Steiner education is about engaging the child’s ‘head, heart and hand’
All children learn at their own pace, develop a love of learning
and develop as a community of ‘do-ers’. We seek to encourage this unhurried approach. Creative work is the work of the small child as they observe the world around them. Their world in the Kindergarten is based on natural play, using natural materials.
We seek to take the whole needs of the child into account: physical, social, academic, emotional and spiritual
. The day and week has a natural rhythm and use repetition to deepen a feeling of security. Activities include puppet plays and story telling, creative craft, cooking, baking, sewing, building and making. Many craft materials are found on the farm and local area. Children are not introduced to formal reading, writing and numbers until they are ready, typically when they are 6-7 years old. The foundations are laid in kindergarten so children are ripe and keen to learn this in Class 1.
Laurel Farm provides a unique environment for children to explore outside with its own secure garden designed for the children. We are based on a 7 acre smallholding with animals to feed and ponds, fields and a growing woodland to explore. This gives the children an exciting playground to observe the seasons and be aware we are all part of nature.
In the Steiner Early Years approach, we provide time and space for the natural, unforced development of key life skills which will help to build a strong base for social and emotional competence, literacy, and numeracy, by creating a warm and secure learning environment where the qualities of childhood are nurtured.
Rhythm and Repetition
Steiner education recognises rhythm as an educational principle of key importance, and a strong framework of rhythm, routine and repetition is employed, particularly in the early years. Rhythms provide reassurance and security for children and helps them to understand the past, present and future: it is a healthy way to start to find their place in the world. Repetition plays a key role in establishing continuity, and it assists in the development of memory.
Play & Imitation
Free creative play strengthens the imagination, and repeated research studies have shown that children who are encouraged to enjoy creative play tend to show more empathy towards others and to display less aggression. They are more likely to have the capacity to see things from the perspective of the other, and demonstrate fewer signs of anxiety, distress or fatigue. In Steiner early childhood education, children are allowed to learn through investigation, exploration and discovery, encouraging them to become inventive and adaptable.
Another duty of the early childhood teacher is to provide the presence of a “working adult” – someone whom the children can freely imitate. A role model worthy of imitation.
A combination of practical and artistic activities is undertaken in the company of the children, designed to encourage skills such as concentration, perseverance and independent activity. Children are fascinated by adult activity, and it is certainly a great responsibility to be worthy of a young child’s imitation.
The environment created in Steiner early childhood education promotes the development of competent talking and listening, enhancing the child’s ability to use words with confidence. Children are encouraged to speak freely, and learn to listen to others. There is an overriding concentration on the oral tradition, and many wonderful stories are related. A well-told story creates an appreciation for the human voice and the beauty and rhythms of language. This assists in the development of a strong and rich imagination, and helps to extend the vocabulary and develop a good memory.
Festivals and Celebration
Festivals are celebrated with the children so as to nourish body, soul and spirit. Although the Steiner curriculum is non-denominational, many Christian festivals are observed, and the children love the activities and preparations involved, such as finding seasonal materials, baking, making lanterns or other simple craft work activities. Festivals from other cultures are also marked and celebrated in many Steiner schools. Certain festivals will be celebrated after the kindergarten hours (and throughout the session) to which parent will be invited too in order to create a sense of community for the children.
The children are dropped off outdoors at the ark -a little playground with water, kitchen, woodchip and a shelter. Once everyone has gathered, they are guided by the lead teacher to the magic glade. There the children have a little play, and then we start a fire and we have a wonderful snack. It is a moment for the children to be social, sit round the fire and talk about things they notice or the food they are eating- a moment to come together full of warmth! We sometimes make popcorn and pancakes too: it is a lot of fun.
After the snack, the children play in the kitchen, the stream or play hide and seek. We have a rope swing to play with too. We then walk back inside to the kindergarten where the children take off their outdoor clothes and put their snuggly slippers on. We then have our circle time.
Back at the Kindergarten – Circle & Story time
Circle time is a time of the day when we have seasonal poems and songs, dances and movements. Circle time provides a social experience in which children develop an awareness of being an individual within a community.
Following toilet time and after having washed our hands we sit around the table for our lunch, starting with a short blessing song and our meal. The children participate with serving the food as well as cleaning and helping to wash up afterwards. This is a very social time where children have an opportunity to share their news and adventures.
Following lunch we have a small rest followed by a period of child initiated free play, during which children are also free to join in a range of domestic and artistic activities. They might be involved in sweeping and moping, weaving or sewing and painting. The Warldolf curriculum is designed to provide plenty of opportunities for creative play – the most important and the most threatened aspect of child development in our modern society.
Monday – chopping vegetables day
Tuesday – drawing
Wednesday – baking
Thursday – painting
Tidy up time
At the end of our play time we sing our ‘tidy up’ song and the children tidy up their games, putting everything away ready for the next day. All the children help set up the snack table and once the room is tidy we sit together in a circle. Tidy up time in the kindergarten involves responsibility, teamwork and logic. The most obvious benefit of tidy up time for children is the joy and sense of accomplishment that comes from completing a task.
The first half an hour of the outdoor time is spent in the enclosed garden where the children enjoy playing in the sand pit. They can participate in meaningful and purposeful work such as sowing seeds, watering the plants, harvesting herbs & vegetables and sweeping the path. Everyday we go out for a walk around the farm and take part in outdoor play and activities appropriate to the season. When we are out and about on the farm we may do gardening, feed the animals or watch the sheep being sheered. Recently we have created a ‘magic glade’ in the woodland where children can play in a forest school type setting with a camp, swings and mud kitchen.
Story time is a moment to come together to sing songs together, recite, use movement and gesture to illustrate songs, and do finger plays. Those four elements are pulled together into a seasonal or story based theme. Children engage through imitation of the teacher and they learn the songs by heart through repetition.
They also listen to traditional folk, fairy tales and seasonal stories. The story time helps to nourish their development of memory and imagination and helps them to increase their vocabulary.
After story time the children are ready to go home.
Afternoons may become available in future
They follow the following format:
2.30pm – story time followed by rest time
3.00pm – snack
3.15pm – free play indoor or outdoors
4.30pm – home time
EARLY YEARS FOUNDATION STAGE (EYFS)
Laurel Farm Kindergarten addresses all the seven areas of
learning and development in accordance with the EYFS.
Three of these are prime areas:
1) Communication and Language
2) Physical Development
3) Personal, Social and Emotional Development
In addition, we support four specific areas:
3) Understanding the World
4) Expressive Arts and Design
Laurel Farm kindergarten has been granted exemptions from particular areas that we believe are in conflict with the principles of Steiner Waldorf early years education. Broadly, these include learning to read, writing letters and numbers and from using information technology. For more detailed information about the exemptions read here