Top 10 Essentials of the Waldorf Kindergarten at Home

Whew, almost every day people ask me where to start with Waldorf homeschooling with their young children under the age of 7.  My recommendation is to take a deep breath, get yourself a cup of tea with honey and come and sit back down at this screen.

Okay, have that cup of tea?  Are you ready?

Let’s start with a quote by Rudolf Steiner himself, to get us in the mood.  This is from page103 of the lectures compiled into the book, “Soul Economy” :  “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 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 interfere with a child’s destiny? And, above all, How can I best educate a child toward human freedom?”

This quote gives one a clue as to the framework and tools Steiner sees as appropriate with young children.  It is not that it is only destiny, but that as a caregiver or parent one must act in the right way with the right thoughts as we are the utmost model for our children to imitate.   It is a great quote to ponder and meditate on what this means to you and your work with small children. 

[This is from the comment section below, maybe it will help explain this quote a bit:  Steiner’s point was not just  “hands off” for the early years; he had a strong notion that we are parents and teachers ARE the leaders within home and school.  However, he also felt strongly that teachers and parents do the WRONG thing doing these early years by intellectualizing the child, by providing the child with toys that do not require imagination…I think the quote above was more the call to get out of our own way, to disregard what we think we know about childhood development from a traditional perspective and to look at the child from a spiritual perspective and what we can do in these early years to lay the best foundation for adulthood].

Here is my Top 10 List of the Essentials of Waldorf Kindergarten at home:

1. Understand what Waldorf kindergarten is – -> NO ACADEMICS.  Yup, that is right, and there is a reason for this.  If you are new to anthroposophic thought, a brief and probably unsatisfying summary would be to say that Steiner based Waldorf education upon his thoughts of the knowledge of the human being.  The years from birth to seven are for forming the physical organism of the child, the memory is not seen as freed for academic work until the seventh year.  The young child should be surrounded by joy and happiness, toys that encourage the imagination,  but only the physical body is ready for influence by the outside world.  Hence, no academics because the child is not yet ready.

2.  So if there are NO ACADEMICS, what should I be doing?  Preparing yourself in two areas is  the first thing.

Inner work:  Inner work is the hallmark of Waldorf education.  How you do it is up to you.  Many people use Steiner’s exercises.  Other people use prayer, meditation, yoga, tai chi, walking meditation.  Identify your strengths and your challenges for this homeschooling journey.  Meditate on the quote from Steiner above and how to put that forth in your care of your small children.

Preparation of skills you will need to be able to show your child:  oral storytelling, choosing fairy tales, knowing your local fauna and flora, singing, playing a blowing instrument (pennywhistle, pentatonic flute or recorder), washing and carding wool, spinning wool, dyeing wool and silks, toymaking, gardening, woodworking, knitting, other forms of handwork, drawing with block crayons, wet on wet watercolor painting, modeling, seasonal arts and crafts.  Pick something and practice at night after your children go to bed.

3.  The second thing to do is to prepare your ENVIRONMENT.

Screens:  How much time are you spending in front of a screen?  TV, computer, other?  How much time is your child spending in front of a screen?  Please see my blog post entitled, “Children and Media.”

Clutter:   Is your house organized so you can find things?  Do you have 10 of everything?  Do you have too much furniture for your house? 

Simplicity:  What can you get rid of and be free of?  What toys do your children actually play with and how many books and toys do you have out at one time?

4. The third thing to do is to start to establish a rhythm.

Awake times/naptimes/bedtimes:  A wonderful place to start your rhythm is around awake times, naptimes and bedtimes.  A wonderful cozy bedtime routine at an early hour sends your children off to peaceable sleep and starts your day off on the right foot the next day.  Then start work on times of outbreath – outside time- and times of inbreath-storytelling, art.  You can tell the same story for two weeks to a month!  Repetition is the foundation of childhood!

Weekly:  What practical work are you going to do when?  Baking, laundry, housekeeping, gardening, handwork?

Yearly:  What festivals will you celebrate and in what physical way will you show your small child?  We do not explain the holidays, the festivals, only show these are the things we DO at this time.

5.  Now that you have that in place, start reading about child development.  Steiner said that this was essential, and the anthroposophic view of childhood development is much different than the traditional view of development.  I highly recommend The Education of the Child, Soul Economy and The Study of Man.

6.  Work on how you ARE with your children – are you a warm presence?  can you just BE with your child?   Are you completely running around after your child, is every day a frenzied day or are you setting the tone of your home by getting up at a consistent time with a plan and a rhythm for the day?  Are you there for your child but letting your child see your work, your interests?

7.   Protect your child’s 12 Senses.  Steiner felt there were 12 senses instead of the traditional five senses we think about. 

8.  Work on getting your child into his or her body.  This is the most important thing you can do for your young child under the age of 7 – games, circle time, free outside time, play and movement – are all critically important.  Donna Simmons has some great suggestions in her book, “Joyful Movement.”  Another book I really like from my pediatric physical therapist work is the book, “Activities Unlimited”, which was written by a group of Neurodevelopmentally- trained pediatric therapists. (This book is available through Amazon, and for more i nformation regarding Neurodevelopmental Treatment please see   “Activities Unlimited” is not Waldorf by any means, but it would be fairly easy to put these activities into some sort of game or fantasy play. 

Another great source of movement and getting children into their bodies is through all the circle time kind of games and fingerplays that go on in a Waldorf classroom. Please see the Rudolf Steiner College Bookstore or Bob and Nancy’s bookshop for books that have pre-planned circle times, or get adventurous and make up your own!

9.  Watch how you frame discipline – are you using imitation, movement and fantasy to re-direct your child?  Are you a chatter box and explainer with your child? Please see my blog post entitled, “Take My Three Day Challenge”.

10.  Okay, now is the time to start slowly bringing in the skills you are learning – start with storytelling and puppetry, bring in baking once a week, needle felt something  for your nature table…Bringing it all in and to your child  is the last step.

You have the years of birth through age 6 to work on this…it is a process, it is an evolution, it is a learning.  It will not happen in one day.  But begin with your end in mind and work toward it.  Hope that  this will provide you with some inspiration and encouragement.

Just a few thoughts from my little corner of the world.

9 thoughts on “Top 10 Essentials of the Waldorf Kindergarten at Home

  1. Are you born to destiny? If so there must be some understanding that you are a product of your parents to some degree. Maybe some people are born to nothing as their parents are such. Surely there are good things that a parent can pass on; maybe I misunderstand the post. I like the idea of each person having an inner destiny – but a little guidance never hurt.

  2. rockwatching – You bring up an interesting point. I don’t think anyone can answer definitively for you. We must all take in this information and draw our conclusions.

    My feeling is that we while we are all born to walk a certain path, we are influenced along the way by our environment. Regardless of how we are influenced by those around us, I don’t think that alters our destination. It just affects the manner and speed in which we make our journey. It’s a constant process of learning, growing, and refining ourselves. We are always taking in information but that does not mean we must retain it all or make it all our own.

    In my life, I have undergone many transformations. I imitated those around me. I made some changes. I did what I thought others would want me to do. I made some changes. I struck out on my own to try out new ways of being. I made some changes. I studied. I made some changes. I observed. I made some changes. It took many tries to find the right me and the right path, but it became very clear after I learned to discern between influence and destiny – between essential and inessential.


  3. I have thought and thought about the points you bring up rockwatching — I do not think Steiner’s point was “hands off” for the early years; he had a strong notion that we are parents and teachers ARE the leaders within home and school. However, he also felt strongly that teachers and parents do the WRONG thing doing these early years by intellectualizing the child, by providing the child with toys that do not require imagination…I think the quote above was more the call to get out of our own way, to disregard what we think we know about childhood development and to look at the child from a spiritual perspective and what we can do in these early years to lay the best foundation for adulthood.

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  5. Hello! I have a 3 year old whom is in such a rhythm of spontaneity. Ok well basically I don’t know how to have a solid routine. We wake in the morning, usually have brekkie before going outside to hang out with the chickens and rabbits. But sometimes we will go before if my daughter wants to bring Rabbi Rabbington inside. I just kind of do things as I remember them and feel the motivation to do them. I try not to take her out in the car often and for long periods. Sometimes we will go out in the morning to the library or swimming or the park. Sometimes we will spend the whole morning being animals or doing craft. We don’t have the same rhythm everyday. Sometimes it takes me most of the morning getting her dressed and I just want to get out of the house. Is that bad? I just need some idea as to how much rhythm a 3 year old needs and how flexible it can be.
    Thanks for reading 🙂

    • Lucinda,
      I think going back and reading the posts tagged “rhythm” on this blog could be really helpful to you, and also the one tagged “Waldorf in the Home with the three and four year old”. I think you want to bring a certain stability with a reasonable (ie, longer) time frame built into things and with specific things happening on specific (the same)days of the week…so the library visit is every Tuesday morning, the park day is every Friday, this is the order we do things at home. It doesn’t have to be a strict schedule, but a rhythm provides a secure backbone for a three year old who cannot yet tell time, or tell what day it is based on a calendar but can associate a day with a particular activity. It is important for the development of life forces. We can all attest to the fact that when we eat lunch at the same time everyday, we start to get hungry about that time. And so it is for other activities of life…rhythm enhances it all…

  6. Pingback: Top 10 Essentials of the Waldorf Kindergarten at Home | The Parenting Passageway | Prairie Hearts Learning Community

  7. What do you do if you are new to Waldorf and your four year old already knows all the letter names and sounds, is starting to blend letter sounds into words (early reading), can count to 100, do simple addition, knows all the shapes, etc? She has picked all this up effortlessly, but do I now forget about all that for three years? It seems weird to not encourage this when she is so eager to learn.

    • Dorsetacupuncture,
      It is not that you ignore this, but you look carefully at balance. Little four year olds should be in their bodies and doing active things – so you read together and look at books together, but you carry on with all of the bodily activities kindergarteners should be doing. I also had an early reader first time around (and who could also read in two languages!) and we just carried on. It did no harm at all, we read together, she read on her own, but I think it gave her great balance in her body and her senses. When first grade came, we drew the letters because drawing is great fun, we hunted for letters, we wrote some sentences but many children who love to read don’t love to write. Math you can carry on with in real life as well – jump roping rhymes and hand clapping games, real life math – if so and so is coming for dinner, how many place settings do we need now (adding), etc.
      I think you will have to decide if that is enough for you and your child. I think Waldorf provides essential balance and bodily skills for small children that are “ahead” academically but who otherwise might not be so in their body. Look at social, emotional, fine motor, gross motors skills and see where all of those are – Look at the very big and very holistic picture. Can she ride a bike with no training wheels? Play well with others? Has great creative play? Has great walking endurance? Can swim without a float thing? Can help with small chores, has great strength for hand kneading of bread, etc? So many different areas to look at.
      It may be that Waldorf is not the path you choose to take, but I was glad to have done that for our oldest. The other thing that might help you is to look ahead. Waldorf Education is very rigorous and well rounded. If you look through all the grades, you can see where it is going and how it culminates.
      Hope that helps,

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