Ronnie is almost four and I have seen his imagination bloom over the last couple of months. Everything is an adventure to him and its such a nice reminder of how innocent and exciting childhood can be. His interest in all things pretend has spurred me to look into Waldorf education. In addition to several blogs that I found extremely helpful, You Are Your Child’s First Teacher by Rahima Baldwin Dancy and Simplicity Parenting by Kim John (M.Ed) Payne were amazing resources to get me started. Basically, the Waldorf method encourages free play and the use of fairy tales and imaginative play to learn. Steiner, an Austrian philosopher and the mind behind the method, held the notion that early childhood learning is largely experiential, imitative and sensory-based. This education emphasizes learning through practical activities and “working” alongside a parent or teacher. A Waldorf preschool wouldn’t have desks and worksheets to complete, but they would do some water coloring, baking, story-telling, singing, and lots of natural outside play. I love that this approach emphasizes developing children’s emotional life and artistic expression and allowing the intellectual knowledge to flow from that.
Looking through how other parents have integrated this method into their kids’ day at home, I discovered fairy gardens! Since there’s no little girls ’round here, we decided to call ours a gnome garden. The idea behind a fairy/gnome garden is to give your child a special place where his imagination can roam freely. It’s an opportunity to get outside, breath in some fresh air, and have some self-directed play time.
We got most of our supplies from the local nursery, the dollar store, and Michaels (40% of coupons!). The great thing about these miniature gardens is that you can use your imagination and create your little world with whatever materials you like. For ours, we used:
- table ferns
- baby tears (my favorite!)
- corsican mint
- drinking glass – for the pond
- mini birdhouses
- indoor/outdoor paint
- flower pots, mushroom, dinosaurs
- an old pail we used to keep shoes in
Next, we filled ‘er up with potting soil and prepared for all our fantastical miniature plants. Once our painted houses were dry, we started laying out our plants and nestling the houses where they naturally fit.