The Significance of Early Years Education for a Lifelong Journey of Joyful Learning
The holistic development of each child to realise their true potential and prepare for life is significantly founded on the journey of learning during their early years.
In the Waldorf approach, early childhood is distinguished as the first seven years from birth where the developmental needs of the child are sensory and will-oriented. An appropriately tailored curriculum for early years education is thereby essential to provide the right learning experiences for children and nourish their readiness for learning in the later years.
To this end, Waldorf in preschool education nurtures the growth of children in early years with distinct elements and practices that are purposeful for their present and future.
- Unhurried childhood - Acknowledging the natural process of development and providing children the time and space to be who they are goes a long way in guiding them to be who they want to be and what they are meant to become. As opposed to hurrying up the child with a fear of them falling behind, the cornerstone of Waldorf is to ensure age-appropriateness. It is essential to protect and nurture childhood as a foundation for the future by letting children be children. The kindergarten years in a Waldorf school focus on developing the will of the child to do, which eventually translates to a freedom of exploration in them along with a comfort, confidence to learn.
- Warm and loving environment - The experiences and mood at school during early childhood defines the willingness and interest in children towards learning. This deepens the preschool significance in a child’s journey of education as it becomes an important consideration to provide them with a feeling of safety and joy to learn. In a Waldorf kindergarten, classrooms are arranged by teachers with love and care, to create a home-like and welcoming environment for children. The warm colours, flow of natural light and air, flexible arrangements for ease of movement, free and open spaces - all evoke and expand the child’s freedom to learn. Teachers surround the children with meaningful work, simple toys and pleasant art that contributes to their physical growth and development of imaginative capacities.
- Rhythm and repetition - A regular, consistent, predictable flow of the day promotes health, security and trust in children during the preschool years. Complemented by the repetition of the rhythm, this further allows the time for children to make sense, explore and learn. When they know what the day, week or season is going to be like, children find comfort and freedom to participate and take on the learning. In a Waldorf classroom, the daily rhythm remains the same throughout the year, altering between rest and work as children sing, play and eat. The weekly rhythm introduces meaningful and artistic tasks that include cooking, cleaning, painting, drawing and knitting. As the seasons change, the songs they sing, food they eat, clothes they wear and tasks they do are adapted. This enables children to develop an understanding of time and the world around them.
- Strengthening senses - As a basis for all future formal academic learning and life ahead, children need to develop an understanding of their bodily balance, movement; relation to the world around them and experience disappointment, boredom in life. The Waldorf education approach to early years caters to this through real life tasks that are purposeful, meaningful, and tactile to nourish their senses and strengthen the joy in learning and willingness to work. They experience the wonders of the world and explore their physical capacities that opens and prepares them to the learning ahead.
- Imaginative play - Play during the early years interweaves many learning opportunities for children and significantly contributes to their physical growth. In a Waldorf early childhood classroom, free play is a part of the daily rhythm where children spend ample time with the simple materials in the classroom and natural world. They are surrounded by toys that inspire and ignite imagination, playthings that are open-ended and can be played with in a variety of ways. This unstructured time unfolds without a lot of adult interference allowing for the child to think creatively, tell their own tales, develop their dexterity while handling the toys, and find their body balance.
- Reverence and resilience – The importance of preschool education in the developmental trajectory of a child is beyond the initial years of learning. While the physical, mental and emotional growth is evidently observed, social sensitivity and moral courage is also fostered in children from early years onwards. The Waldorf approach to learning nurtures a feeling of reverence for life in all forms as children clean their toys, care for the dolls during play, say gratitude to nature for the food, and imitate gentle gestures of the teachers. These simple indications during the early years lay the foundation for a deeper respect in them towards the family, community and world. Through the stories narrated and learning that evolves from play, children further grow into resilient and self actualized individuals with an inner strength, grit and determination to transform obstacles, challenges into opportunities for learning and growth.
Swechha, Vizag's first Waldorf school introduces this approach to the ambit of preschool education in Vizag. For children in the age group of 3-6 years, parents of Vizag can now choose Waldorf education for the preschool learning levels, nursery and Kindergarten (LKG and UKG).