The “Waldorf” in Waldorf toys comes from Waldorf education, which is based on the educational philosophy of Rudolf Steiner. According to Steiner's philosophy, the human being is a threefold being of spirit, soul, and body whose capacities unfold in three developmental stages on the path to adulthood: early childhood, middle childhood, and adolescence. https://www.waldorfeducation.org/waldorf-education/rudolf-steiner-the-history-of-waldorf-education
Steiner was an Austrian founder of a spiritual philosophy called Anthroposophy, around the turn of the 20th century. This philosophy is based on the theory that children’s creative, spiritual, and moral dimensions need as much consideration as their intellectual ones.
In order to achieve that a child needs open ended free play as well as proper nutrition and a whole host of other things that parents can learn to educate them on.
Someone doesn’t need to follow Steiner’s educational philosophies or Waldorf education methods to appreciate the beauty of Waldorf toys, though.
According to Steiner, toys as he referred to as playthings Nourishing to the senses, so when a child hold a toy in their hand or hugs a Waldorf doll which is stuffed with wool and covered in cotton with soft hair made of wool. The softness and warmth will have calming and soothing effects on a young child’s senses as it touches the doll.
Nature has beauty in itself, even when things for adult’s eye don’t look present. Child just sees the innocence and beauty in everything. Steiner philosophy believes that the toys should be beautiful to look at because one’s sense of sight is as important as touch. As parents we all aspire to nurture children in a beautiful environment and according to Steiner, children’s toys should be just as beautiful as well. By surrounding children with beauty, we are not only contributing to their sense of wellbeing (or “sense of life,” as Rudolf Steiner referred to it), but also developing their aesthetic awareness and appreciation.
Most Waldorf toys or Waldorf inspired toys are usually open ended and it’s up to the child what they would be or could be. In order to leave the toys open ended, it should be left simple and with very few details. I remember when we first joined Waldorf School for my son, the teacher would even tell me to not read to him but tell him stories. I have seen leaps n bounds of imagination and creativity my son has. Sometimes, I wish I had this opportunity while I was growing up. I would have been much better individual in some aspects of my life for sure. According to my son’s teacher, Waldorf teachers believe that toys should be simple and open-ended.
A chestnut can be food a child serves you in their play kitchen and the same chestnut can be money to pay for things as well in their world. Possibilities are endless.