Swadhaa - A Steiner School

The world of the Waldorf Kindergarten

Rudolf Steiner’s advice to the first Waldorf kindergarten teacher, Elizabeth Grunelius, in the early 1920s, can be paraphrased as follows:

Observe the children.
Actively meditate.
Follow your intuitions.
Work so that all your actions are worthy of imitation
.

 Two magic words for kindergarten are:  Imitation and Example

 The kindergarten experiences that are essential for the healthy development of a young child include,World-of-waldorf-Kindergarten

Love and warmth

In the Kindergarten, love and emotional warmth form the basis of the relationship between the adult caregiver and the child; and of the children’s behaviour toward one another.

The right physical environment that nourishes the senses

The essential task of the kindergarten teacher is to create the proper physical environment around the children. “Physical environment” must be understood in the widest sense imaginable. It includes not just what happens around the children in the material sense, but everything that takes place in the children’s environment, everything that can be perceived by their senses, that can work on the inner powers of the children from the surrounding physical space.                                                                                                                                               —Rudolf Steiner, the Education of the Child

The kindergarten teachers are soft spoken, with a pleasant demeanour and are graceful in their actions.

The materials in the classroom are generally unfinished, unstructured such that the child can fill in it from his own imagination. The work of imagination moulds and builds the forms of the brain. Scarves, napkins, pebbles, twigs and handmade toys, to name a few, are the simple natural materials in the classroom.

Meaningful Adult Activity as Example for the Child’s Imitation

World-of-waldorf-kindergarten-2The teacher engages in domestic, practical and artistic activities that the children can readily imitate for e.g.painting, gardening, cooking and handicrafts….adapting the work to the changing seasons and festivals of the year.

The teacher focuses on the meaningful activities that nurture life in the classroom “home,” doing laundry and cleaning, creating and caring for the materials in the immediate environment.

Free, Imaginative Play

Free and imaginative play is one of the most unique characteristics of the Kindergarten. The indoor and outdoor free plays are times when children have a free rein on the material and the modality in the classroom. There is no interruption or instruction during these times. It is a great insight into the child’s world for the teacher. 

Protection of the Forces of Childhood

World-of-waldorf-kindergarten-4The lively, waking dream of the little child’s consciousness is allowed to thrive in the early childhood group. Thus the teacher refrains as much as possible from verbal instructions. Instead, her gestures and actions provide a model for the child’s imitation.  Familiar daily rhythms and activities provide a context where the need for verbal instruction is reduced.  Simple, archetypal imagery in stories, songs, and games provides experiences that the children can internalize but that do not require intellectual or critical reflection or explanation.

An Atmosphere of Gratitude, Reverence, and Joy

If you make a surly face so that a child gets the impression you are a grumpy person, this harms the child for the rest of his life. What kind of school plan you make is neither here nor there; what matters is what sort of person you are.                                                                                              -  Rudolf Steiner, the Kingdom of Childhood

World-of-waldorf-kindergarten-5This requires the kindergarten teacher to enrich her own personality and truly experience gratitude in her life which then finds expression in her classroom. In the classroom simple and small rituals expressing gratitude towards the entire environment are a part of the daily rhythm. The toys are woken up and put to sleep with deep love and care, the materials are returned to their places with immense sanctity and reverence permeates every gesture of the teacher.

Adult Caregivers on a Path of Inner Development

Here we come to the spiritual environment of the early childhood setting – the thoughts, attitudes and imaginations living in the adult who cares for the children. This invisible realm that lies behind the outer actions of the teacher has a profound influence on the child’s development.

Thus teachers with young children in a Waldorf environment engage in constant endeavours towards self-awareness and self-education. The Worl-of-waldorf-kindergarten-3need for the ongoing study of the child and human consciousness, independently and together with others, is an essential element of the practice of a Waldorf teacher.

The page contains excerpts from an article of Susan Howard, published in “Gateways”, the newsletter, in 2006.