Explore Our Daily Activities
Through daily rhythms of free play, outdoor time, circle time, story time, visual arts, handwork and practical activities, children exercise their creative muscles, develop their fine motor skills and create a strong foundation for their emerging literacy skills.
Story Time and Puppetry
Countering the noise of digital media, our teachers practice the arts of storytelling and puppetry. Creative adults inspire the same qualities in the children around them. The teller’s pacing, intonation, gestures and expression all support the children’s growing vocabulary, listening comprehension and attention span. When children are told a story, they develop an ability to listen, to remember, to sequence the elements of a story, to hear the subtleties of characterization, and perhaps most important, to imagine. As they listen they, “think the pictures,” creating a strong foundation for their emerging literacy skills.
Young children come to know and understand the world around them though movement. Our nursery circle time lets the children shift naturally into their joy of movement, while stimulating their imagination. Woven out of familiar daily activities and experiences of nature, the rhymes and songs of our circle time nourish the child’s language development, stimulate their natural delight in singing and invite them to participate in a flowing rhythm.
Outdoor Work and Play
Waldorf School at Moraine Farm’s Nursery School continues to deepen students’ connection to nature as we spend most of our day outside. Daily walks, extensive gardening activities and circle and story time all take place outdoors on our beautiful Moraine Farm campus. Our two classrooms shelter us in extreme weather and when we paint, bake bread and engage in other nurturing activities.
At the heart of our early childhood program is our understanding that self-initiated play and hands-on learning is critical to the healthy development of all young children, so we allow ample time for creative play each morning. We provide children with simple toys made from natural materials, like silk scarves, knitted wool puppets, wooden blocks, shells, acorns and even stones collected from their nature walks. These materials nourish the child’s developing senses, exercise their creative muscles and help develop their emerging fine motor skills. Structures that they can move, crawl over and into, and explore with their whole bodies help develop gross motor coordination.
Visual Arts, Handwork and Practical Activities
Painting, coloring, beeswax modeling, wet wool felting, sewing and finger knitting are just a few examples of the artistic activities in our program. Practical activities include snack preparation, washing and chopping vegetables, baking bread, watering plants, polishing toys, mending, and repairing and making toys. These hands-on experiences are often connected to the seasons, and carried out with as much independence by the children as possible.
Read More: The Importance of Rhythm in Early Childhood
As Waldorf early childhood teachers, one of our fundamental tasks is to offer the children a breathing-like rhythm to our day together – breathing in, as with listening to a story or resting, and breathing out, as in running, playing and roughhousing. In and out, in and out, throughout the day.
The early childhood curriculum is filled with bread baking, uninterrupted play, music and puppet stories. All are there for important reasons but it is the rhythm itself that enables the children to participate successfully. At its most basic, the rhythm in our nursery class begins with free play, an open time of breathing out when the children can play and find other meaningful ways (like helping teachers in food preparation) to enter into the day at school. After free play, we transition towards the breathing in of circle time. Because circle requires each child to find the attention needed to engage in our group activity, we transition towards it gradually — first we gather our focus to tidy up the room, then we quiet down together to have a short “sip of water” at the table. We are then each as ready as he or she can be for the deep in breath of circle time.
And on the day goes, back and forth in this way, with some breaths shorter and some longer as needed. We are like a river, each of the children finding their way in the water as it bends naturally back and forth through anticipated twists and turns.
Each child meets the rhythm in their own way. Recently, an older child has been coming into the nursery to tumble on the floor, smile at his teachers, and then build a block tower, while a younger child has been coming in to sit down by her teacher and rub coconut oil on the kale leaves. Later, both will gather themselves together to join in circle time, one participating on the floor in front of me, stopping himself from getting too silly, the other standing off to my side, imitating the movements with her hands.
“Life, with its rules, its obligations, and its freedoms, is like a sonnet,” Madeleine L’Engle says in A Wrinkle in Time. “You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself.”
Our form is not as simple or static as a sonnet, of course. It is organic and changing. It will grow as the children grow. In kindergarten, circle time and stories may be longer, while free play and other breathing out time may not be longer but instead will be more active and robust. The children’s ability to settle into painting and other artistic activities will expand too. Later, and in this same way, the grade school students will have developed some of the faculties needed to focus on more purely academic work. And later still, the sixth, seventh and eighth graders’ ability to work longer and harder at challenging topics will be supported and enhanced by a strong breathing rhythm. They won’t call it play time, but the eighth graders will still be going outside for some rejuvenation at recess, to breathe out after a long morning of breathing in.
As Waldorf early childhood educator Susan Weber says in her essay, Some Thoughts on Rhythm, “This work-play-rest rhythm is a healthy habit for a whole lifetime.”
By Mari Yamaguchi