Since Joshi was a few months old we’ve been to a few Steiner playgroup sessions. Unfortunately we’ve missed so many of them because either he or both of us have been asleep or something else has made it impossible for us to leave on time. You can’t rush a six month old on the potty you know. They’re in the present moment and you can’t hurry poofection.
Anyway, the ones we’ve made it to have been great. It’s not just about the kids having fun; the parents get to do some craft and learn about some cool stuff too. At the end of last week’s Steiner session the teacher gave us a handout about toys and play. I found the ideas interesting and fun. It suggests that the most appropriate toys for kids in the early years are simple and open-ended, toys which stimulate your child’s imagination. For example, a beautiful curved piece of wood could be used by your child in play as a mobile phone or a bridge, etc. It also suggested choosing toys which are made from natural materials, such as wood, rubber, wool, cotton, silk and metal, ie. non-toxic toys which give your child a variety of sensory experiences. I love it. I immediately resonated with it all.
Of course there’s also the child’s age to consider. For Joshi’s age group (toddlerhood to 3 years), suggested toys include ‘home environments’ such as “little kitchen sets, dishes, tables and chairs that can be moved around to create houses, large cloths and dress-up clothes, large wooden puzzles that have beautiful pictures underneath single pieces, a few shaped animals and some simple musical instruments such as pentatonic chimes.” The emphasis is really on providing toys which are identifiable yet beautiful during the years when your child is learning what Steiner refers to as ‘thingness’. The toys at our Steiner playgroup really are beautiful. When you enter the room it feels as if you’re entering a sacred yet playful space. You definitely won’t find any plastic toys there, nor anything that needs batteries or a power point. I love it. In fact that afternoon I got home and packed away all the plastic toys which I’ve allowed to creep into the house. I’ll be dropping them into Vinnies soon.
Anyway, when I read about creating ‘home environments’ I was really keen to get stuck in. You see, this is one of the parts of mammahood I’ve been really looking forward to – making little ‘houses’ that we can hang out in. And now that it’s winter and raining and Joshi’s 13 months old … well, it’s the perfect thing to do.
So yesterday after I cleared all the dry clothes off our indoors clothes line, I spontaneously thought to throw a pink and blue sari over the top of it (as you can probably guess I’m really not interested in sparing pink for girls and blue for boys). Joshi just loved it. He was so excited. There didn’t even need to be anything inside it. He ran inside, stood next to me, eyes wide and squealing with delight, ran out and then immediately ran back in again. It was such a hit that I decided to build another bigger house in the living room. We spent much of the afternoon going in and out of it between doing housework, cooking and meditation. After we had tea in there Joshi unpacked one of the kitchen drawers and put the utensils in his new house. Then he’d run into it and stand there very, very quietly until I found him. More very loud squeals and laughing.
Of course all of this means that our living room is in chaos, but the fun far outweighs that. Having a child has turned our home from a very orderly and tidy environment into a colour-filled playground. Thank you Joshi for all the colour you bring into our lives. And thank you Steiner for the very cool ideas.
Now I just need to find a little non-toxic, non-plastic tea set. Anyone got any suggestions?