Birth to Three Care and Education
Essential Characteristics of Steiner/Waldorf Early Childhood Education for the Child from Birth to Three
The first three years of our lives are unique. The young child is completely open to the world around them. They do not discern what to take in but allow all that they experience to enter and impress upon their body and being. It is therefore important how we meet and care for this open, trusting child. Children of this age are supported by respectful care, a slower pace, loving, present adults and plenty of time to digest the many experiences they take in each day. This requires the adults who raise and care for these children to develop capacities of observation, loving awareness, patience and wonder.
By understanding and respectfully meeting the needs of the child we can consciously build a daily life and rhythm that supports the developing being. As adults, we can be aware that the child lives in imitation, as one main way of learning. Therefore it is important to be patient and courageous in our efforts to be worthy of their imitation. Developing a close and predictable attachment between the caretaker and the child allows the child to rest into their unfolding. These qualities can inspire us as adults to recognize the gift that is before us in this open, trusting affected child.
A child needs plenty of time for exploring the natural world, meeting others, meeting himself, developing all the senses, especially the senses of touch, life, movement, and balance. These senses develop through freedom of movement, time for uninterrupted play from infancy, loving relationships with adults who are conscious that how they handle the physical body of the child impacts the child’s will for life.
We are grateful to IASWECE for their permission to use their Essential Characteristics as a guide for this document.