The Value of Steiner Waldorf Philosophy in Play

Posted by Mandy Abel on

"It is important that we discover an educational method where people learn to learn and go on learning their whole lives" ~ Rudolf Steiner

Have you heard of Steiner Waldorf philosophy? It's a unique approach to education that puts an emphasis on holistic development and the power of imagination in learning. Developed by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner in the early 20th century, it is now practiced in schools all around the world.

A Natural Capacity to Learn

Steiner believed that children have a natural capacity to learn and that they should be encouraged to do so on their own terms. His philosophy advocates for learning as a process of discovery, with hands-on projects and rich sensory experiences. 

Where natural learning processes can sometimes become stifled by the pressures of school systems and society at large, Steiner's approach puts children at the centre. They are encouraged to work with their hands, use their imaginations, question and explore ideas independently. Teachers and parents act as facilitators for learning rather than as authority figures who dictate knowledge.

Sensory and Potion PlaySensory and potion play set ups are ideal for allowing children to engage with all their senses - they can independently experiment, freely create and learn scientific concepts through play. Image credit: Jenna White

The Central Role of Play
One key aspect of Steiner Waldorf education is the central role of play in the learning process. Play is seen as a vital way for children to learn and develop, both physically and emotionally. In Steiner Waldorf classrooms, play is often woven into the curriculum through activities such as storytelling, puppet shows, and imaginative play with natural materials.
But it's not just about having fun – there's a growing body of research out there on the benefits of play-based learning. Studies have shown that play can help children develop problem-solving skills, improve social-emotional development, and enhance their overall academic achievement. In a Steiner Waldorf setting, play isn't just a way to pass the time, it's a crucial part of the learning journey.
Examples of Play Based Learning Activities
Here are a few examples of the types of play-based activities you might find in a Steiner Waldorf environment:
Teachers may use storytelling as a way to engage children's imaginations and foster language development. Stories may be told orally or acted out through play.
Puppets can be a really fun way for kids to express themselves creatively and practice social skills. In a Steiner Waldorf setting, puppet shows might be used to tell stories, reenact historical events, or explore philosophical concepts.
Our range of puppets and dolls encourage story telling and imaginative play, all beautifully hand made and fair trade. Image credit: Paige Tornquist
Children might engage in dramatic or pretend play, where they act out different roles and scenarios, such as a chef in a cafe, a superhero saving the world or a firefighter putting out fires. This can help with language development, social skills, and creativity and is appealing for all ages.

Artistic expression through activities like painting, drawing, and sculpting can be a great way for little ones to engage their creativity and learn about different materials and techniques.

In a Steiner Waldorf setting, outdoor play is often seen as an important part of the learning process. Children might engage in activities like gardening, hiking, and nature exploration to learn about the natural world and develop physical skills.

Our foraging baskets are a great resource for outdoor exploration - the perfect accessory to collect natural treasures! Image credit: Megan Fromings

Music and movement activities, such as singing, dancing, and playing musical instruments, can help with physical coordination, creativity, and self-expression.

Sensory play, where children engage their senses through activities like sand and water play, can be a great way to foster creativity and exploration.

Steiner Waldorf environments often make use of natural materials such as pinecones, acorns, twigs or shells for imaginative play. Children may use these materials to create their own toys, play out scenarios, or engage in sensory exploration.

Imaginative Play with Natural Materials
Incorporating natural materials into imaginative play has so many benefits - even better, they are free to collect and do not cause any harm to the environment at their disposal. 
Overall, the Steiner Waldorf approach to education encourages engagement in a wide variety of play-based activities that cultivate holistic development and creativity. These activities can take many different forms and may be tailored to the interests and needs of each individual.
By integrating play into the curriculum and allowing children to engage in hands-on, imaginative activities, they are provided a unique and enriching educational experience. You can also help foster these benefits at home, by offering open ended and natural resources for your children's playtimes.

"Our highest endeavour must be to develop free human beings who are able of themselves to impart purpose and direction to their lives. The need for imagination, a sense of truth, and a feeling of responsibility—these three forces are the very nerve of education." Rudolph Steiner
We select products for our store with a few key values in mind - but almost everything we stock is open ended and fits well with the holistic approach in Steiner Waldorf Education. 

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