Play Materials
updated July 22, 2016

How to De-Mainstream

Yes, people who have plastic and battery-powered toys really do take them all out overnight and change things over to the Waldorf way, with woven baskets of shells and pinecones and stones. I've done it. You simply say, "Oh! The toy fairies have come!!" And the kids are so excited!! They rarely ask where their old things have gone. If so, you can say they are put aside for another time.

Kim John Payne offers some wisdom on this. His explanations are precisely put and calmly logical. This is from Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids He has a ten point checklist on "toys without staying power." Here it is, in brief:


  • 1. broken toys
  • 2. developmentally inappropriate toys
  • 3. conceptually "fixed" toys - detailed molded plastic characters from movies, comic books, or television shows
  • 4. toys that do too much or break too easily
  • 5. very high-stimulation toys - flashing lights, mechanical voices, sound effects
  • 6. annoying or offensive toys
  • 7. toys that claim to give your child a developmental edge
  • 8. toys you are pressured to buy
  • 9. toys that inspire corrosive play - play that isn't joyous or pleasant
  • 10. toy multiples - reduce many versions or copies of the same toy to a more manageable and lovable little group

Hope this helps. It's a great book and I highly recommend it as a read for a spouse or grandparents who are trying to understand this new approach!

Supporting Self-directed Play in Steiner/Waldorf Early Childhood Education by Renate Long-Breipohl
available as a FREE download from the Online Waldorf Library -- a phenomenal resource!

Write a note in your planbook when you introduce a new play material. Here are some suggestions:

FREE Pattern for a Simple Knit Chicken for Beginners
blog post - Wee Folk Art

FREE Knit & Crochet Patterns for Play Kitchen Foods
blog post - Switzerite (this is my blog)

FREE How to Make Waldorf-Inspired Nature Blocks Tutorial
blog post - Adventure in a Box
I bought our Cherry Tree Blocks but I'm going to make Zac's by hand.

FREE Child-Size Ironing Board Tutorial
blog post - Duo Fiberworks
One thing we did spend a lot of money on was our beautiful Elves and Angels wooden play kitchen.

How to Hand-Dye Waldorf Playsilks
blog post - Waldorf Moms

Of course, if you prefer to buy playsilks, go for it! This year is the first time I've tried to dye my own.
I was always too intimidated to before, to be honest. I like the Etsy store Beneath the Rowan Tree.

FREE DIY Dyed Rainbow "Grimm" Style Wooden Blocks Tutorial
easy instructions from Fun at Home with Kids (early childhood - creative play)

FREE Pattern for Miniature Waldorf-Style Bunting Doll
The Silver Penny

FREE Pattern for Easy-to-Sew Multicolored Felt Ball
The Silver Penny

Sew some simple Beanbags with Streamers
blog post - Acorn Pies
(So fun! For some reason streamers always make beanbags look like they are going REALLY fast!)

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

In short, follow Earthways. Carol Petrash won't lead you astray. I think your play essentials are:

since you can't have a wooden play kitchen in your situation, I suggest a quilted tabletop mat with "stove burners"

wooden, felt, or knitted/crocheted play foods

baskets of nature materials such as pinecones and shells

baskets of "magic wool" (colored wool roving)

a Waldorf bunting doll or two

some little gnomes (sewn of felt and stuffed with wool - Earthways, pp.82-83)

wooden tree blocks (as we talked about, you can make these yourself simply by drying fallen branches in your car trunk in the heat of summer for a few weeks, cutting them to length with the bark on, and sanding and finishing the ends with a beeswax finish)

colored play silks or dyed pieces of cheesecloth

felt finger puppets (patterns and puppetry ideas in Around the World with Finger Puppet Animals)

some knitted animals (with you and Jamie just learning how to knit, these will be super fun to make together -- I put a knitting book suggestion on his list)

Homemade Playstands
blog post - Growing Roots and Wings

Madison Waldorf School Kindergarten classroom

Wasatch Charter School Kindergarten classroom

Homeschooling with Waldorf
blog post - The Wonder of Childhood

Waldorf Play Rooms
blog post - Moon to Moon

Shopping List

Whether you prefer to make your own toys, or buy them, or some of each, is completely up to you!

quilted tabletop kitchen mat - you said you knew a quilter who may make this for you

wooden, felt, or knitted/crocheted play foods - you said that you already have wooden play foods
when you learn to knit, you may find that you want to make some easy patterns!

baskets of nature materials - you said these will be easy to gather
I got our shells at a craft store, like Hobby Lobby, and it's not expensive to get a big bag

baskets of "magic wool"
a great source that isn't too expensive is Paper Scissors Stone

a Waldorf bunting doll

little felt gnomes - these are SO easy to sew that they are one of the first sewing patterns I give to kids!
I recommend if you think you and the kids will be making craft projects out of felt that you go ahead and buy a collection of colors. I use, and love, the 56 color assortment from Magic Cabin

wooden tree blocks - if do you make your own, or any other wooden toys, you'll want Clapham's Beeswax Salad Bowl Finish - it is safe for little ones to put in their mouths

colored play silks - I have bought A LOT of these over the years and have a clear favorite! - I have found the most beautiful colors and the best quality at Beneath the Rowan Tree, an Etsy store

felt finger puppets - again, you can use your wool felt for this
I am happy to sew some felt gnomes and finger puppets for you, if you'd like to buy them from me, but I also encourage you and Jamie to dive in and try it! Handwork is extremely soothing and develops a wide variety of skills

knitted animals - as you and Jamie learn to knit, stuffed animals are the first projects
I suggest wool yarn for the snuggly factor and because it is slightly stretchy and easy to knit with
I'll give you patterns as you learn!

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