Seeds of Joy at Home: Beeswax Modeling
It can feel like nothing in Waldorf schools is obvious, but everything is intentional. Rather than teaching kids how to hold a pencil, the Waldorf method is more gentle and foundational, first teaching kids hand strength and fine motor coordination through modeling.
Modeling is practiced in Waldorf education from kindergarten through grade school to engage both a child's hands and imagination. Here are some tips to include modeling in your day.
You can source beeswax easily enough. We recommend it because it is a great texture for truly working, and your creations will cool off, hardening into play things until you decide to change them into something new!
Young kids will need some help getting the wax warm and worked enough to shape.
Pick simple shapes:
By picking something easy to copy (like stars, circles, or a "snake"), you are giving your child independence. It's tempting to just mold something and let your child watch, but then you become the modeling factory. Ensure your child is always holding wax, and never make a shape so complicated your child cannot emulate it.
Follow your child's lead
If you start off with a mushroom idea (like I did here), but your child thinks the stem looks like a tree trunk (like my child did), then follow that! My idea was a mushroom with spots. We ended up with a tree, leaves, a swing, a boy for the swing, and a flower.
Keep wax / modeling clay accessible
You can keep your finished creations on a play table or play mat. In addition, keep a bowl of modeling clay nearby. This will encourage your child to simply start making things. You may even place a bowl in high-traffic areas, like the coffee table, to invite your whole family to sit and mold. We have found we adults use our wax just as often as the kids do. We fiddle, mold, explore and shape while we talk.
Use modeling during listening times
Studies show kids learn best when their hands are engaged. Offering modeling wax when you are reading books is a wonderful way to permit your child to stay busy while sitting. It can increase learning and retention.
Let imagination roam
After we made our wax figures, my daughter just started playing. I wasn't done molding, but my creation was good enough to inspire well over an hour of imagination. This opens the door to "self-directed play," a tenet of Waldorf education. If your kiddos are used to following the lead of an adult while playing, aim for 15 minutes of molding together followed by 45 minutes of self-directed time. You may be amazed by what happens if you simply set the wax down and walk away.