You

Steiner Dolls
Why The Difference?
There are so many different types of dolls available to choose from. However, there is one type of doll that
is different from any other ~ and there is a reason why. Connie Grawert explains the characteristics of
Steiner (aka Waldorf) dolls and why they are wonderful companions for children
You
or someone you know dolls are of any interest or value for the children whose doll is a part of who that
may send their child children of today at all.
child is. She says: “Through the doll the
to a Steiner kindergarten, preschool,
child finds its own self.” A special doll
family day care, play group or other ARE DOLLS RELEVANT
can be imbued with a spark of the child’s
early childhood setting inspired by TODAY?
soul; it can be a second “I”; faithful
Rudolf Steiner’s educational approach. If
For centuries children have played friend and playmate who accepts the
you have been in one of these settings, with dolls. Museums around the world child unconditionally or is the culprit
you probably noticed the dolls tucked exhibit the remnants of dolls; drawings when something is broken or lost.
carefully into a doll’s bed surrounded and paintings show children cradling a Eventually that part of the child which
by household toys, such as little plates doll; stories speak of children playing has been embedded in the doll will free
and cups. You may have noticed that with dolls. The Concise Oxford Dictionary itself and the child will be ready to put
the dolls look quite different to dolls one tells us that “a doll is a small model or the doll away. The child will generally
buys from toy stores and wondered why representation of a human figure used communicate this in some way, but until
they are so different.
as a child’s toy”. The key words are that time dolls play an important part in
In a Steiner kindergarten the dolls ‘representation (image), human and toy’. the life of the child.
are hand made out of fabric and shaped
A doll is a child’s toy that represents
The child develops a relationship to
into form with sheep’s wool stuffing. the Human Being; it is an image of the the dolls that he or she plays with. The
The hair is usually woollen yarn sewed Human Being. In her book, The Genius child becomes the mother or father
onto the head, and eyes and
of the doll, the sister or
‘The dolls that a child plays with take brother, the friend or foe,
mouth are indicated by a
on different personalities and roles: family
few stitches. Some dolls
the doctor or nurse,
member,
friend or companion. The doll can be the teacher and so on.
have arms and legs and
are beautifully dressed; bossy, frightened, friendly, “naughty”, sick or Children will often take
strong; the possibilities are infinite ’
other dolls for younger
comfort in their doll when
children may have head and trunk, and
they are feeling upset or insecure
the lower body disappears into a soft of Play, Sally Jenkinson observes that in an unfamiliar place. They may sleep
sleeping sack. From school to school the through the medium of the doll children with their doll and take it with them on
dolls vary in size and the way they are can rehearse events, recapture their fears outings.
made, but essentially they are simple, and worries, take risks and indulge in
In play children develop a sense of
well-made and hand-crafted with behaviours outside their usual scope in identity in role play with dolls. These
natural materials.
a safe way in which they have ultimate experiences are vital for all children.
These handmade dolls can be created control. The dolls that a child plays with Play is initiated and directed by the
to have skin tone, hair colour, clothing take on different personalities and roles: child; boys or girls guide the play in a
or significant features of people and family member, friend or companion. way that is meaningful and relevant for
cultures around the world, providing The doll can be bossy, frightened, them. For this reason, the benefit of dollchildren with opportunities to include friendly, ‘naughty’, sick or strong; the play is universal and not limited to girls.
these imaginatively in their play and possibilities are infinite.
daily activities.
In her book, Children at Play: PLASTIC DOLL, SOFT DOLL:
You may think these dolls are ‘old Preparation for Life, Heidi Britz- DOES IT MATTER?
fashioned’ and some may wonder if Crecelius tells many wonderful stories of
While doll manufacturers have
42 | www.nurtureparentingmagazine.com.au
focused on ‘authentic’ attributes such as
drinking, crying and wetting the nappy,
one can also focus on ‘authentic’/ natural
materials such as fabric, wool and cotton
for the doll. Children are very tactile;
touch is an important part of sensing
and experiencing the world. A doll made
of soft cotton, stuffed with wool fleece,
with strands of woollen hair and durable
cotton clothes appeals to the touch (and
smell) of the child. The softness of the
doll brings out ‘softness’ in the child to
cuddle, comfort and look after the doll.
The soft doll has a living warmth from
the use of ‘living’ materials from plants
(cotton) and animals (sheep or others
with fur), flexibility/responsiveness
and durability, whereas the plastic doll
feels cold, hard, rigid, synthetic and
unresponsive – anything but ‘authentic’
or representative of humanness.
It goes without saying that the
marketplace of business profits is happy
to promote violence and early sexuality
in the toys it sells for children. Some dolls
follow fashionable images with makeup, clothes and body that emphasise
sexuality. Many of the baby dolls have
either no hair or scratchy synthetic hair.
Dolls intended for boys often emphasise
violence and fighting with exaggerated
muscular bodies.
In Steiner early childhood settings
there are always soft dolls for the children
to play with. In order to stimulate the
imagination of the child, these dolls
have only an indication for features such
as eyes and mouth. In this way the child
is able to transform the doll using his or
her imagination, so that the doll can be
happy or sad, sick or tired, as the play
scenario unfolds. The child must be able
to use their own imagination to create
the play, rather than the toy dictating
the course of play because of the way
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India with her two Steiner dolls
Henry babywearing his Steiner doll
Taj with his Steiner Pixie
it is constructed. Taking the example of the
crying doll that cries whenever it is turned
or pressed in a certain way, one can see how
the play is pre-determined (not to mention
that crying is experienced as a mechanical,
entertaining feature of the doll). If the child
has a soft, simple doll, the child can take the
play in any direction.
Another feature of the dolls in Steiner
settings is that they are all hand-made. Not
only do educators and parents make the
dolls that the children play with, but there
are a number of initiatives in South America
(e.g. Q’ewar Project in Peru and Evi Project
in Brazil) and Asia (e.g. Dolls4Tibet) where
whole communities are involved in making
these types of dolls. Animal husbandry
for wool, spinning, dyeing, sewing and the
actual making of the dolls from the materials
produced, provides an income for struggling
third-world communities. (Refer to websites
such as OXFAM.) The children have an innate
sense of admiration and care for something
that has been carefully and lovingly made
by hand. It is as if they sense the effort and
care that has gone into the making, especially
when adults set the example by showing care
for these handmade dolls.
The dolls made of fabric are durable and
can be cleaned, repaired and maintained. In
the preschool where I taught, 2 of our dolls
were 20 years old. They were regularly played
with in a group with 20 children attending on
a daily basis. The children and I occasionally
gently washed the dolls with a damp soapy
cloth. During holiday periods I mended
Issy with her Steiner doll
the hair and clothes or sewed new ones.
Every few years a seam could be opened and
stuffing renewed. This was a great learning
experience for the children: toys can be
cared for, maintained and repaired, rather
than thrown away or replaced - an important
lesson in our consumer society.
If parents are interested in learning to
make dolls they can look for a Steiner school
or centre in their area where there is generally
a craft group or people who can teach dollmaking. There are also stores, markets and
websites where these dolls might be bought.
In the Bibliography are listed 2 books which
will help with doll-making, but to get started
a workshop is invaluable.
References
1. Britz-Crecelius, H. (1986) Children at
Play: Preparation for Life, Floris Books,
Edinburgh
2. Jenkinson, S. (2001) The Genius
of Play: Celebrating the Spirit of
Childhood, Hawthorn Press, Stroud, Gloucestershire
3. Jaffke, F. (1988) Toymaking with Children,
Floris Books, Edinburgh
4. Reinckens, S (1989) Making Dolls, Floris
Books, Edinburgh
Connie Grawert has been teaching
in Steiner early childhood education for
many years. She is currently a consultant
and provides support for Steiner Early
Childhood teachers and carers.
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Indoor Grand
Adventure
As the temperatures go down does your child still long for
excitement? Staying indoors is no reason to get the winter
doldrums. Even small children miss going outside and running
and playing. This activity will help your family find a grand
adventure in your own living room!
Ask your child whether he or she wishes to visit a cliff-y beach,
a bright coloured rainforest, an ancient castle, or a faraway
desert sand dune today. Chances are, at first, the child will look
at you like you are off your rocker! But you can explain that you
are going to create a beautiful adventure together!
Supplies:
• Gather all of your fluffy blankets, some kitchen or dining
room chairs and floor pillows.
• Grab some fancy clothes and/or your best pretend clothes.
• Make a healthy snack or tea that matches your chosen
adventure.
• Some happy music
• Set mood lighting
• Your best imagination
• Be ready to play!
What Now:
Using your child’s imagination, help him or her drape blankets
over chairs, couches and shelves to transform the room into
the chosen wonderland.
After the wonderland castle, beach, rainforest or desert dune is
built ask your child to tell a story about the adventure you are
on. Pretend you are characters in a play and your child is the
star and the director. Have your child tell you what you would
do, what you would say, how you would act if you were really
in the imaginary place. Follow your child’s lead as his or her
ideas take flight!
Ask your child to tell you about what you would be able to
see, smell, touch and hear in the place you chose. If he or she
needs help filling in the details you can add them. By creating
the space through words you can transport yourselves to your
dream place and forget all about winter!
Spending quality time together can come in many different
shapes and sizes. Kids thrive when we devote our uninterrupted
attention to them and even more so when we allow them to
direct our shared play. We can learn more about their inner
worlds and we show them that we really care about what they
think! Seeing adventures through their eyes can also bring a
light and innocence back to our own life which can be missing
when we, ourselves, have to deal with the adult world. In other
words we all win!
Here’s hoping the laughter in your home is boisterous, the stars
in your living room are numerous, and
the love in your heart overflows!
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www.nurtureparentingmagazine.com.au
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