Steiner Waldorf "believes that children’s learning flourishes in a calm, peaceful, predictable, familiar and unhurried environment that recognises the child’s sensory sensitivities. Young children need to experience the relevance of their world before they separate themselves from it and begin to analyse it in a detached way.
Learning gains meaning by its relevance to life and should not be separated from the business of daily living. The learning experience of children under the age of seven therefore is integrated and not subject-based.
‘We must not think out work for children to do, even in play, that is not an imitation of life itself’. Rudolf Steiner. The Kingdom of Childhood, 1924
‘What a difference there is between…playthings that leave as much as possible to the power of imagination and giving finished toys that leave nothing for the child’s own inner activity.’
Rudolf Steiner. The Roots of Education, 17/04/1998
Each child has his/her own coat peg with their name or a picture above it and somewhere to leave a change of shoes. There is a nature table which follows a seasonal theme and the decorations are also seasonal, always displayed with moderation, using soft material and pastel colours. There is a quiet corner, a home corner, an area for floor play and building large constructions, an area for activity and snack tables and chairs. The kitchen area is partitioned but usually within the room.
Materials and toys
The furniture is made ofToys are made of natural materials and are deliberately crafted to be relatively undefined which allows maximum scope for imaginative use as props in children’s play wood and is intended for multiple use. . They include wooden blocks, planks and logs, natural plain cloth, shells, cones, and hand-made dolls. Equipment includes grain mills, juice presses, woodwork tools, spinning wheels and other simple manual tools, watercolours, broad brushes, beeswax crayons, sheep’s fleece, sewing materials and specially designed picture books. There is also a variety of materials in soft colours for dressing up or using to cover the wooden screens, which can make houses, boats or castles. In the home corner there are small cradles, prams, table and chairs, kitchen equipment and more such domestic items. There are often instruments for musical activities, and sometimes a quiet/book corner with a few carefully chosen picture books which are changed regularly.
Where possible, children are introduced to gardening/composting in the kindergarten garden where there is an opportunity to become familiar with the process of growing from planting to harvesting.
Repetition helps to support good habits. So in a Steiner kindergarten emphasis is given to regular patterns of activities repeated within the day, week and year to provide rhythm and routine.
The creating of different moods to accompany different kinds of activities is done very deliberately as a way of allowing children to become aware of the invisible boundaries that determine what kind of behaviour is appropriate for the situation.
The teaching method
Steiner practitioners work with their image of the child as a spiritual being bearing gifts, and it is their task, alongside the parents, to help the child to unwrap these gifts as the child develops.
There is no deliberate effort to ‘teach’ or ‘instruct’ the children in any formal sense. Imitation is one of the most effective and natural means of learning at this age and can be most easily directed when the adults perform their tasks consciously and carefully, repeating the gestures of each action in a rhythmical and natural way.
Each kindergarten session is a good balance of teacher-led and child-initiated activities.
It is important to note that although practitioners work with and out of deep and important principles, they do not set up any learning situations for specific and isolated learning goals, e.g. a specific game in order to learn to add on one or more. Instead, the routinely occurring domestic activity of setting the table ensures that children learn this mathematical concept through discovery and repetition, thus making the learning process holistic, emotionally supportive and above all purposeful to the young child.
There are areas of the educational programmes which may not be met in a Steiner kindergarten
(as detailed below) particularly ‘being read to and beginning to read and write must be supported and extended’. In most cases children are not formally taught any letter or word formation. In most cases children are not surrounded by written text or taught how to read. In most cases children are not read to, as the oral tradition of story telling is fostered instead. They are not formally taught how to write. However, children may imitate adults’ writing. Are not formally taught number recognition.
Children are not exposed to any form of programmable toys or electronic technology, such as TV or computers. Instead, as detailed in the section below, children use a wide range of ‘warm technology’, such as hand-manipulated machines and tools, e.g. corn grinders, drills and whisks