THE CORE ELEMENTS
A Waldorf kindergarten provides a relaxed and joyful transition from early childhood to the the grade school by creating a warm, home-like atmosphere where the child’s inherent abilities can naturally unfold.
Learning through doing. Play is a manifestation of work.
We consciously build a strong foundation during these years by encouraging imaginative or so-called “free play” for the young child learns most deeply through imitation and engaging in meaningful activities. One might even say that play is the work of the young child, a notion which is supported by many scientific studies. So, we avoid actual academic instruction at this age but through artistic activities such as painting, music, handcrafts, story telling, as well as nature walks, and practical activities such as baking and cooking, we help the child discover their world and prepare a solid basis for future intellectual work.
Through their play, children learn basic life skills such as sharing with others, exploring possibilities, and even risk taking and conflict resolution. Rich, imaginative play and purposeful activities are the first steps in the grander cognitive processes that develop in the years to come and guide the children without stress towards becoming free, creative thinkers and decision makers for the remainder of their lives.
Parents, the teacher, and adults who care for young children are the primary role models that children imitate and our conscious, purposeful activities naturally lead them to more fully engaging their whole being in the building of self confidence, developing trust in the world, as well as fine and gross motor skills. Nurturing the imagination of the child by engaging them artistically speaks to their inner feeling life and cultivates a sense of wonder for the world. Rather than teaching only to the head with intellectual or abstract concepts, we introduce and show the child how human beings live life on earth through strong conscious rhythms in our day, the week, and the year.
Emphasizing the rhythms of life is comforting and gives a sense of security to the child by helping them to anticipate what is coming next. The children learn to know the days of the week through their activities; coloring day, painting day, pasting day, beeswax day, and cleaning day. The rhythm of these activities is highlighted with special festivals, celebration of the seasons, and of course, birthdays, our own and those of our friends. The celebrations of festivals whether it be Diwali, Eid, or Christmas are magical times which are reverently brought without unnecessary explanations for the experiences themselves fill the children with joy and allows their wonder-filled imagination to have free reign. The conscious and purposeful rhythms of our morning circle activities, the day as a whole, the week, and year provide needed balance to our unstructured time of “free play”.
Imaginative play, including dressing up, playing house, make believe, building forts and the like are a familiar part of childhood and are further expanded to include simple sewing, soft crafts, beeswax modeling, painting with watercolor, drawing and coloring, putting on simple plays, finger plays, story telling, puppet shows, and much more. Free play times, with proper oversight but without excessive adult intervention, allow children to exercise their creative imagination, work through their questions and anxieties, learn from their peers, and provide them with opportunities to model the healthy images provided by adults in their work.
It is also very important for young children to be outside and experience the natural world. In today’s busy and fast paced life, particularly in cities, there are fewer and fewer opportunities for children to move around and engage in the wonders of nature. For this reason we encourage children to be outside a good part of the day when the weather permits.
The young child is always on the move, exploring and investigating the world through their play and for this reason it is important that they have some quiet time to rest. After story time and lunch, we have a nap time, providing a still, quiet time to rest and digest the stimulation of their morning.
Originally, Waldorf education in early childhood was designed for children 3-6 years of age and no distinctions were made between pre-kindergarten and kindergarten. Later in the grade school years the children are separated according to age, but we feel that it is appropriate and healthy for children in this age group to have opportunities to play together. We can characterize early childhood as a very dreamy time and the young child is not self conscious or overly aware of the differences between their ages. We provide a safe and sheltered environment where the children may wake up to the world and themselves in a more natural way and at their own pace.
Family and Home Rhythms.
Providing strong home rhythms are also a necessary part of children’s lives which encourages greater harmony in the family. Simple rhythms of scheduled meal times, proper bedtimes, regular nap times, reading stories together and the like are strongly encouraged for they are not only comforting to children but an essential part of their learning about living life together here on Earth.
It should be noted that media exposure, television, movies, video games, and loud music can increase anxiety in young children for they quickly can become over stimulated and confused. The adult themes in much of today’s media and just the sheer pace and volume of visual imagery is more than a young child can digest or comprehend. This can result in unwanted behaviors, acting out aggressively, and the pushing of acceptable boundaries, as well as impeding their own imaginative creativity. For these reasons we discourage media exposure for young children and encourage families to consciously adjust some family activities to distinguish between adult activities and those which are appropriate for young children. We must be sensitive to the tender and delicate needs of the young child for the precious and wholesome purity of childhood can be quickly lost forever.