How To Best Support Your Child’s Development Ages Birth Through Three

I spoke last night at The Waldorf Connection regarding development from a Waldorf perspective within the first seven years.  I will be posting some notes on this blog from my talk because I believe it is helpful to hear things more than once and to see it in writing and to hear it.  The next step would be to take a piece of paper and a pen in order to write down your own thoughts and how you would work with some of these concepts in your own family.

Childhood in Waldorf Education  is considered those years of birth through age 21.  The human being is seen as a spiritual being who has come down from spiritual realms and one who takes time to get used to living here on earth; a being who is changing and evolving throughout the lifespan of being human in approximately cycles of seven years.  One can search this blog for a chapter by chapter look at the book “Tapestries” by Betty Staley as to characteristics of each seven year cycle from birth through adulthood.

As Waldorf parents and home educators, we are working with every aspect of the child – body, soul, spirit – as we consider the human being to be a whole three and four-fold human being.  We work with things from the most physical to the most mysterious and strive to be continually conscious of being an upright moral example that the child can imitate. We work  to provide an environment conducive to development, a protected environment for optimal development of the 12 senses and the child, but yet one where the child can develop unhindered.

In the second lecture compiled in “Curative Education”, Steiner talks about The Pedagogical Law in which it is who we are that teaches and educates, that children can perceive the gesture behind our words and how what we do matters more than what we give lip service to (my paraphrasing there, of course.  He says it much more eloquently. Smile).  Steiner lectured about the great responsibility we have as educators of small children (and this of course includes parents, as you are the first teacher of your child!) In “Soul Economy”,  one of my favorite compilations of Steiner’s lectures, Steiner said in the lecture regarding children before the seventh year:  ”Anyone in charge of young children – especially those who work in children’s homes- who is aware of the activity of destiny must ask, Have I been specifically chosen for the important task of guiding and educating these children? And other questions must follow: What must I do to eliminate as far as possible my personal self, so I can leave those in my care unburdened by my subjective nature? How do I act so I do not educate a child toward human freedom?

These questions begin at birth…… The child comes to us with a head full of wisdom and growth forces that direct the physical body and help mold the physical body. The child imitates everything, and is a large sense organ. Steiner talks in “Kingdom of Childhood” about the affects of anger upon a child and other emotions because the impressions coming from the outer world directly affect the physical constitution of the body – the formation of the inner organs, for example. This is part of Steiner’s work that really unnerves parents because they feel as if they have done everything wrong and carry such guilt. Guilt does not move one forward in parenting, so I advise parents to try to let that go and start from now.

So, back to development..During the first three years, the spirit, soul and body are seen as being in unity and walking, speaking and thinking are unfolding.  First, the child attains an upright position.  And then from that, speech arises in the second year. In helping a child to speak we must be inwardly true, this is the time of TRUTHFULNESS , for those of you who have heard of Steiner’s truth-beauty-goodness. Truthfulness is the foundation of communication, even for infants. In true speech we use adult speech, not baby talk! Thinking then arises out of speech in the third year. Clarity from our own thinking helps our children’s thinking to be developed.

What we can do to support our children birth to three:

Heal our own past; recover from anything in our own childhood that is amiss. What are we modeling to our children and what are we passing on for our future grandchildren? What are our own patterns of behavior, our own reaction to stress.  Create truth in your life by aligning your values throughout every sector of your life.

Create a healthy attachment to your baby and toddler

Strive to work on ourselves in order  that we are worthy of this child to imitate our gestures, our movements, our work. In “Soul Economy”, one thing that Steiner said was, “…the children become perfect mimics and imitators. This imposes a moral duty on adults to be worthy of such imitation, which is far less comfortable than exerting one’s will on a child.”

Other ways to support children during the first three years:

We do not place the child into positions he or she cannot attain on his or her own, because the child is orienting themselves in the world through their upright orientation and their striving for that. Joan Slater talk about this in the book “The Incarnating Child”, this concept of  keeping infants horizontal until they can move into a position by themselves. This is important, because from this challenge and this struggle to attain an upright position and from that upright position comes speech and then thinking.

Protect the senses of the child and establish a rhythm to help support the etheric body of the caregiver and the child. Our growth forces are  tied to that of our small children and it is important that we  build ourselves up through rhythm, through warming foods, through warm clothes, through kind words and speech, through artistic endeavors.

Become a confident parent who can set boundaries with those who seek to undermine your parenting, including yourself if you are prone to negativity and doubt in your parenting.  I think this is key, as many parents today seem to meet parenting with increased anxiety and  fear and stress. In our generation, we really  have to find some way to meet that fear with joy and with love and with humor. We have to find a way to really put out warm thoughts for our children because our children develop from taking in the world and we are the ones creating their world.

Just a few thoughts; take what resonates with you. 

Other posts that may help you in this endeavor are these:

Many blessings to you,


12 thoughts on “How To Best Support Your Child’s Development Ages Birth Through Three

  1. Carrie, Beautiful, thoughtful post, as always! You’ve encouraged me AGAIN to learn to behave (no more misdirected anger), be confident in my parenting, and to
    ENJOY what I’m doing. THANK YOU!

  2. Pingback: This Will Keep You Busy: Links By Age « The Parenting Passageway

  3. thanks carrie….you have encouraged me to protect my girls even further. it seems the world delights in undermining our authority as parents and we get weary in the battle. and your quotes from steiner were some info i needed to keep my infant horizontal as long as possible as both my girls are early walkers like their dad and mom!

  4. Thank you so much for this post and everything on your blog. I am learning so much here. I am a mother to a four year old and one year old twins. I am working hard to create a home life that will allow them to flourish and be healthy as they grow. It is such a huge responsibility and I feel a lot of anxiety about doing things right and guilt about mistakes, but I do strive to move past these feelings so that I can be the mother they deserve.

    • So glad you are here, Meredith!
      Leave your guilt and anxiety behind – you absolutely are a great mom! YOU are enough!

  5. What are your thoughts on babywearing, since the position of baby is then vertical? Apart from short times on the floor, my 4 month old is only content being worn close to me and wants to observe everything I am doing. He seems to get very overly stimulated and anxious if I leave him for more than a 10 minute stretch and will fuss until he is back in arms, which I promptly do. I frequently try to have him nap laying down (even next to me) but to no avail… He immediately begins to cry and I am absolutely against crying it out. I dont want to hurry physical development along but also want to respect his wishes/needs. Any advice would be appreciated!!!

    • Sarah,
      I would expect the mother’s body to be the baby’s natural habitat at only four months old. I would help me to be on the ground some with you there as well if you can. It is important to the baby to have experiences stretching out on his back and moving all limbs, to practice holding the head in midline whilst on his back etc. and then yes, to strengthen the muscles of the neck and back on his stomach in preparation for crawling. But I would do that with you there – tummy time can be done on you as well. This is a back post about the older baby and being able to set an older baby down, but it might be of interest to you for the future:
      Hope that helps. For further reading, from a purely physical standpoint, I recommend Lois Bly’s Normal Motor Development for the First Year if you can find it and from a more holistic approach, I suggest Joan Salter’s The Incarnating Baby and Rahima Baldwin Dancy’s You Are Your Child’s First Teacher.
      Blessings, glad you are here –

  6. Also does this advice apply to not having baby sit on your lap or put weight on feet before they can do it completely unaided? My little one has held his head up since shortly after birth and gets frustrated unless we sit him up or hold him so hes standing.. neither of which he can do by himself. Thoughts would be so appreciated :)

    • Sarah,
      Yes, I would be think about slinging in positions such as sidelying and horizontally when a baby is smaller in a ring sling. At four months, I know many mothers choose to sling their babies upright, but a sling ring or rebozo type of carrying could still be used. And yes, I would be careful in getting into positions that he himself cannot get into yet. It is just something to think about, just food for thought. You are the expert on your family and you can leave anything you find that doesn’t resonate with you here.

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