In Steiner Waldorf Kindergartens and Early Years Settings careful consideration is given to the impact of everything in the kindergarten environment upon all the senses of a young child. There are no ‘hard’ corners, no strong colours and all the furniture and toys are made of natural materials, as is some of the equipment like beeswax crayons and sheep’s fleece.
Here at Rush Farm Children’s Garden aim to have a home from home atmosphere and set up. We have a main playroom and a kitchen and eating / craft area downstairs and the class 1 classroom upstairs. In the main playroom there is a quiet corner, a home corner and an area for floor play and building large constructions. This is also where ring-time happens. There is also a nature table, which follows a seasonal theme. Outside there is a private garden with a locking gate, a lawn and flower beds, sand pit and climbing frame.
Inside the walls are lazured which is a special painting technique where translucent layers of paint are applied to white walls. Light passes through these thin layers of colour and is reflected back, giving a soft luminosity. As well as beautiful results the changing shades and tones of the colour through the day bring a ‘life’ quality into the space.
The toys in the playroom are all made of natural materials, such as wood, silk, wool and cotton. They are eco-friendly and where possible organic too. These are toys that are good for the environment but also nourish the children’s senses.
Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf education, suggested that children’s playthings should be largely unformed in order to stimulate a child’s imagination. For example, there are wooden screens and baskets of conkers, shells, wooden blocks and silks which during a morning’s play may become houses, castles, food, money, boats, dresses or water. By giving children objects that are not highly formed and detailed, they can easily become more than one thing, and give children’s imaginations free reign.
The furniture is made of wood and is intended for open ended or multi use by the children. Chairs have been known to become tractors!
Children naturally want to imitate adults and their daily activities. To this end there are child-sized versions of household items such as a play kitchen, dishes, brooms and dust pan and brushes which all allow the children to fully engage in their imaginative imitation of daily life, and build real life skills as well.
In the garden the outdoor equipment includes a choice of spades, buckets and rakes and logs and branches. The children are introduced to gardening and composting giving the children the opportunity to become familiar with the process of growing from planting to harvesting.
As well as the designated Rush Farm Children’s Garden space, there are of course acres of fields to explore and run around in, a stream to play in and a wood to build dens in.