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Building A Sensory-Rich & Whelmed Environment

Waldorf doll on display at Young V&A in London. The distinctive dolls are so compatible with Waldorf Steiner Early Years education philosophies, they share the ‘Waldorf’ tag. Find out why here and in person, joining a Wednesday Early Years Open Tour.


At the weekend the Kindergarten opened to the public, showcasing its purpose-built, child-friendly architecture as part of Doors Open. The built environment of a Steiner Waldorf Early Years space is designed to create a nurturing and hamonious space for young children to learn and grow, which extends beyond the bricks and mortar to every artefact that imprints on the twelve senses.


The physical environment in Seedlings and Kindergarten plays a crucial role in supporting the holistic development of the child, encompassing their physical, emotional and cognitive wellbeing. One of its distinctive features is the use of natural materials: wooden furniture, soft fabrics and natural fibres, reflecting the Waldorf philosophy of connecting children with the natural world and fostering a sense of reverence for the environment.

The use of natural materials, such as the wool, creates a warm and inviting atmosphere that is aesthetically pleasing, offers purposeful, passive playthings that employ imiagination, encourage meaningful play and engages the young lateral thinker, whilst being soothing to the senses.

Rudolf Steiner identified 12 senses – seven more than the standard five most people recognize – which he placed into three groups: Touch, Life, Self-Movement, Balance, Smell, Taste, Sight, Temperature/Warmth, Hearing, Language, Concept, Ego.

The indoor spaces are intentially kept simple and uncluttered, with minimal use of technology or plastic. The focus is on open-ended toys and props that facilitate roll-play.


Handmade Waldorf dolls are specifically designed to support the imaginitive play and emotional development of young children, as well as offer a sense of security. They provide a warm and nurturing presence in the classroom, fostering connection and empathy.

A male and female doll were donated to the V&A by ESS as part of the worldwide centenary celebrations of Waldorf education in 2019. The acquisitions were then chilled for two years in V&As conservation freezer as a precaution against pests, which is something they do with any textiles that enter the building.

The former Museum of Childhood brought forward its long-planned redevelopment when the pandemic hit in 2020, and is now reconceived as a museum for children aged 0 – 14, rather than about childhood.


(Photo credit: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London)

The auburn-haired female is now on display in London’s Young V&A, a new museum for children in Bethnal Green. Across the whole museum there are around 30 dolls on display, not including ones with dolls’ houses. The Waldorf doll can be viewed in the permanent gallery ‘Imagine‘ on the ground, in a section called ‘Small Worlds’ which explores how small world play can be important for children’s development.


The male is being kept at the V&A’s new Storehouse museum in Stratford so as to rotate it into the display to replace the first doll once it reaches its light exposure limit, ensuring this type of doll is represented in the displays as long as possible.

“These dolls were a very timely gift as we have been looking to improve our collection in the province of educational philosophies”, says V&A Curator, William Newton (of no relation to the maker of the dolls, former Edinburgh Steiner Handwork Teacher, Nicola Newton); continuing:

“They are the first Waldorf Steiner objects to enter the museum’s collection, and we are pleased to be able to now represent the movement with such wonderfully-provenanced items.” Read on: (Purposeful, Passive Playthings Join V&A Museum of Childhood).

To experience how your own child interacts with the built environment and satisfy your curiosity about other areas of the educational philosophy, application process or 1,140 Hours Programme, join a Wednesday Early Years Tour, held each term-time week: kindergarten@edinburghsteinerschool.org.uk

Upcoming Early Years Tour:

Wednesdays 3.30pm – ~4.30pm*

September 27th
October 4th, 11th, 25th
November 1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd, 29th
December 6th

(No tours on 13th & 20th December, as the School will be hosting its Christmas Concert and Paradise Play respectively. Both events are both open to the public).

*Depending on the size of the Group


Read the full Tuesday Notice here: Edinburgh Steiner School’s weekly ezine

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School calendar dates

Hands Up Scotland Survey Of School Run

2023/24 PTA Committee Members

Michaelmas Festival on Friday

Book Launch This Friday

Raffle Prizes Needed

Seeking Musicians, Poets, Singers, Performers For Christmas Market Entertainment Programme

Funeral: Neil Mackay, Former ESS Teacher

Weekend Waldorf Workshops

Building A Sensory-Rich & Whelmed Environment

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