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Celebrating the Seasons: Spring!

Yes spring has sprung…and if you’re in Southern California, you might feel that Summer is pushing ahead in line. Best just to take a deep breath and stop. Stop to notice what’s in the garden. In our home and with many of my fellow Natural Kids Team members, what blooms in nature blesses our nature tables. The materials from nature evolve into the creations we make for our beloved customers. Yes spring has come! And in the virtual world of Etsy, it is evident in some of these lovely works:
Pictured above is detail from my own, Nushkie Design, needle felted tapestry, “Mother’s Love.


Beneath the Rowan Tree‘s “Heart of the Rose” play silk, floats on the breeze as children run across a yard, flying it high in the air. It is so soft, so lovely, you can almost smell the scent of roses wafting through the air.



Here is “April” by Dragonflyshollow ready for tea in the garden or a stroll in her pram.

In the distance a lamby calls out and hears its voice echo through the canyon…here is “Lilah” and organic lamb by Woolies.

While mommy and baby bunnies nuzzle on a soft bed of moss Oritdotan’s world.

Sometimes a little “Spring Garden Fairy” might visit the nature table by Fairiesnest.

Little hands may want to capture what they see in nature and keep it forever. Here is a lovely hand crafted flower press by Birchleafdesigns.


As spring arrives, join the fairy folk in a lazy swing in the hammock…Merrydaledolls has her little one swaying in the breeze.


FaerieRebecca has little bee finger puppets coming to her garden..

In Littleelfstoyshop, Mrs. Tittlemouse is doing her spring cleaning…Little hands may want to join her!

There are so many options from the Naturalkids Team for bringing nature indoors or enjoying natural toys and decor wherever small hands and eyes are present.
Enjoy the natural goodness of spring!…all its scents, textures and color…and be well!

Til next time,
Rebecca Varon
aka Nushkiedesign

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Work, Play, Friends, Colleagues

I was going to write about something completely different tonight, when I happened upon this sweet, lovable doll from Dmollison’s shop… Her name is “Nushkie, the Little Girl Friend.” The description that follows is…

“Once upon an online forum, a group of women got together to share and promote their creations. What started out as a Natural/Waldorf Toy Promotion thread on etsy, has turned into one of the most wonderful collection of friends one could ever imagine. We laugh together, give advice, and support each other’s shop. These dolls are dedicated to the wonderful women on this forum. These are the Girl Friends. So this is Nushkie…”

I was honored to find a doll in Denise’s shop that was named for me (my daughter really) with a link to my shop. Her description above kind of summarizes my own feelings about the Naturalkids Team on Etsy.com. Not only do the artisans of this team use natural materials to create toys, decor, clothing, dolls, nature table accessories, soaps and teas (many of the items a parent choosing a more natural path for their family might need), use recycled packing when possible, etc…but the values we share go beyond our products and a certain kind of “brand image,” or marketing “hook.” What we have come to learn about each other and the kind of support which we give each other personally and through non-competitive cross promotion demonstrates how so many of the human values, such as natural living, reverence for childhood, friendship, etc…permeate our very lives. We aren’t a faceless company shipping from an industrial park, but actual mommies with big imaginations, huge talent and a sense of purpose to make this world better for not only our children, but the children and families who purchase our handmade treasures.

Here are a few examples of the ways we support each other through cross promotional inclusion rather than competitive exclusion…

I guess not too long ago sellers including, fellow needle felter Haddytwodogs, began the forum thread to promote natural toys and other products for children. (One of her fairies is pictured to the left.) She, along with many of our group pop onto the thread to chat about each other’s work, thus promoting each other. More directly, she also takes cards from her fellow Naturalkids Team members to sales meetings.

Creating likenesses of each other as products with links to each other’s shops, such as the one mentioned at the top of the article and this sweet “Elfie the Mermaid Sister” from Woolcomesalive honoring LittleElfsToyshop pictured to the left.
Woolcomesalive’s shop owner Jen also keeps the team thread refreshed every month and wrote a beautiful article in Etsy’s Storque section, featuring through quotes and images many of the team artists. “Handmade Kids: Natural Kids Team Nurtures Naturally.



Woodmouse
(her bird ornaments featured on the left) gave our shops exposure by inviting us to help provide prizes for her make-baby-stuff.com children’s room decor contest.


Cozycottagecreations organized a promo swap, collecting and distributing all of our promotional materials back to the group, so we could each include a few cards of our “competitors” in our product shipments to customers. Her gorgeous felted apples are pictured at left.

Bellawinter, whose work is to the left, spent hours organizing and designing a wonderful brochure for the team. She, like so many are also doing the time consuming task of building etsy treasuries (mini galleries with links) to feature fellow Naturalkids Team artists.

We all appreciate these three ladies for maintaining leadership of the team Fairiesnest (see pixie ornament)
FaerieRebecca (see Waldorf Doll) and woolies See wool horse… as well as the other members of membership team… cozycottagecreations
shelleycaskey, and tricoteria.

Sara of woolies was instrumental in researching and securing adspace for the fall. An even deeper thanks must go to Rebecca of FaerieRebecca as she and her husband designed, wrote the code for and are hosting the naturalkidsstore multiple gallery showcase presence to support the sellers participating in the future ads.

All of these women, including my fellow bloggers, listed on Naturalkids blog homepage, as well as folks like, Freedomrainbow, who seems to spend all her earnings on all of the rest of our products! …help to support the health of their creative community through generous support of time, talent, money and heart. They also support the health of our children and the planet by creating natural items that ignite the imagination, using earth friendly materials that come from nature.

Why do we do it? Because we all benefit when we support and promote each other. Why do we provide natural items for children and their parents? Because we all benefit from products that nurture the imagination, the soul and the environment. Our values come from our hearts, through our hands, into the hands of children and families…and when they are no longer needed return to the earth, leaving the legacy of fond memories. The circle is completed naturally!

Thank you for reading.

Be well,

Rebecca V…aka www.nushkie.etsy.com

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The Whole World In Their Hands

A friend recently gave Eva, my four-year-old, a gift from Toys-R-Us. I felt bad returning it because it was given with love. But I have made a concerted effort to have only natural toys in Eva’s room that I either make myself or purchase from natural toymakers, like those made by Etsy’s Naturalkids Team members. But these were plastic items from China. I just didn’t want them in my home, and Eva didn’t mind my exchanging them. But what would I find in the mega toy store?

What hit me first as I entered the door, was the smell of plastic off gassing. It was palpable and made my throat dry. How fast could I get in and out? I wondered. I asked the cashier, who automatically handed me a plastic card with my refund money on it, where the natural or wooden toys were. She shrugged ever so politely and offered that I look around. I took a tour of what seemed like a hostile faraway planet full of scary things. Dolls named Bratz, avengers of evil with guns that could obliterate a creature instantly and remorselessly. Palm sized computer games, infant toys that never stopped making noise, plastic junk food for pretend play, all packaged in plastic…Ok, if you’ve been reading my posts, you know where I’m going with this…Yes, there were bikes and carseats, but otherwise, it was a store 98% filled with “toys” that over stimulated, promoted a culture of fierce competition or violence, applauded unhealthy eating, and were in and of themselves toxic on one level or another, and polluting.

As the wonderful “Earth Ball” creation above by Cozycottagecreations, depicts, our children have the whole world in their hands. By choosing to fill those hands with natural, handmade toys and other items, a true reverence for our planet can begin and with the open ended nature of these toys, perhaps the imaginations of our children will be free enough to help them survive and revive the planet we have handed them.

Below is a discussion of some natural options for parents looking to choose more natural items for their children. All photos are courtesy of my fellow toy maker/artists from Etsy’s Naturalkids Team.

This sweet lamb by Woolies , and

Little Love Blue‘s adorable elephant are hand made from pure wool, while
Mosey’s “Henny Penny” is made from upcycled wool.

These toys don’t light up, but what they offer children is a tactile sense of safety, warmth, goodness, with a gentle appreciation of the natural world.

Who or what will the child discover behind Beneaththerowantree’s harvest fairy door?

Perhaps this little pixie:
Littleelfstoyshop’s
forest elf with bird suggests a mischievous and humorous aspect to the mysteries of the natural world without cynicism. A child may interpret her expression as an impish, irresistible invitation to play… or will they just sit and chat together?

Perhaps she lives here. Or does the mouse rule this needlefelted domicile by Chimera? How sturdy, this wool home is; how beautifully crafted, and what a connection in makes to the nature world from which its materials came.


Instead of supplying and fast-triggered arson of weapons to save the world, Faerierebecca’s autumn nature table set is motionless, a simple gesture of sharing some of nature’s harvest. Is it an acorn, a leaf? The child can decide that, and the identity of this lovely needle felted creature. She has no moniker created by marketing companies, only an open face.


Wonderwull’s “Peace Angel” replaces the mechanical or computerized warriors against evil, with a quiet icon for peace. What hope she inspires in her silence. Out of that stillness, perhaps the small voice could still be heard.



What magical stories from the child’s own imagination could be written in the pages of Whimsomehollow’s felt book with moveable pieces?

Perhaps they are stories the child will retell to his or her “baby” while lulling it to sleep in Bellawinter‘s beautiful handmade, upcycled sling.

Whimsicalmom offers children an alternative to mass-produced art supplies. Together with her children, she created these “Sprite Scribblers-Vibrant Earth” upcycled, non toxic crayons in surprising color combinations, sure to ignite the imaginations of little ones as they draw a world they’d like to inhabit.


When children are provided with open-ended toys, from nature about nature, their imaginations grow, life skills are born and honed…who knows what they’ll create? Unwaveringfaith’s 12-year-old son crafted this: Fairy furniture; A gift back to the natural world.


Freedomrainbow’s shop provides lots of natural “reike” dolls for children, while her sister shop, Rainbowlotusnaturals offers parents choices which literally surround children in natural goodness and the opportunity make creative decisions. In her own words, this “cloak is a dress, sweater, jacket, and poncho all in one! All natural and recycled, it is so healthy for your little pixie and the planet she is from!”

In the morning or after a long day of play, Truevineherbs bath soap surrounds children with nature in a different way, cleaning their little, growing bodies with natural, safe and gentle soaps, like this one, made from natural ingredients from the earth.

What lovely alternatives to the megabranded megadistributed products. These are all items your children can breathe around and breathe life into.

After an hour of wandering the aisles of Toys-R-Us, searching for something I could bring home that supported my values, I finally found a little wooden train set, which Eva was thrilled to have. But I hope to never have to step foot in another
one of these chain stores again. I looked at the other parents roaming around, trying to buy toys that would do right by their children, but unwittingly purchasing toys which would pollute their homes, the planet when they are thrown away and potentially the very minds of their children. I am fortunate to know there are natural alternatives to the products found there and the messages they convey. I am blessed with the ability to create the lovely wool items which I both give my daughter and provide to others through my shop (nushkie.etsy.com,) as well as have the variety and high level of craftmenship available to me through shops I referenced here, as well as other Naturalkids Team shops. Now, perhaps, there will be a growing number of parents who will know they have natural alternatives and share this information with their friends.

All of the Naturalkids Team artisans strive to create toys, clothing, soaps and other items for children that are good for this generation and generations to come, because when these things go back to the earth, they are simply returning to the natural world from which they were made.

We do have options. Let’s keep the world we place in the hands of our children natural, healthy, lovely and fun, just like the world we strive to live in.

Thank you for reading. ‘Til next time!

Rebecca Varon-Remstein
www.nushkie.etsy.com



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Instructions Not Included Part 2


Two weeks ago I began this blog topic. It is such a powerful idea to me, that children should be allowed to play without parental direction or instruction, that I decided to do the article in two parts. I am focusing on only one of the ways parents can step back and let their children do what they do best and naturally: play. That is, to provide them with toys they can figure out, which are open-ended, meaning the child can use her or his own imagination to complete the toy. It is difficult for some parents to understand this concept and choose a natural toy when they are bombarded by advertising from so many big “name” brands. In the first part of “Instructions Not Included,” I gave several examples from my fellow artisans from Etsy’s Naturalkids Team. I’d like to invite new readers to start with my last post. In this current post, I will continue to offer suggestions in this area with additional links.

Here’s something to consider:I read somewhere that invention is not necessarily creating something new with a purpose, but giving a new purpose and way of using to an existing item. Take the item pictured above from Fairiesnest. Yes it is a wand…or is it? If so, is it for a wizard, a fairy a princess? The answers to these questions will be completed by the child. What new way of using this timeless toy will be invented, what enchanting scenarios may be created? And since it is not licensed or branded by a multinational corporate identity, the possibilities are truly endless.

“Waldorf dolls, such as those made by Bellawinter,
FaerieRebecca,
Germandolls or
Woodcreations’….convey little expression. Like the “Mona Lisa,” they are enigmatic and allow the child to decide their emotional state.

In imaginary play, this aspect of allowing the child to complete the toy by deciding if the baby is sleepy or awake, sad or exuberant, not only exercises the child’s imagination, but may also be therapeutic, allowing the child to work through emotional struggles. When Eva was 2, she slipped off the step in our pool. One second later, I lifted her out. This upset her nonetheless. The next day, she had her baby in the bathtub and was teaching it to swim. Clearly she was working out her feelings about water. Mommy’s only job was to wring the toy out later and allow it to dry!

Here is a gnome by Oritdotan. Who is he? Where did he come from? Is that a shell really a cauldron with stew? This playset does not offer any solutions to these riddle. Instead, it offers endless possibilities for the child to imagine.

Beneaththerowantree‘s gnome is quite different…almost a beehive…is he friendly or shy, abiding or mischievous? The child can decide what adventures to send him on, what his future in their present will be.



And who are the gnome’s or the doll’s friends?
Perhaps a needle felted bird, by Thesingingbird

…or some tiny hedgehogs…by Purplemoonfibers.

How about a snail from Woodmouse?

 

…or Freedomrainbow’s custom order cat…

Is it a really a cat or a woolly forest creature or someone from another universe. this is for the child to decide.

The conversations and adventures these creatures could have with each other are endless, because they come free of history, branding or any other known fact.

There are so many examples I could give from my colleagues on Etsy.com’s Naturalkids Team. But I hope these few examples will give readers a taste of the endless play their children could delight in with toys made from natural materials as they project their fantasies onto them. Like Cozycottage’s strawberries, the sweetness is there, ready to be enjoyed by all the senses, and it begins with the imagination.

In my next blog, we’ll explore another aspect of the playroom. Til then, be well.

By Rebecca Varon-Remstein
nushkiedesign

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Instructions Not Included

I’ll never forget one day at a neighborhood playground about two years ago, when I was sitting on the sidelines watching Eva, now four, play in the sand. Next to me was a woman who was on her hands and knees in the sand telling her two-year-old how to play with his toy. It was a complicated sort of gizmo the use for which, only the mother, evidently could decipher. It begged several questions in my mind; Who’s toy was it, really? How necessary was it to get using it correctly right? Was there really only one way to play with this toy.

I’ve said it before in my blogs, but every time I look around, I see how deep the truth of this idea of Rudolph Steiner’s is…that the child should be able in some way to complete the toy; it needs to be open ended. (Eva, pictured here, dresses herself and two of the needle felted dolls I made for her in silk. She has cast herself and the others in a “puppet” show.) Eva wears her play silk, or “Rainbow” as she refers to them, as a “wedding dress.” But her silks have become baby slings, rainbows, flags, vaccuums, ropes, etc…

There is no correct way to play with these; no end to what this simple square of color can become, such as with Birchleafedesigns‘s play silks shown
here. These are not only beautiful but processed with low-impact dye, making them and most of the other items featured environmentally friendly.

I’d like to explore the ways in which toys can be simple and open ended, using images from my Etsy.com Naturalkids Team colleagues for examples. With Winsomehollow’s endearing gnome play set, there are no rules. There is no “branded” personality for him…or her. The little island can be anywhere the child chooses. His or her story will be new and original.

Although Woolcomesalive’s toy set, pictured here is described on her site as a barn with sheep and bails, all of those pieces can have new identities in the mind of the child. For, they are not so specifically formed and have no back story created by marketing executives.

Oritdotandolls’ fairies are light and ethereal. Literally, faceless, the child can project whatever image they like onto it. Though Orit names this one a “blessing,” perhaps it is a “gifting” or “singing” fairy to the child…or just “Lucy.” Refreshingly, nothing about this fairy disproves any of the child’s notions.

We see that Littleelfstoyshop’s daffodil girl holds a yellow flower…but what is the rest of her story…and can that daffodil be a flag or a horn? Sure. And her expression, like most Waldorf-inspired dolls is enigmatic, leaving her attitude up to the imagination of the child who plays with her. Here is another example of that open expression from Auntboosbabies. One might think that this lack of expression may feel cold to a child. On the contrary it is inviting. When you combine that with natural materials, like recycled cotton and other natural fibers, as many of our Naturalkids Team team members use, the doll is even softer to the touch…even more loveable.

I would like to continue with these examples and feature additional sellers from our team in my next “Part Two of Instructions Not Included” next time. In the meantime, I invite you to click on their links on the blog site and visit the wonderful and creative worlds these folks inspire through their artistry.

I leave off with the image featured at the top of the page from Dosidough. This team member creates a natural version of playdough – a toy which defies all rules and for which instructions are neither included or requested.

By Rebecca Varon-Remstein
nushkiedesign