The Waldorf early childhood educator works with the young child by creating a warm, beautiful and loving home-like environment, which is protective and secure, and where things happen in a predictable, rhythmic manner. Here she responds to the developing child in two basic ways:
First, she engages in domestic, practical, and artistic activities the children can readily imitate (for example, baking, painting, gardening, and handicrafts), adapting the work to the changing seasons and festivals of the year.
Secondly, the Waldorf kindergarten teacher nurtures the children’s power of imagination by telling carefully selected stories and by encouraging free play. This free or fantasy play, in which children act out scenarios of their own creation, helps them to experience many aspects of life more deeply. When toys are used, they are made of natural materials. Wood, cotton, wool, silk, shells, stones, pine cones and objects from nature that the children themselves have collected are used in play and to beautify the room.
Sensory integration, eye-hand coordination, appreciating the beauty of language, sequencing, and other basic skills necessary for the foundation of academic learning are fostered in the kindergarten. In this truly loving, natural and creative environment, children are provided with a range of activities to prepare them for later learning and for life itself.
From Windows into Waldorf, by David Mitchell (used with the permission of the author)
“The joy of the child in and with his environment must be reckoned among the forces that build and mould the physical organs. The child needs people around him with happy looks and manner and, above all, with an honest unaffected love… The child who lives in such an atmosphere of warmth and love and who has around him really good example for his imitation is living in his right element.”
Rudolf Steiner, Education of the Child
For further information on Waldorf kindergartens and early childhood education, go to What Is Waldorf Early Childhood Education?