I have to admit that part of my initial fascination with Waldorf/Steiner education was due to the simple, beautiful, natural toys. (But just part of the fascination. I also loved the daily rhythm aspect, the Head, Heart, Hands philosophy, studying concepts in-depth, and many more things.) But today I want to talk about “The Waldorf Doll,” and perhaps this should be more like an AA meeting. Something like, “Hello, my name is Mrs. Mallard, and I want my daughter to LOVE her Waldorf doll. I want her to prize it above all other toys. I want her to eschew the pre-formed plastic dolls that are so cold and hard to snuggle with, etc.” You get the idea? Well, here’s my story.
I bought Teal and Wigeon beautiful, and I mean BEAUTIFUL, Waldorf dolls for Christmas. Teal loves her doll Ivy and gave it an honorary place on her bed, just as it merits, but she doesn’t play with it. I’m OK with that. Teal is eleven and while playing with dolls used to be her thing, it isn’t any more. I get it. But Wigeon, little Wigeon, I was determined that she would love her Waldorf doll “Willow.” I guess my unspoken (or was it spoken in non-direct words?!) desire for her to love it was somehow interpreted by the bigger ducklings, and a few days after Christmas, Wigeon’s other dolls mysteriously disappeared. It was funny and I laughed about it, but I was secretly thrilled that there would be no more competition to earn a place in Wigeon’s heart. And there wasn’t! Suddenly a relationship started forming between Wigeon and Willow. Wigeon asked for Willow every night at bedtime. Wigeon played with Willow. Wigeon began talking to Willow and wanting her to come with us in the car. It was lovely! Heartwarming really.
And then something happened. Wigeon got a baby doll for her birthday. A sweet plastic baby doll that is small and cute and looks like a baby. It can take a bottle. It can take a bath. It is NAMED Baby. Wigeon LOVES babies. And Willow? Dear Willow has been relegated to second place. For now. (Teal confided in me that she remembers playing as if she had a little girl rather than a baby when she got older, so she is hopeful that Wigeon will come around.)
And me? I’m OK, too. I’ve read about “The Waldorf Doll” in The Education of the Child. Steiner thought it was important for children to have simple dolls (like folded-napkin-dolls-with-dots-for-features simple) so that their brains had to work to “fill in from their own imagination what is necessary to make it real and human.” In giving a child what he calls a “pretty” doll, the “brain has nothing more to do” which makes it become “stunted and dried up.” I certainly don’t want to cause a stunted or dried up brain, but sometimes I think even the Waldorf dolls of today leave very little to the imagination. What do you think? (And I don’t mean to turn this into a “My Waldorf doll is simpler than yours” type of thing!)
With all this in mind, we are going to keep loving Baby and Willow, Wigeon has already gifted them with a sweet sense of humanness, and I will continue to work on offering other playthings that leave lots of room for imagination.