A grounded and intentional home life is the richest educational environment for the very youngest child. For appropriate learning activities, we need look no further than the tasks of the home: cooking, baking, gardening, laundry, cleaning, and so on. Purposeful and deliberate tasks that proceed in a logical sequence and involve a wide variety of movements, gestures, and sensory experiences, become the basis for healthy development and consequently a healthy sense of adjustment as well as logical and flexible thinking later in life. Consciously incorporating some of these tasks of the home with regularity into your family rhythms and engaging children in age-appropriate ways can enrich your child’s sense of life, help them feel more grounded in their environment, and at home in their bodies. It can be nurturing and healing for both caregivers and children to take a pause from the hurried activity of the day and work together in these daily tasks. Holding a rhythm can be trying at times and children can be resistant but doing your best to be present in the moment and bringing an artistic and ritual quality to your work can enliven it with the levity and dependability that children are seeking.
Young children learn most appropriately through imitation. They have a deep and irresistible urge to take in and become whatever they perceive, not only actions but also attitudes, moods, and gestures. If we find pleasure in folding the napkins beautifully, singing a special song as we wash the dishes, or simply in enjoying the rainbow colors of the soap bubbles in the laundry tub, we pass on our joy and feed the soul’s hunger for beauty. Young children delight in songs, stories, verses, and games, which bear many complex skills within them, without any need to be didactic or overtly “educational.” An adult’s own invented songs or stories, however rudimentary, are most precious to the child for whom they are created., e. If we draw children into our work through presence, joy and rhythm, understand the deep significance of our actions both outer and inner, and can resist our adult urge to explain and rationalize everything, we are on the path of Waldorf early childhood education.
The environment that surrounds the child and all that they perceive and participate in, is transformed when he plays. We may even say that they “digest” their experiences through play, and a child who is not given the opportunity to play will be malnourished as surely as one who is not allowed to digest his food. When given space and time to play freely, with models of meaningful work to imitate, children spontaneously create the most varied scenarios and try out many roles that prepare them for later life. Such creativity is perhaps the most human quality we possess, and the freedom to play is the birthright of every human being.
For this healthy play to develop, simplicity is the key– the child does not need too many nor too complicated playthings.The simpler the materials at hand, the stronger the child’s own inner powers will become, as they transform a stone into a loaf of bread, a stick into a magic wand, or a plain cloth into a rainbow. Unadorned, natural materials allow the child’s imagination free rein to endow them with all the details they require.
In both practical life activities, and free play, the child increasingly takes hold of her body through movement. As they learn to roll, crawl, stand, walk, run, jump, skip, twirl, and hop, they are exercising the mind-body connection. Long hours spent sitting in front of a screen or at a desk are not natural or healthy for young children. Rather, every bodily movement feeds the developing brain, and every bodily skill mastered forms a foundation for mental learning, emotional growth, social capacity, and spiritual freedom. This is the particular gift of the first seven years of life.
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