Monday, March 7, 2011

Soul-Feeding Play

In one of our many discussions about parenting this week, I said to Nath that parenting is much like trying to shape running water with your hands. No matter how much you try to make it hold its position, it will slip through your fingers and refuse to be contained. We have had 'one of those weeks' in the life of a parent. Just when we thought we were making headway with one particular behaviour, another one springs up and leaves us floundering.

We stayed with some friends over the weekend, on their property in the Toodyay hills. These are good people, and their love of cooking and eating wonderful food I naturally appreciate! They have created an amazing haven there on their little patch of earth, and it leaves you feeling relaxed, calm and contemplative.

My children, especially, loved their time there. They were so calm and engaged, and inquisitive and exploratory. I love it when they are like that. They become little adventurers, discoverers, wonderers.

I sat back in that space to watch them, and it occurred to me... this place has a soul. It is filled with beauty, but, more than that, everything surrounding me was made with natural materials. I tested my theory, gazing around the room. No plastic. Just a vast array of handpicked items made from wood, silk, pottery, felt, stone and glass. I talked to our host about this and she said yes, it had been intentional, as things of plastic have no life force, no connection.

I have been reading quite a bit about the Steiner approach to child development, learning and play. The idea of simplifying your child's play space is something I have come across a bit in my reading... not just simplifying the kinds of playthings your child has access to, but also simplifying the amount. I have been reflecting on the fact that whenever my children are presented with fewer play options, their play is far more focused, far more creative and far more engaging.

I came away from our friends' house inspired and determined to get back into our girls' playroom and transform it from an overly 'plasticised' toy storage zone into a meaningful space that will allow them to play creatively and provide them with some areas to retreat to when things become overwhelming.

Here are the results.

The girls' home corner, complete with a lovely tin tea set.
Quiet space for reading, and toys in baskets.
Miya often needs a space to retreat to - this is perfect.
The drawing/sorting/crafting table.
Small selections of toys - not too overwhelming.
Finger puppets, great for oral storytelling.
Scarves, mostly used for dancing with.
Music toys.
The girls love their 'new playspace' and it has such a positive impact on their behaviour. Their play is contented, calm and creative and they are no longer overwhelmed by the sheer volume of 'stuff' in their playroom (and the mess that needs cleaning at the end of each day!)

And better still, by selling some of their old toys, I have made enough money to buy some gorgeous, WA handmade Waldorf dolls from here!


  1. This is really interesting, Nicole, and is making me think about the pile of toys I have in the spare room for Hendy. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I love this idea - even if the execution of it might be tricky for me. I love the philisophy behind it.

  3. Thanks, Ann, and thanks for 'on-sharing' :)
    Veronica, it was a lot easier than i thought it would be!! But I do tend to get fixated on stuff.... so that helps :) Some call it OCD, I call it my handy cleaning mode :)

  4. Well done! What gorgeous spaces. I've found that the less toys we have, the more play happens.


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