team ( and use handmade search term ‘Naturalkids team’).

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Thank you, Lori… your words make me want to play like a child! Have a look through Lori’s beautiful shop to see her gorgeous creations. Lori also writes a lovely blog, also called Beneath The Rowan Tree with lots of lovely waldorf ideas and tutorials.
Thanks for the inspiration, Lori.

Here are other articles in the Discovering Waldorf Series.

Blessings and magic,


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8 Responses

  1. These are such inspiring, beautiful creations and it’s hard to believe that any imagination of any person at any age wouldn’t be sparked by playscapes like these. It’s also lovely to be able to read about the artist’s own thoughts on this kind of work. What a magical sort of person Lori must be.

  2. Love love LOVE your beautiful ideas here. My daughters made fairy houses last year and I’m kicking myself that we didn’t take photos. Well, this entry has made me decide we’ll just have to make them AGAIN! Thank you for the inspiration!

  3. Last night at our semi-regular crafting night we made a felted playscape which I feel very lucky to have been able to take home with me – looking forward to helping make another one next week for another mom to take home – the are magical to make, look at and play with!

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