You know those nights when you ruminate over something, almost in trance-like state, for hours instead of sleeping? Well, I had one of those nights. I (embarrassingly) obsessed over which type of animal collection to start for Fae. Eventually I came to my conclusion (very surprisingly, because I usually end up realizing that I’m trying to solve a non-existent problem). This time I was actually ruminating over something real.
This decision wasn’t really about animals. Her little toy animals just gave me a solid example by which I could compare, using my heart and not my head, the Montessori and Waldorf styles.
An animal collection obviously doesn’t need to match. But, nonetheless, this is important to me. Fae loves animals. And I do too. I don’t have the money to buy her a whole collection at once; it’ll take time to develop. It’s important to me to settle upon a set that I can collect over time–and that will provide a good example of the world I want portrayed to her.
The two styles of animals were: realistic (Schleich brand or similar: accurately portrayed animals made of vinyl and painted) or suggestive (Ostheimer brand or similar: basic animal shapes carved from wood with simple painting).
I had already imagined that I wanted to use toys derived from nature. I loved the idea of combining crystals, shells, and driftwood with silk, cotton, and wool fabric scraps. I imagined simple items that took a lot of imagination–which is important to me.
I later went on to read about the Montessori method and was drawn to its emphasis on practical life skills, independence, and an orderly environment. The Montessori method (in my opinion) considers toys primarily as learning materials, and not so much for the imagination. A child’s work is her play. I like this. Maria Montessori seemed to prefer practical objects, and certainly realistic ones.
What gave me some clarity was just following my heart, and forgetting everything that I’d read. I made my decision based on my own instincts and values, and the type of environment that I want to create for my daughter. I’ve decided to start a little collection of handmade wooden “suggestive” animals, which are made of natural materials, demonstrate craftsmanship (which I highly value), and support pretend-play.
Fae is half-naked looking at baby pictures, saying “oh baby, oh” with the most sincere voice.