The Early Years in Steiner Waldorf Education
The phase of early childhood encompasses birth to seven years. There are many independent Baby and/or Parent and Child groups and most Steiner Early Childhood (EC) settings also include sessions for parents and very young children.
There are a number of day care settings, some attached to schools, who care for babies and Children under three, and some schools also have ‘playgroups’ or ‘nurseries’ for two-four year olds.In the majority of kindergartens, children are enrolled when they are three and over. Each kindergarten group usually has about 16 children of mixed ages to rising seven and is led by a specially trained kindergarten teacher.
Formal learning does not start in Steiner Waldorf Schools until a child enters Class 1 at age 6. Instead the Early Childhood curriculum prepares children for formal learning by first providing time and opportunity to develop socially, emotionally and physically in a creative, secure, enabling and harmonious environment. The foundation skills in literacy and numeracy are laid through an environment rich in hands on activity and play and where language and communication are enabled through a rich oral tradition.
The kindergarten day follows a predictable pattern, alternating child-led time with a teacher-led activity. The day includes a period of free play which could take place inside or out, and alongside a particular activity such as baking, painting, handicraft. The day flows with regular and repetitive activity, such as Ring-time (or ‘circle time’) which includes songs and rhythmical verses, music and movement. The snack, prepared by adults and children is shared together around the table, where the mood is relaxed and social. Other activities include painting, drawing, crafts and the domestic arts such as cooking, baking, cleaning and care for self and others. The strong tradition of oral storytelling and puppetry are a part of the morning, and usually end the session.
Many settings offer afternoon care, which includes lunch, rest time and a longer period of play, generally outside. The morning session which has its own rhythm, is very different from that of the afternoon, and is not repeated once again. The strong sense of routine enables the child knows what to expect and fosters a sense of security.
Very careful consideration is also given to the impact of everything in the kindergarten environment upon all the senses of a young child. There are no ‘hard’ corners, no strong colours and all the furniture and toys are made of natural materials, as is some of the equipment like beeswax crayons and sheep’s fleece. Every kindergarten has a protected and safe natural outdoor area and where such space is limited, children are taken to a place where they can experience nature. There are many kindergartens who spend all day in the woods or outdoors. The festivals, seasonal and cultural, are celebrated, and often parents are invited to participate in them and other events in the kindergarten.
For a more detailed look at Steiner Early Years
Download and read ‘EYFS Readover interpretation’ here:- 1.-EYFS-STEINER-INTERPRETATION-AND-READOVER-2013.pdf