1/F 455 Queen's Road West, Sai Wan, Hong Kong

Support For Kindergarten Families

Published on: 2020-05-01 15:35:14
Ref no: n201927

Dear friends,

Since the Hong Kong population began staying home to stop the spread of Covid-19, our Kindergarten team has worked very hard in fostering a sense of rhythm and positivity for our families with frequent conversations and care package. Here we are sharing the fruits of our labour with colleagues from all over the world as a means to support the worldwide movement.

The Kindergarten team tries to improve upon the care package each time so that each family will have their needs met. We recognise that while the children are home full time, it may be very difficult to complete all the tasks and to listen to the songs and games, and for parents to read the articles. Our care packages have a wide range of activities that we hope can engage children of different ages.

Disruption is a fact of modern life. By staying true to the Waldorf focus on real experiences, loving connections, meaningful work, beautiful creation, and creative play, there are lots of things we can offer to help children and their caregivers manage through these uncertain times.

With love,

Ms Tammy and team


Spring is coming, spring is coming, birdies build your nests

Weave together straw and feather doing each your best

Spring is coming, spring is coming, flowers are coming too

Pansies lilies daffodillies all are coming through

Shake the blanket, shake the blanket

Fold it over, folder it over

I met a dusty little gnome who wanted to clean up his home

Dust, dust, dust,

Sweep, sweep, sweep

Clean his home

Earth who gives to us the food

Sun who makes it ripe and good

Dearest Earth and dearest Sun

Our loving thanks for all that you’ve done

Wash hands, wash,

The farmer’s gone to plough

If you want to wash your hands,

wash your hands now

Fuzzy little caterpillar crawling on the ground

Fuzzy little caterpillar nowhere to be found

When the caterpillars’ furry coat becomes too tight

He spins up a cocoon and sleeps there day and night

Now you see it moving, his little head you spy

Now the caterpillar becomes a butterfly

Tira lira lira, grass so green

Tira lira lira, hear the stream

Tira lira lira, sky so clear

Tira lira lira, spring is here

Tira lira lira, in the spring

Orioles and robins gaily sing

From the leafy branches you can hear

Tira lira lira ringing clear

Waken, sleeping Butterfly burst your narrow prison

Spread your golden wings and fly for the Sun has risen

We’re dancing, we’re dancing around the Maypole high

With colours of the rainbow our ribbons do fly

Dear children take a ribbon please today May flowers

All are we, around, around, around a garland we do weave

Tralala tralala tralala tralala

Tralala tralala tralalala

Baa baa black sheep have you any wool
Yes sir, yes sir three bags full
One for the master, one for the dame
and one for the little boy who lived down the lane

Oats, peas, beans, and barley grow
Oats, peas, beans, and barley grow
Do you or I or anyone know how
Oats, peas, beans, and barley grow
First the farmer sows his seeds
then he stands and takes his ease
Stamps his feet and claps his hands
And turns around to view the land

Pussy cat pussy cat where have you been
I’ve been to London to visit the queen
Pussy cat, pussy cat what did you there
I frightened a little mouse under her chair

Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O.

And on his farm he had some chicks, E-I-E-I-O.

With a chick, chick here,
And a chick, chick there,
Here a chick, there a chick,
Everywhere a chick, chick,

Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O.

Pig – Oink, oink
Cat – Meow, meow
Dog – Bow wow
Cow – Moo, moo
Mouse – Squeak ,squeak
Duck – Quack, quack

Two little dickie birds
Two little dickie birds, Sitting on a wall;
One named Peter,
One named Paul.
Fly away Peter!
Fly away Paul!
Come Back Peter!
Come Back Paul!

Here’s the beehive.
Where are the bees?
Hidden away, where nobody sees.
Watch and you will see them come out of the hive.

1,2,3,4,5 Bzzz Bzzz Bzzz Bzz Bzzz Bzzz.

I’ll catch them and keep them alive.

Here is the boat, the golden boat
That sails on the silvery seas.
Here are the oars of ivory white
That lift and dip, that lift and dip.
Here are the ten little ferrymen
That run along, and run along
That take the oars of the ivory white
That lift and dip, that lift and dip,
That moves the boat, the golden boat,
Over the silvery seas.


Bái làng tāo tāo wǒ bù pà
Zhǎng qǐ duò ér wǎng qián huá
Sā wǎng xià shuǐ dào yú jiā
Bǔ tiáo dà yú xiào hā hā
Hei yo yi yo yi yo heng hei you
Hei yo yi yo yi yo heng hei you


Pinka ponka pooster

In the house there lives a rooster

Where does he live

Upstairs or downstairs

Doggie doggie where’s your bone?

Somebody stole it from your home!

Tip tap rip rap ticka tacka too

Scarlet leather sewn together this will make a shoe

Left, right pull it tight, summer days are warm

Underground in winter, laughing at the storm

Big boots a hunting, sandals in the hall

White for a wedding, pink for a ball

This way, that way, so we make a shoe

Getting rich at every stitch

Ticka tacka too

Five little peas in the pea pod pressed

One grew, two grew and so did all the rest

And they grew and they grew and they would not stop

Until one day the pea pod popped

Sleep baby sleep, thy father tends the sheep

Thy mother shakes the dream land tree, a little dream then falls on thee,
sleep baby sleep

Waken sleeping butterfly burst your narrow prison

Spread your golden wings and fly for the Sun has risen

Tinga linga linga linga ling x 3

Where is the Easter hare

Hopping here and hopping there x 3

Hopping here and there and everywhere,

in our Easter garden

Tinga linga linga linga ling x 3

Where is the Easter hare

Slowly, slowly creeps the little snail

Slowly, slowly down the garden rail

Quickly, quickly, quickly runs the little mouse

Quickly, quickly, quickly all through the house

A tisket, a tasket, a green and yellow basket

I wrote a letter to my love and on the way I dropped it, I dropped it

Someone must have picked it up and put it in their pocket

Could it be you, could it be me

Look behind your back

🐁 There was a little mouse hiding in his house hiding in his house and
he was so hungry
He decided to go out and look for some food
But then he saw a great long tail so he ran back in his house, he ran back in his house

Repeat 🐁

But then he saw a great shining eyes
So he ran back in his house, he ran back in his house

Repeat 🐁

But then he saw a great pointed ears
So he ran back in his house, he ran back in his house

Repeat 🐁

But then he saw a great long whiskers
so he ran back in his house, he ran back in his house

Repeat 🐁

And then he ate the bread and cheese and he scattered the crumbs to the birds
And then he ate the bread and cheese and he scattered the crumbs to the birds

One, two, three, four, five, once I caught a fish alive
Six, seven, eight, nine, ten then I let him go again
Why did you let him go because he bit my finger so
Which finger did he bite? This little finger on my right.

I open up my pigeon house,
And I set all my pigeons free.
They fly around on every side,
‘Til they perch on the highest tree.
And when they return from their merry, merry flight,
They close their eyes and they say, ‘Good night.’
Coo coo, coo coo, coo coo, coo coo, coo coo, coo coo coo coo.

Nix in the water you are the river king’s daughter
Wash your legs with silver sand
Tie your hair with a golden band
Nix pick me

A fairy went a marketing, marketing, marketing
A fairy went a marketing, and she bought a little fish,
She put it in a crystal bowl, crystal bowl, crystal bowl
She put it in a crystal bowl upon a golden dish

Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily
Life is but a dream


Stone Soup

Adapted by Shreya Sharma


Once upon a time, there was a poor village filled with people who did not like to share. They locked their doors and windows tight and kept what little food they had for themselves. One day, a stranger passed into the village. He was very tired and hungry from his journey. He stopped at the first house and knocked on the door hoping there was food inside.

The woman opened the door only a tiny crack, “Who are you?” the woman asked the stranger. “I am a tired and hungry traveller,” he responded. “Please, may I have something to eat?” “There is hardly any food here,” said the woman. “In fact, I doubt who will find anyone who has extra food to spare. We are all poor and hungry too.” The woman closed the door.

The traveller, although he was tired and hungry, was not ready to give up. He picked a large, round stone from the ground and knocked once more at the door. The lady came to the door again, opening it only halfway. “Yes?” she asked. “Since you are poor like me, perhaps you would like to have some of my stone soup!” “Stone soup?” the woman laughed as she looked at the stone in his hand. “You can’t make soup from a stone!” “I’ve done it before,” replied the traveller.

The woman had never seen anyone make soup from a stone before, but since she was hungry too, she invited him in. Then she lit the fire and placed a kettle of water on top and opened the windows to let out some heat. The traveller placed the stone inside the water until it boiled. He sipped a spoonful of hot liquid. “It’s almost done,” he said. “But if you had just a little salt and butter, the soup would taste so much better!”

The woman went to the cupboard and returned with salt and water. Just as the traveller was pouring them in the pot, the woman’s husband returned home. In his hands were carrots and potatoes. “What are you making?” asked the woman’s husband. “Stone soup!” replied the woman and the traveller. “Impossible!” shouted the husband.

“It’s almost finished,” the traveller assured the husband as he tasted another spoonful. “But it would be even nicer if we added some carrots and potatoes.” Also hungry, the husband agreed and dropped the carrots and potatoes int the pot! You may also like, Pandora’s Box Story!

Soon, the smell of the soup drifted out of her house windows and down the lane. One neighbour who usually stayed inside wandered out and followed the smell all the way to the first house, where he heard them talking about the stone soup. “Is the stone soup ready now?” the woman and her husband asked the traveller. “Yes, but it could be even better if we had some turnips and beans!” he replied. “I have some,” yelled the neighbour who was watching from the window.

“Is the stone soup ready now?” the woman and her husband asked the traveller. “Yes, but it could be even better if we had some turnips and beans!” he replied. “I have some,” yelled the neighbour who was watching from the window. The neighbour, curious to taste the soup that was made from a stone, returned with turnips and beans. He poured them into the pot and the smell drifted even further down the lane.

Word about a stranger traveller making soup out of a single stone drew many villagers out of their homes. They followed the delicious smell. “Is the stone soup ready now?” asked the villagers when they arrived. “Yes, but I remember having stone soup with chicken and broth in the stew once,” he replied. “I have chicken,” said a farmer who ran home to get some

“I have chicken,” said a farmer who ran home to get some. “I have broth,” exclaimed another neighbour who ran to fetch it. The farmer returned and placed pieces of chicken into the pot. When the other neighbour added the broth, the pot was so full that it almost spilled over. The traveller lifted the spoon to taste it. “Perfect!” he exclaimed. Then, he served a bowl of stone soup for every single one of the villagers to taste.

“It’s magic!” the villagers cried out, seeing how much soup he had made. “Delicious!” cried out another villager. “But where can we get a magic stone? Surely this one has been used up.” The traveller shook his head and pulled the stone out of the pot. The stone was still whole! The villagers realized that the delicious and plentiful soup did not come from the stone.

The traveller drank the leftover soup and went on his journey. At last, from that day on, the villagers shared what they had with each other. And the village became a happy place.

The Elves and The Shoemaker

by The Brothers Grimm


A shoemaker, by no fault of his own, had become so poor that at last he had nothing left but leather for one pair of shoes.

So in the evening, he cut out the shoes which he wished to begin to make the next morning, and as he had a good conscience, he lay down quietly in his bed, commended himself to God, and fell asleep.

In the morning, after he had said his prayers, and was just going to sit down to work, the two shoes stood quite finished on his table. He was astounded, and knew not what to say to it. He took the shoes in his hands to observe them closer, and they were so neatly made that there was not one bad stitch in them, just as if they were intended as a masterpiece. Soon after, a buyer came in, and as the shoes pleased him so well, he paid more for them than was customary, and, with the money, the shoemaker was able to purchase leather for two pairs of shoes.

He cut them out at night, and next morning was about to set to work with fresh courage; but he had no need to do so, for, when he got up, they were already made, and buyers also were not wanting, who gave him money enough to buy leather for four pairs of shoes. The following morning, too, he found the four pairs made; and so it went on constantly, what he cut out in the evening was finished by the morning, so that he soon had his honest independence again, and at last became a wealthy man.

Now it befell that one evening not long before Christmas, when the man had been cutting out, he said to his wife, before going to bed, “What think you if we were to stay up to-night to see who it is that lends us this helping hand?” The woman liked the idea, and lighted a candle, and then they hid themselves in a corner of the room, behind some clothes which were hanging up there, and watched.

When it was midnight, two pretty little naked men came, sat down by the shoemaker’s table, took all the work which was cut out before them and began to stitch, and sew, and hammer so skilfully and so quickly with their little fingers that the shoemaker could not turn away his eyes for astonishment. They did not stop until all was done, and stood finished on the table, and they ran quickly away.

Next morning the woman said, “The little men have made us rich, and we really must show that we are grateful for it. They run about so, and have nothing on, and must be cold. I’ll tell thee what I’ll do: I will make them little shirts, and coats, and vests, and trousers, and knit both of them a pair of stockings, and do thou, too, make them two little pairs of shoes.” The man said, “I shall be very glad to do it;” and one night, when everything was ready, they laid their presents all together on the table instead of the cut-out work, and then concealed themselves to see how the little men would behave.

At midnight they came bounding in, and wanted to get to work at once, but as they did not find any leather cut out, but only the pretty little articles of clothing, they were at first astonished, and then they showed intense delight. They dressed themselves with the greatest rapidity, putting the pretty clothes on, and singing,

“Now we are boys so fine to see,

Why should we longer cobblers be?”

Then they danced and skipped and leapt over chairs and benches. At last they danced out of doors. From that time forth they came no more, but as long as the shoemaker lived all went well with him, and all his undertakings prospered.

The Little Gnome Who Had to Stay Home

by Susan Perrow


This story was written for use with young children (suggested ages 3-5 years) who are required to stay home during the current C-19 pandemic, or who have had their freedom severely modified (e.g. perhaps they can attend school but can’t attend special assemblies, festivals, parties or events). The song at the end has been left open for teachers and parents to create more verses with ideas from the children. The story can be changed/edited to suit different situations – e.g. mother tree could be father tree or grandmother or grandfather tree, or you may want to omit the part about ‘gnome school’. The main character could also be changed (e.g. instead of using a gnome the story could be about a mouse stuck in his little house, or a bird that must stay and rest in the nest).

Little gnome was confused.

Why did he have to stay home?

Didn’t everyone know how little gnomes love to roam!

He couldn’t go to gnome school, he couldn’t play with his friends in the forest, and his friends couldn’t visit him.

Little gnome was stuck in his tree-root home.

At least he could look out his window through the rocks and the tree roots. He was surprised that there was so much to see. Little ants were scurrying by, brightly coloured beetles were climbing up and down the fallen leaves and floppy eared rabbits were hopping in and out their burrows.

But even with all these things to watch, little gnome was growing impatient. Why did he have to keep on staying home? It didn’t make sense to him why he could not roam.

Then Mother Tree whispered to him:

‘Things are not as they used to be – but trust me – soon you will be free – trust me, trust me.’

Little gnome knew in his heart that he could always trust Mother Tree.

Mother Tree carried the wisdom of the whole forest!

Mother Tree knew all about everything. The birds and the wind were her friends and messengers. They visited her every day sharing the news of the big wide world.

Little gnome could hear when the birds came by. He could hear them singing high up in the branches of Mother Tree.

Little gnome could see when the wind was visiting. He could see the branches swaying this way and that. He sometimes had to close his window to keep out the leaves and dust stirred up by this busy friend!

Everyday Mother Tree continued to whisper to him:

‘Things are not as they used to be – but trust me – soon you will be free – trust me, trust me.’

So little gnome had to trust, and little gnome had to wait. Soon he knew he would be free again to leave his home amongst the rocks and tree roots. Soon he knew he would be free to roam once again in the beautiful forest.

And while he waited, he was surprised how many things he could find to do in his cosy little tree root home.

Little gnome can dance
Little gnome can sing
Little gnome can paint and draw
And do somersaults across the floor.  

Little gnome can dance
Little gnome can sing
Little gnome can clean and cook
And curl up with a picture book.

 Little gnome can dance
Little gnome can sing
Little gnome can ………………………….
And ………………………………………………..  

Little gnome can dance
Little gnome can sing
Little gnome can ………………………….
And ………………………………………………..

 Little gnome can dance
Little gnome can sing
Little gnome can ………………………….
And ………………………………………………..


Source: www.susanperrow.com

Mother Holle

by The Brothers Grimm


Once upon a time there was a widow who had two daughters; one of them was beautiful and industrious, the other ugly and lazy. The mother, however, loved the ugly and lazy one best, because she was her own daughter, and so the other, who was only her stepdaughter, was made to do all the work of the house, and was quite the Cinderella of the family. Her stepmother sent her out every day to sit by the well in the high road, there to spin until she made her fingers bleed. Now it chanced one day that some blood fell on to the spindle, and as the girl stopped over the well to wash it off, the spindle suddenly sprang out of her hand and fell into the well. She ran home crying to tell of her misfortune, but her stepmother spoke harshly to her, and after giving her a violent scolding, said unkindly, ’As you have let the spindle fall into the well you may go yourself and fetch it out.’

The girl went back to the well not knowing what to do, and at last in her distress she jumped into the water after the spindle.

She remembered nothing more until she awoke and found herself in a beautiful meadow, full of sunshine, and with countless flowers blooming in every direction.

She walked over the meadow, and presently she came upon a baker’s oven full of bread, and the loaves cried out to her, ’Take us out, take us out, or alas! we shall be burnt to a cinder; we were baked through long ago.’ So she took the bread-shovel and drew them all out.

She went on a little farther, till she came to a free full of apples. ’Shake me, shake me, I pray,’ cried the tree; ’my apples, one and all, are ripe.’ So she shook the tree, and the apples came falling down upon her like rain; but she continued shaking until there was not a single apple left upon it. Then she carefully gathered the apples together in a heap and walked on again.

The next thing she came to was a little house, and there she saw an old woman looking out, with such large teeth, that she was terrified, and turned to run away. But the old woman called after her, ’What are you afraid of, dear child? Stay with me; if you will do the work of my house properly for me, I will make you very happy. You must be very careful, however, to make my bed in the right way, for I wish you always to shake it thoroughly, so that the feathers fly about; then they say, down there in the world, that it is snowing; for I am Mother Holle.’ The old woman spoke so kindly, that the girl summoned up courage and agreed to enter into her service.

She took care to do everything according to the old woman’s bidding and every time she made the bed she shook it with all her might, so that the feathers flew about like so many snowflakes. The old woman was as good as her word: she never spoke angrily to her, and gave her roast and boiled meats every day.

So she stayed on with Mother Holle for some time, and then she began to grow unhappy. She could not at first tell why she felt sad, but she became conscious at last of great longing to go home; then she knew she was homesick, although she was a thousand times better off with Mother Holle than with her mother and sister. After waiting awhile, she went to Mother Holle and said, ’I am so homesick, that I cannot stay with you any longer, for although I am so happy here, I must return to my own people.’

Then Mother Holle said, ’I am pleased that you should want to go back to your own people, and as you have served me so well and faithfully, I will take you home myself.’

Thereupon she led the girl by the hand up to a broad gateway. The gate was opened, and as the girl passed through, a shower of gold fell upon her, and the gold clung to her, so that she was covered with it from head to foot.

’That is a reward for your industry,’ said Mother Holle, and as she spoke she handed her the spindle which she had dropped into the well.

The gate was then closed, and the girl found herself back in the old world close to her mother’s house. As she entered the courtyard, the cock who was perched on the well, called out:


Your golden daughter’s come back to you.

Then she went in to her mother and sister, and as she was so richly covered with gold, they gave her a warm welcome. She related to them all that had happened, and when the mother heard how she had come by her great riches, she thought she should like her ugly, lazy daughter to go and try her fortune. So she made the sister go and sit by the well and spin, and the girl pricked her finger and thrust her hand into a thorn-bush, so that she might drop some blood on to the spindle; then she threw it into the well, and jumped in herself.

Like her sister she awoke in the beautiful meadow, and walked over it till she came to the oven. ’Take us out, take us out, or alas! we shall be burnt to a cinder; we were baked through long ago,’ cried the loaves as before. But the lazy girl answered, ’Do you think I am going to dirty my hands for you?’ and walked on.

Presently she came to the apple-tree. ’Shake me, shake me, I pray; my apples, one and all, are ripe,’ it cried. But she only answered, ’A nice thing to ask me to do, one of the apples might fall on my head,’ and passed on.

At last she came to Mother Holle’s house, and as she had heard all about the large teeth from her sister, she was not afraid of them, and engaged herself without delay to the old woman.

The first day she was very obedient and industrious, and exerted herself to please Mother Holle, for she thought of the gold she should get in return. The next day, however, she began to dawdle over her work, and the third day she was more idle still; then she began to lie in bed in the mornings and refused to get up. Worse still, she neglected to make the old woman’s bed properly, and forgot to shake it so that the feathers might fly about. So Mother Holle very soon got tired of her, and told her she might go. The lazy girl was delighted at this, and thought to herself, ’The gold will soon be mine.’ Mother Holle led her, as she had led her sister, to the broad gateway; but as she was passing through, instead of the shower of gold, a great bucketful of pitch came pouring over her.

’That is in return for your services,’ said the old woman, and she shut the gate.

So the lazy girl had to go home covered with pitch, and the cock on the well called out as she saw her:


Your dirty daughter’s come back to you.

But, try what she would, she could not get the pitch off and it stuck to her as long as she lived.

The Little Red Hen


Once upon a time there was a little red hen who lived on a beautiful farm. She was very happy on the farm for she had many friends. One of her good friends was the sun who would look down from the bright blue sky and warm her with his golden rays of sunshine. Another good friend was Mother Earth who gave her such a cosy home where she could lay her eggs.
One day, something very special happened, she found a grain of wheat. She was delighted, so she hurried to tell her friends, the pig, the dog and the cat.

The little red hen asked the lazy three: the pig and the dog and cat
Who’ll plant this grain of wheat with me,
not I said each of the lazy three, the pig and the dog and cat
So the little red hen with a chuckle of glee said, I will do it with a fa la le.
And what do you think of that?
The little red hen asked the lazy three: the pig and the dog and cat
Who’ll cut the stalk of wheat with me,
not I said each of the lazy three, the pig and the dog and cat
So the little red hen with a chuckle of glee said, I will do it with a fa la le.
And what do you think of that?
The little red hen asked the lazy three: the pig and the dog and cat
Who’ll grind this grain of wheat with me,
not I said each of the lazy three, the pig and the dog and cat
So the little red hen with a chuckle of glee said, I will do it with a fa la le.
And what do you think of that?
The little red hen asked the lazy three: the pig and the dog and cat
Who’ll make this loaf of bread with me,
not I said each of the lazy three, the pig and the dog and cat
So the little red hen with a chuckle of glee said, I will do it with a fa la le.
And what do you think of that?
The little red hen asked the lazy three: the pig and the dog and cat
Who’ll eat this loaf of bread with me,
I will said each of the lazy three, the pig and the dog and cat
So the little red hen with a chuckle of glee said, No you won’t with a fa la le.
And what do you think of that?

After all that excitement, the red hen was so tired that she found a cozy place to sleep and her good friends the Moon and the stars sang her to sleep.

The Spindle, the Shuttle, and the Needle

by The Brothers Grimm


There was once a girl whose father and mother died while she was still a little child. All alone, in a small house at the end of the village, dwelt her godmother, who supported herself by spinning, weaving, and sewing. The old woman took the forlorn child to live with her, kept her to her work, and educated her in all that is good. When the girl was fifteen years old, the old woman became ill, called the child to her bedside, and said, “Dear daughter, I feel my end drawing near. I leave you the little house, which will protect you from wind and weather; and my spindle, shuttle, and needle, with which you can earn your bread.” Then she laid her hands on the girl’s head, blessed her, and said, “Only preserve the love of God in your heart, and all will go well with you.” Thereupon she closed her eyes, and when she was laid in the earth, the maiden followed the coffin, weeping bitterly, and paid her the last mark of respect.

And now the maiden lived quite alone in the little house, and was industrious, and span, wove, and sewed, and the blessing of the good old woman was on all that she did. It seemed as if the flax in the room increased of its own accord, and whenever she wove a piece of cloth or carpet, or had made a shirt, she at once found a buyer who paid her amply for it, so that she was in want of nothing, and even had something to share with others.

About this time, the son of the King was traveling about the country looking for a bride. He was not to choose a poor one, and did not want to have a rich one. So he said, “She shall be my wife who is the poorest, and at the same time the richest.” When he came to the village where the maiden dwelt, he inquired, as he did wherever he went, who was the richest and also the poorest girl in the place. They first named the richest; the poorest, they said, was the girl who lived in the small house quite at the end of the village.

The rich girl was sitting in all her splendor before the door of her house, and when the Prince approached her, she got up, went to meet him, and made him a low curtsey. He looked at her, said nothing, and rode on. When he came to the house of the poor girl, she was not standing at the door, but sitting in her little room. He stopped his horse, and saw through the window, on which the bright sun was shining, the girl sitting at her spinning-wheel, busily spinning. She looked up, and when she saw that the Prince was looking in, she blushed all over her face, let her eyes fall, and went on spinning. I do not know whether, just at that moment, the thread was quite even; but she went on spinning until the King’s son had ridden away again. Then she went to the window, opened it, and said, “It is so warm in this room!” But she still looked after him as long as she could distinguish the white feathers in his hat.

Then she sat down to work again in her own room and went on with her spinning, and a saying which the old woman had often repeated when she was sitting at her work, came into her mind, and she sang these words to herself:

Spindle, my spindle, haste, haste thee away,
And here to my house bring the wooer, I pray.

And what do you think happened? The spindle sprang out of her hand in an instant, and out of the door, and when, in her astonishment, she got up and looked after it, she saw that it was dancing out merrily into the open country, and drawing a shining golden thread after it. Before long, it had entirely vanished from her sight. As she had now no spindle, the girl took the weaver’s shuttle in her hand, sat down to her loom, and began to weave.

The spindle, however, danced continually onwards, and just as the thread came to an end, reached the Prince. “What do I see?” he cried; “the spindle certainly wants to show me the way!” He turned his horse about, and rode back with the golden thread. The girl was, however, sitting at her work singing,

Shuttle, my shuttle, weave well this day,

And guide the wooer to me, I pray.

Immediately the shuttle sprang out of her hand and out by the door. Before the threshold, however, it began to weave a carpet which was more beautiful than the eyes of man had ever yet beheld. Lilies and roses blossomed on both sides of it, and on a golden ground in the center green branches ascended, under which bounded hares and rabbits; stags and deer stretched their heads in between them, brightly colored birds were sitting in the branches above; they lacked nothing but the gift of song. The shuttle leapt hither and thither, and everything seemed to grow of its own accord.

As the shuttle had run away, the girl sat down to sew. She held the needle in her hand and sang,

Needle, my needle, sharp-pointed and fine,

Prepare for a wooer this house of mine.

Then the needle leapt out of her fingers and flew everywhere about the room as quick as lightning. It was just as if invisible spirits were working; they covered tables and benches with green cloth in an instant, and the chairs with velvet, and hung the windows with silken curtains. Hardly had the needle put in the last stitch than the maiden saw through the window the white feathers of the Prince, whom the spindle had brought thither by the golden thread. He alighted, stepped over the carpet into the house, and when he entered the room, there stood the maiden in her poor garments, but she shone out from within them like a rose surrounded by leaves. “You are the poorest and also the richest,” said he to her. “Come with me; you shall be my bride.” She did not speak, but she gave him her hand. Then he gave her a kiss, led her forth, lifted her on to his horse, and took her to the royal castle, where the wedding was solemnized with great rejoicings. The spindle, shuttle, and needle were preserved in the treasure-chamber, and held in great honor.

Birthday Story

Written by Tammy Hughes, patterned after traditional Waldorf birthday stories


Once upon a time, there was a dear sweet angel who had many friends. They loved to run and play together.

One day while the friends were playing, the little angel looked down and saw a wonderful land. In this land were beautiful sparkling stones, sweet fragrant flowers, and so many different kinds of animals. Best of all she could see many people that she wished to meet. She wanted to go to this land, but she did not know how to go to this land. The little angel decided she would ask her big angel how to go to this land for the big angel knew everything.

The big angel did know how to go to this land. The big Angel said, “Let us wait and watch together, until we find just the right time and just the right place.” They watched together patiently; the time came for the little angel to go. The big angel said, “It is time. While you are gone, I shall look after your golden wings for you will not need them in the new land. If ever you need anything, I will be right behind you to help. When you return, I will be waiting for you with your golden wings.” The little angel said goodbye and hurried off to the rainbow bridge.

The dear little angel soon arrived at her new home, where there was a mother who loved her very much and a father who loved her very much. They gave her the most beautiful present. ……… was his/her name and that was ……… years ago.

Gratitude to the many Waldorf teachers who tell birthday stories around the world that inspired this one.

Goodbye Story

Written by Tammy Hughes, patterned after traditional Waldorf kindergarten graduation stories


Once upon a time, there was a lovely forest of trees that was home to many rainbow birds. These birds would sing and play all day long in the forest. In the evening, the birds would return to their cozy nests and would quietly go to sleep. They would have lovely dreams. With each passing day, the rainbow birds were growing bigger, stronger, and kinder.

In the morning when the sun was high in the sky, the rainbow birds would fly higher and higher to follow the sun. One day, when the birds had perched on the highest branch, they saw there was a new magical land. They were delighted, but soon the rain began to go pitter patter, pitter, patter, off home they went.

I open up my pigeon house, And I set all my pigeons free.
They fly around on every side, ‘Til they perch on the highest tree.
And when they return from their merry, merry flight,
They close their eyes and they say, ‘Good night’.
Coo coo, coo coo, coo coo, coo coo, coo coo, coo coo coo coo.

When they returned, they went to visit the little gnome who lived in a magic cave with the most beautiful treasure. The rainbow birds told the little gnome that they had seen a new land. The little gnome smiled, “Ah yes, I know that land. Let me see who is ready to fly across the rainbow to the new land. I can see that everyone is getting bigger, stronger, and kinder. Every rainbow bird will go to that new land when the time is right.” All the rainbow birds were delighted to hear this news. “Let’s just wait until the rainbow appears, for that will show you the way to a castle where a guide will be waiting for you. In this new land there will be so many new things to learn and you will be so very happy to be in the great castle.”

Pitter, patter, pitter, patter goes the rain, pitter, patter, pitter, patter goes the rain, and out came the sun so bright and golden that together the rain and the sun made the most beautiful rainbow. The rainbow birds knew that it was time, so they all flew to the top of the highest tree in the forest. The very kind and oldest rainbow birds were ready to spread their wings so that they could fly the very long distance. The younger ones looked on with wonder.

All the friends called out to each other, “Good bye, au revoir, auf  wiedersehen, sayonara, zai jian…” The time had come for the oldest rainbow birds, who were so very kind, to go over the rainbow for their new adventure where a guide was waiting for them.

Back in the forest of the lovely trees, the little gnome was waiting for the young rainbow birds. He called them down out of the tall tree for snack. They happily sang,

Earth who gives to us this food,
Sun who makes it ripe and good
Dearest earth and dearest sun
Our loving thanks for all you’ve done

All the little birds settled down and were so happy together. One little bird spoke up and said, “How do we know when we are kind enough to go over the rainbow?” The little gnome said, “You will know; that will be the time when you have learned to take care of your friends. Every day is a new day, every day we are learning.”

They all nibbled and nibbled their delicious snack. One by one the birds said, “Thank you, xie xie, m goi, merci, danke.” Then they chattered away about how one day they would fly over the rainbow to meet their old friends in the new land.

Make new friends but keep the old
One is silver and the other gold


In a Waldorf kindergarten, teachers would usually remember stories by heart and tell them to the children. We would often work with the same story for a few weeks and use puppets or dress up to perform it. For older children, they may be ready for a different story sooner.

And yet, home is still home and not kindergarten, so do your best but there is no need to become a Waldorf teacher overnight!

Week 1 & 2 – Stone Soup, adapted by Shreya Sharma
Week 3 & 4 – The Elves and The Shoemaker by the Brothers Grimm
Week 5 & 6 – The Little Gnome Who Had to Stay Home by Susan Perrow
Week 7 & 8 – Mother Holle by the Brothers Grimm
Week 9 & 10 – The Little Red Hen
Week 11 & 12 – The Spindle, the Shuttle, and the Needle by the Brothers Grimm

Parents’ enrichment readings

The Sense of Life

By Connie Helms


Last month, I began writing about the twelve senses recognized by Rudolf Steiner. The first four form a group known as the Foundational Senses. Upon the strength or weakness of these four senses, the human being will meet the world with certainty or hesitation. To review, these Foundational Senses build three capacities in a child: Body Geography (knowing where the parts of your body are), Spatial Orientation knowing where you are in space) and Dominance (having an established preference for one side of the body to do tasks). These three capacities are basic in order for children to perform many practical activities in school and at home, from brushing teeth to writing words on a page.

Following the sense of touch, the second is the sense of life. It informs us about our well being. We are not so concerned with the life sense when we are well; it is when we have an ache, an illness, are tired or hungry or foggy that we think about the life sense.  Some of us feel the life sense the day after consuming alcohol, sugar, or foods that we don’t digest well. When we feel unwell, we are reluctant to get up and face the day; we want to stay curled up in bed. What we may learn is that the trigger, be it lack of sleep, the wrong food, the overbooked schedule, the loud music, etc. does not promote health.  Feeling unwell is not pleasant! The pain or discomfort signals us that something is not right, so we might take steps to avoid a repetition. The life sense schools us – it teaches us to pay attention to discomfort and in the best scenario it helps us to get enough sleep, to eat well, exercise and to rest if we are sick. From this, we know how to help our child get back on track.

The life sense also teaches us about appropriate suffering, which is important.  Without these experiences, we could not develop fully as humans. We do not have to engineer adverse situations for our children-don’t we all know that life itself brings us opportunities to experience suffering? By letting our children experience the bruised knee, the fall off the bike, the toy we will not be buying, the dessert we will not serve, and sadly, the pet who died, they learn to handle life’s disappointments. We learn to ride our bike more safely, to be more patient when we want something, to deal with sadness. We become wiser. This is the hidden gem in classic fairy tales from every culture: we meet with adversity (holding our breath), we courageously overcome it and then we can let out a sigh of relief.

The life sense needs much attention in our world today. Before industrialization, we lived by the rhythms of nature. We rose with the sun and went to bed at dark. In many cultures families gathered together to eat wholesome foods, sing and tell stories at night and rest when they were tired. If you were a baby boomer, you can easily recognize that the 21st century is not so friendly to the life sense. Today, we try to stretch the day, to tamper with the rhythms of time, and overload ourselves with information.  It’s not unusual in our culture to find children at sports practice until 8 pm on a school night several times a week. What happened to family time and down time for children? Children suffer from always being on the treadmill, and the adults driving the children around are sacrificing their evening time to breathe out also. If a child has trouble falling asleep, consider if too much scheduled activity is the cause.

Rudolf Steiner stated, “Rhythm restores power.” We must attend to the rhythms children need: daily rituals and routines, physical warmth, and tending to when they are sick (which means temporarily giving up our work or our plans). Children need to play, do chores, move and rest, and… they need to experience quiet and boredom- for out of boredom rises creativity. They need to become so physically tired that they fall asleep easily and wake bright eyed, bushy tailed and hungry the next morning.  Once, I had a bright eyed and bushy tailed eight year old boy come to me in the morning. Later, I asked his mother what his bedtime was. She said 7:30–8 at the latest. Let me tell you how rare it is for school teachers to see bright eyed and bushy tailed children in today’s world! You cannot believe what a difference it makes when children go to bed at 8:30 or 9 pm. It seems harmless, but their life sense is off the next day, and cumulatively this is counterproductive to health and well being.

Nutrition plays a huge part to support the life sense. Almost all children are very intelligent; the more we can support nerve fiber myelination, the more their brains are able to expand the pathways. Many children today do not get enough protein, vegetables, fruits or proper fats -we live in such a carbohydrate laden society and a fat phobic society. But our children need the right fats for brain development. Every time a new task is learned, the nerve pathways get coated with myelin- a white, waxy, fatty coating. The best fats are fresh butter from raw milk, coconut oil, good quality olive oil, palm oil, cold pressed sesame oil, flax oil, and animal fats-lard, chicken fat, etc, plus whole milk. If a child has skim milk and boxed cereal for breakfast and went to bed at 9, she will likely be dragging in school.

Warmth is an overlooked issue in modern culture, but it also is critical in developing a healthy life sense. I once attended a lecture by an Anthroposophical doctor from Germany. He stated that for a newborn, the most critical factor is warmth, not food (mother’s milk). The newborn needs warmth immediately and for several months must be kept appropriately layered. Warmth for children ages 0-7 is a protection for the organs that will support them throughout life. Here in Vermont, it is not uncommon to see children from all social strata on a cold, damp winter day wearing no jacket, no hat and sometimes even shorts. The parents give in to their children or the children sneak away shedding layers. If only they knew the ramifications of this behaviour – kidneys unprotected from the cold, more susceptibility to illness, and a child who is not well grounded in the physical body, and therefore not really ready for school.

Information overload is an issue confronting adults, with all the devices we have at our fingertips, and we must be steadfast in setting our limits around it. It is even more crucial to keep our children protected from all the media, screens, and news in the world today. The visual images and aural information settle into the soul of a child and cause disturbances for months and even years. I can still remember the black and white police sketch of a wanted criminal on the front page of the newspaper when I was about seven years old; it has never left me even after 50 years. These impressions are best left to confront children after they turn nine or ten years old, when they are ready to face the fact that the world is mostly good, but there are also bad deeds in the sphere of humanity. Until then, think of too much information as indigestion for the child, literally. Children should be wondering about crickets chirping in the grass, the sparkle of a raindrop on a leaf, and baking cookies for a person in need of cheer. Doing and observing, not cramming the intellect.

How parents can support a healthy life sense:

Warmth: Insist on layers appropriate for the season.  Say this: “If you wear a jacket, you will use your body’s energy to grow. If you don’t wear a jacket, you will be using your body’s energy to stay warm instead of using energy to grow.”

Rhythm: It’s one of nature’s best kept secrets. Start with one ritual- stick to it every day without fail. Add more as you and your child are ready. Soon, the rhythm moves you both along. Rhythm and routine are security.

Protection: Limit media exposure everywhere you go  (allow a movie at grandparents or with cousins the child rarely sees) and do not discuss sensitive topics about the world in front of children. Too much information fills the mind with clutter when children should be developing their bodies and their feelings.

Sleep: Always remember that sleep is like money in the bank. Try not to sacrifice sleep except on special occasions-holidays, visitors from out of town, a theatre performance, etc. and then try to fit in a rest the next afternoon.

Nutrition: Daily, serve good fats and other wholesome foods. Limit carbohydrates and sugar. Plenty of fresh fruits and raw veggies for enzymes-carrot sticks and edible pea pods at the very least. Small but regular protein portions.

Challenges: Age appropriate challenges are healthy for a child to experience. This can include roughhouse play, getting breathless and tired, physical work like household chores and outdoor chores. It also includes learning life’s lessons, big or small.

The sense of life is linked to the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. If there is stress in the system, it affects our breathing, digestion, our heart, and our sleep life. Pain, discomfort or unwellness is the Life Sense speaking to us.



Connie Helms works in private practice as an Extra Lesson teacher in Vermont with children, adolescents and adults. She is a consultant to Waldorf schools in the U.S., mentors Waldorf remedial teachers and serves on the board of the Association for a Healing Education. Connie is the mother of three young adult children who attended Waldorf schools from nursery through grade eight.

Source: https://thewonderofchildhood.com/2011/09/the-sense-of-life/
© 2011 The Wonder of Childhood

Daily Rhythm at Home and its Lifelong Relevance

By Helle Heckmann


As parents of little children, you are often very tired and you get too little sleep, and when you have too little sleep you also have too little energy and then often you give in when you think you should not have done, or you get angry or irritated so you are not present and when you are not present you lose the children and you do not like yourself. To make it easier for you to deal in the daily life with your children there are three important considerations:


  • To be flexible
  • To set limits (borders) and
  • To observe the same routine everyday




To become flexible is the result of objective inward observation. You may train your flexibility through an inner work where you learn about yourself. In relation to limits, you have to find out them for yourself. You have to decide what the limits are for your child in your house: time to go to bed, time to eat, what to eat, what language to use in the family and so on. You have to make up your mind about limits beforehand, so, instead of saying “no, no, no…” and becoming angry, you simply do not allow the children to go beyond the limits. You know this is your decision and do not need to be angry. If you are ahead of the child and you see a certain situation coming, with humor and the right gesture or word, you can move away from the situation, and this will be possible if you train your flexibility. Knowing more about yourself will give you the possibility to also be ahead of yourself. When you catch this tool you can start working with your children in a much freer way, because the limits are set.

The third recommendation, to make a routine which is the same every day, gives the child rhythm. All Waldorf families probably know how the daily life is in the kindergarten. The children go through the day in alternate periods of concentration and expansion, as if in a breathing rhythm where there is inhaling and exhaling.

In the inhaling or breathing-in phase the child directs his attention to an activity that basically relates him to himself. For little children each breathing-in period (drawing, water painting, and knitting, eating…) is very short because little children can only concentrate for short periods of time. In the exhaling or breathing-out period, the child relates mainly to the surrounding world (free play, free running etc.). For each breathing-in period the child needs a breathing-out period and so a pattern is established. This rhythm is something that you can bring into your home. You have to try to find out when the children breathes-in and when they breathe-out. And when the children are in the breathing-in period, you have to make sure you are present, so the child feels ah, here I feel my parents, they are there for me. After that, for very short time, you can do what you have to do at home and you can tell your child you have to wait because I need to do this. And this will be all right because you know you have been present with the child. As an example, look at the situation when parents pick up their children from the kindergarten. At the very moment you are picking up your child: Does the cell phone ring and you answer? Do you greet your friends and engage in intense talk? If yes, then you are not present for the child. In my last visit to Mexico I saw very few parents really greeting their children, the majority were talking to other parents or engaged in school affairs or talking in their cell phones, or arriving late or in a hurry.

But, for your child who has been gone for five hours and who really wants you… you are not there. So the child screams I want an ice cream! I want this or that! or he starts running around, or falling, or getting into little conflict because he is confused, because he has not really met you. On the contrary, if you take the time (and it is five seconds perhaps), you bend down, give him a hug and then smell him (so lovely!) and really you are there, his eyes will tell you more than words, how his day was. He cannot tell you with words because he cannot remember, but his eyes will tell you everything.  And then you take his hand and walk together (of course in a tempo that the child can follow), and this is really lovely because you are making a new nice situation, a “you and I situation.” Now, if you need to greet people you can do it, very shortly, but together with the child because your child will feel I am where I belong, with my parent. This was a breathing-in situation where you were present.

Then you go to the car and go home (breathing-out) and it is probably time for eating which brings again a breathing-in situation. How do you eat? Do you sit down together with the child? Or is the child sitting by himself and you are walking around talking on the telephone? If you give yourself the time and sit down with your child you will teach the child manners at the table by your example. Many of the children today do not sit with their parents and they do not learn to hold utensils appropriately. However, this is important, otherwise when they are seven years old they cannot hold a pencil and to learn it at that age is so difficult compared to when they were one or two years old.

In addition, to sit at the table and to have a beginning, a process and an end, is important because this is how you should live the whole of life. Everything has a beginning, a process and an end. It may take you only fifteen minutes to sit appropriately, to check how the child holds and drinks from cup (children.  from one year onwards do not need a sip cup), to eat with closed mouth, and everything you are given and so on, being, in this way, an example for your child to follow, but more importantly you have taken this short moment to make again a “you and I situation” and at the same time you also help the child to find a social form of how we are when we eat together.

When you finish with the meal you remind the children they need to help with the table so that they also learn that when they are a part of a social environment they also take part in the cleaning up. In this way you have made and create a situation where you have been present and now you can say to the child go and play (breathing-out) because you have been there, and then you can do what you need to do but you have to be visible to your child. This is so, because a little child cannot play by himself if the center is not there and you are the most important person for the child. You are his center, and if you leave the room the little child will follow you.

When you are doing your things, the situation may occur where children will say I am bored. In this case you, of course, don´t turn on the television or music. When you are occupied with other things, you can tell your child now you play by yourself. If you know you have been present you can actually expect them to find something to do themselves. It is very important that you are not afraid of your children not knowing what to do or being bored. It is very important that you feel it is right: I have been there with them now they can be by themselves.

Nowadays, parents often use media or adult-directed activities for their children because they are afraid of their children being bored and assume that they are not able to do anything themselves. This is a tricky situation. If you think you have to entertain your under-seven children all the time, with media (films, TV, videogames, computers and so on), after-school classes, and/or other adult-directed activities, then they do not learn how to play by themselves. They will not have a moment where they can be in a state of not knowing what to do and from there progress into a state of finding images inwardly and thus creating things from inside out. By letting them to be bored you help them, because being bored represents the opportunity the children will have to go into this process of inner creativity. The fact that children are able to be by themselves, to create their own play without adult direction is of great importance because during the first seven years of the child everything is about being able to create.

If all the activities come from outside (electronic screen, video-games, adult direction, etc.), then not much happens in the sphere of inward creation. That is why in Waldorf kindergartens, teachers do not sit down and play with the children but do real work, from which the children draw inspiration to use it in their own play. In these kindergartens you may find teachers sweeping, cooking, sawing, tending the vegetable patch, taking care of farm animals, cutting wood, and whatever the particular setting of each school allows to do. Equally, you, as a parent, in the breathing-out phase, may do your work and the children beside you should be able to do their work (i.e. their own play). This is possible only when the children feel that they have met you in a previous breathing-in phase.

It is the same when children go to bed in the evening. What the child loves to hear are stories from your life. No book, no radio, no music, no film nor cartoon can make the same impact on the child as you. And to find your own story to tell means so much and it is, in addition, a tool with which you can change very stuck situations. It is so difficult for children to let go of you if they have not felt you present. But, if you have hold your child, blown a little in the ear, told her a little story from the heart, so you have really been there, then you can kiss her and put her to bed and feel I can leave because I have been there. And then you can expect that your child is able to sleep by herself, which is healthy for your child.

In Denmark, where I come from, many parents are in a situation where they have to lie down and hold hands with the child, read 20 stories, sing 50 songs, and all this takes one, one and a half, two hours and when finally they go out quietly of the bedroom they hear ‘Mum, water, Mum!’ and then become annoyed. You can avoid this by setting limits and finding a comfortable way to leave because you have been present in different situations during the day. Otherwise the child has not been filled enough with your love and, if in addition, he has not been given opportunities to do his own play, to work from inside out, you cannot expect he will be able to sleep by himself.

There is an additional aspect I would like to draw attention to for the after-kindergarten time you have with your children. If you take your children from class to class or entrust them to the media in its different varieties you have less time with them. Children are small for very short time. At present, you may be thinking it is a long time to go but, in no time you will see it went so fast. By letting your child to engage in his own play while you are around doing your own chores, and being really present in those breathing-in situations, you build trust between your child and you. And this trust will be important when they get a little older and get into pre-puberty and puberty because with this, they will come to you when they have problems and listen to you when you tell them what and what not to do. But they will only do it if they trust you, if you have been there for them. And that is why the first seven years of children are so important, because their whole trust, their believing that the world is good, is the basis of their future lives.

After that first seven years, it is their friends who become the focus. Their choice of friends has a lot to do with the morality you have shown them and built up through the first seven years. In addition, if children were given the opportunity to work inwardly, they will know themselves and then they will be able to say “no” when they meet something they do not like and “yes” to what they want. You can make a choice if you know yourself and a human being who can make a choice has healthy self-esteem.

In this context it is important how the kindergarten and the home relate to each other: there must be a bridge from one world to the other. In a way, it is a little hard for families who choose a Waldorf education for your children as you become different from the mainstream, but this is your choice. You cannot do both. Once you have taken the road of consciousness, you are concerned about the food, their upbringing, everything. To make the bridge from having the children in the Waldorf kindergarten and at your home is, of course, important so the child can see that everything fits. That is why it is incredibly important to build up trust between the kindergarten and the family, through which the kindergarten teacher is able to support the family´s choice but also for the family to respect what is brought in the kindergarten so one thing without the other is nothing. So you need to find a way together.

I have three children who are 29, 26, and 23 and now I can harvest the 25 years of hard dedicated work with my children, and it is so fantastic because I can see how they can go out in life with freedom and also I can move around in the world with freedom and wisdom, because they don´t need me anymore but they like me and they like to be with me and also their friends. And this is, I think, the highest thing we wish as parents, that when our children are adults, they actually, by their own free choice, choose to be with us at certain moments. We can find with our children a new way of building social relationships because we have another consciousness by which we can meet our children better.


Helle Heckmann is a Waldorf kindergarten teacher in Denmark. Books and a dvd about her work at Nokken near Copenhagen are available from WECAN. Helle is also offering courses and workshops worldwide and can be contacted at helleheckmann@yahoo.dk.

Notes taken from a talk in Mexico and published in the Cuernavaca Waldorf School Magazine, 2011. This article was published in Kindling: The Journal for Steiner Waldorf Early Childhood Care and Education (UK) Autumn/Winter 2011.

Source: https://www.waldorftoday.com/2011/11/daily-rhythm-at-home-and-its-lifelong-relevance-by-helle-heckmann/

Working with the Will of the Young Child


How to Get a Young Child to Do What You Want Without Talking Yourself to Death

By Nancy Blanning


Young children may seem logical and reasonable to us, but this really is not their primary mode of being. They live in their limbs, in movement, in forces of will.

When you really want a child to move into action, speaking to him or her can actually freeze the child into immobility. All the child’s forces have to rush up to the head for thinking and nothing is left over for immediate movement.

Help your child to begin to move, literally, before you speak—take him by the hand or arm. Or if you must speak, say something like, “It is time for coats now,” making a general statement instead of a command, while at the same time offering the coat.

Instead of reasoning with your child, try to tell an impromptu story about a similar situation. It is a rare child who is not instantly captivated by a story. As you tell the story, literally start a movement involving your child’s limbs (e.g., put arms into the sleeves of the coat, hand her one block to put away in the basket as you do likewise to model what you want the child to do, etc.).

Do not ask your child a question unless it is really a choice. For example, when it is time to leave, many parents get into hot water by asking, “Are you ready to go?” instead of stating, “It is time to leave now.”

Limit the choices you give your child. Unless your child is exceptionally aware of clothes choices, food preferences, and so on, children are usually grateful to be spared making a choice. You choose the clothes, or set the meal in front of the child with “Here’s breakfast.” Think of yourself in a situation where you have to make a lot of choices; it can be exhausting. It is even more so for a little child.

Set the “form” ahead of time. This means place the clothes for tomorrow out the night before, ready to be put on in the morning without having to make decisions about it—by either you or your child. Know what you will prepare for breakfast the next morning without asking what the family wants.

Remember that each adult responsibility you take care of for your child allows his or her energy to be available for growing. We do a child a great service by pre-thinking and preplanning how things will happen—by creating a “form”—which will support both the child and ourselves, so there is order and predictability in our lives.

Please do not misunderstand that a parent should become a servant for the child. As parents, we are guides and teachers of the ways of the world. We want our children to do as much for themselves as they can, such as dressing, feeding, and simple chores. But we do need to create an environment in which the child can be successful, where there is a starting point, middle, and end, rather than leaving the child alone to figure it out.

The image of the child as our “apprentice” is helpful. In any trade or craft, the apprentice is always shown how to do a task, from the simplest beginning step. Then the task is built up step by step. Each time we give our children concrete, practical experience in how to physically do something, we are escorting them along the pathway to becoming a “master craftsman.”

These suggestions will help in many situations, but not all.

There will be times when you have to do battle. So choose your battles. Do not engage in a struggle of wills with your child unless you are committed to winning—not for your sake, but for the child’s. This means you must be on home ground where time is not an issue. The supermarket is not the place to choose to battle.

Before drawing battle lines, see if you can transform the task at hand by creating a story, making the task into a game, or by offering assistance. “These books are all scattered on the floor. They’ll be happier up on the shelf. Here’s one for you and I’ll help, too.” Or, “I bet I can pick up this pile of books faster than you can. Let’s race.” Or, “I’ll close my eyes and see if those books can jump back to their shelf without a sound.” A story could begin with, “Did I ever tell you about the time a big windstorm came into little bear’s bedroom and blew everything topsy-turvy?”

If you are in a battle with an older child, state clearly to your child what must happen in objective and matter-of-fact terms. “The dirty clothes need to be put in the hamper. We can wait until that is done.” Then leave. If your child also leaves the site of the task, guide him or her back and restate the above. Try to do so calmly without accusation or anger.

Remember, you, as the parent, are the child’s loving authority. Do not be afraid to claim that role. Your guidance will strengthen, not suppress, your child’s will. The child is reassured by a warm, confident adult who knows how things work in the world and who can show him or her the way.


Nancy has taught within Waldorf education for twenty-five years as a lead kindergarten teacher and presently serves as a therapeutic and remedial teacher at the Denver Waldorf School. Her special focus is on developing movement enrichment for young children. With her colleague, Laurie Clark, she has co-authored the book Movement Journeys and Circle Adventures. She also does consulting work with Waldorf schools in North America, teacher training and mentoring. She is a member of the WECAN board.

Excerpted from You’re Not the Boss of Me!, edited by Ruth Ker

The Meaning of Illness

Susan R. Johnson, MD, FAAP, Raphael House


In anthroposophical medicine our spirit (our higher self) is always considered to be healthy. It is our soul that first becomes ill. If we do not pay attention to our soul, then we start to lose our vitality (our etheric body becomes weak) and then our physical body becomes ill. Dr. Philip Incao, an anthroposophical physician who practices in Denver, Colorado, spoke this summer at the Artemisia Conference held at Rudolf Steiner College. He described a picture of health and illness that comes from a Dutch anthroposophical physician.

Imagine health as a beautiful sunny day with a brillant blue sky and no clouds in sight. The earth is covered by a layer of green fields, plants, and trees springing up from a firm ground composed of minerals. The sun is our spirit, the sky is our soul, the green living layer is our vitality (etheric body), and the mineralized earth is our physical body. We come to this earth with the purpose of purifying our soul. There are always clouds that form in our soul: those issues in life (our needs, wants, and desires) that we are trying to work through and transform. At any given time, if our spirit is strong enough, then like the sun we can often dissolve the clouds that come our way. Sometimes too many clouds form at the same time or a cloud grows too quickly and becomes too large, obscuring the sun’s light. If we don’t pay attention to the messages from our soul, the clouds can grow and merge into a huge thunderstorm and eventually pour down to earth as rain. After the rain, the sky will become clear again, but all the rain may have flooded the earth. If our etheric body is not strong enough to withstand the rainstorm, then our physical body can become ill. Hereditary factors, destiny and karma can all affect the physical body we have in this life, but there are things we can do to strengthen our etheric body to help us resist becoming ill during these rainstorms of our soul life.

The etheric body is formed during the first seven years of our life. Routines and daily rhythms (especially around mealtimes, bedtimes, morning times, and holiday celebrations) all strengthen the etheric. Adequate sleep (usually around eleven hours for young children and teenagers), adequate clothing (so hands and feet stay warm), and proper nutrition (that follows the cycle of our liver, consuming fats and proteins before 3 p.m., eating a hearty breakfast and hearty lunch with nutritious snacks, and followed by a light dinner) all help our organs grow in a healthy way and strengthen our immune system. Minimizing the stressors in our culture (television, videos, computers, caffeine, sleep deprivation, prolonged car rides, and always hurrying from one place to another) can strengthen our etheric body. These stressors overstimulate our nervous systems and cause us all to release stress hormones that weaken our immune system and our vitality.

Nature is one of the greatest healers. Taking a long walk through a park lined with trees, in a quiet forest, or by water nourishes us. When my spirit and vitality needs strengthening, I hike in the mountains and sit under a redwood tree by a small flowing stream. When my soul feels in torment and too many thoughts and worries are flooding my consciousness, then I sit by a rushing waterfall or walk along the ocean and listen to the crashing waves. Finally, one of the greatest gifts we can give to ourselves and our children is to slow down and remember that “less is often the best.”


Dr. Johnson works as a behavioral and developmental pediatrician for Waldorf schools, writes parent newsletters about preventative health, and gives community lectures. She has a private practice in behavioral and developmental pediatrics at Raphael House in Fair Oaks, CA, where she sees children two through eighteen years of age with their parents for developmental, behavioral and learning concerns.

Excerpted from You’re Not the Boss of Me!, edited by Ruth Ker

The Sense of Touch

By Connie Helms


When a child is born, he or she has quite a job to do. Over time we have lost sight of this task, but we must work to develop respect for it again: the job of growing into the physical body. Though not often recognized by experts in education and medical fields not familiar with scientist and philosopher Rudolf Steiner’s view of human life, it takes roughly seven years for a child to attain a physical body that is well developed and ready for learning in school. Early academic learning can often be a detriment to success in school, because something else has been bypassed: the neuro-developmental stages of the first seven years.

Consider house building: to commence building a house, we do not start with the wiring, wallpaper, kitchen or chimney. We start with the foundation because that is what everything else must rest upon in order for the house to stand, and so it is with our children. We must ensure that the foundation is there for all later learning to stand upon. If the foundation is not strong, then in grade school, high school, or beyond, unforeseen learning issues, including executive function problems, may arise.

A paradigm many Waldorf educators work with, given by Rudolf Steiner, is the framework of twelve senses. The senses of touch, taste, smell sight and hearing are of course in this grouping, but there are more. The first four form a group known as the Foundational Senses for obvious reasons. Upon the strength or weakness of these four senses that are hands down critical in the early years, the human being will meet the world with certainty and trust, or hesitation and fear. These foundational senses are: TOUCH, LIFE, SELF-MOVEMENT and BALANCE.

The Foundational Senses build three capacities in a child: Body Geography (knowing where the parts of your body are), Spatial Orientation (knowing where you are in space) and Dominance (having an established preference for one side of the body to do some tasks). These three capacities are basic in order for children to perform many practical activities from brushing teeth to writing words on a page and using machines both simple and complex.

The sense of touch

The sense of touch is already at work in utero-the growing fetus is able to sense contact with the placenta wall, plus her hands brush against her face as another touch experience. The onset of labor brings a strong impression of squeezing, pushing and meeting a boundary. If a vaginal birth follows at least several hours of labor, chances are that the newborn will have had a substantial experience of touch in the hours and moments before birth, due to the contraction of muscles in the mother’s uterus. If a child has experienced a fast birth (under 3 hours labor) or a caesarian birth, then it is very possible that the sense of touch was not so strongly experienced. Also, a vaginal birth of a low birth weight baby will have less of a strong tactile experience due to being smaller.

Fortunately, very firm swaddling is a time honored tradition known by midwives and hospital nurses the world over to give the child the touch boundary she needs, whether she is being held or not. Many cultures promote this practice for the first three months or more and for good reason-the firm pressure gives the infant a sense of safety because there is something firm pressing back against her, just as she felt in utero.


NICU babies are often wearing only a little plastic diaper, and there’s no firm swaddling. If they receive kangaroo care (skin to skin), the parents must hold the fragile baby extremely carefully as the skin is so delicate. But once these NICU babies are home, having some fat tissue and firmer skin, they especially need months of very firm swaddling and baby massage as their skin layers grows stronger.

Pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp from California calls the first three months of life “the 4th trimester” for very good reasons and advocates firm swaddling as seen in his video and book, The Happiest Baby on the Block, www.happiestbaby.com. He adeptly demonstrates an infant being wrapped extremely tightly in a blanket, with the head free, and the baby calms. Otherwise a baby may feel at a loss and crying ensues. A deep touch experience via swaddling helps babies feel more physically at home in their bodies whether or not they missed a firm pressure experience from the birth process.

A baby is essentially merged with adult caretakers for several months. In a certain sense this extends for years; over time a child individuates and develops a stronger sense of self. It is not until around age 8 or 9 that the child feels truly separate from the world; this is a common age when loneliness is expressed. Firm loving touch that begins in infancy and extends for years is an important component in raising healthy children. Using the deep and also superficial layers of our skin, we learn where we end, and where something else in the world begins-a person, a blanket, a toy. We learn that we are separate from the world but through touch we also can connect to others. With firm loving touch, a child is comforted, sheltered and contained. Yet touch also enables us to experience boundaries that help us to feel separate from the things we encounter. Through having a strongly established sense of touch, a child is better poised to learn about boundaries both physical, verbal and social.

Tactile Defensiveness

Various issues may arise when the sense of touch has not received enough stimulation in infancy and in the early years. Also, some children with a standard vaginal birth and plenty of loving touch may still have sense of touch vulnerability for various reasons. Known as tactile defensiveness, this is a challenge for many children and has nothing to do with children being aggressive or irritable on purpose. These issues may not even show up until age ten or more. Some considerations are:

  1. Although there are many reasons why a child may be anxious, including significant traumatic events, one possible symptom of tactile defensiveness is anxiety. Children who have a delicate touch sense may appear anxious; this feeling may physically reside more in the upper torso across the chest and shoulder blades. Adults can protect these vulnerable areas with hugs, firm shoulder squeezes, and clothing that covers shoulders and the upper chest.
  2. A child may experience a light brush against the arm as a strong push, causing an overreaction. The adults are puzzled because they saw a light touch, yet to the child a great offence has occurred. Such a child may punch others in retaliation. Hitting is one way to protect oneself from a perceived threat, yet how often is it interpreted as an aggressive or inappropriate behavior?
  3. A child may unconsciously refuse to stand in a line of children where the risk of getting bumped by others is likely, yet a teacher may see this as defiance instead. Likewise, a child may resist sitting with his back against the back of a chair, especially if it’s hard plastic. Conversely, a child may be too much “in someone’s face”, lacking a healthy sense of boundaries. When adults begin to observe a child’s situation with respect to the birth story and an understanding of tactile issues, a revelation may take place about why the child exhibits resistance to certain activities or may push too far.
  4. A child may resist wearing layers of natural fibers, which are heavier than synthetic fibers, or resist wearing snug clothing, preferring a loose style without anything touching at the neck, waist, ankles and wrists, etc. Or a child may prefer to have a hooded sweatshirt on at all times, to give a boundary layer of protection from the world. A very sensitive child will hide under a hood as well, but it is worth knowing the birth history.

Mothers of twelve year old boys have told me their son will not wear underpants, socks, long sleeved shirts or anything close fitting. They wear the large baggy synthetic basketball shorts and a T-shirt, even in Vermont’s cold winters. Sometimes in these situations the sense of touch is so compromised that the child does not fully feel the effects of the cold. They are, literally and figuratively, “out of touch.”

  1. Some children with tactile sensitivity seek out firm touch by crashing into people or objects, stomping around, or jumping off furniture or steps. All of these behaviors help a child to get the proprioceptive feedback he needs-feeling where his body, muscles and joints are in relation to the world around him. They seek what they need; they are not trying to destroy furniture.
  2. Often these children crawl into bed with mom or dad in the night. They may wake up in their own beds and become anxious when they do not feel a boundary: “Where am I? Where do I end and where does the world begin?” So snuggling next to an adult provides that missing boundary. Sometimes the child truly does have emotional anxiety issues, but in this case there is a real physical anxiety. Putting the child to sleep with a firm bodied dog on the bed, firm body pillows or even in a sleeping bag for a cocoon experience are some strategies to help a child sleep better.
  3. Other indicators of tactile defensiveness include not liking hugs from certain people (if the pressure is not right), a strong dislike of crowds and a dislike of haircuts (because it touches the head and face lightly, which is irritating). A colleague of mine told a story about a baby who cried all day when awake at home with the mother; as soon as the father came home and held the baby, he stopped crying. This naturally deflated the new mother’s self-esteem around parenting her child. Happily, this resolved when they realized the father was a football player who firmly squeezed his baby in contrast to the mother’s too gentle approach.
  4. Last but not least, an insensitivity to other’s feelings. Equate a healthy tactile (touch) sense with a good sense of tact (respect and sensitivity for the other). Solid physical boundaries align with the development of healthier social boundaries, helping us be “in touch” with situations.

A Helpful Protocol:

A daily diet of firm pressure via strong hugs, cushion or futon squeezes and firm pressure massages can ameliorate the situation. Especially helpful is a morning, afternoon and bedtime routine that enables the child to feel more present in his skin, as illustrated below:

Here is a story of 4 year old boy, an only child, who was pushing others. The parents called and described their son’s hitting behavior at home and nursery school. Right away I thought that this may be a referral to a counselor but I said I was willing to observe. I arranged a time to come to their house for an hour, explaining that I would be a person coming for a cup of tea. After meeting the family and having a brief house tour, I asked the boy if he would show me his room and his toys.  Eager to oblige, off we went to his room. His wooden and plastic toys were in baskets and the books on a shelf. His room was calm, without clutter, and the bed was made. As we went back downstairs, I had a clear sense that this was a nice family but that perhaps I was not the person who could help them.

Then I sat at the kitchen counter while the mother prepared my tea. When she went to the refrigerator to retrieve the milk, her back was turned to me. Her son went right up behind her, placed both hands on her bottom, and gave her a shove forward. This was what I needed to see! We had our tea and then I left, looking forward to seeing the parents a few days later in my office.

When I asked them if their son was born by caesarian, they said he was. I explained to them what the repercussions of this were and they went home with my advice to play squeezing games in cushions, etc. A week later the mother returned a book I had loaned with a note saying, “In six days of doing the firm hugging and the squeezing games, the hitting behavior has significantly decreased.”

What can a parent do when the sense of touch is compromised?

Children with a compromised sense of touch need firm pressure activities that can become part of a daily diet for several months. Children do outgrow this issue for the most part, and the best way to help them is to play games and do massage at home. Henning Kohler states in his book Working with Anxious, Nervous and Depressed Children: “Anxious children need gentle firmness and protection.” I add here that they also need to experience joy and fun in healthy touch experiences, as in the photo above of my twin boys. Ideas include:

  • Massage as tolerated, firm is best, especially to the whole back and shoulders
  • Shoulder rubs, strong and long bear hugs. Hold gently but firmly
  • Rough house play with siblings and parents (not too close to bedtime).
  • Flying angels (parent on floor w/ legs raised up, child’s tummy on parent’s feet)
  • Snow angels on floor or outside.
  • Wrapping in blankets/quilts-cocoon or burrito, firm pressure applied (head out).
  • Sandwich the child between pillows/cushions and lean your weight on them – just not on the head. Roll the child in a futon (head safely out)
  • Sandbox play –Being buried up to the neck in sand at beach if child can tolerate it, or just the legs.
  • Millet box “magic millet” – it’s wonderful to scoop hands in to find hidden gems. Millet also has a high silica content.
  • Being allowed to run and crash into a stack of cushions or a padded wall.
  • Hand clap games
  • Rolling on the floor or grass
  • Playing guessing games writing number or letters on the back.
  • For sleeping, put long pillows on either side of the child, or put the dog on the bed – Labs are great. A child might like to be in a sleeping bag on the bed.
  • Connect the activity with firm boundary, safety and security, and have fun.



Connie Helms works in private practice as an Extra Lesson teacher in Vermont with children, adolescents and adults. She is a consultant to Waldorf schools in the U.S., mentors Waldorf remedial teachers and serves on the board of the Association for a Healing Education. Connie is the mother of three young adult children who attended Waldorf schools from nursery through grade eight.

Source: http://www.conniehelms.com/sense-of-touch-issues-especially-for-caesarian-fast-birth-or-low-weight-babies/


By Helle Heckmann


I will go through children’s sleep needs in different ages and how to best approach their sleep. To allow a good overview I will begin with newborns, and then move on to the 3-month-old child, then 3-6 months, and finally the 1-2 year old child. I will finish with some concluding advice about sleeping rituals that you may find inspirational and useful up until the child reaches 7-9 years of age. I will conclude with a loving encouragement to you as parents that you need to remember to take care of your own sleep too.


The Necessary Regenerative Sleep

When we as parents look at our small sleeping child, it fills our hearts with love. This deep satisfaction of watching your child sleeping safe and sound in their little bed is, I believe, universal.

It is wonderful to get a good night’s sleep, and to get the sleep you need. In our sleep, we charge up for the next day’s experiences and during sleep, we process the day that has just passed and detox our brains. Being human, we are dependent on our sleep, and one could say that having a good day is dependent upon having a good night’s sleep too.

When it comes to small children, it is very easy to see if their sleep has been regenerative to their wellbeing and energy, or if the child doesn’t get enough sleep and has perhaps even suffered from lack of it over a long period of time. It is equally easy to observe that well rested children are far more capable of developing healthily and engaging socially with other children in for example day care centre than children who have not had enough sleep. It is very taxing for children to be outside their own home environment; they have to relate to lots of other people at a time when they naturally would engaged more with their own physical and inner development. The basis for any child being able to cope with the world is of course that it is healthy, but also well rested.

Children who are at their best get a lot more out of life. We know this from our own experience as adults too. When we are well-rested we are more prepared to tackle life’s’ challenges during the day; to have other people speaking to us and we to them, to go places with other people, to eat together with others and so on. This is true for small children too.  Well-rested and prime children are much more able to engage in playing, and it is easier for them to have a clear sense of their own physical capability when they feel well in their own body; to be able to run, climb and be together with others playing and so on. The child is also more active during the morning than during the afternoon, so when we send our children off to a day of many social challenges and experiences, it is vital to send them off rested and well.

It is also a lot easier to eat for a well-rested child. If you have to wake up children in the morning, it is mostly because they have not had enough sleep and is in need of more. With children who are very tired, at least half an hour may pass before they are even able to eat. Children who wake up by themselves after a good night’s sleep are often able to eat right away. As a guideline, if a parent needs to wake up their child in the morning, they will probably need to tuck them into bed earlier in the evening.

Lack of sleep is often the result of an unstable rhythm that can be stabilised. To be able to work efficiently towards resetting a good sleeping rhythm requires of course that the adults see that lack of sleep may be the root of the problem. This is important to mention here, because a child who lacks sleep can develop symptoms that resemble those in children with autism or ADHD, which can point both parents and pedagogues in the wrong direction. A child that lacks sleep can have trouble listening. They can become aggressive and quick-tempered. Older children may have a hard time expressing themselves, not being able to explain what is wrong. They can become inward and withdrawn or be troubled and sad. The reason I mention this is that it is important for you as the parent to consider if lack of sleep may be one of the reasons why your child is not functioning well. This parameter is sometimes over-looked, as it requires that both parents and pedagogues communicate about the child’s sleep at home as well as in the day-care centre.

When considering sleep, it therefore makes sense to include the four other parameters in our thinking: Is there a recognizable rhythm in the child’s daily life? Has the child had enough physical exercise? Has mealtime been calm and nourishing? Has there been enough time to look each other in the eye? The quality of sleep depends on our feelings, impressions and general wellbeing during the day. Thus, different essential aspects of life are deeply connected, and it therefore makes sense to study these basic areas of life in order to become wiser about where we can assist our children with a caring hand.

It is important to remind ourselves that it is wonderful to sleep. It is full of easement, wellbeing and an absolute necessity to lay down and go to sleep. It is important for your child’s experience of being tucked-in that you do not feel guilty or worried about it. Your approach and attitude towards sleep has a lot to say in how your child will experience sleep. You can safely start teaching your child to fall asleep by itself, without having to be stimulated, from it is around one years old. Newborns will naturally do so when they are breast-fed or get milk from a bottle. It is not dangerous or lonely to lie by oneself; it is in fact natural for the child to learn to fall asleep on its own. Unconsciously you can transfer your own anxiety and worries or fear of abandonment to your child. Fear is contagious, and the child will always respond to its’ parent’s feelings. This is a very sensitive issue with lots of opinions, but in my experience, the fear of abandonment is often a misinterpretation where the adult unconsciously projects his or her own fears upon the child. From my experience, very few children are actually born fearful. Therefore, your child will benefit greatly from your positive thoughts and feelings about falling asleep, also when they are going through a period where it is difficult.

Sleep for the newborns

A small baby is not born with a sense of a sound sleeping rhythm and it has no sense of day and night. It has hunger, and it has sleep. These two elements make up the child’s rhythm. As the adult, you must understand that you need to teach the child to get a good sleeping rhythm. At the same time, you must be very careful to observe the child, because each child is unique and individual.

However, some things do apply in general: Newborns are only awake 30-45 minutes at a time, and then sleep for perhaps 1-3 hours. Then they wake up to feed and go back to sleep again. This first period is very irregular and extremely individual. Some children sleep for a long time in one go between breastfeeding whilst others sleep in smaller stretches at a time. Some children easily wake up if there is any noise or activity around them, whilst others can sleep through thunder and lightning. This makes it very difficult to give any general advice about sleep. The rhythm of the mother also differs and can be very individual too. Some women are exhausted and strained after giving birth, whilst others have had an easier delivery. For some it is very taxing to wake up many times during the night getting very little sleep, whilst others seem less affected by it. Naturally, the state and wellbeing of our child also has an effect on us. It is a lot more demanding if your child cries and wakes up a lot than if the child is very calm and sleeps deeply and undisturbed for longer stretches at a time.

The relation between mother and child is essential, and the way the rest of the family acts in support of this is crucial. One could say that if the mother is well, the rest of the family is well too. The father may therefore look to support the mother’s emotional and practical needs. Everything must adjust to the new family situation and the father must focus his attention on how to best facilitate the needs of the mother and the newborn child. This is also important in relation to sleeping patterns.  The adults need to be aware of the roles they take on in this new family unit, where everything revolves around establishing a good rhythm in the child’s life, and the family’s new life together.

It is wise for parents to a newborn child to be very attentive to the fact that they as adults play an essential part in setting the framework for the new family unit. You may for example ask yourself if you as a mother have a need of socializing with other adults often, or if you are perfectly fine just being on your own.  How you spend your time during the day is also part of creating a good sleeping pattern for your child. Perhaps you experience that the sleeping rhythm of your small child gets out of joint after a long maternity visit or if you yourself have been out somewhere for a longer period of time stretching through both meals and sleep. Some children are more easily disturbed than others are, but in general, it is safe to say that the new rhythm that needs establishing between mother and child is fragile in the beginning and easily disturbed, especially if life is very unpredictable.

To Practice Rhythm with Newborns

You can establish a very simple rhythm for newborns by planning their sleep in connection with breast or bottle-feeding.  Preparing for bedtime already begins with the meal, and this will be the case for a number of years. Newborns will often fall asleep whilst they are being breastfed, so it is advisable to change diaper before the meal, introducing the following rhythm:

  1. Change of diaper
  2. Meal
  3. Tuck in the child

A Beginning Rhythm from the Age of Three Months

You could say that the first three months revolves around allowing your child to get used to being an ‘earthling’. The child will gradually begin to be awake for longer periods at a time, and their sleep will begin to get more nuanced and last longer after the first three months. It is a slow and gentle acclimatization process especially between mother and child, where just being together and getting to know each other is of the utmost importance.

When the baby is around three months old, you may want to start introducing a visible difference between night and day when you breast or bottle feed, and slowly begin to develop a rhythm between sleep hours and awake hours. Of course, there are individual differences, for example whether the child is born at term or prematurely or other circumstances. Regardless of these – and the child’s uniqueness of course – it is highly recommended that the adults begin to establish a clear difference between day and night, both for the sake of the child, and for the sake of the adults themselves.

During the night, you might want to avoid turning on electric light and may just light a candle or avoid light completely. This way, you prevent the child’s hormones from mistaking it for daytime, when it is in fact in the middle of the night. It also has an influence on the baby’s alertness whilst it is being breast-fed, and it will go back into a deeper sleep after feeding when it is dark.

It can be very hard for a new mother to deny her child something especially when it comes to basic needs such as food. However, after three months, most children have put on sufficient weight for you to start teaching them gently that the time between meals will now be longer, and that perhaps 2-4 hours may pass. You can begin by not just instinctively move into nursing position as soon as your baby makes a sound. Try out other possibilities first and wait a little. Again, it is very individual, because some children have a voracious appetite and will cry a lot, because they are actually hungry, whilst others may need less, but will cry anyway because they have gotten used to being breastfed every time they express a need.

As mentioned before, it is very difficult to advise and give specific counsel about this age, because the needs of different children are very individual and can vary a lot. You therefore have to be very sensitive to the needs of your own child as a first principle. It can also be quite difficult for the mother to come up with something else to do other than just breastfeeding, as she is most likely very tired herself too. Here the father or your partner might be able to step in and relieve the mother. It can also be other family members if that is a possibility. However, the father might not be available because he is at work during the day, and it can be hard for others to help. Many parents to newborns experience that it is very difficult for others to comfort the child, because the child instinctively feels most safe with its own mother. It is also a very crucial stage in life where mother and child connect with one another at a very deep level.

A More Clear Rhythm from the Age of 3-6 Months

In the ages from 3-6 months, a lot happens physically; the child begins to turn its attention to the world. It starts to turn its’ head to reach out for things. The curiosity and willingness in the child to connect with the world causes it to be awake for longer periods at a time. As soon as the baby reaches 4-6 months, we see that it begins to have an early nap in the morning and then another small nap a bit later followed by a longer sleep in the afternoon.

Here you can benefit a lot from establishing a bedtime rhythm where you tuck in the child around seven to eight pm for the night. If you do that the child will normally only wake up shortly later in the evening to feed. Already now, there is a natural difference between the naps during the day and the long sleeping hours at night. It is very important that both parents pay strict attention to establishing this difference between the naps during the day and the sleep in the night; that both the quality and length of the sleep is different.

The Child at Half a Year of Age

When the baby is about six months old, the visible physical development sets in for real: Every day brings new skills that are visible to the eye. It is an amazing process to witness, wonderful and very life affirming. By six months of age, the child is more accustomed to life, and you begin to see a steadier and clearer rhythm in their sleeping pattern. The morning rhythm might typically look like this:

  • A morning nap around 9-10 am
  • Lunch at 11 am
  • A longer nap around 12 noon

The two naps during the day each have their own quality; the early morning nap is usually a pure vitalization for the child. When it wakes up, it is bouncing with energy. It is very active in its curiosity and seeks intimacy and close contact. By 6 months of age, the majority of children will also eat food aside from breast milk or formula, and you can probably observe how this “earthly food” causes the child to sleep both deeper and longer. The child also begins to be able to move more; it may roll over from side to side, and it can move forward on the stomach.

The musculoskeletal system and muscle development is so intensive that the child gets exhausted from moving; wriggling, practicing vocals, moving about on the stomach, beginning to crawl, etc. The child simply gets more tired physically. In many ways, it is a revolution at micro level and it requires large amounts of energy.

At this ages nocturnal sleep begins to stretch over a longer sequence; the baby sleeps more before it wakes up to eat and only wakes one or two times during the night and then again around six to seven am in the morning. You now gradually need to wean your child off feeding during the night, and this can be quite difficult for you as parents, because you will naturally feel obliged to give your child its’ food out of care. However whereas before it was vital for your child to get this food during the night, this is no longer the case; instead it might mean interrupted sleep for both you and your child. The longer the child feeds during the night, the more it will develop the habit of waking up during the night, and this can start a downward spiral where the child becomes less hungry at dinnertime. It is important to be aware of the connection between things and for example to see that what you feed your child in the morning needs to be good nutrition that matches the amount of energy the child needs to spend during the day. Porridge is both nutritious, easy to prepare and easy for the child to eat. The nutritional content of evening supper is equally important, as it needs to last for many hours and secure a good night’s sleep.

The One To Two Year-Old Child

Small children are in a constant development process and need lots of sleep. From experience, I would say that a one year-old child needs 12 hours of sleep in one stretch from say 7pm to 7am and a 2-4 hour nap during the day.

The child undergoes a continual process of change at many levels, and as the child develops, its’ needs change too. Where food is concerned, I highly recommend weaning the child off breast milk and only giving it real food from the age of one. This also means no milk or other liquids during the night. In my professional opinion, giving the child a bottle for the night is an unfortunate habit, and the same goes for the use of dummies. What was good and vital and stimulating to the suckling reflexes, when the baby needed its nutrition, can now turn into a bad habit; and you need to make the decision to take it away. It is only natural for the suckling reflexes to disappear, when something else has replaced it and there is no need for them anymore. It corresponds with the development of teeth to chew with and language to practice.

The position of the tongue develops with language development, and excessive use of dummies may keep the tongue up in the roof of the mouth behind the front teeth for too long. The dummy can also easily become a kind of “quick fix” solution; because it seems to be the only thing that can stop your child crying if it has hurt itself or become frightened by something. You will probably agree it is good for children to learn to receive care without us having to stuff something in their mouth to make them feel safe. As parents, you can benefit a lot from practicing caring for your child in more age-appropriate ways than using dummies and

bottles to comfort your child, if it is tired or sad. We all know that habits can be very hard to get rid of, and I see some children continuing this habit of wanting to put something in their mouth for years, when in fact what they need is care, sleep or comfort.

The 1-year-old child now only needs one nap, which means that the early morning nap falls away, and the child only sleeps after lunch, which they have around 11-11:30 am. This is a big change for the child, but also in the daily rhythm of the family. For some this transition is almost painless. Others may find it a difficult period where the child is very tired and cries a lot. This is completely natural, and it is important to have a high degree of empathy with your child, whilst at the same time sticking to your decision to give up one of the naps, the moment you experience that this extra nap has an unfortunate influence on the daily rhythm.

If you stay at home with your child, you will oftentimes be very tired yourself too, and for some people it can be quite difficult to let go of the break in the morning, now replaced by a small bouncy child. However, it also gives you more awake-time together, and all the many wonderful small developments that happen right in front of your very eyes also bring a lot of joy, wonder and love into the home.

The child has already for about half a year been able to move away from its’ mother, first on the stomach and then by crawling. The one-year-old child begins to be upright and can now walk away from its’ parents. Becoming an upright human being is a very significant change, and whilst there is great excitement about reaching this milestone, it does require a lot of energy on the child’s part to master this. The long afternoon nap is therefore necessary; and the child may well need 2-4 hours’ sleep.

The Necessary Break

Based on my extensive experience with children in this age group a break around midday is essential. Some people have a tendency to skip the afternoon sleep if the child is very difficult to tuck in; they conclude that perhaps the child does not need to rest then. However, I would like to stress that modern children become exposed to so many impressions, that the afternoon nap is actually vital. If the child is not able to fall asleep, it might be wiser to look at their general wellbeing during the last couple of days and specifically the last 24 hours. Has the child had enough physical exercise? Has it had proper nutritious food? Has there been the necessary contact between you? Did it take nap in the morning? There are a number of reasons, why your child is occasionally difficult to tuck in, but it does not make their nap less necessary. If you feel, you have done everything you could think of and more, I have included a small paragraph at the end of this chapter that you might find helpful.

The entire 24-hour sleep pattern is closely connected; if you can get the afternoon sleep to work well, it will most likely have a positive effect on nighttime sleep too. What the child learns during its’ daytime nap, is to be able to settle to fall asleep by itself and surrender. From my experience, many children struggle with this. This makes it even more important to train this during the afternoon nap, because my experience says it will make sleep onset easier at night. If on the other hand you skip the daytime nap, it can make it even more difficult to tuck in the child for the night. It can be hard to implement a good pattern, especially if you are exhausted yourself and do not have the energy to ‘fight’ with your child to get it to sleep. You might also feel that it is wrong to force your child if it does not want to. My advice is to remember that it is you who are the adults, and it is you who have to step in and take full responsibility for the child’s sleep because the child cannot do so itself.

Sleep Rituals

From the child was 8-9 months old you have most likely begun introducing another tucking-in ritual, as the child grows to be more awake and doesn’t fall asleep right after the meal anymore. Your tucking-in ritual might look like this:

  • Mealtime
  • Potty time/change of diaper
  • Tucking-in time

The sleep ritual can be quite lovely and magic and it gives a great opportunity for loving and close-in contact.  You might sing a little song whilst changing the diaper and another song as you tuck in the child, and the connection and love between you gives the child an emotional satisfaction and settlement that allows it to surrender trustfully to sleep. You can sing the same song repeatedly. The child loves the recognition, which provides great settlement and a feeling that all is well and safe. It is okay to do it effectively, but do it in a calm speed. This will often happen naturally anyway, because your child will be very tired. Perhaps you will recognize that it is not advisable to let the child play for too long after the meal, because there is a risk that it might cause it to speed up and become more awake. Perhaps you have tried to tuck in an overtired child and experienced how much they can cry when you lay them down to rest.

Own Bed

It is very important that your child can sleep in the same place every night, because recognisability allows the child to feel safe and able to sleep. The child can easily have its’ daytime nap in the same pram or crib outside; the main thing is that it is done the same way every day.

It is important that the child go to sleep in its own bed where it learns to settle and fall asleep by itself in the evening. Many children end up in their parent’s bed during the night, which is understandable as long as they are being breastfed, but it is still advisable to lay the child in its own bed, when you tuck it in for the night to allow it to get used to be in its’ own bed.

What would be a fitting bed then? A bed needs to fit the size of the child. It should not be too large, and it should have boards around the sides; it is fine if the child can touch the bedhead. In other words, the child needs to be able to register the bedframe, because this allows it to feel safe. You will often find that the toddler will end up in a corner of the bed because they need to feel the frame around them. Therefore, it can be difficult for a very small human being to settle and fall asleep in a large double bed, simply because the frame is missing. If it is the only option for a period, you can create some temporary walls around the place in the bed where your small child sleeps with some pillows or quilts, preferably placed in the same way every night so that it is recognizable.

You might also put a canopy over the bed to give the child a ceiling to look at, without it being claustrophobic of course. All this can help making the child feel safe; after all, it has been in the womb for 9 months and has just arrived in this very big and to the child completely unpredictable world. Therefore, it is important that parents shield their child in the beginning, and only little by little and introduce the child to the big world in its’ own speed. There is no rush. They will surely get out there before we know it.

Lovely Sleep Rituals in the Ages from One to Seven

A recognizable rhythm will help your child settle. It is both very soothing and calming, but also very assisting to the tucking-in process, if you establish some good rituals around it. As parents, you will find your own rituals; you might choose songs you had sung to you when you were a child. Perhaps you will read some of the same bedtime stories at night or give the child a bath in the evening, or other rituals of care that fit with your family rhythm. It is your noble task to create your own rituals, the important point being that your child will be able to recognize and feel safe with the rhythm and rituals you create.

As mentioned previously, sleep begins with the meal. After mealtime, the child might sit and play for about half an hour. It can be good to do the dishes right away, as the small child loves to listen to the grown-ups going about their business, whilst the child comes, goes, and plays nearby. The daytime rhythm can be repeated successfully in the evening when the child needs to go to sleep; children from approximately 4-5 years of age stay up a little longer after supper, but not more than 1 hour. After tidying up and playing it’s fine to go to the bathroom and begin the evening rituals you have choose besides going to the toilet or potty, washing oneself slightly and brushing teeth. Some bathe their child every night, whilst others do not. Some comb their hair every night and so on. Again, the point being that you as parents focus on establishing a safe and recognizable rhythm. After bathroom rituals, you might want to tell the child it is time to go to bed.

If the child does not have a room of its own, you can create a little sleeping corner for the child. Perhaps you can put up a little angel or another mobile in the ceiling, and you can place a chair by the child’s bed. You might want to put a little table there with a candle and a special book that you read from with the child sitting on your lap. It does not matter if you turn over the same pages repeatedly in the same book. You can easily use the same book for a whole year. Many books invite too many choices at a time when the child needs to quieten and slow down. For the same reason you do not want to read for too long because the main principle is to create a safe and calm atmosphere that brings the necessary settlement, allowing the child to fall asleep. Overall, the whole process should not take more 20 minutes.

After the bedtime story, you can put your child to bed and perhaps sing a little song. It might be nice if you hold their hand for a bit and speak lovingly and reassuringly to them, or you can just sit quietly together. When you feel ready, and the child seems to have settled to it, you can blow out the candle, kiss the little one goodnight and leave the room. It is most effective when you as the adult has faith in the child’s ability to manage on its own and radiate this trust in them from the belief that this is the right thing to do.

Some children fall asleep right away, because they are so tired. Others may twist and turn for some time. It is quite natural that there may be a difference in how children fall asleep and go through different phases where it is more or less difficult for them to fall asleep. The important thing is that you keep acting the same and keep trusting that your child is perfectly capable falling asleep by itself. If the child cries, you listen to what kind of crying it is; try for example to count to 50 before you do anything to see if it is just the child’s way of expressing itself where you don’t need to follow up on it. Very strong willed children might have a need to express themselves very loudly; it does not necessarily mean they are feeling unsafe. The main thing is that you feel confident that your child is able to fall asleep, and that it is good for the child to be by itself.

You may leave the door ajar so the child can fall asleep to the sounds of home; there is no reason that home should be silent as a grave. It could have the unfortunate side effect that you parents begin to tiptoe around and not talk, so the child becomes so accustomed to the silence that it wakes up at the slightest sound when in the process of dozing off. Of course, it is always good to be considerate and not listen to loud music for example or start vacuuming or making a lot of noise.

Rhythm outside everyday life

I would advise that you follow the sleep rhythm every single day, also on Saturdays and Sundays and during holidays. During summertime, you might choose to add another hour; in Scandinavia, we have many light hours in the summer, whilst it is very dark during winter, and perhaps the family has another rhythm during holidays too. However, do try to follow the rituals as best as you can, because it helps your child a lot. It can be difficult for a child to sleep in a new place, but if you stick to the rituals with the well-known blanket and the well-known doll from home, it can be a great help in making your child feel safe enough to fall asleep. On the other hand, if you break the rhythm it can cost you a whole week of disharmony and trouble. Perhaps you have tried yourself to break the rhythm and experienced how far-reaching the consequences can be.

“But we are doing everything we can!”

It may well be that you experience having a hard time getting your child to sleep even though you feel you are doing everything you can think of and have covered all their basic needs. My advice to you is to just keep trying and remember that childhood is one long process of development with many different phases. The difficulties you are going through right now will surely pass too. Perhaps the child just needs to settle to a new phase, where many things are happening at a tremendous speed, and perhaps it is just this ferocious speed and power with which it is developing that causes anxiety in the child when it needs to sleep.

This is therefore also a question about what you will and will not compromise. If the dummy is the only thing that seems to work, but it wakes the child up five times every night because it falls out, will you then stick with the dummy or try to wean the child off it? A strong-willed child may protest greatly if the breast or dummy stops, and it can cause much weeping and frustration. My experience tells me that it is hard to see it through and it requires that you really believe in it. However, it you stick with it, it will certainly bear fruit in the end. This of course is very difficult to remember when you stand in the middle of it, and perhaps are in lack of sleep too. Remember though, if you wean your child off the things you feel are becoming a bad habit, you can be so proud of yourself once it is over. Hopefully you can look back at all your struggles and think to yourself: “Boy, that was hard, but we got through it!” comforted by the fact that you have not mistreated your child; on the contrary, you have helped it greatly by weaning it off something that was not no longer useful to it.

Your own sleep

As mentioned in the beginning of this article sleep is vital to our wellbeing regardless of whether we are adults or children. It is demanding to have energetic small children when not well rested yourself. You probably know this already. You are a much better parent when you get enough sleep. You become less irritable and are better able to maintain an overview. I therefore want to emphasize that you need to take care of your own biological need for sleep too. For some time you may have to accept, that you cannot stay up late, even though you feel you need this adult time. As a parent, you are on duty all the time and I know of no parents who do well with less than 8-9 hours of sleep. If possible, I recommend that you find time to rest during the day whilst your child has its afternoon nap. Plug out the phone and let the world take care of itself. It will not go anywhere and it is good to take timeout just for a few hours.

Instead of feeling pulled to do the laundry, the dishes and tidy up all whilst the baby is sleeping, think that it can wait until you have both rested. It is good for the child to see and feel your care for the home and it can be great to do the laundry together with an eager little one who wants to help, or perhaps just wants to play nearby whilst you take care of the household chores. It is after all necessary work that needs doing no matter what, and it might be healthy and wise to get rid of the notion that it is something that just needs to be finished as fast as possible. What many of us seem to forget is that there is a treasure trove of pleasant moments between you and your little one locked up inside the daily household chores, and that the child actually gets to know life through these daily chores.


Helle Heckmann is a Waldorf kindergarten teacher in Denmark. Books and a dvd about her work at Nokken near Copenhagen are available from WECAN. Helle is also offering courses and workshops worldwide and can be contacted at helleheckmann@yahoo.dk.

Source: https://www.bacwtt.org/wp-content/uploads/helleheckmann_sleep.pdf

The Seasonal Festivals in Early Childhood

Seeking the Universally Human

By Nancy Foster


One of the wonderful, and wonderfully challenging, characteristics of Waldorf early childhood education is that there is no curriculum. Unlike the education for older children, there is no specific outline of subjects offered by Rudolf Steiner for these early years. Rather, it is sometimes said that “the curriculum is the teacher.” To that I might add two other elements, forming a threefold curriculum: the teacher or caregiver, the developing child, and the social and cultural community, including the parents, surrounding the school or program.

The teacher or caregiver, striving inwardly and outwardly to be worthy of imitation, creates an environment in which each child may feel recognized and held in a mood of dream-consciousness. The child, developing according to lawful, archetypal stages, yet a unique individuality, leads the deeply-observant teacher or caregiver to provide nourishing surroundings and activities. And the school community, offering its particular mix of culture, race, religion, ideals, and questions, all within a specific geographic location, provides a social context within which the teacher and children are active together.

In the earlier years of Waldorf early childhood education in North America we looked to our European mentors and colleagues for guidance and inspiration out of their deeply grounded experience. Many of us took up their offerings with gratitude and great joy. For me, as a new teacher, the whole concept of “festivals” was new, and I was awed by the richness of what I assumed were “Waldorf traditions” for celebrating these special times of the year. Especially abundant were the possibilities for observing Advent and Christmas.

0nly later did we come to realize that many of these beautiful festival observances did not originate in Waldorf education but were European cultural and religious traditions. The European Waldorf schools were embedded in what was then a relatively homogeneous society, and it was natural that the traditions of that time and place found their way into the schools, where the teachers experienced them deeply, enriched them through their work with Rudolf Steiner’s insights, and brought them to the children in a living way.

Today in North America we live in a diverse society, in widely disparate geographical areas with correspondingly distinct climates, each school surrounded by its own mixture of natural and cultural conditions.

The inner and outer work of teachers and caregivers continues to be guided by our commitment to anthroposophy and Waldorf pedagogy; the growth and development of the children in our care still follow the archetypal laws revealed to us by Rudolf Steiner’s research; but the realities of our school communities present us with a context that challenges and inspires us to re-examine some of our cherished festival traditions in order to welcome and include fully every child and family.

For many Waldorf early childhood teachers and caregivers, this is a matter for “research,’ a challenge to look ever more deeply into our own festival life as adults and how we bring this into our work with the children and families of our schools. We seek a growing understanding not only of the meaning and significance of the cardinal points of the year and their seasonal festivals – Michaelmas, Advent/Christmas, Easter/Spring, and Whitsun/St. John’s/Summer – but also of the nature and task of early childhood.

0ur question becomes: How can we penetrate to an experience of these seasonal festivals that will be meaningful and nourishing for families of every background, and how can we bring this experience into the life of the young child in a developmentally appropriate way? This is a path of inner and outer work; each teacher or caregiver and each school traveling the path will find helpful signposts, steep hills and deep valleys, accidental detours, and all the joys and challenges of any journey of importance.

Above all, we may strive to bear in mind the incarnating child in our care. How can we support and strengthen the child’s pre-birth intention to be born in this particular body, at this particular time, in this particular place? How can we help the child to find firm ground from which to embark on his or her life’s journey? In our early childhood work, we seek to bring archetypal life experiences to the children, and we might consider festivals in this light, choosing to bring each festival in its most archetypal form of uniting the human being with the earthly and the heavenly worlds—bringing a sense of the wholeness of humanity rather than a multiplicity of representations. We wish the young child to experience rather than to learn about; that will come in later years, in the rich curriculum of the Waldorf lower school and high school.



This article was adapted from Nancy Foster’s introduction to the forthcoming WECAN book, The Seasonal Festivals in Early Childhood.

Source: https://www.waldorflibrary.org/images/stories/Journal_Articles/GW58foster.pdf
© Gateways, Spring / Summer 2010

Why are we teaching? What are we teaching?

By Barbara Klocek


When I first began teaching, I thought my main goals were to create a wonderful environment for the children, to create a harmonious breathing in the morning and to give them an opportunity to experience through their head, heart and hands. I still feel these are important elements in our work. However, over the years I have come to see that there are other, more subtle aspects that are equally important.

These lie in the social realm. Many questions come to mind. Is it part of the teacher’s role to enter into the social realm or do we “let the children work it out?” Do the children feel safe in our classroom? Are the children free to play with whomever they want or can they reject other children? Do we step in when the play becomes exclusive or too rough? Is the role of the teacher to create the social mood, or is it set by the children? How do we meet the children who at the age of six are saying, “You are not the boss of me?” What do we do when we are met with outright defiance from a child?

Each year these questions are brought to light with different children. This year I had several situations that needed my attention. One had to do with the question of one child excluding other children, especially the six-year-old children. Over the years I have come to the rule that all children get to play together. If two children are longing for time alone, I suggest a play date with the families so they can enjoy each other’s company in that way. This year a six-year-old girl returned as one of our oldest children as she had a summer birthday. Two other returning girls were her best friends and she loved to be the leader. This year instead of the mellow trio of last year, they started competing for each other’s friendship and were not at all inclusive of the new children. I tried gentle diversions of having one bake bread, etc. but they were like magnets. So, around the middle of October, my colleague and I decided to tell them that they were on vacation from each other in order to make new friends. The first day or two they were at a loss, but soon they were found happily playing with other children. How delighted the new children were to make friends with them.  After a month, we said that we had noticed how many new friends they had and that they could play together if they would include the other children. This worked well for a while, but a few weeks later they were in their intensive trio again. So we give them a week together or a week on vacation depending on the mood and it seems to work well. I had a short phone conversation with the involved parents so they would understand how I was working. I was unsure how these parents would feel about these “vacations.” However, one mother put me at ease as she said how grateful she was and how it was like her sending her two daughters to their own room if they couldn’t play nicely together.

This brings up the question of whether children should be able to exclude other children. Sometimes this will manifest as a trio or as only boys (or girls), or in many other ways. I have struggled with this question over the years and was delighted to come across a book You Can’t Say You Can’t Play by Vivian Paley. She is a kindergarten teacher and storyteller who also struggled with this question and held may discussions with different age children about this question. She also came to the rule, “You can’t say you can’t play,” and found it created a much more harmonious classroom. I try to put a positive slant on it by saying we all play together.

Often preschool is one of the first steps out of the home and into a classroom. One of the main skills children learn is how to get along in a group and this is learned often from the rules of that classroom. The arrows of exclusion and the pain of rejection are hard at any age. We have a unique opportunity to help children develop new skills in our classroom. Even at the age of four and more strongly by the age of six, the children experience sympathies and antipathies towards other children. How can we help them move beyond this reaction and begin to play/work together at another level? I personally have come to see this as an important part of my work toward peace in the world, in this tiny kingdom called the Red Rose Kindergarten. It doesn’t happen magically that the children get along and include everyone, but over time, they open up their play to everyone and indeed become new friends. I am fairly active initially, supporting a child to be included if someone has just said they cannot play by helping them extend the house, dress up or bring some wooden “cookies” as an entrance into the other children’s play.

Do the children feel safe in our classroom? This for me is an important gauge as to whether I am disciplining in the right way. If we as the teacher are not in charge, usually one of the older, choleric children will be in charge, directing the play, etc. These children are often the leaders of the class and it is our responsibility to see that they are kind and benevolent kings and queens and not tyrants. So one of my main tasks is to listen with sensitive ears as to when the play is too rough or chaotic. Listening from the periphery, I am always sensing the tone in the classroom. If it is not harmonious but has a tinge of pain, anger or fear, quietly and rather quickly I move into that space, sometimes just sitting with my work or entering in if it seems appropriate. This provides an opportunity to work with the six-year-olds directly for their feeling life is becoming stronger and often they find themselves nearly overwhelmed by the inner storm themselves. Here we can help soothe the storm and create a space in which each child can speak and be heard. I can help find a middle path if necessary. I see the feelings of relief on the children’s faces and things settle down. Everyone is safe in this kingdom.

This is usually the case every year if there are several choleric boys. They each want to “be the boss” of the game and voices begin to rise in anger. I waited too long one year to help temper the power struggle and a pattern had become established outside of arguing. In this case, I bought a bag of six penny nails and they were both delighted to be allowed to hammer them into the fence for the first part of recess. Then they were able to settle into play.

I had an opportunity this fall to deal with a child who was defiant outright. Usually I find this attitude begins later in the year, in early spring with the six-year-old children moving out of imitation and beginning to find their relation to the world in terms of who is in charge. Rudolf Steiner speaks of the seven-year-old child learning out of respect for authority rather than as a young child, out of imitation. So we as teachers of sixyear-olds are being met with this transition every year. It is not an easy transition for either the child or the teacher and it influences the mood of the whole class. I find that by living and breathing our rhythms and stories so deeply together, the class becomes a living organism around the beginning of December. If then, in early spring, the six-year-olds are resisting clean up or circle, the class already is a cohesive whole and a firm but gentle hand will bring a new respect to these children of the teacher as an authority.

However, this child came in with a defiant attitude. Only with much coaxing would he participate in circle. He was rude to the other children in his play as he insisted on doing things his way. He did not respect the quiet times and would be disruptive. I have in my classroom a “watching chair.” This is any convenient chair where a child can sit and watch how other children are doing it correctly. I find this very helpful early in the year if the children are in line and one is pushing or at clean up time when all the children are helping except for one who is spinning around. These children often need to come out of movement into stillness (sitting), to even notice what is going on. I often will sit down beside the child in the watching chair and point out what the other children are doing and then invite them to participate in that way. I do not see it as punitive as much as instructive. The children who are being gentle meanwhile are being noticed for their kind behavior.

I had this boy the year before. His birthday was in June so he was already five for his first year with us. He had some challenges in sensory integration and many social patterns from previous day care situations that were difficult. His parents were aware of the problems and followed through on suggestions to give him some extra help through sensory integration, etc. We saw improvement at the end of the year. However, when he returned the following September, he was even more defiant. The first year it was difficult for him because sometimes he couldn’t do what was asked. This year I felt it was because he wouldn’t. This is a difficult distinction to perceive, but over time, with observation, it usually becomes clear.

His defiance began to spread throughout the day, with his friends as well as the teacher. Other children did not like him or began to imitate him, and I felt the mood of the class was being shaped by his attitude. We had a conference with his parents and I was clear about how serious this problem was. I told them I could not see him in a larger class in first grade with this defiant attitude. I asked the parents to be stricter in response to his defiance. I felt he needed a wake up call as to the effects of his behavior. We arranged that when he was defiant in school, his parents would be called to come and get him. When he was taken home, it was not to be a time of fun but of time out.

When he returned from a weekend of his parents being more consequent, he was better. However, before long he was refusing to come down from a tree when it was time to go in. I told him I was calling his father. He was shocked and asked me not to. I said I needed to because he was not listening. He sat contritely until his father came and I, in front of him, said to the father that I was very sad that he would not listen, and tomorrow we would give him another chance.

What a change this brought about. He became much more responsive and began new patterns of cooperation with the teachers. He played much better with the children, although is still working out issues of “who is the boss.” This was the first time in over fifteen years of teaching that I have sent a child home in this way. However, I am finding that parents have increasing more difficulties in setting and following through with boundaries with their lively children. I have two copies of John Rosemond’s book, Six Steps for Raising Healthy, Happy Children in my parent library. This is a wonderful resource for parents, as a mainstream book, which supports their relationship with each other, their role as authorities within the family and the importance of no media for the children.

Our involvement as teachers in the social realm can create an opportunity for many social skills to be learned, for many rough edges to be smoothed and for many friendships to bloom. The children can relax because they feel safe and can experience harmony as a reality in our classroom.



Barbara Klocek is a long-time kindergarten teacher at the Sacramento Waldorf School in Fair Oaks, California.

Source: https://www.waldorflibrary.org/images/stories/Journal_Articles/GW50klocek.pdf

The Sense of Self Movement

By Connie Helms


We continue our journey of the twelve senses recognized by Rudolf Steiner, focusing on the first four known as the Foundational Senses. Upon the strength or weakness of these four senses, the human being will meet the world with certainty or hesitation. To review, these Foundational Senses build three capacities in a child:

  • Body Geography (knowing where the parts of your body are)
  • Spatial Orientation knowing where you are in space) and
  • Dominance (having an established preference for one side of the body to do tasks).

These three capacities are basic in order for children to perform many practical activities in school and at home.

Following the sense of life, which informs us about our well being, comes the sense of self-movement, or the sense of movement. The sense of self-movement brings great satisfaction to the child as she learns to bring her flailing newborn arms and legs into her control and reach out for something she wants. Over the first year of life, this sense then leads a child to stand and take the first steps – a huge deed and the first of three important ones in the path toward becoming an upright human being.

A critical piece in early childhood is for a baby to be lovingly but firmly held and swaddled, which helps the child to feel embodied as well as emotionally and physically secure. From there, it’s crucial to provide ample opportunities for a baby to be in the horizontal plane. Infant development depends on floor time; thankfully many pediatricians promote this important step. When fully horizontal, a baby responds to a pushing reflex, pushing against surfaces with hands and feet to lift that heavy head or another part of the body and eventually to roll over, move forward, backwards or sideways. Be assured that if a child has this opportunity, it is golden, for this is a large part of development of the WILL (the drive to do, to plan, to take action). Here is where the infant begins to develop a relationship to earth and the space around oneself. We are spatial beings; developing our orientation to the earth properly while still on the horizontal plane will help us to become fully upright, but it has to happen in the right order.

If a child missed out on floor time, then spatial orientation is compromised. Knowing where we are in space- I am in my body – I am under the table- I am on the log- I am next to my friend-these experiences are not to be undervalued. The real world teaches this best, not a video or TV show on prepositions. When orientation is experienced first hand, then children build an internal map of what is where – in their body and in their world.

To illustrate this concept, here are two stories:

  1. I know a young adult (who does not have learning issues) who missed out on sufficient floor time, watched TV in a home day care, and did not use the pronoun “I” until she was age 8 or so. Well into her twenties, she often got lost driving in her town and had to call her parent to help her re-orient with verbal directions. It was clear to me that she did not develop a strong sense of “I” in her body at a young age, therefore navigating space in the real world is sometimes a challenge for her.
  2. A few years back, my client’s toddler sister enjoyed coming into the movement room after big sister was done her Extra Lesson session. These girls had wonderful opportunities to live a balanced childhood, full of appropriate free movement and no media. One day as the mother and I were talking, she pulled what seemed like every marble, ball, stick, etc. off the shelf, leaving them scattered across the room. At one point, she was at the shelf and then wanted to come across to where her mother sat. Thinking she’d slip on one of the many objects as though the floor were covered in banana peels, my fleeting panic turned to amazement in no time. She looked right at her mother while talking and navigating her way through the maze, stepping over any object in her path!

The trend in recent decades to leave children for long periods in infant seats is detrimental to their motor development, and will development. The child cannot turn her head fully to one side or another, which affects peripheral vision, eye tracking and neck reflexes. These seats should be used for travel and shopping outings, not in the home. Playpens, however, allow the child to safely nap or rest in the horizontal plane and then develop the will forces to become upright on their own, without artificially pushing them upright too early. The message here is: If someone else does our work for us, this reduces our inner drive to do the work ourselves. Let’s let our babies strive on their own to become upright. Remember the advice from last month-the LIFE SENSE. By not making everything so comfortable, we give our children a chance to develop competency and resilience.

Besides too much time in infant seats, there are other deterrents to free movement in western culture, (by “free” I mean movement stemming from the child spontaneously): too much time in cars, too much time in front of screens (TV, computers, electronic games, handhelds) and organized sports for young children prior to age 9 or 10. The consequences of this lack of free movement are seen in countless grade school children struggling to sit at a desk and write properly on a page. This can happen to very intelligent children (in my experience, almost all children I meet are innately quite intelligent). Sometimes issues of low self-esteem have to do with the child’s sense of not being able to move her body at her will, to do all the things she observes her peers doing. The question people like myself ask is: “Did this child have sufficient time in the horizontal plane prior to standing and walking?”

If deprived of sufficient floor time and movement opportunities, children may have a poorly developed sense of space and also they may not have worked through the early reflexes. Their bodies are unable to form maps of motor movements and even simple tasks like buttoning may require too much cognitive attention, which then creates stress and low self-esteem as children observe how others seem to be able to do tasks with more ease. If spatial orientation is secure, children generally have a better understanding of which way letters and numbers go: top to bottom and left to right, and what’s in front vs. what’s on the back of a page, what is left vs. right.

Insufficient floor time can also lead to a lack of crawling which then compromises eye tracking and the ability to hold the head up in space free from the movement of the limbs. Reading and other school work can be a huge struggle for these children. Lack of crawling also compromises hand development which affects fine motor skills, and it is a hindrance to integration of the left and right brain hemispheres. In fairness, I will say that some children do get sufficient floor opportunities but still have incredible drive to stand and walk; they naturally skip crawling. Whenever a child skips crawling, it is very helpful to play crawling games on the floor or grass when they are toddlers or preschoolers. Ideally a child should crawl for a good three months, and the hands should be flat – no curved fingers. The more one crawls, the more it self-corrects. Crawling games are fun!

Children are naturally wired to move for optimal brain development. In our vehicle and screen dependent culture, children who get insufficient movement experiences are at a disadvantage. Unknowingly, they will try to move when a sedentary activity is over, but their timing may not match the adult’s plan. It’s best to structure movement time in the form of free play, outings in nature and playground visits as much as possible. Screen time should be not at all or extremely rare and only after age 7, and programmed sports saved for age 10. Children should freely move, build, play by themselves, read, draw, do a puzzle, cook, be bored and help with numerous chores at home. There is no time for screens and hand held electronic games in this scenario!

If you haven’t already, please watch the movie BABIES. At the end of the film, the African girl stands up and brings her hands together in pure delight. Unlike her western civilization counterparts who have lots of material possessions, strollers, classes, and gadgets, etc. she has moved through the development stages of the first year within a culture that honors our innate knowledge about development. She has been allowed to make friends with the earth, learn about gravity, lift and carry authentic objects, and feel immense joy with all her accomplishments.


Connie Helms works in private practice as an Extra Lesson teacher in Vermont with children, adolescents and adults. She is a consultant to Waldorf schools in the U.S., mentors Waldorf remedial teachers and serves on the board of the Association for a Healing Education. Connie is the mother of three young adult children who attended Waldorf schools from nursery through grade eight.

Source: https://thewonderofchildhood.com/2011/10/the-sense-of-self-movement

The Kindergarten Child

By Peter Lang


The kindergarten has come into the public arena. In the political debate about the consequences of the conclusions of the PISA study, the kindergarten is, in many cases, not understood as a place of development in which children acquire the essential, vital, basic skills needed as a foundation for future school learning. Time spent in kindergarten is often characterized as “cuddly education” and “wasted time.” According to a series of articles about the new education catastrophe in Germany in Der Spiegel (a German weekly news magazine), the dogma remains that kindergarten involves only playing and no learning, and, that as a result, a kind of cultural malnutrition takes place. The call for beginning school earlier is becoming louder, and, at first glance, may even appear logical. However, logical does not always mean appropriate or just. For this reason, it is more urgent than ever that, in the immediate future, the developmental needs of young children be highlighted and examined in order to see what requisites for kindergarten education emerge. At the same time, it can be shown that in Waldorf education, kindergarten is a time of thorough preparation for future learning in school and in life. Children are individuals who develop and who, with their talents, inclinations, interests, and also handicaps, want to go their own ways.

In order to facilitate this process in the best possible way, they need competent adult role models, loving and secure relationships, and their own rate of development. Children do not fit into the timetables of the adult world, nor do they fit into purposeful political or economic agendas. Children are capable of learning, joyful at learning, and ready to learn. Their developmental windows are wide open, especially in the preschool and first school years. That is where the responsibility arises for adults to shape the child’s world in such a way that at least these three main components permeate their upbringing:

  1. Comprehension: Children should and want to know and learn to understand the world in its interconnectedness; therefore, the methodology here should consist of simple and easily grasped that lead into the ever more complex.
  2. Application: Children gain trust in their own growing powers and abilities primarily when they get many opportunities to do things themselves and master tasks themselves. When help is needed, it should, of course, be forthcoming.
  3. Meaningfulness: Children should develop a sense of meaning in their own actions, feelings, and thoughts, step by step. That requires qualified role models in childhood and youth as an orientation and accompaniment on their path.

School-readiness should be determined by the actual physical and mental development of the child, and this is not necessarily in step with legal regulations or economic considerations. Before school readiness, it is not specific, testable knowledge that the child needs. Quite the opposite is true! The time before school, free from formal learning, allows for the development of basic skills on which later formal education and training can build. These skills make it possible for the future youth and adult to arrive at a position where he or she can master the demands of daily life in the best possible way. They are the requisite foundations for further specialization. Before school readiness, children neither need nor do they tolerate one-sided intellectualization. The same applies to so-called “cuddly education.” Children need the mindful attention of parents and of well-trained educators to give them orientation. Only in this way can they find their own paths.

Waldorf Kindergartens as Skills Centers

Waldorf kindergartens have always been understood to be not just safe havens: They are intended to better the developmental conditions of each child and afford him or her a happy and learning-intensive childhood. In Waldorf pedagogy, there are seven skills areas that are highlighted for children up to age six or seven:

1. Body and Movement

Scientists and teachers have established that more than half of all first-graders have problems with posture or balance, or are overweight. Many children suffer from lack of movement; their large motor and fine motor skills are insufficiently developed. But the human being’s mental and spiritual orientation and balance correspond to his or her physical flexibility and mobility; those who cannot maintain physical balance usually have problems with mental balance. Also, the ability to move definitely influences the acquisition of speech. The ability to comprehend something and then go towards it permeates perception, widens the horizon of a child’s experience, and activates the speech development process. Children who learn active, versatile movement are also preparing the way to more skillful thinking. That is why special attention is paid in Waldorf education to ensure that children get much varied physical movement. Regular walks, games, or gardening also belong in this domain of movement as do finger games and handwork (such as sewing or embroidery).

Tips on method: Perception of the body, development of bodily sense of self, and the motor and fine motor skills come about, for example, by walking, climbing, and jumping rope, gardening and kitchen work, by playing simple musical instruments, and doing simple woodwork such as building a birdhouse.

2. The Senses and Perception

Virtual worlds are becoming epidemic. They present us with qualities that never occur in reality. In order not to fall for these deceptive images, we must depend on our senses more than ever. We need an enhanced perception skill. Our children require an alert consciousness for all that happens around them and to them. What develops is the trust in one’s own power of perception. That is why dependable, unadulterated impressions are especially important in current times. Even media skills, which are desirable later, must be developed through a pedagogical foundation. “Media skill,” according to Joseph Weizenbaum, an American computer expert from M.I.T., “means the ability to think critically. One learns critical thinking solely through critically processed reading and that is conditional on a high level of speech competence.”

In the Waldorf kindergarten, children first discover and explore the real world with their senses and thereby get to know and learn to understand simple, perceptible connections. In this way, along with their own joy of discovery, they also gradually experience elementary laws of nature. Such fundamental requisites as these should be present, at the least, before children enter into more complicated, abstract connections. Therefore, computers or television in kindergarten can in no way promote media skills needed later.

Tips on method: Nurture the human senses by creating harmonious surroundings, among other things, with soothing blends of colors and materials, and by utilizing healthy, organic foods and natural materials.

3. Speech

Thinking and speaking are closely connected. We can express what we are thinking through speech. With speech we can express our feelings, give names to all things in the world, and enter into discussions with one another. However, this instrument requires early, active, and careful nurturing. Children learn to speak in a speaking environment. This depends, first of all, upon the personal relationship between those speaking and those listening. If a child perceives warmth of soul and language from the adults, then this enables the child to also develop good, clear speech. When a child begins to speak varies according to the individual. But all children need good speech role models in order to grow in their language.

Songs, stories, verses, finger games, and rhymes have an important place in a Waldorf kindergarten. The children playfully learn the language and become at home in it. The speech of the educator should, therefore, be loving, clear, imaginative, and age appropriate. Baby talk does not have a place here, nor does the use of abstract explanations.

Tips on method: Good speech role models, clear, vocabulary-rich and imaginative speech, songs, verses, finger games, rhymes, correct naming of things such as plants and animals, daily storytelling or reading from meaningful stories, fairytales, and so forth, allow the children to develop their language skills.

Take time to listen to them and do not correct their speech. From these activities, joy for reading and reading ability will emerge.

4. Imagination and Creativity&

The paradox is omnipresent. All around us, more and more aspects of life are being standardized, prefabricated, and defined. On the other hand, human social development is unthinkable without imagination and creativity. Will we soon even still be capable of these two capacities? How do we acquire and maintain them? A wealth of ideas, mental/spiritual flexibility, and imagination are required of adults (and rightly so) to enable them to shape their lives and work, and kindergarten is the time to invest in the development of these faculties. Everything imaginative, everything artistic, vitalizes and expands the soul and consciousness of human beings.

Development and care of childhood imagination takes on concrete form in the Waldorf kindergarten. There are many non-standardized and “barely finished” toys that stimulate children’s creative powers. Stories animate the children to translate what they hear into play. Daily playtime is ample enough for the children to be concentrated and spur each other on to finding joy in activities.

Tips on method: Use toys and play materials that stimulate the imagination, such as rocks, boards, pieces of wood, large pieces of cloth, and scarves. Have regular playtimes in the forest or garden, with variations in games such as role playing and puppet plays. Tell inspiring and motivating stories that can then be translated into the children’s play. The archetypal trade stories should be told and a relationship developed to them through play. Provide opportunities for pretending to be shoemakers, carpenters or tailors (the archetypal trades).

5. Social Ability

Social cohesiveness must be learned. Without social competence, the healthy life of an individual person and a society is inconceivable.

Children are social beings from birth and will studiously acclimate themselves to social relationships. These learning processes begin in the family and continue in the kindergarten. As more and more children are growing up in one-child families, often with only one parent, with the result that their social field of practice is limited, the kindergarten must thus now, more than ever, become the basis for social experience. Social interaction is always a matter of bringing the interests, desires, and needs of the individual into a relationship with the group or community. On the one hand, individuals must be able to bring their own abilities and intentions, and, on the other hand, the needs of everyone else should have a place. For this, rules, agreements, and trust are necessary. Children need communities in which they can orient themselves and learn as many of these social rules of life as possible.

A Waldorf kindergarten is such an environment. The children learn that there are rules as well as a structure-creating rhythm to the day and week that lead to single children or groups taking over certain tasks (such as tidying up or setting the table). The children orient themselves by imitating the teacher. Through this process, they also learn to take responsibility and to use their own creative space that has resulted and, at the same time, they get practice in useful activities.

Tips on method: Mixed-age groups offer opportunities for chlidren to help each other. Help children to take over tasks such as rinsing the dishes, tidying the room, watering the plants. Foster social orientation by telling meaningful stories and through encouraging role playing father-mother-child, firefighting, hospital, store. Help children learn to give, receive, and share. Have children experience parents helping in the kindergarten, for example, repairing toys, organizing festivals, or doing renovation work. Practice solving conflict, for example, by apologizing when it is called for.

6. Motivation and Concentration

Today many children, youth, and adults suffer from nervousness, hyperactivity, and a lack of concentration. Their enthusiasm has been limited as well as their ability to connect themselves with certain activities for a given period of time. In science and education, the causative factors (pathogenesis) have long been sought and researched. At the same time, there has been an effort to get to know and strengthen the healthy and stabilizing factors (salutogenesis).

The Waldorf teachers’ tasks are to identify habits and impressions that are harmful to the development of the small child and to keep them away from the child (for example, television at an early age). At the same time, their educational efforts are directed toward health-promoting factors. For instance, they recognize the young child’s desire for learning and activity and stimulate that desire and the child’s natural tendency to imitate through role modeling. Interesting and stimulating possibilities for activity have a motivating effect on the children. Regular repetition and rhythmic, creative elements in the daily kindergarten routine, as well as regular attention to seasonal changes highlighted with festivals, all, therefore, help the child to develop the ability to concentrate.

Tips on method: Encourage self-created play and have toys that stimulate initiative and offer manifold possibilities for play. Help children get to know processes from beginning to end and participate in them themselves (for example, in baking, laundry, and gardening). Help children experience appropriate activities having to do with adult daily life instead of unplanned, senseless, or unhealthy activities.

7. Ethics and Moral Values

In order to shape their own lives, children, like adults, need mental/spiritual orientation, values, and tasks with which they can internally connect. Children need rules, rituals, clarity, and truthfulness. They want to experience adults who are engaged and involved and can give them moral orientation without preaching. However, today many children find only the standards of a fun-and-recreation- oriented society in their surroundings without any supporting commitment.

Waldorf pedagogy consciously incorporates ethics and morals into its educational approach. It recognizes that children need a supportive environment to absorb the good, beautiful, and true, just as they need respect for other people, other cultures, and nature. Children must also learn that the experience of respect, beauty, and truth is linked to personal engagement and involvement.

Tips on method: Prepare and celebrate festivals. Provide opportunities for loving contact with nature. Provide opportunities for practicing charity and “loving thy neighbor,” gratitude (verse before meals), and helpfulness. Enable children to experience their parents’ involvement in the community and in the kindergarten. Help them to learn respect for differences. Provide opportunities for hearing and singing songs and saying verses from other cultures.


Peter Lang is the head of the Waldorf Kindergarten Seminar in Stuttgart. 

Source: http://www.waldorfresearchinstitute.org/pdf/BAKindChildLang.pdf

Helping Children in a Time of Trouble – A Few Thoughts

By Nancy Foster


In a time of trouble, such as the death of a family member or friend, parents are faced with the question of how to help the children through this time. In a sense, the question will have many as answers as there are particular children and since children respond so differently to a situation, according to their age and nature. Parents are frequently brought up short by the realization that they must first face their own feelings and questions. Next comes the necessity of dealing with a child’s questions.

A generally-accepted “rule of thumb” in responding to children’s questions is to give only as much information as the child is actually requesting. As adults, our thoughts on a topic tend to be quite far-ranging, while the child’s question is likely to be on a much more direct level. It is better to err on the side of simplicity; if a child needs to know more, another question will surely follow. Your answer to “what happens to someone who has died” will, of course, depend on your own view of this; in any case, a simple picture is usually best for a child. Your honest expression of sorrow and sympathy is very beneficial in helping a child to experience and cope with loss, but uncontrolled emotions are usually troubling or even frightening for the young child. The adult’s efforts to recognize and accept grief without being overwhelmed by it can be a profound example to a child.

Some children may appear to become obsessed by the death, asking question after question and seeming unsatisfied by any number of answers. The sensitive parent will soon realize that this child is seeking for something other than words to quiet his or her anxieties. Often the best answer is a warm hug and words such as, “That’s enough talk for now: come, it’s time to pick some flowers for the supper table” (or some other such homely task). This child needs most of all an expression of love from the parent and the reassurance that life will go on, in the form of normal activities, even in the midst of grief. This is not to deny the grief, but to help the child work through it in the way most natural to children — through activity. If it seems appropriate, the child can be encouraged to help bake a loaf of bread for the bereaved family, or perhaps to make a card to send.

The place of ritual in helping the children and adults to cope with loss should not be overlooked. Rituals are “special times for special happenings,” in the words of Julius Segal, a psychologist writing in the Washington Post some years ago. Such rituals, which may be religious, secular, or familial in origin, “can provide a strengthening sense of order and meaning in times of trouble. They can help maintain the form and rhythm of lives shaken by trauma and grief…” Mr. Segal’s theme was the role of ritual in creating a stable, fulfilling family life, but it can also be applied to times of trouble. For a child who shows a continuing, deep concern about a death, establishing a simple ritual can be very comforting. For example, the child may help to create a special setting with perhaps a candle, a small vase of flowers, some beautiful autumn leaves, some acorns or crystals… and at a particular time each day (just before or after dinner, possibly, or before the bedtime story) the candle may be lighted and a song sung, or a verse recited, “to send our thoughts” or “to send our love” to the one who has died or to the family. Such a ritual may serve as a kind of anchor in a sea of grief or anxiety, as well as diminishing the sense of helplessness in the face of another’s loss.

Finally, a story which contains a simple but meaningful picture of the spiritual origins of life and its destinies can be of great help to a child. From such a story — as from all true stories — the child can take the image or images which will be of most help to him or her.


Source: https://www.waldorflibrary.org/images/stories/Journal_Articles/GW2909.pdf

Choosing Fairy Tales For Different Ages

By Joan Almon


Deciding which fairy tales are appropriate for which age group is a problem which faces every kindergarten teacher as well as every parent who wants to offer fairy tales to children. Over the years, with the experience of actually telling the tales to children, one develops a “sense” for this, but in the beginning some guidelines may be of help.

Among the fairy tales, there are stories of varying degrees of complexity. At the simplest level there is the “Porridge Pot”, while a considerably more complicated story is the beautiful French tale of “Perronik”, the simpleton in quest of the grail who must overcome seven difficult obstacles. The latter is a tale for the elementary school child, perhaps just as he is leaving the world of fairy tales around age 9, while the former little tale is a delight to three year olds as their first fairy tale. They enjoy hearing of the little pot, so full of abundance, which overflows for lack of the right word. At this age the children themselves have a sense of life’s eternal abundance which one child expressed to her mother in this way when her mother said she did not have enough time to take the child out to play: “But Mother, I have lots of time. I’ll give you some.”

In almost every fairy tale there is either a problem which must be solved, such as how to get the porridge pot to stop cooking, or a confrontation with evil, which can take many forms, such as the Queen in Snow-White or the various monsters which Perronik encounters. The milder the problem, the more appropriate the tale for younger children and conversely, the greater the evil, the more appropriate the tale is for older children.

Another aspect of fairy tales is that the hero or heroine must undergo certain trials or go on a complex journey before succeeding in his or her quest. In the original version of the “Three Little Pigs”, the pig is nearly tricked three times before he is able to overcome the wolf. Three is a number which frequently arises in relationship to the challenges of the fairy tale.

In this case the tasks are not portrayed as very ominous, and the pig handles them with a good deal of humor, making it a tale well-loved by four year olds. In the “Seven Ravens”, the daughter must first journey to the sun, the moon and the stars in order to restore her brothers to human form. This is a tale which speaks well to five and six year olds. An even more complex tale is the beautiful Norwegian tale entitled “East of the Sun and West of the Moon”.

Here, too, the heroine oust go on a great journey to redeem her prince, and the journey takes her first to the homes of three wise women. She is then aided by each of the four winds. Yet even when the north wind blows her to the castle east of the sun and west of the moon, her work is not yet completed and she is further tested before she is able to marry the prince. This is not a tale for the kindergarten, but rather one for the first grade or beyond, when children’s own inner struggles grow more complex and when they are nourished by the more complex fairy tales. With these thoughts in mind, I would like to divide some of the tales commonly told in Waldorf kindergartens into categories of complexity. This is a somewhat dangerous business, for the fairy tales are so alive that they do not rest comfortably in one category or another. Even as I divide them up, I find myself constantly switching tales from one category to another. In the end one makes one’s decisions very much with a particular group of children or an individual child in mind. Please accept these divisions lightly as mere indications, and take the time to develop your own judgments in this area.

You may find it helpful to read a few stories from each category as a means of understanding the different levels of complexity of the fairy tales.

  1. The three year olds in the nursery or mixed-age kindergarten are very satisfied with little nature stories, or with a simple tale such as “Sweet Porridge”. The older threes are often ready to hear the “sequential” tales such as the tale of the turnip. The turnip has grown so large that Grandfather cannot pull it out by himself, so one after another come Grandmother, grandchild, dog, cat and finally mouse. All together are then able to pull out the turnip. One finds many tales of this sort which have a strong pattern of repetition and order. There are also traditional songs which fall into this category such as “I Had a Cat and the Cat Pleased Me” or “Had Gad Ya”, a song sung during the Jewish holiday of Passover. Such sequential stories have the added advantage of being relatively easy for a beginning story teller to learn. A collection of tales for this age group includes the following:
  • Sweet Porridge (Grimm, 103)
  • Goldilocks and the Three Bears (Russian)
  • Little Louse and Little Flea (Spindrift)
  • The Turnip (Russian)
  • The Mitten Little Madam (Spindrift)
  • The Gingerbread Man The Johnny Cake (English)
  • The Hungry Cat (Norwegian, Plays for Puppets)

(Note: Grimm’s fairy tales are numbered from I to 200, and their numbers are given here to help you locate the story in a complete edition of the Grimm’s tales. A list of sources for most of the fairy tales mentioned here appears at the end of the article.)

  1. The next category of tales is slightly more complex, but the overall mood is usually cheerful and without too much sorrow or struggle. The fours and young fives are usually quite comfortable with these tales.
  • Billy Goats Gruff (Norwegian)
  • Three Little Pigs (English; Wolf and Seven Kids (Grimm, 5)
  • Pancake Mill (this Newsletter)
  • Mashenka and the Bear (Russian, Plays for Puppets)
  • The Shoemaker and The Elves (Grimm, 39)
  1. In the next category come many of the tales which we normally associate with the term fairy tale and which we think of in relation to five and six year olds. These tales contain more challenge and more detail. The main character often sets out in the world with a simple task to perform such as in the ” Miller Boy and the Pussy Cat”. Although obstacles are encountered, they do not weigh too heavily on the soul of the individual.

Such tales include:

  • Star Money (Grimm, 153)
  • Frog Prince (Grimm, 1)
  • Mother Holle (Grimm, 24)
  • Little Red Cap (Grimm, 26)
  • Bremen Town Musicians (Grimm, 27)
  • Golden Goose (Grimm, 64)
  • Spindle, Shuttle and Needle (Grimm, 186)
  • Hut in the Forest (Grimm, 169)
  • Queen Bee (Grimm, 62)
  • Snow Maiden (Russian, Plays for Puppets)
  • The Seven Ravens (Grimm, 25)
  • Snow-White and Rose Red (Grimm, 161)
  • Little Briar Rose (Grimm, 50)
  • Princess in the Flaming Castle (this Newsletter)
  • The Donkey (Grimm, 144)
  • Rumpelstiltskin (Grimm, 55)
  • Snow-White and the Seven Dwarves (Grimm, 53)
  • Hansel and Gretel (Grimm, 15)
  1. The final group which I will include here are those fairy tales which are well suited for the six year olds who are making the transition to first grade, This is a time of stress for children as they lose their baby teeth and sense a departure from the heart of early childhood. (Fortunately they still have a few more years before they make their final “fall” from Paradise.) Tales in which characters have a personal experience of suffering or sorrow meet this new phase of inner development in the children. Often these tales are not told in the kindergarten at all but are left for first grade.
  • Jorinda and Joringel (Grimm, 69)
  • Brother and Sister (Grimm, 13)
  • Cinderella (Grimm, 21)
  • Rapunzel (Grimm, 12)

A frequent problem which troubles kindergarten teachers is how to select tales for a mixed-age group. If there are three year olds present as well as six year olds, will the more advanced tales harm the little ones? My own experience and that of other teachers, is that this is not a problem provided the story is appropriate for some of the children in the group. This is an interesting phenomenon which seems to work as follows. In a mixed-age group from three to six, one can choose a tale for the five and six year olds and the three and four year olds will be attentive. They may seem less focused than they are with a simpler tale, but they rarely grow restless (though it sometimes helps to seat the youngest ones near the teacher or the assistant). On the other hand, if one would tell the same complex tale to a group of only three and four year olds, one would find that they do not attend to it well and easily lose interest. It is as if there is no one in the group who can “carry” the story for the others. In a mixed-age group one can also create a balance in the tales by telling some that are appropriate for the younger children. The older children generally do not get bored with the simpler tales, for they are now old enough to see the humor in the sequential tales or simpler fairy tales, and they will laugh at the humorous parts while the little ones listen with full seriousness.

When choosing a fairy tale, another factor to take into account is whether a fairy tale is generally well known in the society, even if it is known in an incorrect form. When a tale is well known, children often seem ready to hear it at a younger age than they otherwise might be.

The final consideration, and probably the most important one, is the story teller’s own relationship to the story. Sometimes a story teller loves a tale so much that the story may be told to children who are generally too young for it. It is as if the story teller’s love of the tale builds a bridge to it. Thus, I knew one teacher who loved “The Seven Ravens” so much that she told it year after year to her class of three and four year olds, a feat which I would not undertake. When this love of fairy tales is coupled with an understanding of them on the part of the story teller, doors are opened to the whole realm of life in which fairy tales are true and live forever. In the telling of fairy tales we too are nourished and brought back into this realm. Rudolf Steiner describes the fairy tales very beautifully when he says, “Much deeper than one might imagine lie the sources whence flow genuine, true folk tales that speak their magic throughout all centuries of human evolution,”‘ Rudolf Steiner, “Folk Tales in the Light of Spiritual Research”, February 6, 1913. (This is presently out of print, but the Kindergarten Association is working to bring several lectures on fairy tales by Rudolf Steiner into print in the near future.)

Source: https://www.waldorflibrary.org/articles/977-choosing-fairy-tales-for-different-ages

The Sense of Balance

By Connie Helms


Balance is extremely important not only on a physical level but also on an emotional level. Recall that the foundational senses give us a foundation for life; therefore, it behooves us to make sure children have as many opportunities as possible in gaining mastery over their physical bodies. With secure bodily integration, the right environment is created for emotional and cognitive learning.  Forget the Baby Einstein videos and academic preschools. Body mastery must come first in order for the brain to be most receptive for all other learning.

Children innately work on the sense of balance all the time.  If near a curb, beam or a log, most children cannot resist the urge to walk across the narrow surface.  This serves to strengthen a sense we will have to use our whole lives. Notice that when people age and physical activity declines, the sense of balance weakens. This need not be the case; walking, yoga, dance, and other activities can keep balance strong into one’s senior years.

If balance is not strong, children may walk awkwardly and have trouble running and skipping. It is not uncommon for children to fall out of their chairs at school or at the dining table, because they do not fully know where their body is in space and their balance is weak.

The sense of balance is also called the vestibular sense. The central mechanism of balance is located in our inner ear, where the vestibular apparatus consists of two small sacs plus three semicircular canals, at right angles to each other and each in a different plane of space. Fluid in each canal sends feedback to the brain about orientation in space: left/right, front/back and up/down. When these sensory receptors are not functioning well, misleading information goes to the brain. However, when the receptors are working properly, the body makes adjustments easily because the information going to the brain is matched on each side of the head. Imagine if you are sitting in a chair and someone comes behind you and tips it back or to the side. Your sense of balance, if strong, helps you to make a quick adjustment to stay in the chair.

Vision and proprioception also help us to maintain balance. We know how hard it is to stand on one foot if our eyes are closed. That’s because sensory receptors in our eyes send messages to our brain that help us to maintain balance. Proprioception, discussed in the sense of movement articles, is knowing where our body is in space. We learn this through feedback from our muscles and joints. Looking at a sideways view of an upright human, you will notice the joints that line up with the vestibular system in the ear: jaws, shoulders, elbows, wrists, pelvis, knees, ankles. All of these joints and the nearby muscles, especially the neck muscles and the ankles, give feedback to the brain, to help us balance whether we are on a flat surface, a hill, or a log.

Here’s a wonderful example of the drive to work on balance. While visiting a Kindergarten at a Waldorf school, I observed a five year old girl set up an elaborate elevated walkway. Molly, as I’ll call her, and some children took a few low chairs and set them near each other, then set a six foot plank (5 “wide) across two chairs spaced apart, and a few shorter planks on other chairs and large wooden blocks. The whole walkway consisted of low chairs and planks: it was a three sided square that was two feet off the ground, but at the end of the long section, there was a slide where the children could slide down on their knees and meet the floor. Molly carried a large doll in one arm and began to walk across the structure. Other girls and boys followed, some being cautious and some just breezing along. Molly took perhaps a dozen trips around. A couple times she fell (once a board collapsed) but she got up with doll intact, fixed the boards as though nothing had happened and resumed her walk. On the other hand, a new girl in the classroom was very busy in the house corner, setting the table and making soup. When she finally noticed that the all the other children were now at the walkway, she was prompted by her inner voice to try it.  She was extremely hesitant; across the long plank she walked sideways, the safest way, even with friendly encouragement from another child. One trip was enough, and back she went to the security of the house corner.  A week later, the teacher told me that the newcomer was getting bolder in her forays into challenging movement tasks. Thank goodness this type of classroom so beautifully provided these children the opportunities to improve their foundation skills.


Connie Helms works in private practice as an Extra Lesson teacher in Vermont with children, adolescents and adults. She is a consultant to Waldorf schools in the U.S., mentors Waldorf remedial teachers and serves on the board of the Association for a Healing Education. Connie is the mother of three young adult children who attended Waldorf schools from nursery through grade eight.

Source: https://thewonderofchildhood.com/2012/01/the-sense-of-balance/

Touch Becoming Trust

How the young child finds relationship to the world, to others and the sense of self

By Holly Koteen-Soule


Social distancing and other protocols that have been put into place to protect our families and particularly vulnerable populations has created a truly challenging quandary for Waldorf early childhood teachers. The young child lives in the joy of movement and discovers the world through wide-open senses, especially the sense of touch.

Touch is the primary means by which a child comes into relationship with another human being and discovers the world, as well as a dawning sense of self. Loving touch from a caring human being invites the child to come into his or her body. Through touching (and with babies and toddlers, tasting) the child establishes what is “not-I” and with each new experience, the beginning sense of who is doing the touching. Sometimes, even for adults, touch can be the surest way to find the truth of a situation.

There is, in addition to physical touch, a secondary aspect that is described by Henning Kohler. When we touch something physically, we resonate inwardly in response to its inherent characteristic quality. A colleague called this the soul sense of touch. This process of resonating happens for the child unconsciously, but it is nonetheless a foundational experience for the child’s future capacity for fine-tuned discrimination. If we add this secondary aspect to the primary one of “not-I” and “I, which forms the basis for awareness of self, in later life this becomes our sense for the “I of another human being”, according to Rudolf Steiner. This could be called our spiritual sense of touch.

It would seem impossible to replace the role of touch in the development of the young child and in the EC teacher’s relationship with the young child. Fortunately, children are sheltering in place with their families and touch experiences are not restricted in the home. While we are hopeful that the current situation is temporary, teachers are having to make accommodations for a range of restrictions when school resumes in the fall.

What kinds of physical touch activities can we offer? Certainly, we will offer lots of free time in nature. Perhaps we can rework typical games to involve giving oneself a variety of movement and touch experiences. It has also occurred to me that rhythm can be very supportive of touch, because in its essence, it is a kind of “taking hold and letting go.“ Ideally, we take hold and let go in a regular or predictable sequence. Many EC teachers have supported families during this time in understanding the importance of rhythm for their children at home.

A predictable rhythm helps a child feel more secure, but these are uncertain times for all of us. We may also have to lend to our children our own willingness to live courageously with the uncertainty of the current situation. The children can easily “touch” into our inner soul state and will sense and feel what we feel. So, a deepened understanding and consciousness of rhythm and the recognition of the importance of our own inner mood are two ways that we can support the child’s sense of touch and sense of trust.

A third way to work with touch is related to the secondary aspect of touch- resonance. How can we heighten our attunement to the children, individually and as a group? We have all experienced anxiety in the past months and perhaps, even trauma. A heightened attunement might mean that we are on the watch for behaviors that indicate that the children are still feeling uncertain. Are specific therapeutic activities being called for? Do we need to adjust our expectations, simplify our schedule, or smooth out our transitions? It might mean that we need to work closely with our colleagues to review our day together and share what each of us has noticed about individual children. It might also mean intensifying our imaginative, meditative work in the evening before sleep.

A fourth possibility that has occurred to me is to support the children’s sense of touch is through story. At one point in his research on the twelve senses, Rudolf Steiner indicated that there is an aspect of touch in all of the senses. We are especially aware of this with the sense of sight. We can easily feel as though we are reaching out and touching something or someone with our eyes. We can also see, feel, smell and taste things that are described verbally.

The pictures that we bring through the telling of a story, whether it is a simple nature story, a fairy tale, or a puppet play, are actually evocative of all the senses, touch included! If we are able to really live into the pictures and sounds ourselves, they will live even more strongly for the children. The child can feel “touched” and comforted by our own relationship with the mood, the pictures, the beauty of the language and the wonder of the story as a whole.

Understanding touch more deeply will, I think, help us prepare for how to meet the children as they return to our Waldorf classrooms in the fall. It may also make us better teachers, even when we are able , once again, to hug our loved ones and give free rein to the children’s natural inclination to touch and be touched by the wondrous world in which we all live.

Source: https://files.constantcontact.com/a44aea7c001/92ce58a6-c9f0-415b-a406-b2d29bde936e.pdf

The Vital Role of Play in Childhood

How the young child finds relationship to the world, to others and the sense of self

By Joan Almon


“The ability to play is one of the principal criteria of mental health.”
Ashley Montagu

Over thirty years of working with children, families, and teachers in Waldorf kindergartens all over the world, I have observed one overwhelming similarity: creative play is a central activity in the lives of healthy young children. It helps children weave together all the elements of life as they experience it. It allows them to digest life and make it their own. It is an outlet for the fullness of their creativity, and it is an absolutely critical part of their childhood. With creative play, children blossom and flourish; without it, they suffer a serious decline.

I am hardly the first to note this fact. The central importance of creative play in children’s healthy development is well supported by decades of research. And yet children’s play, in the creative, open-ended sense in which I use the term, is now seriously endangered.

School children no longer have the freedom to explore woods and fields and find their own special places. Physical education and recess are being eliminated; new schools are built without playgrounds. Informal neighborhood ball games are a thing of the past, as children are herded into athletic leagues from age five on.

From all sides—parents, teachers, psychologists, and psychiatrists—one hears tales of young children who do not play. Some seem blocked and unable to play. Others long to play, but busy schedules outside school or an overemphasis on focused learning in school have driven play out of their lives. Add to this mixture the hours spent sitting still in front of screens—television, video game, and computer—while children absorb other people’s stories and imaginations but can’t act out their own, and the result is a steady decline in children’s play. This decline will certainly have serious consequences for children and for the future of childhood itself.

In this article I will focus on the play of children before first grade, especially from three to seven. During these years, when play should be flourishing, its development has been thwarted. We may not intend to drive play out of children’s lives, but our policies and practices in schools and at home discourage children from pursuing their own open-ended, self-directed play.

The Nature of Play

If we are to save play we must first understand its nature.

Creative play is like a spring that bubbles up from deep within a child. It is refreshing and enlivening and is a natural part of the make-up of every healthy child. It is so fundamental to the make-up of the child that it is often hard to separate play from learning. Whether children are working on new physical skills, social relations, or cognitive content, they approach life with a playful spirit. As a friend said of her eight- month-old recently, “It just seems that she’s working all the time.” But is it work or play? In childhood there is no distinction.

Adults are convinced that we need to “teach” young children. It is certainly true that we need to set an example in all kinds of activities. We also need to create appropriate spaces where children can play and learn, and we need to lend a helping hand—and at times even intervene when things are going wrong. But mostly we need to honor the innate capacity for learning that moves the limbs and fills the souls of every healthy young child. The child’s love of learning is intimately linked with a zest for play.

Nathan at one year came with his parents to the summer house we share as a family. He was delighted to find several staircases in this house, for in his own home there was only one step, and he had long since mastered it. Now he gave full vent to the young child’s wish to climb stairs. Over and over he would climb up and down. We took turns standing guard, but he rarely needed our help. He was focused and concentrated and did not like to be taken away from this activity. He gave every sign of being a happy, playful child while climbing, yet he was also clearly exploring and mastering a new skill and one that was important for his long-term development. Most important, it was a task he set for himself. No one could have told this one-year-old to devote hours to climbing. And no one needed to. He did it himself, as will every healthy child whose sense of movement has not been disturbed.

Another example: Ivana at age four came to kindergarten one Monday morning and proudly announced that she could tie shoes. I must have looked skeptical, since most children at four can’t tie a real bow. Ivana was determined to show me, and she sat down on the floor and untied her shoes. She then retied them into perfect bows, looked at my astonished face, and beamed. Later in the day I asked her mother how Ivana had learned to do this. Her mother laughed and described how over the weekend Ivana had pretended that she was going to a birthday party. She used all the scrap paper she could find and folded it into little birthday packages. She raided her mother’s yarn basket and used scraps of yarn to tie the packages with bows. She probably tied 60 or 70 packages during the weekend until she had at last mastered the art of tying bows.

Again, no one could have assigned Ivana such a task. She clearly felt ready, and what was important was that she did her work in the spirit of play, pretending to go to a birthday party. Learning to tie was not a tedious task but something she enjoyed doing.

The simple truth is that young children are born with a most wonderful urge to grow and learn. They continually develop new skills and capacities, and if they are allowed to set the pace with a bit of help from the adult world they will work at all this in a playful and tireless way. Rather than respecting this innate drive to learn, however, we treat children as if they can learn only what we adults can teach them. We strip them of their innate confidence in directing their own learning, hurry them along, and often wear them out. It is no wonder that so many teachers complain that by age nine or ten children seem burned out and uninterested in learning. This is a great tragedy, for the love of learning that Nathan and Ivana displayed is meant to last a whole lifetime. Furthermore, it is intimately bound to our capacity to be creative and purposeful.

The psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi speaks about the creative state in adults he calls “flow.” Referring to Csikszentmihalyi’s work, Daniel Goleman and his co-authors in Creative Spirit describe flow as the time “when people are at their peak. Flow can happen in any domain or activity—while painting, playing chess, making love, anything. The one requirement is that your skills so perfectly match the demands of the moment that all self consciousness disappears.” (Goleman et al., p. 46) In just the same way, children’s play is characterized by an absence of self-consciousness.

The depth of concentration that children display when they are immersed in play is astounding. I think of five-year old Peter watching intently as two girls in the kindergarten were creating an especially beautiful play scene on a tabletop. They were deeply engrossed and so was he. It happened that on that day the fire department descended on us, for one of the teachers had called them after noticing an electrical smell in her room. Three fire engines roared up our driveway. Peter’s friend Benjamin ran up to him, crying, “Peter, Peter, the fire engines are here!” But Peter was so intent on watching the play scene that he did not respond. Benjamin tried again with the same result. He shrugged and rushed back to the window to watch the firemen arrive. Finally, Peter emerged from his concentration, saw the fire engines, and hurried to the window.

Peter’s state of mind seems very close to that of a neurosurgeon described by Csikszentmihalyi. He was engrossed in a difficult operation. When the procedure was finished, the surgeon asked about a pile of debris in the corner of the operating room. He had not noticed it before. He then was told that part of the ceiling had caved in during the operation. He had been so engaged in the flow of his work that he had not heard a thing. (Goleman et al., pp. 46–47)

This state of flow experienced by scientists, physicians, artists, and others may seem a bit scary or intimidating to us. Do we want to enter so wholeheartedly into life and learning? It does not fit the contemporary picture of multitasking where one is doing many things at once, but usually none of them very deeply. Yet it is an important state of being if we want to flex our inner capacities to the fullest and offer our greatest gifts to the world. These are the skills children are prepared to develop, and even long to develop. In their education, however, children increasingly find classrooms filled with scripted teaching, computerized learning, and assessment through standardized testing. All of this trivializes children’s real capacities for life and learning and leaves many with a deep sense of disappointment and frustration.

The Development of Play

The secret to helping young children thrive is to keep the spirit of creativity and of playful learning alive and active. An important ingredient in this is our own work as adults, for children naturally imitate grown-ups. This inspires their play. Their learning is a combination of their own deep inner drive to grow and learn coupled with their imitation of the adults in their environment. These two elements interweave all through early childhood. They provide the underlying basis for play, yet their outer expression changes year by year as children develop.

One of the milestones in play is the development of make-believe play, also known as fantasy play, around age 2 or 3. Before that, children are more oriented to the real world: their own bodies, simple household objects like pots, pans, and wooden spoons, and simple toys like dolls, trucks, and balls. In their play, toddlers imitate what they see around them; common play themes include cooking, caring for baby, driving cars or trucks, and other everyday events. These themes continue and expand after age three but now children are less dependent on real objects and create what they need from anything that is at hand. Their ability to enter into make-believe allows them to transform a simple object into a play prop. A bowl becomes a ship, a stick becomes a fishing pole, a rock becomes a baby, and much, much more.

It is fascinating to watch the force of fantasy enter the lives of children. The three-year-old becomes so engaged in make-believe play that objects seem to be in a constant state of transformation. No play episode is ever finished; it is always in the process of becoming something else. The playful three-year-old often leaves a trail of objects as her play evolves from one theme to the next. In contrast, four-year-olds are generally more stationary and thematic in their play. They like to have a “house” to play in, which might also be a ship or a shop, and many enter the “pack-rat” stage where they fill their houses with objects so that it seems they cannot freely move around. This does not bother them at all, however. Like three-year-olds, they are inspired in the moment by the objects before them. They are quite spontaneous in their ideas for play.

It is always exciting to watch the change in play in the five-year-olds as they enter the kindergarten and announce what they want to play. Their mothers sometimes report that the children wake up in the morning with an idea for play in mind. Sometimes they play out the same theme for days or even weeks on end, developing it differently each time. One can see them gain focus as they come in touch with their own ideas and have the will to carry them out in playful detail.

There is one more important aspect to the development of make-believe play that usually does not occur until children are six. At this age they still love fantasy play but often will play out a situation without the use of props. They may build a house or castle but leave it unfurnished, then sit inside it and talk through their play, for now they are able to see the images clearly in their minds’ eyes. This stage can be described as imaginative play, for the children now have the capacity to form an inner image. It is around this time that a child will say something like “I can see Grandma whenever I want. I just have to close my eyes.” Or she may set up a play scene with her toys but close her eyes and play it out “inside.”

Dorothy and Jerome Singer, both psychologists at Yale University, have devoted their lives to the subject of children’s play. They summarize their experiences in this way:

Over many years of observing children in free play, we have found that those who engage in make-believe, what Piaget calls symbolic play, are more joyful, and smile and laugh more often than those who seem to be at odds with themselves—the children who wander aimlessly around the nursery school or daycare center looking for something to do, who play in a preservative way with a few blocks, or who annoy their peers by teasing them or interrupting their games. (Singer and Singer, p. 64)

The Social, Emotional, and Intellectual Benefits of Play

When children are happily at play in a kindergarten there is a wonderful hum in the room. A deep sense of well being emanates from the children. This should be reason enough to foster and protect play, but research also points to a number of important gains linked to a child’s ability to engage in healthy, creative play.

Sara Smilansky, an Israeli researcher, studied children at play in Israel and the United States. She defines dramatic play as taking place when a child pretends to be someone else and sociodramatic play as those times when two or more children cooperate in such role–playing. She summarizes her research as follows: “The results point to dramatic and sociodramatic play as a strong medium for the development of cognitive and socioemotional skills.”

Here is summary of the gains she found directly linked to a child’s ability to engage in dramatic and sociodramatic play:

Gains in Cognitive-Creative Activities
Better verbalization
Richer vocabulary
Higher language comprehension
Higher language level
Better problem-solving strategies
More curiosity
Better ability to take on the perspective of another
Higher intellectual competence

Gains in Socioemotional Activities
More playing with peers
More group activity
Better peer cooperation
Reduced aggression
Better ability to take on the perspective of others
More empathy
Better control of impulsive actions
Better prediction of others’ preferences and desires
Better emotional and social adjustment
More innovation
More imaginativeness
Longer attention span
Greater attention ability
Performance of more conservation tasks
(Smilansky, p. 35)

Smilansky concludes, “Sociodramatic play activates resources that stimulate emotional, social, and intellectual growth in the child, which in turn affects the child’s success in school. We saw many similarities between patterns of behavior bringing about successful sociodramatic play experiences and patterns of behavior required for successful integration into the school situation. For example, problem solving in most school subjects requires a great deal of make-believe: visualizing how the Eskimos live, reading stories, imagining a story and writing it down, solving arithmetic problems, and determining what will come next. History, geography, and literature are all make-believe.

All of these are conceptual constructions that are never directly experienced by the child.” (Smilansky, p. 25) For the elementary-school child imagination is as important a medium for learning as make-believe play is for the pre-schooler. Through imagination and the art of storytelling every subject in the world can be taught, and elementary school children become enthralled with learning. Without imagination learning is a dull affair for children. If a child has been allowed to engage in make-believe play during the nursery-school and kindergarten years and to develop inner imagination before entering first grade, she is then ripe and ready to learn. While one or another may have a learning difficulty, their enthusiasm for learning—and for overcoming difficulties—is enormous.

How do we help children enter into learning with imagination and enthusiasm? My own experience has been that the children who were the most active players in the kindergarten were also the most active learners in elementary school. This experience is supported by a study done in the 1970s in Germany, at a time when many kindergartens were being transformed into academic rather than play-oriented environments. The study compared 50 kindergartens where children played with 50 where the children focused on early academics. The children were followed until fourth grade, and at that point the children from the play-oriented kindergartens excelled over the others in every area measured—physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development. The results were especially striking among lower-income children, who clearly benefited from the play-oriented approach. The overall results were so compelling that Germany switched all its kindergartens back to being play-oriented. (Der Spiegel) They have continued in this mode until the present time, although during recent visits to Germany I hear more of the rhetoric one hears in this country: that to prepare children for a globalized economy they must get a head start on literacy, numeracy, and other subjects.

The benefits of play-oriented programs were also documented in the research of the High/Scope early childhood programs based in Ypsilanti, Michigan. In one study, 69 low-income three- and four-year-old children, who were at high risk of school failure, were randomly assigned to one of three types of programs: the High/Scope program and a traditional nursery school both included child-initiated activities, while the Direct Instruction approach did not. I.Q. scores rose in all three programs, but various social indicators showed a large difference between children in the more academic, direct instruction program and those in the programs encouraging self-initiated activity, including
play. The children were followed until age 23, and the following results were noted:

Initially, all three curriculum approaches improved young children’s intellectual performance substantially, with the average IQs of children in all three groups rising 27 points. By age 15, however, students in the High/Scope group and the Nursery School group Öreported only half as much delinquent activity as the students in the Direct Instruction groupÖ Findings at age 23 continue to support the conclusion that the High/Scope and Nursery School groups are better off than the Direct Instruction group in a variety of ways. Either the High/Scope group, the Nursery School group, or both, show statistically significant advantages over the Direct Instruction group on 17 variables. Most important, compared with the Direct Instruction Group, the High/Scope and Nursery School groups have had significantly fewer felony arrests of various kinds and fewer years of special education for emotional impairment. In addition, compared with the Direct Instruction group, the High/Scope group aspires to complete a higher level of schooling, and has more members living with their spouses. It thus appears that preschool programs that promote child-initiated activities (such as the High/Scope and Nursery School programs) seem to contribute to the development of an individual’s sense of personal and social responsibility. (High/Scope, 2002)

What Is Happening to Children’s Play

Given the strong evidence of the importance of self-initiated creative play, it is alarming that play has lost so much ground in young children’s lives during the past thirty years. Since the 1970s it has become common for public kindergartens in the United States to focus so strongly on academic achievement that there is little or no time devoted to self-directed play.

Kindergarten teachers in Pennsylvania told me that in their school district the kindergarten curriculum had been prescribed by the state legislature. Each morning children were to spend 20 minutes each on reading, writing, arithmetic, social studies, science, and so on. One teacher looked nervously over her shoulder and whispered, “I break the law every day and let my children play for fifteen minutes.” The other kindergarten teacher sadly admitted that she only managed to bring in play twice a week for short periods.

That was in the mid-1980s. Since then the situation has become more grim. The first-grade curriculum has become entrenched in the kindergarten. With standardized testing starting ever earlier—for five-year-olds in some districts—an atmosphere of hurry and pressure pervades the kindergarten. To ease the pressure a bit many states have raised the entrance age for kindergarten so that the youngest children are usually five when they enter rather than four years and nine months, as was the case when I was a child. On the other hand, there is such concern about five-year-olds learning enough that many school districts are switching to full-day kindergartens. One might hope that half the day would be devoted to play and the arts, but I have not heard any reports of that being the case.

In What Happened to Recess and Why Are Our Children Struggling in Kindergarten? Susan Ohanian takes a hard look at what is happening to young children in school today. She mentions New York’s Public School 9 where kindergarten children have at least some recess: “In a seven-hour day, they get 25 minutes free from academics.” (Ohanian, p. 11) Anyone who knows five-year-olds will know that this will not work.

Ohanian also describes the situation in Chicago’s public schools, referring to a report in the New York Times by Jacques Steinberg:

The teacher knows it’s the 53rd day because ”Day:053” is printed at the top of the recommended lesson plan open on her desk, a thick white binder crammed with goals for each day and step-by-step questions given to her and the city’s 26,000 other teachers by the school system’s administrators at the start of the school year. The page also identifies the section of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills to which that day’s entry corresponds. Every teacher in Chicago gets this day-by-day outline of what should be taught in language arts, mathematics, science and social studies. The New York Times reporter notes that some see this as the logical outcome of the standards movement, providing ”an almost ironclad guarantee that all students will be exposed to the same material and that all teachers, regardless of qualification, will know exactly how to present it.” (Steinberg 2000; also in Ohanian, p. 11–12)

In the face of such demands on five-year-olds and their teachers, to speak of play seems almost frivolous. Yet five year-olds are young children. Where did we ever get the idea that they should be on the fast track to high scores and global careers? We are on a slippery slope heading downhill, and the pace is accelerating. Must we find our children broken on the rocks of our fears and ambitions before we call a halt?

We’re not at the bottom yet. In the name of early literacy, plans are being developed to refocus nursery school children away from play and toward early reading. There are aspects of early literacy that young children need: a rich experience of language spoken by caring adults, nursery rhymes and verses, storytelling and puppetry, and books read aloud. All these lay a vital foundation for a lifetime love of language and reading. But the term “early literacy” is coming to imply something much narrower than that.

As this is being written in the fall of 2002, Head Start is scheduled for reauthorization by Congress next year. Many Head Start teachers are already feeling considerable pressure to give up play time and focus on early literacy. Ohanian describes the current situation:

With all good intentions the current Bush administration is advocating a rigorous skill model for Head Start preschool programs across the country. Three- and four-year olds are drilled about letters, dividing words into syllables and spelling. The plan is that this will prepare poor children to learn to read when they go to kindergarten. The Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees Head Start, is developing a curriculum that every Head Start teacher will be expected to follow. (Ohanian, p. 10)

Head Start serves about one million children, but there are millions more whose programs are unfunded by the federal government. This will change if federal legislation that is currently in Congress passes. It will provide much needed funding for states to support early childhood programs for children from birth to five. On one hand it will emphasize physical, social, and emotional development. But with the other it will stress early literacy. What might well tip the scale toward the latter is a plan to give bonuses to states that can show gains in children’s school preparedness as measured in kindergarten. In practice, this will mean a sharpened focus on early literacy activities for three- and four-year-olds. Much more time will be spent on learning the alphabet, breaking words into parts, basic reading skills, and the like. We have seen this pattern before: soon there will be no time left for play.

Children are not machines. You cannot simply add more fuel and speed them up. They are governed by internal processes that are sometimes called the laws of child development. These processes cannot be sped up without doing serious harm to children. This harm touches many areas of their lives—physical, emotional, social, and mental.

The Alliance for Childhood, of which I am the U.S. coordinator, submitted a position statement to the Senate committee that was drafting the new birth-to-five legislation. The statement was endorsed by some of the leading experts on child development in the U.S., including Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, David Elkind, Jane Healy, Dr. Stanley Greenspan, and Dr. Alvin Poussaint. It read, in part:

The key to developing literacy—and all other skills—is to pace the learning so that it is consistent with the child’s development, enabling him or her to succeed at the early stages. Ensure this initial success and the child’s natural love of learning blooms. Doom him to failure in the beginning by making inappropriate demands and he may well be unable to overcome the resulting sense of inadequacy. This is especially true of children whose families are already under social and economic stress. (Alliance for Childhood)

There are many individuals and organizations committed to restoring play to young children’s lives. One reason it is difficult to make progress, however, is that many parents misguidedly prefer that their children focus on early academics. Their concern about their children’s future easily turns to fear. They then place considerable pressure on teachers.

When parents and kindergarten teachers were asked what five-year-olds should know when they enter kindergarten, the parents had very different expectations than did the teachers. An October 1995 report by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) entitled Readiness for Kindergarten: Parent and Teacher Beliefs.

Parents of a majority of preschoolers believe that knowing the letters of the alphabet, being able to count to 20 or more, and using pencils and paint brushes are very important or essential for a child to be ready for kindergarten, while few kindergarten teachers share these beliefs. [C]ompared with teachers, parents place greater importance on academic skills (e.g., counting, writing, and reading) and prefer classroom practices that are more academically oriented. One reason for this may be that parents perceive that there are specific activities they can do to teach their children school-related basic skills, whereas ways of changing the social maturity or temperamental characteristics of their children are less apparent. (NCES)

If there is one piece of advice I would offer parents regarding play and early academics, it would be to relax and stop hurrying their children. Children have such deep resources for growth and learning that with good nurture and reasonable help most will succeed wonderfully. Some will need special help and can be given it. This is a hard message to convey, however, especially in America, where we are committed to growing our children faster and better than anyone else.

There is a story that Piaget, the great Swiss psychologist, did not like to speak to American audiences. After he had described the natural pattern of children’s development, Americans would invariably ask, “Yes, but how can we get them to do things faster?”

An important quality of being human is that it takes quite a long time for children to grow up and develop all the capacities that are part of human nature. Compared to the young of other mammals, our children take much longer to mature. Our children deserve the right to grow and ripen at a human pace. A major part of this is allowing time for play.


Source: https://www.waldorflibrary.org/images/stories/Journal_Articles/GW43almon.pdf

The Kindness Ball

By Barbara Klocek


It was August and I was getting ready for the new school year. I was hoping for some inspiration, as I knew one of the children coming into my class had a real reputation in the community for being difficult. A harmonious social mood in my class is a high priority for me. I have come to feel that one of my tasks as a kindergarten teacher is to support learning the social skills needed for resolving differences and being inclusive.

This child was prone to poking, pushing, grabbing, laughing at, and saying mean things to other children (and teachers). I had in place a “watching chair” as a discipline tool in my class. This was in fact any chair, but usually referred to several that were set to the side of the classroom. The rough or rude child would be led there, and with the teacher sitting with him or her, would have a chance to sit and observe (“watch”) how the other children were interacting. This has the effect of bringing the child into stillness, which for many children is necessary in order for them to calm and collect themselves. It also serves to give positive feedback to children who are able to be kind and cooperative. I have found this a gentle yet effective way to encourage “listening” on the part of the children.

However, with this rough boy coming, I wanted another step as well as the “watching chair” to encourage kind hands and words. I had a copper ball in my classroom that was languishing in a basket. I woke up one morning with the inspiration to use this as a “kindness” ball that lives in the “kindness pouch.” I took time to make a beautiful pouch with soft textures and a circle of heart trim around it.

It came into the class as part of the first story, brought by the king and queen puppets as a gift. The story related how children who were not being kind with their hands or words could hold it and roll it to warm it and this would bring the gold from their own hearts into their hands (or words). The pouch hung in a special place in the classroom. We could also fill it with kindness if we had extra kindness. We would often do this when we were waiting for the other children to finish washing their hands before story. It could be passed from child to child during this time becoming more and more filled.

What a gift it become to the class. It was a gentle reminder to be kind without needing to be punitive. It was especially wonderful for the little boy who was so rough, as I could say, “It seems like your hands have forgotten to be kind. The kindness ball will take the gold from your heart to your hands.” Over time, it also provided a way for him to build better impulse control and to be seen as having a kind heart, in spite of his hands being rough with others at times.

The next year one of the children told me, “We need a kindness ball at our house.” So we all had a wonderful time wet felting balls with a layer of gold on the outside. They all went home to help with kindness there. We also decided to make two wool ones for the kindness pouch. This made the passing of the balls much more fun at waiting times. It has truly been an inspiration in the class to help provide an imagination and action on building kindness in word and deed.


Barbara Klocek has been teaching a mixed-age kindergarten for many years at the Sacramento Waldorf School. During that time she has also worked professionally as an artist and art therapist. She has offered many workshops for kindergarten teachers at Rudolf Steiner College, as well as teaching art nationally and internationally. She was a member of the WECAN Working Group on the Older Child and contributed articles and illustrations to the book You’re Not the Boss of Me! (WECAN, 2007).

Source: https://www.waldorflibrary.org/images/stories/Journal_Articles/GW56klocek.pdf

Parents’ enrichment readings

The Sense of Life by Connie Helms
The life sense schools us – it teaches us to pay attention to discomfort and in the best scenario it helps us to get enough sleep, to eat well, exercise and to rest if we are sick.
Daily Rhythm at Home by Helle Heckmann
In the daily life with your children there are three important considerations: i) To be flexible; ii) To set limits (borders), and; iii) To observe the same routine everyday
Working with the Will of the Young Child by Nancy Blanning
Remember, you, as the parent, are the child’s loving authority. Do not be afraid to claim that role. Your guidance will strengthen, not suppress, your child’s will. The child is reassured by a warm, confident adult who knows how things work in the world and who can show him or her the way.
The Meaning of Illness by Susan R. Johnson
The etheric body is formed during the first 7 years of our life. Routines and daily rhythms (especially around mealtimes, bedtimes, morning times, and holiday celebrations) all strengthen the etheric.
The Sense of Touch by Connie Helms
Various issues may arise when the sense of touch has not received enough stimulation in infancy and in the early years.
Sleep by Helle Heckmann
The quality of sleep depends on our feelings, impressions and general wellbeing during the day. Thus, different essential aspects of life are deeply connected.
The Seasonal Festivals in Early Childhood by Nancy Foster
How can we penetrate to an experience of these seasonal festivals that will be meaningful and nourishing for families of every background, and how can we bring this experience into the life of the young child in a developmentally appropriate way?
Why are we teaching? What are we teaching? by Barbara Klocek
Our involvement as teachers in the social realm can create an opportunity for many social skills to be learned, for many rough edges to be smoothed and for many friendships to bloom.
The Sense of Self Movement by Connie Helms
Children are naturally wired to move for optimal brain development.
The Kindergarten Child by Peter Lang
It can be shown that in Waldorf education, kindergarten is a time of thorough preparation for future learning in school and in life.
Helping Children in a Time of Trouble – A Few Thoughts by Nancy Foster
In a time of trouble, such as the death of a family member or friend, parents are faced with the question of how to help the children through this time.
Choosing Fairy Tales For Different Ages by Joan Almon
Over the years, with the experience of actually telling the tales to children, one develops a “sense” for this, but in the beginning some guidelines may be of help.
The Sense of Balance
by Connie Helms
Balance is extremely important not only on a physical level but also on an emotional level. With secure bodily integration, the right environment is created for emotional and cognitive learning.
Touch Becoming Trust by Holly Koteen-Soule
Social distancing and other protocols that have been put into place to protect our families and particularly vulnerable populations has created a truly challenging quandary for Waldorf early childhood teachers. The young child lives in the joy of movement and discovers the world through wide-open senses, especially the sense of touch.
The Vital Role of Play in Childhood by Joan Almon
In this article I will focus on the play of children before first grade, especially from three to seven. During these years, when play should be flourishing, its development has been thwarted.
The Kindness Ball
by Barbara Klocek
It was a gentle reminder to be kind without needing to be punitive. It was especially wonderful for little boys who was so rough.

Ms Tammy

Class Teacher for Kindergarten, 2019/20