Chloe has arrived! No, I didn’t have a baby… Aria’s handmade Waldorf doll arrived! She’s the sweetest doll, and Aria is just thrilled. She named this little redhead and has been sleeping with and toting her around ever since. Now, I know she’s just a doll, but I’m getting attached to her too. Her woolen hair is incredibly soft and she’s so pleasantly huggable and sweet all over. Yesterday I crocheted her a shoe. Let’s hope that tonight I can recreate my pattern to make a matching one!
What constitutes a “Waldorf” doll? Waldorf theory recommends that we surround a child with open-ended, beautiful and natural playthings. As this pertains to a doll, they suggest that he or she be made of natural fibers like cotton and wool. Unlike hard plastic or clammy synthetic fabrics, a doll made like this will be soft, cuddly and warm to the touch. Another key feature of the Waldorf doll is a fairly neutral facial expression. Why not a big smile? We want the child’s imagination to be free to impart the doll with many emotions, from happy to sad to angry. This type of play can help a child work through current issues and try out a multitude of behaviors in an appropriate way.
I don’t remember becoming attached to a doll as child. In fact, I used an incredibly tame and patient cat in the place of a doll. My cat, Speckles, would let me dress her in clothes, lay her on her back in a crib and even give her an empty bottle – I know, crazy! But, I digress… The point is, I can see why a child is so much more likely to fall in love with a soft, natural doll in the Waldorf style. They’re so much more cuddly than mainstream hard plastic (vinyl!), blank-staring versions. Plus, they look more like a child. While it’s wonderful for a child to practice nurturing play with a baby doll, a childlike Waldorf doll is more like a friend. For a little girl of 4, she’s a safe, ever present companion with whom she can share her adventures, feelings and even her bed.
Now, I should point out, that Waldorf would recommend that a child’s doll match the child’s developmental stage. For example, a baby will relate to only the face of a doll. They will be best served by something as simple as the Rainbow Baby teether. A toddler, who is beginning to recognize his or her body as separate from others, is suited to a very simple, soft doll shape like the Nicki Baby.
After two, the child may be ready for a more traditionally shaped baby doll, and only in the later preschool years on through 6-7 would a child doll like Chloe be appropriate. In general, the shape and detail-level of the doll reflects back to the child his understanding of himself. At ever stage, we want to affirm the child with a beautiful toy, full of natural beauty and made with love.