Holiday Gifts and The Sense of Touch

This can be the time of year that many Waldorf families dread in that the gadgets and plastic toys that many families do not value seems to come out in full force this time of year for children of all ages.  I am sure many of you have seen the horrible bouncy seat with an iPad holder currently on the market, and it certainly doesn’t get that better from there.  (See here for more about the bouncy seat atrocity:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/melissa-sher/an-open-letter-to-the-executives-at-fisher-price_b_4386165.html   )

For many of us, the thought of receiving gifts, especially for our children, revolves around questions such as is it sustainable in how it is made, is it beautiful and lovely, will it nourish our children? And yes, will it be fun?  And other questions, such as, how many gifts do children really need and isn’t this season more about giving than receiving?  All good thoughts.

However, for  many of our family members and friends who are not used to this line of questioning, perhaps they are asking things more like:  is this the “hot” toy of the year, will the child be totally wowed by this “over the top” gift, is it electronic and perhaps therefore more “educational” and therefore can it be viewed as an “advantage” for children?

In the Waldorf community, we often look to toys that are homemade by ourselves or by others on places such as Etsy (see this back post with the Etsy sellers my readers love most here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/12/06/link-to-your-favorite-etsy-sellers-here/)  because these types of products not only positively and affirmatively answer some of the questions poised by parents above, but also promote the foundational development of one of the most important senses a human being can develop:  the sense of touch.  Barbara Patterson and Pamela Bradley write in their book “Beyond the Rainbow Bridge:  Nurturing Our Children From Birth to Seven”:  “What children touch and what touches them is important.  In a Waldorf early childhood program, toys are made of natural materials, such as wool, cotton, wood and silk.  Each of these has something unique to teach to children about the world around them.”  In contrast, this article traces the development of commercial toys:  http://www.mothering.com/community/a/no-more-junk-toys-rethinking-childrens-gifts

However, I also urge you in thinking about the sense of touch to think about the touch of the person who loves your child and is giving your child this gift.  If this gift was given out of love to your child, there is an energy and love there that helps transcend the lack of natural materials at times.  It is something to think about, because an essential part of Waldorf parenting and education is the thought that gratitude in the early years leads to love in the middle years of ages 7 through 14 and then to the child feeling  a duty to humanity in the ages 14 to 21 as they go out to meet the world.  How important it is to look behind the silk playcloths and wooden toys at ourselves and what we are modeling and how we truly feel.  Can we be gracious, can we have gratitude?  Perhaps that is the biggest gift of all to show our children in this season.

Many parents write to me that their family is not really giving out of a loving, well-meaning but not knowing sort of  gesture, but rather one of wanting to contradict the parents and the values set by the parents despite repeated discussion and conversation.  It is hard Continue reading