THE days of Ken and Barbie dolls will be well over if one kindergarten gets its way.
A new era of nurseries has been born, in which they are refusing to allow toddlers to watch television, play with fancy commercial toys or wear clothes with brand names.
The Soupstone kindergarten encourages youngsters to play with shells and conkers, disallows logos on children’s clothing and promotes storytelling rather than the reading of books.
The Dublin city centre toddler facility has been set up by a group of disillusioned parents, sick of their young kids watching videos during care time and becoming attached to commercial toys.
Already, it cares for more than a dozen children aged three to six, and a number of similar kindergartens outside the capital are emerging.
Soupstone volunteer carer, Aileen Curtin, explained: “It’s natural surroundings and a natural environment for the children. There’s absolutely no television and any toys they bring in we keep aside until they are leaving.”
The kindergarten teacher and volunteers encourage kids to engage in practical activities like baking, painting, storytelling and gardening.
Most of the products bought by the Soupstone team also subscribe to fair trade ethics.
In addition, volunteers at the centre use recycled materials for the children’s arts classes.
“There will be absolutely no Ken and Barbie dolls, that’s for sure,” added Ms Curtin.
The parent-run, nonprofitable group in Belvedere Court, off Gardiner Street, relies on charity funding and collections at toy-making workshops, and according to its organisers is facing difficult financial times.
It charges “different rates for parents in different situations”.
The traditional “blue for boys” and “pink for girls” approach is also discouraged by the group.
Teachers operate on a multilingual basis and, as well as English, also speak Irish and Dutch in classes.
The Soupstone kindergarten is linked to a larger group of nurseries known as the Irish Steiner kindergarten group, which takes its lead from research that suggests TV and DVD viewing is harmful for infants.
The National Children’s Nurseries Association said yesterday the Steiner nurseries were proving popular with parents and, while there were only a few in the country, parents were “very committed” to them.
The association’s director of services, Teresa Heeney, added: “It’s a lifestyle choice.”
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