As you may have guessed by reading through the previous three posts regarding the six-year-old, I am a big proponent of not starting academics during the six-year-old year while the children are in a time of developmental crisis. Within the Waldorf system, most six-year-olds should still be in their last year of Kindergarten.
However, with this age often comes problems for parents who perceive that their children are wanting “more” and needing more. Many parents equate this “wanting more” with needing more academic work.
I disagree and offer you some alternatives in this post for what to do with your child during their six-year-old year, their last year of kindergarten:
First and foremost, they need to be outside and connected to nature during all types of weather this year. They need to be outside every day possible to burn off that restless energy that often pervades the age of six. There is a rather popular post on this blog about connecting children to nature if you need ideas. (see http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/24/connecting-your-children-to-nature/ for that post; it is one of the highest hit posts on here!). Some Waldorf teachers also feel that daily nature walks are important for children who are weak in their physical and etheric bodies.
Secondly, they need opportunity for real work that hopefully will involve physical energy expenditure. Do you need a pile of rocks moved? A great job for a six-year-old! Do you need the pile of firewood moved from one place to another? Think creatively about what could be done around your house, your land, your yard, that is REAL WORK. Many six-year-olds go through a crisis of play, so do think about work they could do. Woodworking, to make something real and functional, also comes to mind.
Thirdly, they need a strong rhythm, longer and more involved stories and more involved projects. Think about things that involve several days to complete – modeling something, then painting. Finger knitting and then attaching that finger knitting to something to complete a project. What could you and your six-year-old do with a very large box? Make a barn, a spaceship, a house – something that, again, involves multiple steps over multiple days.
Fourth, think about games that involve strategy. We played a lot of checkers, Battleship, card games, Junior Monopoly, Mancala and other games during my eldest’s six-year-old year.
Fifth, think about gross motor skills. At home, you can work with your child on riding a bike without training wheels if they cannot do that yet, jump roping, using stilts, using scissors to cut snowflakes and paper chains of figures to develop fine motor skills and threading needles and tying knots also comes to mind for fine motor skills.
Sixth, is there any way your six-year-old could help someone else? Some parents feel strongly their six-year-old should not be exposed, say, to residents in a nursing home or such because it is hard to explain in simple terms why we have such a thing in our society. I personally wonder what is wrong with us that we segregate our elders away from our young people, but perhaps my perspective comes from being raised by my grandparents and having my great-grandmother also live with us. Some Waldorf Kindergartners actually seek out having a relationship with a nursing facility of some sort.
Perhaps there is a way your six-year-old could serve within your own family, within your neighborhood (does your neighborhood plant bulbs or flowers or such with the changing seasons? Could you and your family help?) Could you bake cookies for elderly neighbors and deliver them? Make May Baskets on May Day for neighbors?
Seventh, work on social skills in a more direct way – it is okay now to do this! Not a guilt-trip laden, wordy way but a matter-of-fact way – “We wait to speak.” “You may have this when I am done.” Those sorts of things. For bossy, often drama-laden six, these are valuable skills indeed. You are working out of more than imitation now – the seven-year-old works out of a picture of authority and you are transitioning to that. For those of you who put the cart before the horse and have been using these direct words for a long time, please do not beat yourself up over it. Do remember, however, that the six-year-old may need direct words and authority at some times, but still need arms around them and re-direction with fantasy and movement at other times.
Eighth, work on festival experiences. Has your six-year-old ever made a sword and shield for Michaelmas? Gone on a Lantern Walk for Martinmas? Made Advent crafts in any capacity? Dipped candles for Candlemas? Made Easter or Spring crafts? May Day Baskets? There are many wonderful festival books out there with lots of ideas to try!
Try to enjoy this year. A year without being tied into main lesson time, main lesson blocks, main lesson books. A year of wonderful experiences with lots of time to enjoy each other. This last year of kindergarten is really the best!!