Central to Waldorf principles is the need to surround children with beauty. Watercolors and beeswax crayons (when used with teacher guidance and purpose) naturally create very beautiful works without technical talent. You will notice that the teachers use care not to allow the children to muddle their colors into a brown mess. At home our children may find joy creating many shades of brown and black in their artistic pursuits, but at the Waldorf school there is a grander purpose than just learning that mixing all of the colors makes mud. Watercolor paints remind me of the silk scarves Waldorf parents are encouraged to use as drapes over their babies’ cradles. When children are small, their perception of the physical world is still veiled. Most young
children are not able to perceive strict realism. They are still emerging from their spiritual womb. This emergence will continue until the child is well into adulthood. As a matter of fact, Waldorf philosophy is quite emphatic that to push a child into realism (through premature reading or denial of fantasy play) can cripple their spiritual development.
Working with beeswax is a very sensual experience. The smell of the wax, the feel of it softening in the hand, the shimmering color all create a pleasurable atmosphere for the exploration of three dimensional creation. The children listen to their teacher’s story and manifest an element from the story with their own hands. Watercolor paints and beeswax crayons allow the child to create without literalism. They are continually pushed away from the inside of arbitrary boundaries to the radiating form. In this way children are taught that they do not need to confine themselves, their thoughts or the others around themselves into a preconceived box or how things/people are supposed to be configured.
As with the stories being told to the children, the forms they are being taught have nothing to do with literal representation. The forms are meant to resonate with the child’s state of development, to assist with the brain’s integration of the surrounding world. The forms, the paintings, the beeswax sculptures all assist in the maturation of the spirit/emotion/body. The fact that the results are beautiful objects or pictures is a lovely by-product, not the primary goal.