Thursday, June 17, 2010

What makes a doll a Waldorf?

With all of the new doll makers popping up, that is a question I am asked a lot lately.  To fully understand what a Waldorf Doll is, it helps to understand what the Waldorf Method is. 

Simply put, anything Waldorf is derived from the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, a German-Austrian educator that lived in the latter half of the 1800's.  Steiner firmly believed in the specific, developmental stages of the child, and that subjects such as arithmetic and reading should be introduced to the child in a living way that speaks to the child's developmental stage. Each thing is presented through direct experience and is usually augmented with art, poetry, music, drama and movement. The teacher’s aim is to draw out the children’s inner capacities and abilities by creating an atmosphere in the classroom that fills the children with interest, wonder and enthusiasm. A Waldorf-methods school will typically include handwork classes, wood working and other “practical arts”, music classes, two foreign languages and eurythmy (movement) classes.  

(We did not have access to a Waldorf School when my kids were young, however we were blessed to find Montessori education which has a very similar philosophy.  I was fortuate to be able to complete a work shop for Assisting in the Montessori classroom and had the opportunity to help in the classroom and with the children on many occations.)

A Waldorf Doll is a doll that would be used to enhance early Waldorf Education.  It is designed to capture the child's attention.  It will always be made from materials that are found in nature:  Cotton for skin, wool for stuffing and hair.  A Waldorf Doll's facial expression is always simple, this allows the child's imagination and creativity to flourish.  The child can look at the doll and the doll immediately assumes the emotion that the child needs for a fulfilling experience.  Yes, a doll can do all that! 

Anyone with a lot of patience can make a Waldorf doll that their child will love.  I have always said there is nothing like a mama made doll.  Selling dolls is another thing entirely.  There is not a lot of profit in quality doll making... I put 16-20 hours into each  and every doll I make.   I use only organic cotton for their skin.  I put only the finest wool into my dolls, wool that comes from family farms where the sheep are not only treated humanely, but really cared for like pets.  They are allowed to graze naturally.  My dolls smell good, fresh and clean.  Wool is naturally antimicrobial so the doll won't go "stale".  It absorbs the smells of home so a child can carry that safe feeling with them.  The dolls are stuffed carefully and firmly (this took A LOT if practice!!) to avoid the lumpy look that can develop as the wool compresses.  The hair is something that is really special to me.  I have a passion for beautiful yarns.  They must be natural, and they must be soft.  There are faster, easier, cheaper ways to do hair, but that won't do for me.  I make each doll as if it was going to be for my child, so it has to be special.  Each doll has between 600-1500 strands of individually applied hair.  I do the hair in a way that it can be "repaired" if a doll gets a little too much rough love.  Using these methods assures me that I am making dolls I can be proud of.  I have been creating  dolls for about 7 months now and have loved every doll that I have made. It is truly a labor of love.

Thank you for choosing Apple Tree House Dolls for your family!

P.S. Please do not copy or reproduce any part of this blog without written permission! 

Read more about me at


  1. What a wonderful post! I have homeschooled my sons since 1999 and am getting ready to start with Gracie. I have become intrigued by the Waldorf method and have found a curriculum that is somewhat based on that. I can't wait to start it with her. Of course we will be doing school with our new dolls too.

  2. I started researching Montesorri education last year when a new friend told me her children went to one and she loved it.
    We have a similar education ideal and both cherish the arts.
    When I first heard of Waldorf I jumped right on and read as much as I could find that day.
    SO interesting.
    I adore your work and yes, I will be trying to make my girls some wonderful dolls to stretch their imagination. Hopefully sooner than later...summer can get LONG without imaginative play!

  3. I just love this post!
    Thank you for this blog and I think more people should read it so they can understand what goes into these sweet little dolls! I so love that these dolls are not cookie cutter type and you truely get a one of a kind doll!
    They capture me!
    Cassie A.

  4. I agree..there is a lot to be said for the Waldorf methods. Although I appreciate more conventional methods are great as well, and they have their own advantages, I think there is something special about the Waldorf method, which has the approach of tapping into a child's imagination and allowing them to develop naturally into caring and thoughtful individuals. There is no doubt in my mind how much love and care you put into each and every doll you make. I think that is why it is so easy to fall in love with them! You just want to cuddle them and care for them...because you know they were made by a caring person. Please continue with your wonderful work! :-)

  5. Just look at that wee face! Awwwwww.. :-)

  6. Hi, If I may, can I also add that a Waldorf / Steiner doll is meant to reflect the body proportions of the age of the child the dolly is this way the doll also attunes a child's eye and mind to Nature's magic in mathematical beauty and perfection...thus the Waldorf dolly provides a way for it's child to experientially sense their own relationship to nature.