An Overview of Early Years Education from a Steiner Perspective
During their first seven years children are forming physically, and live very much in their imagination. This great capacity to enter into imaginative pictures and stories is a good place to begin the process of learning. Free, creative play is considered the best preparation for self-realising adult life.
The teacher endeavours to create a rhythmical structure which gives children time to play, coupled with an environment that exercises a child's imagination and natural self-development while learning to trust the ideas that come from within themselves. A rich supply of natural materials provides scope for imagination in play, which refined toys often deny.
Activities offered for the four to six year olds are based on the home and garden. These include sweeping, gardening, building, weaving, caring for the environment, singing, listening to stories, baking, helping to prepare the meal table, cutting fruit, painting, beeswax modelling and drawing.
At this age, children are learning how to relate socially to their peer group. Through meeting and playing creatively together, children learn vital interpersonal skills. The teacher plays an important role in enabling healthy relationships between children, which form the basis of this fundamental life task.
Young children develop primarily through physical activity and imitation. The role of the teacher is to be a model, worthy of imitation, and to hold for the children a secure space from which to discover the world. Although many pre-academic skills are cultivated, through the daily activities, there is no academic content in the Kindergarten experience. As it is considered that the children are not yet ready for more formal learning, the teacher therefore reserves the formal teaching of numbers and letters for the child's next developmental stage, signalled physically by the change of teeth, at about the age of seven.