Last year I was at a Waldorf conference and many of the mothers in attendance (me included!) had the same concern: "But Waldorf toys are so expensive!" The lecturer nodded in an understanding way and then offered his response that waldorf toys are actually not expensive at all. He said if a mother wished to spend a hundred dollars or more on a single doll, well that is just fine because it will surely be a beautiful doll and will keep a craftsperson in business, and it is much preferable to a mass-manufactured doll full of synthetic materials and made by machine, but that it is much "more waldorf" (his words) to sew a simple rag doll right at home. We all heaved a collective sigh of relief at that point, except for the moms who said they don't sew. "Well, go ahead and learn then," the teacher said. "There are books written to teach eight-year-olds how to sew a doll. There's nothing wrong with using a book for children." He went on to warn us all against getting too caught up in the "accoutrements" of waldorf, and against perfectionism in general. Good stuff that I am still thinking about today, almost a year later. Here are a few other waldorf-y toys that *can* be very expensive, but don't have to be:
The much-lauded playsilks can be made at home easily, using scarves from Dharma Trading Company (about $2 apiece) and Kool-Aid or food coloring. It is as easy as can be, and the benefit is two-fold: there is the fun of dying the silks as a family activity, and then you have the silks to play with for years.
As for those $300 playstands being sold on-line? Well I won't knock 'em because they are wonderful toys and well worth the money, but we simply didn't have the money so we made our own for about $40. And Josh is no handy-man by any stretch. But looking at the design you can just tell it isn't rocket science. And it wasn't!
I don't think I've ever been to a thrift store that didn't have a good supply of wicker baskets to be had for a song (la-la-la!) We use them for playing and for toy storage. Hand-crafted ones are great of course, but if you can't afford it you can't afford it. These have a similar look and are recycled, which I think is a nice lesson for Ivo. Okay for all of us!
Okay, well these are really expensive . . .
Just kidding! Ivo plays with this kind of stuff all the time. free, free, free!
Some of these blocks were purchased as a set, imported from Poland no less (why? why? why?!) And some were cut from a tree branch that fell into our yard. Guess if Ivo cares which ones cost $40 and which ones were free?
This is not meant to demean the beautiful Waldorf toys available online and through catalogs (and at a shop nearby if you are lucky). I have a true appreciation for fine craftsmanship and the skill that goes into making wooden toys and natural fiber toys. And while many are out of my price range I certainly would not say they are "overpriced" at all. But if you can't afford it, simply don't have the money, period, there is no reason to feel bad about it. We have our creativity and a world of natural materials to be had for the taking. Children don't need much-- a lot of times the gift is in what you aren't giving them rather than what you are. ("less is more" is a common theme in designing Waldorf play spaces). Even lovingly hand-crafted toys can contribute to consumerism if you feel you or your child will somehow be more complete if you can purchase them. Here's what I try to do: window shop, find ideas, purchase things that I really feel are a good value for our family (and I don't mean cheap, I mean a good value for our family!) and with the rest, just "make do": create it ourselves, find it used, or just put it out of my mind and move in another direction. And with the winter holidays coming I think I may need to post that on my refrigerator as a reminder.
I have more thoughts on this, but for another day--this is getting really long and if you've read this to the end, then thank you! You're too kind :)