Parent & Child Guide
Healthy Child Development and Class Participation
Thank you for joining our Waldorf Early Childhood community! Mrs. Shahbazi and Ms. Tischia look forward to being your guides and growing together in a warm and supportive environment. The principles in this class are based on Waldorf Early Childhood Education, Rudolf Steiner’s teachings, and are equally inspired by the work of Magda Gerber and Emmi Pikler. Through reading, discussion, questions, and most importantly class observation, we will learn more about Waldorf education, healthy parenting, and how to support children during the early years of life.
The following will help you and your children get the most out of our classroom experience:
1. Sleep: It is very important that your child gets enough sleep. A toddler usually needs at least 12 hours of sleep a day. A regular, early bed time routine is crucial and will help ensure that your child gets the most out of what the class has to offer. We are happy to help guide you if you are struggling in this area.
2. Media: As early childhood educators, we recognize the far reaching, harmful effects of media on young children and their overall development. We ask that families embarking on this journey work to protect their children from all forms of media technologies to the best of their abilities (for example, cell phones, computers, t.v.’s, radios, etc.) We will support you in this endeavor via articles and class discussions. Our intention is to allow the children and the parents to have an experience that is free of the projections of mass media. Young children are highly impressionable, and we are working to protect their emerging consciousness. Although it is subtle, even clothing can elicit an impression that is counter to perceiving the child’s true nature. Simplicity in clothing rather than thematic choices is more suited to the young child.
3. Nourishment: Please make sure your child is well fed before class. A protein breakfast or snack can do wonders. If you feel your child needs something to eat before our snack time, feel free to sit in the cubby area and offer a small snack from home.
4. Warmth: Please be sure that your child is dressed warmly. Because Southern California weather can be unpredictable, layers are a good way to go. Our children are growing rapidly during this stage of development. It is very important that the child’s energy is spent on healthy organ growth and development rather than on trying to stay warm. Children at this age cannot gauge their own body temperature, so it is up to us to see that they are dressed warmly enough. Wearing two shirts is a good general rule, even in mild weather. Shorts are best reserved for a hot day. It is especially important to keep the lower half of the body warm for healthy internal organ development. We will discuss more in class!
5. Circle: Circle is an integral part of our daily rhythm in class. The circle brings us together as a group. It is the “in breath” after the journey to school or from the coming in from outdoor play.The elements in the circle are chosen specifically to support the children and strengthen what Rudolf Steiner calls the “lower senses” or “will forces”: touch, balance, movement, and life sense. If we participate in circle, they will often follow on their own. We refrain from forcing the child to participate in the circle knowing that if it is what we are doing, they will see and may begin to follow. Please do not worry if your child is unable to participate at first. Most children join in when they are ready.
6. Free Play: Free play is another crucial part of our daily class rhythm. This class is designed to support the child’s natural individuation process. Rather than being a class where the child and the parent play together, this class is for the child to play freely, either individually or with her/his peers, supported by the parent’s presence. At this developmental stage we see more parallel play; however, as the year progresses, we will begin to observe the children connecting more and more with one another. We want the children to be active and have real freedom in their play and this requires that we, as adults, do not impose our ideas or intellect into their play during class. Children have innate wisdom that is allowed expression when left unhindered and uninterrupted. This unhindered play is where they have the opportunity to learn and explore freely and it is very important developmental work.
7. Transition Times: During transition times, clean-up, snack, coming in from the outside, and circle, it is best to refrain from chatting with one another. This is a good time to bring your quiet attention to what is happening with your child as s/he move from one activity to the next. These times can often be chaotic and confusing for children and we want them to be free of distractions. It is also helpful if we can work toward allowing the children to notice what is happening without any direct verbal direction. It is more appropriate that the group is led into the transition with song and/or gestures of the teacher; this is very unique to Waldorf early childhood and we invite you to observe how helpful and magical it can be.
8. Snack Time: Sitting together at the table for snack is about much more than eating. We feel there is so much for the children to learn during this time. We don’t force the children to sit at the table or force them to eat; however, the expectation is that if they are eating, they must be at the table. This is non-negotiable and is the perfect opportunity for us, as parents, to create healthy boundaries. If a child wants to walk around, we inform them that food is left at the table. If help is needed to accomplish this, the teacher will gently take the food from the child’s hand and put it back on the table. We do this not only for safety reasons, but also to teach respect and reverence for the food we eat, and for the time we spend sitting together sharing a meal.
9. The Adult Role: Your primary role is to relax and to have an open heart and mind while learning about yourself and your child. As we spend time together in class, many learning opportunities will arise. Please don’t hesitate to stop and ask questions. We encourage open communication and sharing with the group. However, if you feel more comfortable sharing something one on one, please let us know.
10. Observation: One of our most effective learning tools is observation. Once the children begin to explore and play, the parents are invited to sit together on one side of the room to observe. There is a fine line between “observing” the children and placing too much focus on them. This takes practice and patience. The classroom provides a unique opportunity to be free of distraction and fully present. Just imagine … your cell phone will be off and there will be no dishes to do!
a. While observing the children we will undoubtedly notice two children wanting to play with the same toy. This is natural and developmentally appropriate. It is also natural for them to get frustrated or angry. They may express their disappointment in a physical way as well, but it is important that we do not judge this behavior as bad or malicious, but rather communicate to the child in a calm manner what is and is not acceptable.
b. The teachers will demonstrate how to guide the children through these experiences/encounters without admonishment, but rather with setting proper boundaries and limits through very clear gestures and communication.
Practicing Healthy Discipline in the Class
We say “practice” here because we realize that some of these things may not come so naturally. It is important that we all support each other without judgment as we implement these ideas and learn why they help children to feel more secure in their environment.
1. Statements vs. Questions: This can be a hard habit to break. We let the children know what is expected of them if we tell them rather than ask. For example: “It’s time to put on your shoes now” rather than, “Can you put your shoes on now?” or “Please sit down in your chair” rather than, “Can you sit down in your chair?” It’s subtle, but it really makes a difference.
2. Apologizing: It’s not appropriate for us to ask a child to forgive or apologize to another child. These are concepts for much older children, which they are not able to grasp at this stage in their development. Because they learn by imitation they can, however, observe what we do in these situations. Our job in class is to model this response for you and the children.
3. Praising: Please refrain from praising your child for everyday learning experiences. We want to encourage intrinsic motivation. Praise can become manipulative and often distracts the child from feeling good about what they are accomplishing on their own. We know this sounds counter to what many people today were raised with, but we will explore the many reasons why this is indeed true. Other responses may include merely eye contact with a smile, or if appropriate, a “thank you!”
4. Sharing: At this developmental stage, everything that a child sees she/he experiences themselves as part of, and therefore, feel it belongs to them. It is inappropriate for us to ask them to share. Sharing will become natural as they mature, but for now we will refrain from asking them to do so.
a. When we see the children pulling on the same toy, we approach them and, in a neutral way, tell them what we are seeing. “You are both pulling on the plate; you both want to play with it; you’re both holding on, I see,” etc. The teacher does not tell them to let go, give the toy to the other child or suggest that they play with the toy together; the teacher does not try to fix it for them. It is important (and effective) for the children to know that we are close by and that we see what’s happening, and it’s important to do this without judgment. This can be difficult. The teacher will model how to do this most effectively.
b. If we swoop in and try to “fix” what we see, we don’t give the children the opportunity to experience all aspects of the interaction. They miss the opportunity to learn how to possibly navigate the situation on their own. Though we mean well, we do our children a disservice by rescuing them prematurely. It is important for our children to have varied social experiences with minimal intervention in a safe environment.
5. Manners: Young children are learning through imitation. They do not learn so much through what we tell them, but rather what we do instead. Please do not ask your child to say “please, hello, thank you, or goodbye”. We will simply model this polite behavior with one another and allow it to develop naturally in the children. We want these social graces to be adopted naturally and intrinsically rather than be an imposed expectation.
We realize that some of these concepts may seem unfamiliar, but we encourage you to watch in class as we model these ideals. With practice, support, and an open mind, you will gain confidence as we all learn together. This is a unique class, and we are so glad that you and your child are going to be a part of it. We look forward to working with you!
You can always contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. If you prefer to speak on the phone, please send an email and we can arrange a time to do so.
Blessings on your semester with us!
Tischia Bluske & Elizabeth Shahbazi