today’s photos and assorted… stuff (including faceless toys and dolls and what they might be about)

New year’s celebrations are not really my thing. First and foremost, I have no choice but to abstain from them. Mr Dog is afraid of fireworks. We pull down the curtains and try to pretend it’s not really happening at all. Nothing Bad and Scary Is Happening. It’s the acting performance of the year. He’s had fun, met people, walked, eaten, and — just a few minutes ago — gone out for an evening pee (which made him a bit uneasy, as there are already fireworks). Hopefully he will now sleep. I have to be ordinary, normal and boring. That is, I type random things on the computer. Nothing is happening. It’s worked fine during the past few new years’ eves.

But, this aside, I’m not personally fond of it either. I’m not sure why. Every new year’s, since the year 2000, I keep thinking of something my beloved grandmother said to me once. ‘When it’s year 2000’, she said, ‘there’ll be huge celebrations, the grandest new year’s celebrations ever. But by then we won’t be here anymore. We’ll be gone.’ (This was the content, of course I can’t remember the words as they actually fell.) She meant herself and grandfather. That’s one hell of a thing to say. Of course, she was right. They were not there. And all I could think of, on that night, was her words.

As for new year’s resolutions, I don’t do them. I hope to live less rigidly — as far as my state of mind goes, but also in practical terms — and more inspiredly. I hope my eye examination in january shows that I can have an operation and that it is successful. I hope I will be writing. More. And reading more.

Art with a face. (Waldemarsudde in the last remains of sunlight on this new year’s afternoon.)

From one thing to another, a thought — or a question — came to my mind when I read the newspaper today. (The newspaper was a few days old… but I read it today. Well…) There was an article about stuffed animals, that is, toy animals. Supposedly, stuffed animals — perhaps the same applies to dolls — help children develop empathy. I wondered, upon reading this, how it would affect this learning process (or perhaps I should say developmental process… it’s about learning in a loose sense) to have faceless animals and dolls, the way that some waldorf folks prefer them faceless. Since — I know this has been researched and discussed a lot, and… just google, I won’t bother now — seeing faces, facial expressions and the interpretations thereof are such important features of the empathic faculty, would not faceless toys… be a hinderance rather than an asset, when it comes to empathy? I mean, it’s said — by Steiner admirers and hardly nobody else (as far as I know) — that faceless toys are beneficial for the child’s development of imagination. But are they really? And how does this relate to empathy and the development of empathy? Mind you, I know that stuffed animals have static faces, and you have to use your imagination to see shifts and emotions in their facial expressions, even when they have faces! But — would it not have any impact if the animal had no face at all? If it’s just blank. There are no eyes, no nose, no mouth. This facelessness so completely deindividualizes the (stuffed, plush) being.

Is it just imagination — and the role of imagination in the child’s development — we’re talking about here? What does this facelessness mean? What’s it about? What does it imply? What about faceless people? It can’t just be about imagination; there must be another explanation. Because why else do the dolls still have legs and arms and hair? They could be amorphous lumps of matter, just as well. (Imagine the imagination you’d have to develop to play with such items!) Is it because… legs, arms, hair have little to do with individuality? This in stark contrast to mouths and eyes which convey content… which convey thought and which are the outer representations of a mind that works and thinks. Mouths and eyes release intellectuality in the world (perhaps the faceless beings can type, and thus commicate the contents of their minds?). And the metaphor of the eye as the mirror of the soul and all that.

What about faceless children — children who are just blank spaces for the teachers to fill with content? What about being a spiritless nothing — a deindividualized person? You know, writing this, I realize what (possibly) makes me spooked out by faceless toys is that I felt like a faceless being myself. The thing is, though: there was something inside — somebody who could experience all this, this deprivation of individuality… or the expectation that you should relinquish individuality and personality. In favour of some greater good, your future spiritual enlightenment, the social context (being a daft ‘nothing’ in a flock of equally daft sheep) or whatever else.

(Actually, I can’t personally remember any faceless toys. The waldorf dolls I remember had rudimentary facial characteristics: tiny eyes, tiny mouths. But I’ve seen the faceless ones as an adult. They creep me out just slightly. Here’s an example: faceless gnome and doll cross breed. This design of small dolls is very popular in waldorf. But this one is apparently a gnome, too. What a bargain! — Can we please discuss what this facelessness is about? How we interpret it? Whether it’s bad or good? Is there something to my thoughts in the passages above?)

Now for some more photos. 

Ice! Frost! It’s the first properly cold day today.

18 thoughts on “today’s photos and assorted… stuff (including faceless toys and dolls and what they might be about)

  1. Here’s a post I wrote on the critics list about the faceless dolls a couple of years ago (somewhat edited to make sense here on this blog):

    [The person I was replying to here actually asked about mirrors – why mirrors are often taboo in early childhood classrooms in Waldorf. There’s a lot of other stuff here, but I think these aspects of Waldorf kindergarten are connected, and the common theme is preventing young children from developing a sense of their own individuality]

    … So I only have some speculation ….
    It could well be that he [Steiner] never said mirrors were bad for small
    children, and it could well be that this particular fetish was unique
    to our school. I have a theory as to how it came about, if so. Our
    kindergarten director could have read the passages about the
    adolescents and mirrors and decided they applied even more so to
    young children, even if Steiner didn’t say so. Of course, this is
    just speculation on my part.

    Steiner actually did not give a lot of “indications” for work with
    young children. Kindergartens in Waldorf schools came much later;
    there isn’t a lot of direct advice from Steiner on any aspect of how
    to organize a kindergarten. Our kindergarten director was (like I
    suspect others in the Waldorf early childhood education movement)
    thus inclined to make it up for herself, extrapolating backwards from
    advice really meant for older children.

    One example – Steiner apparently said that the temperament does not
    become apparent until around age 7. Younger children “live in” their
    parents’ temperaments, usually the mother’s. Our kindergarten
    director felt that even if Steiner said so – or maybe it was Eugene
    Schwartz – SHE could tell temperament much earlier than this. It is
    not specifically advised to organize kindergarten children according
    to temperament – but she did so.

    In general, kindergarten teachers are concerned not to make young
    children “self-conscious.” Because their “I” has not incarnated (the
    four “members” of the human incarnate one at a time: physical, then
    etheric, then astral, then “I” or ego), small children are said to be
    only partly here on earth, and still partly in the spirit world, not
    yet fully descended, not yet fully “incarnated.” Becoming aware of
    yourself as a separate person, an “I,” is considered very damaging if
    it happens prematurely. It sort of “rushes” incarnation, and doing
    this can lead to all kinds of pathologies in later life.

    Our lead K. teacher took numerous measures to discourage young
    children from becoming “self-conscious.” This is why they are not
    encouraged to write their names (we wrote their names for them on the
    back of their drawings or paintings, to discourage them doing so
    themselves, and to discourage their even *looking* at their names in
    print.) This is the same reason there are pictures on the cubbies for
    each child rather than names. There are lots of other ways this is
    facilitated (or rather, that lack of awareness of “self” is not
    facilitated).

    I think that the mirror taboo was part of this. Looking at yourself
    in a mirror is a darn good way to become more aware of and conscious
    of yourself as an individual – what makes you *you*, what makes you
    different from other people around you, what is unique about you. IMO
    this is the same reason for the preference for faceless dolls. Faces
    are a very unique, individual thing – along with your name, your face
    is essentially the most unique thing about you. I have red hair, or I
    have blue eyes, my brother has brown eyes but I have blue eyes, etc. –
    all considered inappropriate things for young children to think
    about.

    There is probably lots more that could be said, and I repeat this is
    mainly my own speculation!

    Diana

    (Love that second pic.)

  2. Your empathy suggestion is interesting too, and perhaps related to the individuality question. Steiner early-childhood educators are oriented completely away from helping children develop as individuals; the group rather than the individual is the emphasis. Perhaps empathy is less useful or important in such a social setting. An individual’s feelings are not or should not be anyone’s particular concern – if an individual is suffering, this is not as important as the smooth functioning of the group. Developing empathy in this setting maybe isn’t very useful; it might actually work against you.

  3. Also, the notion that the dolls should be faceless in order to allow children to imagine their faces, perhaps reflects Waldorf educators’ own lack of imagination. A Waldorf teacher will tell you that if the doll has a happy face, it’s harder for the child to imagine the doll sad (or vice versa). Well, only if the child is already completely impaired in the imagination department! In reality it is the teacher who is impaired.

    I had many dolls as a child, and I had no problem whatsoever making up different stories about them, involving a whole range of emotions. Whatever expression was on the doll’s face did not stop me in the least imagining other expressions, nor would it any normal child.

  4. Interesting! I always understood that stuffed animals, dolls, or a favorite blanket could provide a child another source of attachment/comfort when the parent figure is not present.

    Why are the dolls faceless in Waldorf? Perhaps it has something to do with the teachers role and control in most areas of the child’s development. Personally I think it is creepy and typical Waldorf mentality to only allow faceless dolls.

  5. I never worked in a Steiner school. The state school where I was head-teacher had a small woodland with quite a sandy floor.(As well as the usual hard-surfacees) The children always wanted to play here and it would have been too many if they all played at once, so each year group had its own day.
    What did they do under the trees amongst the twigs, fallen leaves and cones?
    They made little houses and roads by sweeping the debris into straight lines. They had people(twigs) who played out various scenarios. There were also horses (twigs and cones), wolves,(twigs cones, twisted leaves), cars (pebbles and stones).
    Of course they also had mad dashing about and falling over games, fights, quarrels, all the other stuff children do.
    But undoubtedly they loved playing in the dirt with twigs, cones, leaves and heaps of sandy soil, using their imagination to make them into all the things I named and more.
    I think the same thinking lies behind the faceless dolls. That a faceless doll leaves the child free to imagine all kinds of personalities, emotions, reactions, etc. Whereas Barbie only has one expression, the one an adult created for her.

  6. A faceless doll is surely less comforting than a doll with a face. Waldorf teachers don’t give children dolls to encourage them to bond to them or develop the type of affectionate relationship (fostering empathy and providing comfort) that one normally associates with playing with dolls or stuffed animals. The dolls and gnomes in Waldorf are intended to encourage children’s thinking/imagination to develop along particular lines. No emotional bond is intended. And if developing the child’s imagination is the intent, forcing them to imagine a face would seem to equate to forcing the child to *imagine* comfort, where none is to be had in reality.

    For the record, though, most Waldorf kindergartens don’t “only allow faceless dolls”; I believe this is becoming rarer. Our kindergartens didn’t have any faceless dolls. More often one finds dolls with minimal facial features, that is, very tiny stitches sketching in dot-like eyes and mouth. I don’t feel these dolls are harmful. I’m not really sure faceless dolls are harmful either, though clearly many people, including me, find them a bit creepy.

    Like just about everything in Waldorf culture and lore, there probably isn’t anything wrong or harmful about giving a child a faceless doll. The harm comes in the rigidity; in a purist insistence that THIS IS THE ONLY APPROPRIATE DOLL and that giving a child another doll somehow “harms” the child. That’s total nonsense, as anyone with a brain can see, and any harm flowing from this situation is flowing from the teacher’s anxiety and incompetence in dealing with children.

  7. Falk: “That a faceless doll leaves the child free to imagine all kinds of personalities, emotions, reactions, etc. Whereas Barbie only has one expression, the one an adult created for her.”

    It doesn’t compute, Falk. The doll without a face has an adult-created and adult-derived meaning exactly the same way that the Barbie doll does. The meaning is just different. The child is receiving a message from the gift or presentation of this doll from the adult in exactly the same manner. The question is just WHAT is the different message.

    Obviously you are right that children will make dolls out of sticks or anything laying around, and freely imagine their own faces. That is a different scenario than a doll given to a child purposely by an adult, created by an adult. In that case there is no getting around the fact that the adult has derived the doll with a purpose and message in mind, nor is there any doubt that the child will get the message.

    There is no way to create a doll that is a complete blank for the child to, in effect, write upon. That is a myth. Not a benign one necessarily.

  8. Diana — great idea to dig the archives. I had a faint idea that it had been discussed, I definitely remember discussions on mirrors.

    ‘I think that the mirror taboo was part of this. Looking at yourself
    in a mirror is a darn good way to become more aware of and conscious
    of yourself as an individual – what makes you *you*, what makes you
    different from other people around you, what is unique about you. IMO
    this is the same reason for the preference for faceless dolls. Faces
    are a very unique, individual thing – along with your name, your face
    is essentially the most unique thing about you.’

    Yes — even more spooky since the custom-made waldorf dolls that parents order for their kids is supposed to mirror the child… is supposed to be a look-a-like of the child. I had one of those. But mine had small eyes and a small mouth.

    ‘Steiner early-childhood educators are oriented completely away from helping children develop as individuals; the group rather than the individual is the emphasis. Perhaps empathy is less useful or important in such a social setting.’

    Less empathy would be a consequence of not being an individual, I would think. Not having a face. It doesn’t, as you point out, matter if the individual suffers — s/he’s not sufficiently separate (not sufficiently his/her own person apart) from the group. Or that’s how it’s suppoesd to work. It doesn’t of course.

    ‘A Waldorf teacher will tell you that if the doll has a happy face, it’s harder for the child to imagine the doll sad (or vice versa). Well, only if the child is already completely impaired in the imagination department!’

    Exactly my thought too. Perhaps if the doll has big tears painted on its cheeks… But usually they’re neutral. Even barbie dolls have fairly neutral facial expression — you can imagine anything you like. The imagination part of it would perhaps explain that waldorf dolls are not made with explicit facial expressions — but entirely without faces?!

    Margaret: ‘Why are the dolls faceless in Waldorf? Perhaps it has something to do with the teachers role and control in most areas of the child’s development. Personally I think it is creepy and typical Waldorf mentality to only allow faceless dolls.’

    They aren’t always faceless. I can’t remember ever seeing it (in real life). Thus is must be a practice among some waldorf teachers/schools and not others.

    Falk: ‘But undoubtedly they loved playing in the dirt with twigs, cones, leaves and heaps of sandy soil, using their imagination to make them into all the things I named and more.’

    Well, of course. I don’t doubt that.

    ‘I think the same thinking lies behind the faceless dolls. That a faceless doll leaves the child free to imagine all kinds of personalities, emotions, reactions, etc. Whereas Barbie only has one expression, the one an adult created for her.’

    The barbie dolls face is fairly neutral — she doesn’t look happy or sad. Entirely faceless faces is just as much an adult creation as anything else. Even too a child, it would look bizarre. (At least I’m sure it would have to me.) Some waldorf dolls do have small eyes and a small mouth. I can’t think this would be an impediment to imagination — more likely it would leave the child free of being bothered by the lack of normal characteristics in the face. Is it easier to imagine that a doll is sad when it doesn’t even have any eyes that could, in the child’s imagination, express that sadness? Is it easier to imagine that the doll has things to say, when it doesn’t even have a mouth? Why then does it have legs? You can imagine the doll walking even without legs, couldn’t you?

    I think that the imagination argument is so implausible that it can’t be the real reason. I think Diana is right to say that if waldorf teachers believe that a face on a doll means the child can’t imagine lots and lots of things (even the supposedly unimaginable) than it is those adults whose imagination is severely impaired.

    None of this contradicts the fact that children can play with almost anything — from mud and twigs to barbie dolls. They’d play even if they were deprived of all toys.

    Diana: ‘Waldorf teachers don’t give children dolls to encourage them to bond to them or develop the type of affectionate relationship (fostering empathy and providing comfort) that one normally associates with playing with dolls or stuffed animals.’

    That was the idea behind the article I read — I think in that kindergarten, every child had their own stuffed animal they had chosen and at certain times, these animals were incorporated in the activities. (Another thing that happened was how some children learned to express their feelings and themselves through the animals. It became an aid, sort of, in reaching these particular children. I find this very clever.)

    ‘And if developing the child’s imagination is the intent, forcing them to imagine a face would seem to equate to forcing the child to *imagine* comfort, where none is to be had in reality.’

    Of course, that’s right to the point… you are forced to imagine comfort, because there won’t be any.

    ‘More often one finds dolls with minimal facial features, that is, very tiny stitches sketching in dot-like eyes and mouth. I don’t feel these dolls are harmful.’

    Me neither. They can be boring, but that’s another matter…

    ‘I’m not really sure faceless dolls are harmful either, though clearly many people, including me, find them a bit creepy.’

    Harmful is perhaps a too strong word. Creepy. Uncomfortable. Not beneficial.

    I agree that the real potential for harm comes from the rigidity. The fundamentalism. When it occurs.

  9. Another thing: when I was a child myself (I think it was in kindergarten and definitely — this I know because I more clearly remember it — during the early years of school), I always carried a small toy in the pockets of my pants. You were not allowed to bring toys or personal items, of course. But nobody would know what you had in your pockets. I remember forgetting it at home and feeling panicked. I needed my watch on my arm and a tiny stuffed animal in my pocket. To get through the day. It was like having a talisman. And, clearly, it was about comfort and some kind of rudimentary feeling of safety.

  10. “every child had their own stuffed animal they had chosen and at certain times, these animals were incorporated in the activities. (Another thing that happened was how some children learned to express their feelings and themselves through the animals.”

    and: ” tiny stuffed animal in my pocket. To get through the day. It was like having a talisman.”

    Transitional objects – that’s what psychologists call these items. Many if not most children adopt a transitional object, sometimes a doll or stuffed animal, sometimes a special blanket, or really it could be anything. (My son went through a phase where whatever the favorite toy or favorite object of the hour, he had to take it to bed with him … for awhile this extended to small appliances; one night he went to bed with the dust buster.)

    Of course, this pertains more to home than school, but my point is this is NOT the idea of dolls or toys in the Waldorf kindergarten. Children are supposed to be having a particular sort of imaginative experience; not an emotional experience, not a bonding, comfort-type relationship.

    Same with the gnomes – the children are not supposed to *relate* to the gnomes, give them personalities and names, etc. That’s just not the point. They have a symbolic meaning in the fantasy world constructed for children in the Waldorf kindergarten (they represent nature spirits, in particular gnomes represent “earth,” with the other three being air, fire and water).

    What Falk says is boilerplate Waldorf pedagogy as packaged for parents, but it’s not the truth. The world of a Waldorf kindergarten is absolutely constructed by adults. “Imagination” in the normal, unfettered sense has completely nothing to do with it. Children are not really free to imagine freely and construct a “play” reality of their own devising. They’re expected to act out a few specific scenarios spoonfed to them by the teacher, often from fairy tales, which represent “occult truths”. (That’s not to say they *don’t* act out their own games, but they’re very decisively steered in certain directions and not others.)

  11. ‘Same with the gnomes – the children are not supposed to *relate* to the gnomes, give them personalities and names, etc. That’s just not the point. They have a symbolic meaning in the fantasy world constructed for children in the Waldorf kindergarten…’

    Indeed — constructed for them. Ok, I’ve got to sleep now, but I think this is very important. In some ways, this is constructed for them in a more complete way than the facial characteristics of a barbie doll can ever determine the child’s imaginative scope.

    ‘They’re expected to act out a few specific scenarios spoonfed to them by the teacher, often from fairy tales, which represent “occult truths”. (That’s not to say they *don’t* act out their own games, but they’re very decisively steered in certain directions and not others.)’

    To their credit (which isn’t praise from someone like me, because I would have needed more present teachers), they’re often plain absent.

    My transitional objects were of course replacement or secondary objects — the items I valued mostly wouldn’t have fitted in a pocket. The items I brought with me were not so important away from school. But the idea behind this kind of object, no matter the attachment to the particular object, is the same.

    ‘one night he went to bed with the dust buster’

    Now, that is unusual! But for a while I had the idea that our (well, my grandparents’) dust buster was a pig because it was orange and I thought pigs were sort of… orange.

  12. In Steiner’s day the only dolls with realistic faces where quite large with porcelain heads, legs and arms. One can find them in antique shops, toy museums, etc. They are often very ominous and spooky.
    There is a famous occasion where he whipped out his pocket handkerchief folded it in a particular way and used his pen to mark a simple mouth and eyes on it. He then made the point about the handkerchief allowing the child more freedom of imagination than the porcelain doll. I guess most of the obsession with ‘faceless’ dolls arises from this incident and is an over-reaction. But it does not invalidate the point he was making.

    To match Diana’s anecdotes above. I have never been employed in a Steiner school but I have had plenty of time to observe – sometimes as a voluntary assistant. My daughter also spent some time assisting in a kindergarten. Our experience has been that the teachers did not control the children’s play in the way she describes. What we have seen is genuinely free play. Also the children tended to ignore the gnomes, but they liked the dolls and would give them names and personalities. The dolls I saw always had rudimentary mouths and eyes.
    At home my own daughter had ‘normal’ dolls, Barbies, Disney Princess dolls, ‘My little Pony’, ‘Sylvanian People, Lego etc. We visited many of her friends houses and there was only one child in her class whose parents vetoed the kind of toy their child was allowed to play with. Nobody in my son or daughter’s class was being harrassed by the teachers to change the way their child played at home.
    The only thing we were asked to do was to restrict the amount of television the children watched.

  13. Funny — I don’t think the porcelain dolls are ominous and spooky, at least not generally. Some of them may be. Not sure they’re good toys, though. Their facial characteristics, the painting and the material they’re made of don’t make them exactly ideal. Making a doll from a handkerchief or any kind of cloth is perfectly fine — I think it’s a great idea (obviously not his own, but that doesn’t matter), and — unlike the expensive and fragile porcelain doll — very economical. But as you point out: he used a pen to mark a simple mouth an eyes. This, I would say, makes a world of a difference. That doll is not faceless.

    ‘What we have seen is genuinely free play.’ — It may seem like that as long as the children keep within the boundaries. Which they tend to get better and better at doing as long as adults are nearby.

    ‘The dolls I saw always had rudimentary mouths and eyes.’ — that’s what I remember too. But google waldorf dolls and you get all these spooky faceless ones. It seems to be quite a fashionable thing to make them faceless. Maybe it’s a trend taking it to the extreme, I don’t know.

    It’s true that most kids had some ‘normal’ toys, at least when they were old enough to be in school (which starts later here, of course). There were those who didn’t.

    ‘Nobody in my son or daughter’s class was being harrassed by the teachers to change the way their child played at home.’ — I don’t think it’s about harrassment, or at least that open harrassment is rare. Given that most parents don’t live as fundamentalists in this regard (not sure about the situation in the US… there does seem to be more fundamentalism among american waldorf parents… perhaps because they pay so much for this education and lifestyle that they want to get the entire menu…), harrassment would probably not be wise. But more subtle forms of persuasion and a certain kind of culture that parents reinforce themselves, in the sort of social context that is created in waldorf, could probably be rather powerful too. What happens when parents start to believe that wooden toys and faceless dolls are a way salvation as far as toys are concerned? They come up with all sorts of arguments to reinforce their own beliefs. And when they talk about children’s toys with other parents, they reinforce the belief that all these other toys are inferiour… for all sorts of real and invented reasons.

  14. “Funny — I don’t think the porcelain dolls are ominous and spooky,”

    I suspect that’s a cultural thing – they probably didn’t look ominous and spooky to the children playing with them. These dolls are stiff faced and of a stern demeanor the same way people in old photographs are rarely smiling. The dolls are not so much ominous and perhaps “formal,” as if sitting for a portrait. They often have neutral expressions – not a smile, not a frown – so you’d think from a Waldorf perspective, they’d be perfect.

    As to the question of “free play” in a Waldorf kindergarten, I suspect we are talking about two different things. If you would pass by on the sidewalk and watch the Waldorf kindergarteners at our school out on the playground, you would see a normal situation where kids are running around in a lively way and hollering etc. You might conclude the teachers don’t interfere much (and indeed they seriously don’t interfere much when there are fights, when they SHOULD interfere).

    The intervention is more subtle than that. There is absolutely no question that the play is not nearly as “free” as in a non-Waldorf kindergarten. Certain themes and certain modes of play are absolutely heavily encouraged and others discouraged and it is far more controlled than “free play” elsewhere. If you are expecting to see them marching in rows like it’s North Korea, you’re missing the point, Falk.

  15. You would think to hear Waldorf fans tell it, that Steiner invented this idea of the simple doll concocted from humble materials at home. Obviously Steiner did not come up with this idea on his own, this is what children and parents worldwide have always done. Practically every parent has “invented” a simple toy for a child on the fly, for instance when traveling and a beloved toy has been accidentally left behind or lost, or to placate a child who wants an expensive toy that they can’t have.

    Steiner simply pointed out what should be obvious, that the latest expensive, complicated toy is not always necessary for children’s purposes, they are often just as happy with something unsophisticated that was made just for them by their mother or loved one, even if it is not as beautiful as something expensive and storebought. People who worshipped Steiner foolishly turned this notion into a rigid fetish that only a certain type of toy is appropriate for any child, ever, or that dolls that come prepackaged with facial features are somehow “damaging.”

  16. http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2011/01/the-5-best-toys-of-all-time/all/1

    Exactly — these old dolls look very formal. And I agree with you re the free play — it is free and looks free but it doesn’t come without limitations and those limitations aren’t what one would perhaps expect. This isn’t necessarily bad or something to disagree with — except that these particular limitations are not easy to figure out unless they’re stated explicitly. And they aren’t. Waldorf folks just keep repeating that they promote free play, possibly not considering the kind of limitations they dabble with to be limitations (because they’re ‘age appropriate’? right for the child’s ‘development’ according to the waldorf scheme? agreed with by everyone so they don’t have to acknowledge they are limitations at all?)… their kind of free play — and its limitations — is good and right and it’s ok to push it as just free play even though there might be just as much — or more — free play in other types of kindergarten settings.

  17. (The link was totally unrelated to my comment but I thought it was funny. And it has been shared by waldorfians all over the internet. It, supposedly, validates their methods. Or something.)

    Yes, it’s completely normal and has always been — even more so when Steiner himself was a child — to make toys from just any ordinary object. Or using ordinary objects as toys.

    There’s that photo of Steiner as a child — he’s holding a toy dog in his hand. It’s not home-made. But anyway — it’s not as if children back then grew up with a virtual toy shop in their own homes. It’s become so extreme. Of course, this is a side-note and has nothing to do with faceless dolls. I don’t think this extreme over-consumption makes anyone happier, and for that reason I’m quite unattracted to the modern toy industry. It’s just there for mass-consumption of cheap things. There’s good and bad and I understand that parents don’t want to bring all of that crap into their homes. I understand the allure of waldorf dolls, in a certain way. But I also like My Little Pony ;-) I remember the My Little Ponies especially because they came when I was a kid and I so wanted one. My mother thought it was american plastic crap. (Her beliefs about such things were, indeed, reinforced in waldorf.) Of course, people had My Little Ponies. I didn’t. But at one point I had to go to some doctor’s appointment I think… at least it was something unpleasant I had to do, something I was afraid of. And then mother said that after we’ve been there, we’ll go and get a My Little Pony. Which we did. It was quite memorable… I had only that one. Other people had five or ten. And, naturally, you envied the kids who had thousands of plastic toys, but I wonder if I had appreciated a second horse as much as I appreciated the first.

    (I still have it, the pony. It’s one of rather few toys I still have. Wait!! I have a photo of my — not Barbie but… what was she called… Cindy doll… Cindy was an early 1980s alternative for people who didn’t like Barbie. Maybe Cindy was german ;-) At least, she was thought of as more appropriate, even though not appropriate enough for waldorf. As a christmas gift, when I was seven, I got a box full of both bought and home-sewn and home-knitted clothes for her; the dress she’s wearing on the picture was hand-sewn by my mother from the fabric of one of my own old dresses… something french, no doubt, very fashionable… refashioned for Cindy. Ok, here she is, a modern St Michael: https://zooey.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/modernmichael_600px.jpg)

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