The Steiner early childhood approach recognises that experimentation with ‘writing’ and numbers is part of a young child’s normal development. For example, a child will naturally ‘write’ signs for their games or use conkers and shells as ‘money’. However, formal learning is not introduced until the child starts in a Steiner school at rising 7. We firmly believe that young children are not physically, emotionally and intellectually ready for formal learning at the kindergarten stage and that young children benefit from an unhurried and stress free environment where there is time to discover the world around him/her and to master social, physical co-ordination, speech and other life skills before abstract learning is introduced. The focus in a Steiner kindergarten therefore is on developing these skills in preparation for formal schooling when the pupils is rising 7.
Foundations in Literacy, Numeracy and Communication
In a Steiner kindergarten the priority is to develop the following skills (amongst many others):
Speech & Language
The evidence of the importance that Steiner EY curriculum attaches to the spoken word is in the way the day is structured. Good communication and oral numeric skills develop out of playing and working together in an informal and practical atmosphere. Every day the children take part in activities such as counting games, rhythmic activities, poetry, rhymes and singing, including material in foreign languages. The oral tradition is integrated into most parts of the kindergarten day to encourage listening and speech development. They listen to stories told by the teacher, which include a rich vocabulary. Children experience the musicality of language and its social aspects through playing ring games and eurythmy, a form of movement, which works with language and music. Children are encouraged to speak freely and learn to listen to others. Use of language enables cognitive development and well-chosen words and good syntax support clear thinking. The development of a good memory and recall are reliant on the spoken word, rather than the printed word or computers, and speech develops concentration and empathy, which are essential for formal learning.
The kindergarten experience integrates mathematical concepts and the use mathematical language on the grounds that grasping mathematical concepts such as weight, measure and shape is most meaningful when it relates to everyday activities and routines. For example, the preparation of food provides an opportunity to weigh, measure, count and use number, and setting the table is another area where maths is used in a practical way. Through movement games, children recognise and recreate patterns – in, out, alternate, above and below, in front of, behind etc. Natural objects such as acorns, pinecones, conkers and shells are sorted, ordered and counted, as part of spontaneous play or tidy. This approach to the introduction of mathematics embeds the concepts in a social and moral context.
Dexterity and physical co-ordination
Formal learning relies on dexterity and physical co-ordination. In Steiner kindergartens children have the opportunity to develop both large and small motor skills throughout the range of directed and child-initiated activities, such as free play, laying the table, finger games and eurythmy. These activities develop hand to eye co-ordination, manual dexterity and orientation. For example, doing some simple sewing or weaving is a useful preparation for reading print from left to right, and a lot of skill is needed in woodwork. Drawing materials are provided, as well as painting and other creative arts and crafts. Children develop both small and large motor co-ordination in both the indoor and outdoor environment where they learn to stretch their physical abilities in climbing, balance, and learning to manage their own risk taking and boundaries.
The development of social skills and awareness of others are also precursors to formal learning and prepares children for the level of behaviour that is required once children in the classroom situation. In a Steiner kindergarten children are encouraged to share, to work together, to care for each other and to respect the needs of others. The behaviour of children is molded by what surrounds them. Kindness is practised by teachers and encouraged in the children and they learn to trust the adults and other children. Many items are made as gifts for family members. Traditional fairy tales and nature stories address the feeling realm and gradually awaken a fine moral sense for knowing right from wrong.
Respect for the natural environment
In a Steiner kindergarten, children are encouraged to appreciate the natural world in order to help them to value its gifts and to understand its processes and the patterns of the seasons. The beauty of nature, plants, insects and animals is brought to the children with awe and wonder. Domestic tasks provide opportunities for elementary experiences of science and the four elements. When children make toys from sheep’s wool, wood, felt, cotton and other natural materials they learn about its origin. Local crafts people are often invited to visit kindergarten; short local walks provide an opportunity for the children to appreciate some of nature’s wonders. Children are encouraged to look after the kindergarten equipment, sanding and oiling wooden furniture and toys, mending things that break, washing cloths and other simple tasks which children and adults can do together.
The above is taken from the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship’s website and is fundamental to the approach we take at Rush Farm Children’s Garden. To read further about this please follow this link: