Early Childhood Development in Waldorf Education
We can see from the way they live how human beings use what they receive from their surroundings, from what occurs during the first years of life, and how human development transforms and reforms them. It is particularly important during the first years of life that we nurture children’s capacity to modify their physical constitution in a flexible way, that we do not repress their adaptability. We repress those capacities most if we prematurely stuff children with concepts and ideas that relate only to external perceptions with sharply delineated contours, or when we tie them to activities anchored in particular theoretical forms. In such cases, there is no variability, no modification, not even the possibility of developing spiritual and soul capacities so that the soul can act day to day and hour to hour.
Play in Steiner Early Childhood Education
The human instinct for education has created a wonderful common means of enabling young children to work on changing, modifying, and mobilizing what lives in their spirit-soul, thus providing free space for the formation of human nature.
That means is play.
That is also the way we can best occupy a child. We should not give children concepts with fixed boundaries, but rather ideas that allow the freedom to think about them, so that children can err here and there. That is the only way we can find the predestined path of thinking arising from each child’s innate interest. Tell a fairy tale to excite the child’s mental activity. Do not tell is so that fixed concepts develop, but so that the concepts remain flexible. A child will then work the way someone works who tries this and that and by trying tries to discover what is proper. A child works to discover how the spirit must move to best shape his or her particular constitution according to inner predetermination. That is how play works. Play differs from activities with more fixed forms because children can still, to a certain extent, do what they want when playing. From the start. Play has no clearly defined contours in the children’s thoughts, nor any clearly defined movement in their organs. Through play children have a free but definable manner of acting upon the human soul constitution.
Play and the accompanying soul activity of the young child arise from a deep consciousness of what truly constitutes the nature and essence of the human being. Those who would be a real teacher must be fully aware that they must study, recognize, and identify every capacity in each of their students.
The Importance of Imitation In Waldorf Education
You need to pay attention, especially in earlychildhood, not to the development of theories and rules, but to making sure the child imitates, and that you live what the child is to imitate. This is particularly important because the desire to
imitate is one of the first capacities you can affect. Reprimands and rules are the least effective during that time.
Children imitate what they see because they necessarily develop according to how they are connected with their surroundings. We can form the first foundation for the entire personal essence of a child if, during the first seven years of childhood, we live what the child should imitate, after we have properly conceived of how we should act in the child's presence. For many people, this is, of course, a very strange principle of child rearing. Most people would ask how a child should behave, but anthroposophy comes along and says that adults should learn how to behave in front of children, even in words, attitudes, and thoughts. Children are much more receptive in their souls than people commonly think, and certainly
more receptive than adults. There are people, no doubt, who have a certain kind of sensitivity and immediately notice when someone comes into a room and ruins the previous good mood.
Even though people today notice little of this, it is particularly strong in children. What you do in detail is less important than the kind of person you try to be and the thoughts and ideas you carry. It is not enough to hide things from children while allowing yourself thoughts not intended for them. We must have and live the thoughts that we feel could and should live in the child. This is uncomfortable, but nevertheless true.
The Importance of Early Development In Waldorf Education
We now want to look at what it means when people say they have forgotten something - that is, when they can no longer recall something well enough to repeat it. Has it vanished? It is there in a way similar to something I already mentioned, something we normally forget - that is, the wonderful, rich first experiences of childhood. We can remember back only to a certain point in childhood. However, before that moment we had an endless number of impressions. Who would not acknowledge this when considering the first years of a child's development? Nevertheless, those things are forgotten in the sense that we normally speak of forgetting. But have they completely dis-appeared? Do they cease to play any role in the human soul? No,they play a significant role in the human soul. A great deal depends on our first childhood impressions-whether our experiences are joyful or sad,filled with love or indifference. Much of the total attitude of adult souls depends, more than people usually suppose, on those early experiences. What formed and developed our soul during those first years,but that we have forgotten, is more important than people will usually admit.