Ask Kytka Achives, November 11, 1999
Q. I Want My Child’s Room to be More “Waldorf”. How Have You Come Away from and Dealt with Mainstream Plastic Toys?
A. Well, thinking back, I never had them to begin with…. with the exception of well meaning gifts of plastic. (Horribly ugly sesame street things, and a few plastic rattles… which conveniently became lost and left in grocery store shopping carts, and the like…)
I did help my sister, and 2 friends by suggesting they go cold turkey and with great success.
With great planning, invite a visitor to come to the house. This visitor will know what to do ahead of time (with some planning and discussion in advance.) The mother and children leave the house and the visitor stays, pretending to be taking a nap, or staying over to work in the garden…
While they are gone, have the visitor LITERALLY empty out their whole room of the toys! Of course, if they did have a “favorite” that they would be absolutely traumatized without, have the children took it with them…)
Have the visitor remodel and transform the room. Ideas: hang silks, set up a play stands (or a make-shift play stand) corner, little seasonal table, a few of the new and improved wooden toys, blocks, costumes, baskets of stones, pinecones, etc…in the room. In other words, LITERALLY re-decorate, completely. When you return with the children, have the visitor greet you; “Oh my goodness… you missed it! I was just napping when I heard a noise and went to see what it was. As I walked towards your room, I saw the most wonderful sight I have ever seen!! The magical toy fairy came and created magic in your room!!! Hurry, come and see!”
If they don’t look excited at this point… and this NEVER happened to me, my guess would be to continue to play up the “magic” and “wonder” of it all drawing attention to the special little hiding places, baskets, shiny stones or whatever. This method worked for me, every time… and being the magical toy fairy who left with 3-4 large garbage bags in the back of the car full of that plastic junk… I felt great. For those of you wondering what I did with it, it all went to the Salvation Army.
The secret is, if “you” are not responsible…. and a fairy (or elf, or gnome) did it… then it MUST be best! Children never question when magic is afoot!
“Last summer my parents lived with us for a couple of months, and we had all the toys (back then they were all plastic) in the garage for those few months. My kids didn’t suffer at all, they played kitchen with my pots and pans, they made tents behind the couch, Emma would get out a ‘family’ of forks and play pretend with them for hours. There are so many beautiful wooden “Waldorfy” toys available, it’s easy to get sucked into thinking your children need them all, but they really don’t. The article on Kytka’s site about getting rid of plastic says to replace it with silks, natural objects such as stones, pinecones, etc. and a “few” well chosen wooden toys. That’s what we did with our girls room, and they play so much better now without all the clutter.” ~Rachel
For us the secret is simply to not let ANY toy advertising into our lives. Then my children (and most importantly ME) are not being swayed by a culture that demands (even with quality toys) that MORE is better and that there are toys that are NECESSARY when there aren’t any toys my child NEEDS.
In general I’ve stuck with the toys detailed in Toymaking with Children, and other craft books like Earthways so that my children can be involved in their creation. If we can’t make it they don’t need it.
Of course there are exceptions, we have a small amount of wooden train track and magnetic coupling train cars, my son (9) collects lego and zome tool, my daughter 2.5 has some little cloth dolls in a zippered Earth ball that she loves, and a few stuffed animals that were given as gifts but we’re really unapologetic about our lifestyle and gifts from relatives are usually in keeping with our values (my mom gets great books and organic clothes for the kids, my in-laws make toys – my father-in-law is a cabinetmaker and my mother-in-law is a professional knitter, My sister-in-law makes clothes for the kids – she’s a designer, my sisters and brother take the kids to cultural events.) I know we’re blessed to have family that respects us and our values, and feels empowered through their own lifestyles to accommodate us. ~Kerr
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