The Importance of Free Play
More and more parents understand the importance of free, unstructured play for children. However, in our highly structured and driven society, they are working against the grain, in a way. These families have to work extra hard to maintain their values and navigate away from the overuse of screens and electronic toys that take away all the wonder.
At first, if your child is not used to free, unstructured play, it can be difficult for them to sink into something joyful and absorbing. In some ways, it requires a “detox” from the toys and distractions of our modern world. Many popular toys for children today involve electronics: these toys beep, buzz, flash, and talk. On the surface, they seem very exciting and engaging, but one quickly realizes that they lack deeply nourishing engagement with wonder and creativity. Furthermore, they become a source of frustration because they easily break, or the batteries die quickly. They can also be quite disturbing to the nervous system of the child. These toys can overload the senses with sounds and visuals. And let’s not forget the disturbance to the nervous systems of those in the room (like stressed out moms)!
Free play should involve simplicity in order to reap the most rewards. Our recommendation is to simplify the play space and prepare it for maximum wonder.
Children get overwhelmed with too many choices. It is best to leave out five creative toy sets, like building blocks, train sets, Lego, animal figurines, and barnyard playsets, and have them organized into easy-to-access storage containers. You can rotate other toys into the mix every few months and take some out.
Bringing a toy into the mix they haven’t seen for a while; is like receiving a new toy.
Once you create the beautiful, organized, simple play space, and you’re ready to have your child sink into some unstructured, free play, set the bar low if they aren’t used to playing alone—plan for 30-45min for your child to settle into the space. Then, you can be nearby doing your own work but not engaging or playing with your child.
Once your children see that you are happily engaged in your work nearby, they will begin to settle. If they are used to calling for you, you can respond with clear and straightforward boundaries like, “Right now, I’m over here doing my work.” If they wish for a toy that is no longer available, you can respond simply with, “These are the toys you have today.”
Being clear on what your goals are for your child can help you maintain the firm boundaries this transition time will require. If your child once relied on electronic toys and video games to provide wonder and creativity without any work on the child’s part, your child may experience some discomfort as they shift to a new kind of play. This is ok! It is to be expected. We agree that reclaiming a childhood rich with wonder and full of imagination is what the world needs most and is well worth the struggle to get there.
It will be so much more enjoyable for everyone in the long run!
Children learn new routines by repetition. Therefore, it is best to set aside the same amount of time each day for a month, and you will see a difference in your child’s ability to enjoy the wonder and creativity of free play.
Easter & Spring Activities
Spring is such a time of renewal and comes with a burst of energy. Seasonal celebrations give you a point of focus when choosing stories, crafts and activities to do as a family. Celebrations such as Easter offer a beautiful annual rhythm, something that your child looks forward to re-engaging with each year. It's a special experience to choose activities that become family traditions.
This poem by Kate L. Brown, is one of our favourites. We've used it as a verse and a dramatization where children act it out, pretending they are the seed.
In the heart of a seed,
Buried deep, so deep,
A dear little plant
Lay fast asleep.
'Wake,' said the sun,
'And creep to the light.'
'Wake,' said the voice
Of the raindrops bright.
The little plant heard,
And it rose to see
What the wonderful
Outside world might be.
The Easter Bunny
A charming, simple story about how the Easter Bunny learned how to deliver eggs can be found here. This website has really great resources on further ways to celebrate the seasons, ways to bring Waldorf into the home, etc.
The Little Brown Bulb
Here is an example of a sweet little puppet show that's perfect for Spring!
Little Brown Bulb
For this game, the child curls up on a ball and you cover them with a blanket (a nice, heavy one that blocks light really gives an idea of what it is like to be underground! Then you say:
A Little Brown Bulb lay asleep in the ground (hands resting on child's back)
And there she slept very sound (caress the back)
While Old King Winter raged and roared overhead (walk fingers like spiders over the child's back)
The Little Brown Bulb did not stir in her bed (rest hands)
Then came Lady Spring tip toeing over the lea (tip toe fingers)
Fingers to lips as quiet as can be (whisper)
The Little Brown Bulb lifted her head (child lifts head)
She slipped off her nightie and jumped out of bed! (child lifts the blanket and jumps up!)
This song can be played while lying down on the floor/ grass/etc. As the song indicates, once you wake up you hop about!
See the little bunnies sleeping until noon
Shall I wake them with a merry tune?
Oh so still.....are they ill?...
Wake up little bunnies, hop hop hop!
Wake up little bunnies, hop hop hop!
Natural dyed eggs are usually a 2 day project. To prepare, collect leaves and flowers, and secure them to the eggs using panty hose or cheese cloth (they work best when freshly picked, as maleable and moist sticks best to the eggs). After they have sat in the dye, the wrapping is removed revealing the beautiful stamp of the chosen flower or leaf.
If you're not so keen on the chemicals in store-bought Easter egg dye, try these nine all-natural options. Each features a colouring agent — a vegetable, fruit juice, or spice — that gives colour to hard-boiled eggs.
Spring is a time to observe growth and life, and what better way to pass the days than seeing a baby bean grow right before your eyes? Here is a really easy, visual way to teach children about root systems.
Five year olds might also like to hear the story of Jack and the Beanstalk.
Paper Seed Bombs
This is another multi step craft that is easy to execute and very rewarding. If you have any old seeds handy, this is the perfect way to use them! Perhaps you can plant to make them as gifts for friends and family, as a way of looking forward to seeing your loved ones again. Turn old paper into some super cool seed balls! This easy science activity and craft are perfect for Earth Day or a unit on gardening or plants and seeds!
Spring Butterfly Wands
Seasonal crafts are a beautiful way to celebrate the season and to bring the season into our home. This little butterfly wand would be beautiful on a seasonal nature table or used as a little prop when storytelling. This tutorial is for parents to learn from and then bring to their children. We recommend this craft for children aged 9 and up.
With thanks and credit to Lucia Perez from the Comox Valley Waldorf School.
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