Toys are an important part of a child’s life. Not only do they provide entertainment, but they also help in the child’s development. Educational toys are particularly beneficial as they can help improve your child’s memory and problem-solving skills. They can also help boost your child’s creativity and imagination. Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of educational toys.
Playing to LOVE English
So many children, by the time they are rising 7, already feel like they are failing, disengaging with learning because it is not filled with wonder and excitement. Research tells us that children who read in their primary school years do better than, but also continue to be better in education right through University and beyond. For me, that doesn’t mean the highest grades or the exclusive pursuit of Maths and English: but being an engaged learner. Engaged in their own education. Building a love of reading is critical to building a love of education: creating a foundation in stories is one of the ways children can navigate through their education independently. Storytelling opens this door- inviting them to become lovers of literature. If we want children to love reading first, we must help them to love stories.
Let us first invite and nurture children to love stories, listening to stories, making stories up, acting stories out, eventually wanting to read stories—then—let’s invite them to write those stories down and see the eagerness within the children to learn the skills need to do that; as they thirst to share their own stories with the world.
Stories have been used, always, to reinforce and guide social and cultural concepts. Look at the storytelling employed in propaganda, guiding the group norms of entire countries. Storytelling is still very much alive in our cultures around the world. We see it now taking different forms, but it is still there, ever present. The Brothers Grimm, Aesop, Hans Christian Anderson and countless others began their careers as storytellers rather than book writers. Many of them took stories that had been passed on to them and created new written forms of old stories. These stories remain popular because of that key wisdom in them, the balance of archetypes in the characters and the lessons learned on the heroine’s journey. These stories were not invented by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm or Aesop. They were merely told by them. These stories have always been used to demonstrate the morals and ethics that society expected others to live by, even if they were not fables.
The Waldorf alphabet letters Storytelling Wheel can be used in lots of different ways; younger ones can spot animals and the letters that their names begin with. Those budding botanists could spot one or two of the plants that correspond to the letters. Older ones can make up sentences and write them down with the letters, animals or story prompts.
The really exciting thing about the storytelling wheel is being able to use it as a family or in a group: spinning the wheels and pointer, starting an adventure, building a bedtime story, or sauntering through a quiet afternoon Story time.
You can view this educational toy here: https://waldorffamily.com/product/abc-story-wheel/
In the Waldorf tradition, storytelling is used extensively. Topics are often introduced to a class by a story, then after the children have slept, they will recall and begin earnest work on that topic.
The cross curricular approach of Waldorf Schools or International Baccalaureate schools can be seen in this element, while the story theme and topic might be about dwelling around the world or mathematics. Children are also learning vocabulary, grammar and structure concepts. Language also demonstrates the structure of the linguistic patterns of stories. They can learn sentences, paragraphs, and vocabulary. Unfamiliar words and phrases can help children strengthen vocabulary and reading skills. They learn to ask questions about meaning or usage.
In my home
In our home we read not only classics, as the children have got older, writers like Dr. Seuss or CS Carol are phenomenal for learning word play. Both have so many fictitious words and use words in ways that children can understand so that they recognise that it is not an actual word or phrase. This may not seem like a way to teach grammar, but because of the way that others use language, children as young as three can identify when things are used incorrectly.
Therapeutic stories are also a wonderful tool in the parenting basket and one I have used extensively. There is a wonderful book Healing Stories for Challenging Behaviour (Early Years) by Susan Perrow, I would love this book renamed because for a while I read challenging like naughty and so resisted it! It’s not she means all the hard situations: also in the book she teaching you ways to construct your own stories for your children which I’ve found invaluable.
Educational Toys in our family
Right from infancy, we have surrounded the girls with stories, educational toys, puppet shows, evening story telling, book reading.
They were both very excited to learn letters. I painted an alphabet for them first. The paintings linked to things they know. The girls are both older now and I just repainted the ABC cards so they will work across lots of languages, so that the girls can use the same card and see the word in different languages.
We formed drawing to help with fine motor skills, pencil grip and dexterity of mind. The agility needed to follow complex form drawing is a great help developmentally and can be a huge help in dyslexia too.
We used sculpture (beeswax and clay) to helping with fine motor skills and learning stories. It’s also really helpful if you are working through any issues they can represent these issues in a 3d form and some children find a relief in that, similar to journaling.
Just like all Waldorf approached see the whole. So maths work on the Maths Wheel would be helpful for fine motor skills even if we are not in an English block.
Stories would link between subjects and we would delight in the girls performing these stories to us.
It’s not about tests!
So English was never about spelling tests or penmanship these elements come when the children are engaged and loving English. So an English lesson might be drawing the story from yesterday’s English lesson, it might be finding a stick that’s really straight or one that’s really curved. Or making a letter out of twigs.
While the consonants have subtle correspondences to visible forms in nature, the vowel sounds – or singing sounds as they are also referred to—are, as Rudolf Steiner points out, expressive of feeling qualities and call for a different approach.
We drew and used singing letter cards to create our own educational toys, depicted as angel cards, to help the children give voice to the letters, to express them through their bodies, and to imagine the quality of the letter.
To open your arms and exclaim ‘Ah’ in wonder as you gaze at a starry sky, you cannot help but feel A (ah) as the vowel of wonder. To cross your arms in an A – as in gate – is to experience the vowel of separation. When you stretch up to the sky with one arm and down to the earth with the other as the letter ‘E’ – as in ‘tree’ – is sounded you experience balance. To encircle with the vowel ‘O’ is to feel the vowel of love whilst to narrow your arms in the U (oo) sound is to experience roots and grounding. The girls also followed Eurythmy to compliment this English work.
When you enter the qualities and the feelings of these singing letters, your whole being resonates with the inner and outer synergy of language. To sing, move, recite, dance the sounds of letters and words means that the whole body knows what it is to read and to ‘speak’.
After these elements, plays and stories were still used as the basis of writing—so a story might be told recited and written, and gradually reading and writing progressed.
Both children adore reading and have no fear of spelling or English work, so I’m a happy mama and they are happy little learners.
Everyone’s journey is so different, but this is our story. I hope it’s helpful.
If you’re looking to bring educational toys into your home, why not check our collection: https://waldorffamily.com/collections/letters-and-writing/