‘We do not educate the child for the age of childhood, we educate him for his whole earthly existence.’ Rudolf Steiner. The Roots of Education, 17/04/1924
Infants and young children are in the most absorptive stage of human learning. They are totally open to external influences. From birth, babies learn to stand, to talk, and to think through a combination of inherent ability, instinct and imitation. Rudolf Steiner viewed the physical, social, spiritual and cognitive development of a child as all interconnected. Waldorf education takes into account the whole child and believes that learning during the first seven years gains meaning by how it relates to daily life. The learning experience for this age group deals directly with the familiar daily activities of the home. For example mathematics can be introduced while a child helps out in the kitchen.
‘To a healthy child, playing is not only a pleasurable pastime, but also an absolutely serious activity. Play flows in real earnest out of the child’s entire organism.’ Rudolf Steiner. The Child’s Changing Consciousness, 18/04/1923
Imitation characterizes this first stage of a child’s development from birth to seven years. Young children mimic everything in their environment uncritically-not only the sounds of speech, the gestures of people, but also the attitudes and values of parents and peers. Imitation is one of the most effective and natural means of learning at this age. Teachers and parents perform their tasks consciously and carefully, aware that they may be models worthy of imitation.
‘There are three primary virtues which we must develop in the child: gratitude, love and responsibility. These three virtues are the foundation on which the whole social life is built’ Rudolf Steiner. Education of the Child, 15/04/1923
Encouraging children to share, to work together, to care for each other and to respect the needs of others during this stage of development helps them build a healthy foundation of learning. The behavior of a child is molded by what surrounds him. Kindness is especially important in dealing with children of this age group. Sharing traditional fairy tales and nature stories with them addresses the feeling realm and gradually awakens a fine moral sense for knowing right from wrong.
‘In order to become true educators, the essential thing is to be able to see the truly aesthetic element in the work, to bring an artistic quality into our tasks, such as the creation of play materials.’Rudolf Steiner. The Child’s Changing Consciousness, 18/04/1923
Many fine artists, who belong to the Waldorf on Etsy team, are committed to creating children’s tools and toys for this very important first stage of development. The love and care they put into their work can be see and felt. Quality materials along with special attention to the imaginative side of their work makes these unique pieces perfect for the play of your young learner. Please visit us on etsy to see many more examples of Waldorf inspired playthings.
I gathered the information in this blog post from these resources on Waldorf education on the web: