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We did this yesterday.You will need two colors of finger paint: red and green. Let your child put the red all over their hands and make “stamps”on a large sheet of paper. Then, let them put the green on their fingers and draw leaves and stems.

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There are many things I like about the Waldorf philosophy of child-rearing. I love the importance of free play, the connection to nature and the simple chores for kids. I like the absence of television and the emphasis on reality-based crafts. I love the handmade dolls and the beautiful pieces of fabric , which are used as toys. I don’t agree with the theory that children should not be taught academics until they are seven years old: if my kid is interested in reading earlier, I will teach him how to read.

My favorite thing about Waldorf is its emphasis on rhythm and rituals. According to Waldorf philosophy, there is nothing as important for the child’s healthy growth and development as the work you do to maintain consistent rhythms in their lives. Noticing the change of seasons with your child is important. Noticing the times of day is important, as well. Paying attention to simple things in nature, like sunshine coming after the rain, helps your child to better connect with their inner rhythm and to tune into the world around them, which they are a part of.

The Waldorf philosophy states that a child develops a sense of self through a carefully-guided, secure and stable childhood. Keeping close ties to the natural rhythms and cycles helps your child develop a sense of well-being and certainty that the world is an understandable, safe, and predictable place. Here’s how to develop a natural rhythm in your home, according to Waldorf: Make a list of the chores and errands you do each week. Include “basic” things, like cooking and cleaning, as those present a wonderful learning opportunity to a child. Assign each errand to a specific day of the week ahead. Make your schedule and stick to it.

Here’s what we do:  ( letters and numbers are not supported by the Waldorf philosophy at an early age,but I choose to teach them, because my kid is interested)

Monday: Learn and play with numbers
Tuesday: Cook, play dough
Wednesday: Learn letters and do a craft project, involving letters
Thursday:  Field trip
Friday: Housekeeping (washing, polishing, dusting.) Watercolor painting.

We usually do the chosen daily activity in the morning an then repeat it a few times throughout the day,as a theme. If the theme is housekeeping, we dust in the morning and learn about different tools,used for cleaning, while going for our afternoon walk.

While choosing your daily schedule, the Waldorf philosophy suggests to alternate between activities of expansion and those of contraction. Reading, writing, doing crafts- all require concentration and are, therefore, contracting. Free play is expansive. This theory of expansion and contraction sounds very true to me, because I apply it to my daily yoga practice: the only way to maintain a perfect balance in the body is to even out the constant play of the expanding and the contracting forces: those of power and engagement with those of broadening and stretching. A daily schedule of alternating contracting and expanding activities gives your child time to run and play, as well as sit and learn.  Alternating between the two is the most effective way for your child to process new information.

Here’s a typical Waldorf day:
• opening verse
• daily activity
• independent play (inside)
• clean up
• circle time
• independent play (outside)
• story, puppetry, drama
• closing verse

Songs and verses are very popular with Waldorf, as they contribute to the daily rhythm. When children hear the verses, related to specific activities, the transition to these activities becomes smoother. Many verses are available in A Journey through Time in Verse and Rhyme, a book of poetry, verses for morning and evening, blessings and meditations for parents and teachers.

According to Waldorf theory, when a family gathers for their evening meal, it’s a good idea to use place mats, decorated by the kids. Dinner becomes an art project. The place mats can be drawn, sewn, knit. They can have ornaments, glued to them or you can try patchwork – most importantly they should be lovingly decorated as a family art project. Then, there should always be a candle and a prayer. If you are not religious, something like:

” Thank you, Earth, for growing our food,” is good enough.

Keeping a consistent daily and weekly schedule, simple chores and activities, outside play – are crucial tools for raising happy kids, according to the Waldorf philosophy and I wholeheartedly agree. What do you do to keep a sense of rhythm in your child’s life?

How do you get your child to like fruits and vegetables? Eat the veggies and the fruits yourself and make the whole thing fun.  Or, here’s a little shortcut:

 

 

For a fun and easy art project, get some colored papers. Take scissors and cut some fruits and vegetables out of the colored papers.  Make some red apples, blue eggplants, green cucumbers, orange carrots. etc…

Then ask your child to put all fruits in one pile and all veggies in another one. You can ask your child to also divide the “produce” by color – “Put all the red fruits over here and all the green veggies over there.”

Then get a bowl and  a pot. Give your kid a pair of child-safe scissors and watch closely, as he or she chops the “vegetables” for the “soup.” The child can cut the paper “vegetable” in strips or in chunks or in squares and let those pieces fall into the soup pot. The child can be taught how to finely dice an onion, using a paper vegetable or how to thinly chop parsley. They can learn which vegetables work for the soup and which ones do not. Later that evening, you can feed them a real vegetable soup and they are likely to have a lot more interest in it than they normally would.

The bowl is for the salad. You can make a vegetable salad, by cutting the veggies into thin strips and you can also make a “fruit salad, “by cutting bananas and slicing apples. While you are playing these games, you can teach your child about how fruits and vegetables grow and how they make us strong. This game is good for fine motor skills (hence the  use of the  scissors,) color recognition, patterns, grouping objects that are alike and learning some basic cooking skills.

You can take it one step further and glue the fruits and the vegetables back together, assembling the pieces on a white sheet of paper. In this case, draw a large basket and put all the newly glued produce in it to make a nice picture.

 

As I was researching the various crafts you can do with your small child, I found a lot of useful stuff: play dough, watercolors, finger paints, crayons, cutting, sticking, glitter…. All of these activities spark the child’s creativity and curiosity.

However, when I see a recipe, my first instinct is to change it, to add to it and to combine it with something else. Kid’s arts and crafts got the same reaction from me. Since children learn so well through play, why not combine all kinds of arts with all kinds of play: this way both creativity and imagination would become multi-dimensional. The child would be able to draw and paint and build and role-play and dig all at the same time!

As a result, whenever my son and I sit down to do a creative project, it’s never “just play dough” or  “just crayons.” We can start with play dough and make a bird, for example. Then, we take crayons and draw a tree for this bird. Then, we take watercolors and paint the grass under the tree. Then we cut a piece out of dark paper and stick it on the grass: this is how we make a road. Then, we take our toy cars and let them drive on the road.  After the cars have been going for a while, we build a bridge over the road, using matchsticks and glue. Finally, we make a construction site, next to the bridge. We draw it with different color pencils and stick some sand on the paper next to it ( so that the construction workers can dig.) And lastly, we take a teaspoon and dig through the sand.

We have painted gardens for play dough butterflies, we have made play dough roads for our wooden trains, we have put play dough passengers into our toy cars, we have put play dough boats into Tupperware containers full  of water. We have also drawn vases with crayons, to stick some real dried flowers in and we have fed our stuffed animals some play dough fruits and veggies. Oh, and once we made a finger paint soup, but that didn’t work so well.

These games can be endless. The key is incorporating  many senses and materials into an art project. Through creating art this way, the child will see art as a part of real-life, as something fun and tangible. Dolls can play in drawn doll-houses and trucks can ride on play dough roads. Using this simple technique, children learn to make their own world, where they are the creators and the active participants.

Today I was doing what I like to do best: playing with food. I actually tried to make some edible play dough. All of the recipes for homemade play dough online seemed to be copies of each other and the ones that seemed more original utilized unhealthy ingredients, such as corn syrup, powdered milk and white sugar. As I was testing my recipe (made out of leftovers,) I realized that my edible play dough can also be made into some yummy healthy candy.  So, I made candy and my kid and I played and ate: what could be more fun?

As a main ingredient, I used cooked amaranth. Amaranth is a grain, which was used by the Aztecs and now is popular in Latin America. Amaranth contaisn large amounts of protein and essential amino acids. Amaranth has  30%  more protein  than many other whole grians grains, such as brown rice, wheat flour, oats, and rye. Amaranth grains are very small and cooked amaranth is sticky ( this is why I thought of play dough.) Generally, I like to use amaranth as a side dish, as a substitute for any dish, asking for a grain, as  a sticky base for a casserole or even as an egg substitute, because of the binding effect it brings to baked dishes. Amaranth works well as a diversion from your morning oatmeal. It combines very well with fruits and vegetables.

 

Homemade Amaranth Play Dough

Even though this recipe contains brown sugar, it is rich in protein, fiber, folic acid, phosphorus, magnesium and zinc, as well as vitamins B, D  and E. Perhaps you need to encourage your kids to eat more  play dough!

1 cup amaranth (cooked, according to package instructions.)

1/2 cup  smooth natural almond butter

1/2 cup wheat germ

1/4 of brown sugar

Mix all of the ingredients together. If the dough is too watery, add more wheat germ. If it’s too dry, add more almond butter. You can add more sugar of you think it’s necessary for a better flavor. Use my suggestions for homemade edible colors from here.

Homemade Amaranth Almond Butter Candy


Follow the recipe for play dough. Add 1/2 cup of almond pieces and (optionally) 1/4 cup of chopped dates. Form the dough into balls. Roll each ball in shredded coconut. Refrigerate for thirty minutes and serve.

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