In my mind, the ‘big three” of the Early Years books are “Beyond the Rainbow Bridge: Nurturing Our Children From Birth To Seven” by Barbara Patterson and Pamela Bradley; “You Are Your Child’s First Teacher” by Rahima Baldwin Dancy; “Heaven On Earth” by Sharifa Oppenheimer.
Here is a quick run-down of each book, and then some additional resources for you consider.
“Beyond the Rainbow Bridge: Nurturing Our Children From Birth to Seven” is frequently, at least in my area, given out at Parent/Child classes in the Waldorf schools. So, although the information in this book could definitely be applied to older Kindergarteners, there are plenty of nuggets of wisdom for the younger set. This book is soft-cover and is 193 pages long. The chapters in this book mainly focus on warmth, rhythm, play at different stages (newborn to two and a half; two-and-a-half to age five and age five to seven), developing the twelve senses and a section on creative discipline. There is also a section on Parent/Child classes, some sample crafts, verses and a fairy tale list.
My recommendation for this book would be to look for it if your children are younger or if you are involved in a Parent/Child class for the first time.
“You Are Your Child’s First Teacher” by Rahima Baldwin Dancy is often available through your library system, so look for it there first. This is a book I turn to time and time again, because I read different things in different ways as my children grow and I look back on those ages. This book covers a lot of territory, starting with the notion that children are not tiny adults, that the consciousness is different, going into receiving and caring for your newborn, looking at the stages of babyhood and toddler hood through the lens of learning to walk, mastering language, the emergence of thinking and of self. There are chapter on helping the development of your baby and toddler, parenting issues of the first three years, developing your child’s fantasy and creative play, developing your child’s imagination and artistic ability and musical abilities, rhythm and discipline in home life and more about play-based kindergarten experiences and parenting issues. This book is also soft-cover and is 385 pages long. Whilst I don’t agree with every single thing in here, there is much to be treasured. In fact, you may get it from your library and then decide you would like a copy of your own! I am positive you can find this book used and get it fairly cheaply.
“Heaven On Earth: A Handbook for Parents of Young Children” by Sharifa Oppenheimer is a soft-bound book of 235 pages. There are many concrete examples in this book of, for example, a rhythm of weekly breakfasts, songs and verses, recipes, lists of things such as “elements of a balanced outdoor playspace”, and more. The unique layout feature of this book is the boxes that these lists and recipes come in in the margins of the pages. There is quite a lot to digest in this book, and I think it would be easy to plan some concrete changes in the rhythm of your life based on some of the things in this book. I would suggest you IGNORE completely the references to time-out in this book, that really did bother me, as time-out is not something I have ever seen reference to in any other Waldorf Early Years book. Many mothers love this book, some Waldorf schools run “book club” type meetings around its chapters, so I think this one is worth checking out.
Other references you may consider reading include “Simplicity Parenting” ( I have a review on this blog; it is hard cover and I have heard some library systems have this book); Donna Simmons’ “Joyful Movement” which has information about the holistic development of wee ones with lots of concrete suggestions about what to do and not do for different ages and also Donna Simmons’ “Kindergarten With Your Three to Six Year Old”. I have heard some mothers who like Melisa Nielsen’s “Before the Journey” – this book does have crafts, recipes, and follows the festivals/seasons of the year. It is in story format and tells how four different women of different religious/socio-economic backgrounds bring Waldorf parenting and education into the lives of their small children in a journal –type form where each of the four mothers (one for each season) journals about what they are doing and what they are discovering. The other book many people in my area discount because they cannot stand the way breastfeeding and other attachment practices are viewed is Joan Salter’s “The Incarnating Child.” I think if you can ignore the references to weaning and such, there are many gems to be found in that book from an anthroposophic viewpoint (but I also know so many AP parents who read it and were completely turned off and turned away from Waldorf because of that book so please don’t say I didn’t warn you, I am an AP parent as well!) So, again, if you can read it and ignore the fact it is not AP and just cherry-pick the anthroposophic nuggets out of it here and there, I think you will be okay.
Hope that helps!