Engaging Toys and Activities for Children

Since we no longer have television in our home, friends often ask me how my kids stay “busy” and entertained.  I’ve decided to post about some of the activities, games and toys we have around the house that keep them engaged along with products I personally love.

Marble Runs: One of the toys and activities that have endless entertainment value for boys and girls of all ages are Marble Runs.  You don’t have to start with a big expensive set, add-on kits are always available and are a great suggestion when  friends and family are stuck for gift ideas.  If you are handy you can make your own or watch as your child creates all kinds of clever inventions using ordinary objects as inspiration – hours of entertainment. 


DIY Kits: Now that my children are more independent they love to sit down with an activity that they can accomplish on their own, and I love the Do it Yourself kits that come packaged with instructions. It’s also simple to create your own, package it, and write your own instructions. You can find tons of DIY ideas on Pinterest by searching DIY, and then clicking “through” the actual image to the originating website. I love this clever DIY gift that was made for fort enthusiasts, an assortment of fort building supplies in a canvas bag with a home printed label attached.


Felting Projects: Each Fall we usually pull out our big basket of felting supplies, the wooly puffs of rainbow colors are lovely on a gray day. My kids love to work on felting projects while they listen to stories. Felting has two benefits – like any craft the activity itself is soothing and fun, then the end product can be given as gifts to friends or grandparents.  Each year I try to add some more wool, needles, or felting books for our collection. For ‘new felters’ you can get special protected needles so that they don’t stick themselves and forms such as cookie cutters which can also keep fingers safe.  For the very young, a kit for wet-felting is a fun way to start.

Felting is great for the older kids!

Dress Up Box: So many parents I know have told me that their kids enjoy dressing up all throughout their childhood. The younger kids love the pretend play aspect of Knights and Fairies, while older children might like the challenge of putting on a play or performance with accessories of all kinds.  Think about adding to your collection of dress up to make it fresh and inspiring again by taking a browse inside a vintage store where you might pick up an inexpensive hat or a magnificent frock for the kids.  Challenge them by having them create a theatrical performance -complete with scripts, props, and scenery. Invite friends over to watch the performance!

Blocks, Blocks, Blocks and More Blocks: The play value of blocks is endless and our family has bins of various shapes, sizes, and brands.  Whenever I can add to the collection with a set that gives it some new dimension. I am particularly fond of blocks from Grimms Toys (Germany) .  I love the colors and shapes, and pairing blocks with wooden animals, dolls, or felted creatures can be great fun.  My kids also love to partner blocks with silks (also a must for the dress up box!) so that they create landscapes, or use them as a covering to make caves where little creatures can burrow.

Blocks make great roadways for cars, amazing structural support for marble runs, or just for plain good old-fashioned architectural design!

Share some ideas of your own at home success stories by using the comment box below! We’d love to hear from you and share your ideas with our growing Waldorf community! 


Holiday Faire: November 17th & 18th, 2012

Monica Rodgers is a Waldorf graduate and mother of two. Now a Meadowbrook parent she volunteers her considerable talents to helping form our annual Holiday Faire.

Each year, our Meadowbrook Waldorf School community comes together to design and plan our traditional Holiday Faire. It is an event unlike any other in the area, and we have watched it grow each year in attendance as visitors come from all over the tri-state area and beyond to celebrate this special time.

As winter approaches cultures and religious traditions around the world celebrate this change of seasons with festivals of light.  This year our Holiday Faire will honor the light that each of us carries within, the light that guides and inspires us.  Our intention is that the warmth and light of the season touches you and all those you love and cherish.

We hope you will come and celebrate with us – and bring your family and friends!

November 17th:  Adults only evening; join us from 6:00 PM- 9:00 PM. Bring a new friend to our community and receive our coveted holiday “swag bag” put together for our first fifty guests and includes discounts, gift cards, and prizes from area businesses.  The evening will be a shoppers’ paradise, come and enjoy a bonfire, music, and other festivities.  Participate in our live auction and bid on items that will knock your socks off!

November 18th: Family day; any and all can attend a day filled with music, shopping, crafts, events, performances and natural foods. Open from 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Some of the reasons you should join us this year:

  • This year’s theme is “Guiding Light” as we remember the warmth and light that this season brings to our hearts and homes.  Find beautiful crafts,  activities, performances, and unique gifts that portray this wonderful inspiration.  Our beautiful decorated campus will “light” your up your hearts and bring a smile to your faces.

  • Choose from an unbelievable assortment of gifts and products, with handmade items crafted by individuals in our own community.  These beautiful, timeless, and quality gifts are things you just can’t find anywhere else and they make a long lasting impression on those who receive them. Our school store will offer finely crafted European toys and delicacies to fill your stockings and deck your tree or table.  We hand-pick items that are made by quality artisans from around the world, including housewares, clothing, ornaments, and other fineries. Follow our board on Pinterest to get a visual sampling of our magnificent offerings, and don’t forget to “Friend” us on Facebook.  

  • This year we will add a new aspect to your shopping experience.  In addition to our ever popular school store and consignment section will be a new section of vintage accessories and gently used  wooden toys. This is a great selection of gifts for that person in your life who might just appreciate a piece of history by way of a vintage hat, piece of jewelry, wooden toy, or a fun handbag or top. This section is a great addition for the hard to buy “tween” or teen in your life, the antique collector, or super funky fresh individual who can appreciate the up-cycled nature of this type of gift. This section will stand along side an expanded collection of “dress up” clothing for kids and we’ll have a large dress up box so that you can consider adding to your dress up collection at home. Fairies, and pirates – eat your heart out!


  • Children and grown-ups alike love our ever popular Gnome Cave and our raved about Marionette Performances put on by our talented educators.  The  Ladies of the Rolling Pin  will also be in attendance and you won’t want to miss their fun singing and dancing.  We’ll invite you to dip your own candles and try your hand at some woodworking crafts so plan on bringing the kids for some family crafts and  don’t forget to stop so that the little ones can ride the ponies. Oh, and don’t forget the Pocket Lady as she roams among the children to offer treasures in exchange for tickets. She’s a magical being who always adds to the wonder of the experience.
  • Another long awaited addition to our Holiday Faire this year is an Auction that will be filled with products and services that our visitors can bid on. Join us in the excitement that comes with the possibility of placing the winning bid for more than fifty amazing items,  services, vacations, and gifts.

  •  If you would like to learn more about Waldorf Education and what it might have to offer for your own family,  you can visit with our education experts. Parent volunteers are also on hand to give insight into how the Waldorf experience has enriched the lives of their families and children.  Look for our Holiday Gift Guide when you arrive to find the room where we’ll be available to answer questions or demonstrate way’s in which our approach might differ from mainstream educational choices.

  • We promise if you join us you will go home with a full heart, and hopefully a sack filled with unique and inspiring holiday gifts for your friends, family, children, and grandchildren.

Brands include: Kathe Kruz, Haba, Grimms, Selecta, Ostheimer, Moleskine, Quiver, Red Chair Studio Designs, Peter Zuerner, Om’s by Miquette, Seedling, Kiddo, Bloc, Baby Legs, etc….

Gift ideas include: Marble runs, dolls, blocks, stilts, board games, accessories, jewelry, dress up, vintage, kitchen play, puppets, science kits, nature kits, sewing kits, collectibles, felt, looms, musical instruments, scarves, cutting boards, stocking stuffers, candles, ethnic gifts, blankets, linens, hand bags, hair accessories, home decor, card games, luminaries, beads, art supplies, crafts, clay, nativities, stockings, ornaments, hats, mittens, carvings, and much, much, much more! 

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How a Grade-less Environment Made all the Difference

By the time I’d gotten to the sixth grade, I was entirely confused.  Access to my spiritual being and intelligence seemed positioned between layers of homework, grades, church attendance, tests, and assessments.  I had a terrible time at my schools: Saint Claire, Saint Paul, Saint Ambrose, & Saint I don’t remember (but I know there was another one in there). My papers were predominantly covered in exasperated red pen marks.  My mother was at her wits end because I continued to fail my subjects miserably and had increasing anxiety, fear, and behavioral problems. After another failed attempt in the sixth grade she finally, in exasperation and desperation, sent me to The Detroit Waldorf School. I was finally home.

photo credit: Monica Rodgers

Waldorf Education was different than anything I had encountered.  Mistakes were encouraged and so was the exploration of my inner self: who was I? And how were my head, my heart, and my hands connected in learning and contributing the gifts I would bring to the world?  This was my classroom, and my friends and I visited this inner world through handwork, woodwork, painting, sculpture, literature, dance, theatre, music, and outdoor play.

Our morning lesson focused on subject matter that all schools explore but we did it differently. We focused on this subject matter intensively for 2 hours each morning (main lesson) and the rest of the day was spent moving, exploring and creating.  Our main lesson each morning, might last for a few weeks on a particular “theme” such as geometry, or science, American history, and so on. Once those intensive weeks were “completed” they would be built upon or reflected upon as the years wore on.  Each treated as a building block to the next related or inter-related subject matter.

The lessons were presented at the front of the room by my teacher, Mr. McNair (the Waldorf teacher is usually with you throughout all eight grades), through an interactive format that included beautiful chalk drawings depicting his content for the morning, which we copied on blank paper with beautiful colored pencils our interpretation of the lesson.  We then bound our own books filled with our drawings and insights at the end of those weeks of subject matter. I’ve never forgotten those lessons, and I still have the beautifully illustrated “text” books I made by myself.

There were no tests and no grades, and very little homework. I developed a love of learning in this environment.  I was free at last to be me, without competing with those who surrounded me. We were all unique, valuable, and valid.  There was no more shame for a D+ paper turned back with angry red slashes and comments in the margin (if only Monica would apply herself) and no endless hours behind my desk listening to the drone at the front as I darted my eyes from clock to window using my imagination as my escape from the confines they called my “education”.

The things that distracted me in my former schools were so much less of an issue at the Waldorf School. Most remarkably, children were not petty, hostile or vying for position.  There were no “In crowds,” “jocks,”  “geeks,” etc. I think this is largely in part by the fact that Waldorf School’s have a non media request for families whose children attend. The majority of students who lived media free at home learned to role model heroes from books, school and community. There was very little pressure to “fit in” and have the “right clothes”, “body” or “hair” so my anxiety went down and my self esteem grew. I was appreciated just for being me. This was an amazing environment which fostered my individuality, respect for others, and co-creation and collaboration with my classmates and teacher.

After my few short years at  the Detroit Waldorf School (we moved to Maine) I went on to attend 2 more high schools before my final crowning achievement: MY DIPLOMA.  As my parebts sat proudly in the sea of parents and grandparents I held my diploma (it was a good visual) while inside I held the better part of ME I had discovered someplace else entirely, a place that did not need the proof of a paper certificate. I give Waldorf Education the credit for allowing me to find myself, my own pace, and to excel in a way that was suited to who I was as an individual. From that experience on, I had the unshakable faith that I was *perfectly ok* exactly as I was, and that my intelligence had very little to do with the grades. I have gone on to build a successful career in writing, marketing, and business.  Sometimes I wonder where I would be today if I had continued to “fail” on paper.  Even though my Waldorf years were a small respite in the whole of my academic life, I consider those three years to have been the most valuable as they built the foundation for which to build upon- an unshakable platform of self confidence that I could do anything, achieve anything if I put my head, heart and hands to it.

I’m starting to wonder if we have this educational thing all confused. We seem to be so preoccupied with preparing our children for life in the modern world yet we place emphasis on only one aspect of that child’s development: the mind. There’s so much more to education and schooling. I’d like to emphasize that an individual person’s education is about so much more — developing self-esteem, personality, and a love of learning, community, and mostly the ability to be introspective and secure with one’s self. Only then will we raise happy, healthy, well-rounded, and truly intelligent young people who have the confidence to bring their unique gifts to the world.


The Illusion of MORE

From time to time, I open up the contents of my childrens lunch box to find a great article from their teacher.

This one was from my son’s early childhood teacher, entitled TOYS ARE NOT US by Thomas Poplawski.

These articles are a great reminder for me, and so helpful in supporting me to be a more conscious Waldorf parent because… god knows I cheat (I know my childrens teachers know I cheat too). I think they also realize that to be a parent in today’s modern world AND a dedicated and completely infallible Waldorf parent is very, very difficult.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget things like the article points out; like reminding us that toys are not a substitute for spending time with our children, or using toys, digital gagets, and TV to occupy them while we get “our time”.   I look around my house and realize that there would be a lot more “room” for creativity with LESS.  That filling rooms and closets with distractions for my children’s play things might just be undermining their creativity altogether. Allowing more outside time with simple tools will make for satisfying play.

Digging Outside

As a family, I’d like to teach my children that “less is more” and to grow up with a consciousness about the difference of NEED VS. WANT, and that feeding a belief that they can find satisfaction with “stuff” will only serve to foster a less desired attitude about living sustainably, and simply in an increasingly complex world.

When I was a kid I had very few toys.  The basement was the place for us to “play” if it rained, and open ended toys were what we had access to:  blocks, books, blankets for forts, a baby doll and some trucks and cars. Birthday’s were “special” because the gifts were few, and very modest.  Having owned a children’s toy store, it was very easy for me to bring home “extras” that never seemed to be a substitute for quality time, nor did they provide much lasting play value.  I’ll admit I’m human, and I too get swept up with the belief that more = better.  It’s time to really tidy up, and as the school year comes to a close, I look forward to releasing the grip on things I’ve continued to stock-pile with a huge summer yard sale and donation bin. I’m done fooling myself that those items should take up valuable real-estate in the landscape of our lives and home.