Play is Serious Business

Imaginative play is essential for the healthy physical, emotional, social, and academic development of the child. Waldorf Education recognizes that when children are given a safe and beautiful environment they use the power of their own imaginations to create learning experiences. Hasbro invited Meadowbrook kindergarten teacher, Su Rubinoff, to share her expertise with its innovation design team.

Su at Hasbro (1280x1022)

Hasbro is a leading global play products company based in Pawtucket, R.I. with many well known brands including Play–Doh, Transformers, Scrabble, and My Little Pony. Most of us will remember games such as Monopoly and Candy Land from our own childhoods but Hasbro has since added a new generation of electronic toys and digital gaming, and continues to look for new ways to play. MWS alumna, Ceileidh Siegel, is currently the company’s Director of Imbedded Innovation and leads a team working on design ideas intended for production 3-5 years from now.  Ceileidh says her job is a mix of the Tom Hanks role in the movie Big, where a 12 year old wishes himself into an adult body then lands his dream job of professional toy tester, mixed with Shark Tank, the television show that ruthlessly investigates the viability of new product ideas.

Playstand PoniesIn 2015, Ceileidh’s team hosted a Hasbro “Summer Camp” focusing on the reinvention of two core brands.  Her group worked with members of the company’s Marketing, Design, and Engineering, teams with the intention of providing timeless favorites, Baby Alive™ and FurReal Friends™, with a timely new twist. These lines feature play characters for young children that encourage patterns of role play and imagination. As a foundation for their work, Ceileidh felt that an in depth perspective on children’s innate need for play was essential for the group. She particularly wanted them to understand the importance of nurturing role play and what it brings to the developing child.

Cassandra with her doll

Cassandra with her doll

Having experienced play–based Waldorf education at Meadowbrook from early childhood until graduating from grade 8 in 1997, she decided to invite MWS kindergarten teacher Su Rubinoff (known hereabouts as Miss Su) to share her expertise with the Hasbro group. Su has worked with children for more than 40 years and holds a Master of Science degree in remedial education. She has devoted many years to the study of child development, investigating the connection between sensory and academic learning. Su, who has known Ceileidh since birth, was honored by the invitation but also a little nervous so she enlisted the help of another MWS alum, Cassandra Duda, for technical assistance. Cassandra graduated from Meadowbrook in 2013 and is currently a junior at the Lincoln School. After researching the school archives, she created a PowerPoint presentation with photographs of young children at play to accompany Su’s talk. She also brought along her favorite childhood toy, a doll named Ellie. Ceileidh says that Cassandra’s input was tremendous, “She brought the team on a lovely digital journey from the forest kindergarten, through Su’s trips around the world, to show the global drumbeat of play.  She was poised and articulate speaking about her connection to the doll, the weight of its bean bag body and the rituals associated with it including purchasing clothes and accessories on family visits to Germany each summer”. In reflection, Ceileidh shared how her Meadowbrook education prepared her for the presentations she gives today. “Making my own textbooks reinforced that I really needed to know the subject from the inside out and from every angle.  It gives me a great sense of calm because, if you know the material the way we are required to at Meadowbrook, there are no “gotchas”… you literally wrote the book (well, now it’s a PowerPoint) .”

Hasbro CS (1280x799)

Su received an enthusiastic welcome from the Hasbro team. She explained that play is not just something children do for fun or to pass the time. Play enables children to make sense of the world and it establishes the foundation of future learning. Unstructured, imaginative play activates the entire brain resulting in the building of new neural pathways. Activities practiced in play that are associated with communication, memory, self regulation, and problem solving, help to develop the part of the brain responsible for executive functioning and critical thinking. Play is also essential in learning how to interact with others, promoting social as well as self development. Children learn by exploring their environment through their senses, translating what they see and feel into a picture of the world and their place within it. For healthy development, it is important to surround the young child with beautiful and meaningful experiences that encourage trust and confidence in the goodness of the world.

Su told the group that children learn predominantly from imitation in their early years. They are not ‘little adults’, although they are driven by a strong desire to behave like the adults around them. Children imitate daily living when playing with dolls or stuffed animals, thoughtfully recapitulating the tending and caring they themselves have experienced. Children as young as one year old can be seen bending over a little crib to kiss a doll. New skills are also learned in this way. When feeding, brushing hair, or dressing their ‘babies’, children are learning how to care for themselves.

Dolls appear throughout history and in every culture, made from a wide variety of materials including cloth, grass, corn husks, plastic and clay. Children’s touch is sensitive so the intrinsically warm qualities of natural materials, such as wood or silk, make for a deeper connection than might be formed with toys made of synthetic materials. Children also see themselves in the doll, bringing it to life through their own imagination. Waldorf dolls have tiny eyes and, perhaps, a simple stitch for a mouth. Su described how these small, neutral features allow the child to explore a wider range of emotions and experiences through creative play.

Six months later, the Hasbro group is still talking about the insights Su provided. Building on the knowledge that play where the child takes the role of nurturing a toy is instinctual, they are considering ways to augment imaginary play instead of replacing it with lights, sounds, and motion.  Ceileidh surmises, “Su really made it abundantly clear that the power of play and imagination is the strongest force in childhood, and the foundation for growth and success later in life.”

Ceileidh calls Meadowbrook the place where she learned how to learn. She credits Meadowbrook with helping to develop her innate internal motivation and is convinced that Waldorf Education’s consistent focus on what you do with knowledge, rather than on reciting the facts you know, resulted in her being very well prepared for work in the innovation era. “At Hasbro”, she says, “We have the privilege and responsibility for making some of the world’s best play experiences”. When it comes to the essential business of children’s play, that sense of ethical responsibility carries great importance. No word yet on what changes will be made to Baby Alive and FurReal Friends but, as a Waldorf alum leading the way, Ceileidh will likely succeed with her persistent request that a toy be just as much fun when the batteries are dead.

Click here to see some of the photos Su showed at Hasbro

 

 

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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