You know the feeling. It keeps you up at night, making grand plans while scrolling Pinterest. It means you get excited every time your phone buzzes with a Facebook notification. What is it? Why, you’ve just discovered Waldorf, and you Must. Buy. All. The. Things.
We’ve all been there. Drooling over those beautifully organized, naturally light playroom with all the blond wood and wool rugs. I had a slight advantage in that I lived and worked in a Waldorf community in my early twenties. I always knew that I’d have Waldorf kids so I skipped the first stage of buy-it-all-itis, where you realize you have so many plastic toys and not enough wood. Please don’t order the entire Grimm’s catalog just yet.
Before we get to toys, remember that Waldorf is an actual educational philosophy, not just an aesthetic. Do your homework. See if your library has Seven Times the Sun, Beyond the Rainbow Bridge, Heaven on Earth, You Are Your Child’s First Teacher or Simplicity Parenting. Read them and buy the ones that you really need and will refer to. Use Bookfinder to track down the best price.
Now to toys! First, don’t throw out all your old toys right away. I actually think this is kind of mean to the kids involved. Chances are they have real emotional connections to their toys. Taking them all away at once is like informing them all of a sudden that they’re no longer allowed to see a beloved playmate. Start small by removing all the batteries from the noise-making toys. Take a deep breath and enjoy the quiet! Next, simplify. Your children don’t need fifty cars or twenty dolls. Pick a few favorites, involving the kids in this process if possible. If you have storage space, now is a good time to institute a toy and book rotation schedule. Choose a few seasonally-appropriate items or the ones they play with daily and put away the rest. At this point, you can begin to slowly get rid of or donate extras. Do it gradually, choosing items your kids haven’t asked for in a while (read how one family did it here). I usually wait 6 months before I donate the toys they haven’t played with, just in case.
Next, before you buy a single thing, consider your schedule. Are you going outside enough? Kids who spend more time outside need fewer toys inside. Here is when you can make your first big purchases–appropriate clothes and shoes. Remember that favorite phrase of forest schools, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes.” I have a few items that I really love, like the Tuffo Muddy Buddy and Kamik rain boots for the spring and fall. Ben can get as wet and messy as he likes without destroying his clothes. I also bought a snowsuit from Oakiwear. When it comes to clothes for inclement weather, shop off season. Our snowsuit usually costs $105, but with a summer sale and a coupon code, I got it for under $40 shipped. I can’t tell you how victorious I felt! I also love consignment shopping, and I recently got Peter some Kamik snow boots for $10. Keep consignment stores in mind when you try to buy clothes with natural fibers, too. My big tip with this one is go to stores in more affluent neighborhoods. You’ll be shocked by the treasures you’ll find! Don’t forget Facebook groups, either. Chances are that there’s a group for most of the organic brands you’d like to buy (by the way, the same tips apply to finding non-plastic plates and cups!).
Are you ready to start buying toys? Nope, not yet! Ask yourself what you can make. Hand kites, play silks, play dough, simple dolls, and bean bags are all pretty easy to do on your own. And okay, you can buy a subscription to Happy Hedgehog Post! We are a great avenue for teaching yourself some of the classic Waldorf crafts. You and your children might learn how to needle or wet felt or how to make small stuffed figures through our service. Your kids will love to play with toys they had a hand in making.
Once you’ve gotten yourself outside and learned how to make a few items, you are ready to buy some toys. But be careful; don’t go nuts! When Ben was born, I had to have the Grimm’s rainbow stacker, and I needed it now. It didn’t matter that the baby was drooling in his bassinet, months away from being able to sit up; I needed that stacker! And the Plan Toys tree. And a Waldorf doll. And every animal Holztiger ever made. I got them all. And while I don’t regret it because they are all so well-made, I could have considered what was developmentally appropriate a little more carefully and held out on some of my purchases. I also encourage you to buy used goods whenever possible. Be patient. Set up Google search alerts, and don’t buy everything at once. For new toys, be aware of group buys. There are offers on Happy Hedgehog Post and Friends all the time. Waldorf Life Marketplace is another wonderful resource. Don’t be afraid to put up in search of (ISO) posts; people in these groups have tons of stuff that they’re looking to rehome.
Next, consider your big-ticket items. We are getting into play kitchen, play stand territory here. My first piece of advice would be to skip the play stand and buy some silks and clips instead (I just scored six used ones for $15.75!). See if your kids are interested and ready for imaginative work before you make such an investment. You will also probably want a wood kitchen. These don’t come cheap, and if you can find a used one, absolutely go that route. Where I live, however, there aren’t many families like mine and so Craigslist searches are usually not very fruitful. I suggest following Elves & Angels on Facebook. From time to time, they have giveaways and prototype sales. We got our kitchen through one such sale at a pretty significant discount. By the way, I sold a baby carrier to fund this purchase. I always try to sell something before I buy something. My other bit of learned wisdom regarding the kitchen is don’t go overboard with the accessories. I bought some IKEA pots and pans (DO buy these; they are cheap and very well-made) and we got a few plates and food sets for Christmas, and we’re happy. Some people would continue to buy every food ever made. I have to tell you, though: it’s just not necessary and it overwhelms your children.
Also, Amazon Wish Lists allow you to add products from any online shop. I always keep a list of potential family gifts up-to-date. The boys have received many of their nicer toys this way, and relatives are grateful because most people have no clue what they should buy for my little hippie children. Again, I beseech you not to go crazy– remember that Waldorf is supposed to be about imagination, not consumerism.
Let me boil it all down for you:
1. Don’t replace all your old toys at once. A gradual change is kinder to both your children and your wallet.
2. Go outside more; shop less. Invest in weather appropriate clothes, and try to shop off-season, in consignment stores, or on Facebook groups.
3. Learn how to make toys. Use eBay, Facebook groups, and local garage sale sites to defray costs of items you can’t make yourself. You don’t need to buy everything at once. Make sure that purchases are developmentally appropriate and open-ended.
4. Ask yourself if you really need that big ticket item. If you do, try to buy used or on sale. Keep reminding yourself that you don’t need every coordinating accessory. Less is more!
5. Support small businesses. Take advantage of discounts and sales. Get grandma and grandpa to buy a few things off your Amazon Wish List!
6. Don’t go crazy.
7. Don’t go crazy.
8. Don’t go crazy.
Remember that toys are great, but kids are also wonderful improvisers. Let them use their imaginations. My last point may be a bit controversial, but I want you to really look at your reasons for purchasing. Are you buying these beautiful, expensive toys because they will last forever, are made humanely, and don’t harbor harmful chemicals? That’s great! As a business that sells such items, we at Happy Hedgehog Post obviously want you to buy our stuff, and we are proud to offer quality products. Still, think about your spending. Are your purchases fueled by consumerism and a need to be different and look good to the neighbors? I wish I could say that my motives are always pure, but sometimes they aren’t. I will keep reminding myself that more than anything else, my kids need my time, not things.
But seriously, how beautiful is that rainbow stacker??
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