Waldorf In The Home With The One- And Two-Year Old

Sometimes I believe the “Waldorf Toddler Years” are the hardest areas to find information about regarding exact specifics as to what to expect and do, especially in the home environment.  Many of things one reads in the books touted for the Waldorf  Early Years (including Heaven on Earth, Beyond the Rainbow Bridge, etc)  seem to be more for children around age 3 (and I would argue that if your oldest is three and in the home environment with no older children around to imitate, that many of these activities should actually be brought in later than in the Waldorf Kindergarten!  More about that in a later post!)

The two main focus areas for the first two years are walking and speech.  Therefore, things to think about include gross motor movement and speech.  Here are some quick suggestions in these areas:

For those children who are  walking – walking and pushing weighted things, getting something off a table and putting into a bucket repeatedly, something where the child is squatting and then standing up to put things into a container, (and then you can do this with the child standing on a squishy throw pillow), toddling outside in all kinds of weather, squatting to play

For those more advanced walkers – walking on different surfaces in bare feet, stepping over things, going up and down stairs with a small railing, climbing on all four’s over things on the floor (to get into a bear’s cave maybe?), different textures to feel and walk on outside in barefeet if possible

For all ages – massage, water play, fingerplays, toeplays, being swaddled and unswaddled in blankets of different textures,  sitting on a blanket and being pulled around the house on a “Magic Carpet Ride”,

But the point is we approach these things with love and with imagination.  Be silent with warm looks or warm  gestures and do what you want the child to do or set a small scene for the older toddler with a few simple words – a  few words really do suffice!  Use music for your simple scenario.  (“My Big dwarf collecting jewels!” and sing a song about a dwarf or   “My beautiful butterfly just emerged from the cocoon!”  etc.)  

For two year olds working on speech, now YOU need to prepare as they will ask you over and over what something is.  You can answer that in one word, but then pull out a Mother Good rhyme or a song to sing.  That will expand their vocabulary even more and keep you from going into Adult Land with scientific explanations of how fish have gills to breathe and etc, etc.

Other things to work on:

Bodily care, toileting or diaper changes, is HUGE. I cannot stress this enough.  Times for bodily care should involve love, their involvement, singing and joy.

Meal times.  Again, unhurried, unrushed, singing, having your child help with preparation and clean-up.

Nap times/Rest Times.  Sing lullabies, have a blanket that is special for sleeping, have a routine involving physical touch of gentle massage or foot rubs

Bath times.  Singing, finger plays and toe plays, gentle rub downs with the towel (those textures again)

Outside time.  This is another place where verses come in handy.  If a child sees a flower, you can recite Mother Goose’s “DaffaDown Lily”, if they see a goose you can recite “

Participation in household life.  Your very gesture is so important, it should not be you rushing around trying to get the whole house clean in one day.  It is taking each article of laundry and smoothing it out, folding it tenderly, putting it in the pile to be put away with love for your family. What is important is not only that the child sees the work being done, but imitates that gesture of love and care.  That extends into caring for plants and animals, this is the very first “environmental education” that a child gets with you, right at home.

Music – as mentioned many times above, music and rhymes and verses should take precedence at this point over any written word. 

Inner Work/Personal Parenting Development:  The most spiritually mature people should be the ones coming into contact with the youngest children.  This is a very important time for your own work and  development.  If you are anxious, practice being calm.  If you are impatient, practice being patient.  If you talk in a stream of conscious way, practice being silent.  This is a time to develop your spiritual and religious beliefs.  It is a time to become more aware of the things unseen.

Joy!  Having a toddler should be joyful.  This age will never come again, enjoy it and marvel with them at their wonder!



39 thoughts on “Waldorf In The Home With The One- And Two-Year Old

  1. Your blog is wonderful!! I really enjoyed this post. I have a 17 month old daughter at home and she is our first child. This post just re-establishes the things that I have been doing in our home with her.

  2. THANK YOU CARRIE! 🙂 Such a beautiful and very informative post. I very much agree with your words about it being difficult to find writings related to the very young child. I have many times found the writings I read refer to the ‘young child’, but it is more from the three year age. For those that come to Steiner in the wee early years, it is difficult to find appropriate information for the under three. Until I stumbled across the Waldorf at Home Forum and your wonderful blog, I really was at a loss for age appropriate information. Therefore I am so very deeply appreciative of all the guidance and inspiration you offer to Parents of children under three.

    As you know from many previous conversations, one of my biggest challenges is words – not USING them, but NOT using them! I am a big motor mouth blah blah blah blah blah – so my big challenge is creating that silence in the home and NOT talking so much. I was quite impressed with my progress yesterday when as Chilli and I prepared our Epiphany Feast and we were in the kitchen together cooking, there was some silence and my old habits of needing to fill that silence came forth, but instead of words, I started to softly hum! I was so surprised, it just happened naturally – I was quite impressed with my sub conscious reaction! YAY! I thought. There was nothing in that moment that needed to be said, but some soft humming filled the air nicely.

    Thank you again, as always, for the inspiring words you share to nourish our parenting journey xxx

  3. Oh, also I wanted to ask. Which copy of ‘Mother Goose’ do you have and use/recommend. I would love to get a copy of this and have searched online to find of course 50million billion different books, copies/editions, and of course half claim to be ‘The original mother goose’ or ‘the most complete mother goose’ or ‘the traditional mother goose’. AHHHHHH VERY confusing for me! I would love it if you could please recommend a title. Thank you

  4. Carrie, I am really moved by this. What you are suggesting is a radically different approach than what I’ve read before. You are not saying this is how to deal with difficult behaviors, but rather how do we approach our child and this time in her/his life with reverence, with our hearts connected to our hands and our joy connected to our movement and song. This is so beautiful and inspiring, and not only in the aesthetic sense, but in deed. I read this post this morning and found myself relating very differently towards my two-year-old throughout the day. Thank you. (p.s. You really do have some deeply substantial material in this blog to write several books. I hope you do so.)

  5. Thank you for this post! I have needed this so much since my daughter’s first birthday. I love the Magic Carpet Ride (simple idea, but one I had forgotten!) and will try to incorporate more massage into our day. And thank you for the reminder to be joyful!

  6. Hi Carrie
    Thanks for the post.
    I am on a roll at being the Queen of my houeshold. But I needed to be reminded not to rush around.
    My little boy is toilet learning, reading your blog and following your advise is making the process very relaxed.
    We are unrushed and I sit with him and tell him a story and he will sit quietly and spell-bound.
    Listening to other parents I can only imagine how difficult and frustrating it could have been.

    And I see my little 1 year old is listening intently at the stories as well. I want to buy the Grimms fairytale book you recommended but I think I will buy the Mother Goose book first- if you can kindly recommend a title.

    Warm regards

  7. A great time for this post! My 22-month-old son is very active, smart and can occasionally make me sigh in frustration, its a good reminder for us to slow down and let him take the lead in play. I definitely am aware of the daily outside time my son needs no matter what the weather, it makes for the rest of our day much more pleasant!

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  10. THANKYOU so much for this post!!! I’d like to echo what others have said here – it has been quite difficult for me to find info on the young child (as you’ve mentioned, it’s usually for 3 and above). There are so many challenges unique to this period that aren’t often addressed – I’m so grateful to have read this today 🙂

  11. This is a great reminder to slow down and enjoy our children. It is so easy to see toddlers as “big kids” that can communicate verbally and start to become more independent. I have been thinking a lot about speaking pictorially with my son and it is not coming naturally to me. I suppose Mother Goose is an excellent place to begin. Do you recommend any other resources for developing this skill?

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  13. Dear Carrie,

    Thank you for this post. Can you recommend any good sources of seasonal fingerplays to do at home with a one to two year old? Any good books of songs/verses?

  14. Thank you SO much for having this out there.

    I don’t check in here often enough, but when I do it’s SO helpful. My son is 2 1/2 now and our rhythm or lack thereof has been the source of much chaos in our home. I’m committing to 3 days a week IN the home and making a rhythm schedule for me to follow! I work best when I have guidelines IN VIEW to keep me on track.
    I believe very much in “attachment” parenting and Steiner’s described/prescribed way of life really fits in beautifully for us, it’s just hard to know how to go about it some times!
    Thanks for the help!


    • Annette,
      Thank you so much! Good luck with your rhythm, being home is the keystone to making it happen! I too, have to have some guidelines right in front of me and it really helps me a lot.

  15. Carrie,
    Thank you for this. I’ve been very confused about my own situation, which is being at home w/ my almost 3-year-old and 1-year-old. We live in a very nature-less suburb devoid of community in a small town in Oklahoma. There is 1 sanctuary, which is a “waldorf-inspired” daycare/ kindergarten, so I have decided to send my older son there 3 days a week for the morning program to have some exposure to a more magical environment. As much as I love her place, I’ve wondered if it is too early for him to go. This piece has given me some validation in my wondering. My husband thinks the school time would be good for him. I’m not so sure, but would love to hear back either from you or other moms on the matter.


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  17. Hello~
    My first peek at your offerings and I have to ThankYou for all your suggestions ~ they are perfectly wonderful and made me
    feel that I know have a blueprint for our day.

    the spiritual and emotional feeding during the day is clearer now !

    Enjoy every minute,


  18. This is lovely and I do appreciate the anthroposophical literature on the nature of children but I am still finding a huge gap on discipline issues, sleep, etc. What would the waldorf home look like for example with an 18-month-old who repeatedly refuses to sit in his seat at meal-times, throws hard toys, resists naps, & demands constant nursing? There are so many rhythm busters w/ young children. I find it especially hard to prepare dinner. My 18-month-old just cries and cries at my feet and even my husband is unable to console him (by the time he returns home from work). There is so much information out there on how these behaviors are developmentally appropriate and equally as much literature about the very different methods for surviving them. I have had a very difficult time finding support as a mother in the community I live in as we are new in our town and we are very far from family. My own parents have passed away long ago. Once I emailed another Waldorf mother blogger on the verge of a real crisis, and while she accepted my Facebook invitation to be a “friend” she did not reply at all to my dire questions.

    I know there are no easy answers, especially to give that aren’t in person and seeing one’s home, children, interactions, etc. But I would seriously take anything.

    Thank you

    • Hi Cindy,
      I am happy to respond to dire questions! Have you had a good look around on this site…there are 750 plus posts dealing with discipline, toddler issues, potty learning, sleep!! Try using the search engine to start. I think another place to get in person support is through La Leche League Toddler Meetings and/or an Attachment Parenting Group in your area. Babywearing and making the baby a passive observer of your life is a good place to start as you set a rhythm for your day, along with many outdoor hours. Cooking is challenging with a toddler, can you start something earlier in the day in a crock pot? Can you pull a chair up and have your toddler stir his own little bowl and wooden spoon or spin the lettuce or help in some other way with something that time of day or can you place him on your back in a carrier if he is super tired? What is the rhythm of your day? Is dinner prep starting rather late for him?

      I have an 18 month old right now, so I do understand where you are coming from…:)
      Try too, the baby/toddler header on this blog at the top and I just posted about a new ebook guide that I contributed to over at Christopherus …It should be out in May and cover many of these issues.
      There is a lot here, and I also respond (slowly) to emails – my email is on the about page.

  19. Hi Carrie and Community,

    This is an excellent post for me, and particularly the end

    “If you are anxious, practice being calm. If you are impatient, practice being patient. If you talk in a stream of conscious way, practice being silent..”

    I’m currently visiting M-I-L’s house with husband and 12month old in another country (where I have been a number of times) for 2.5 months. I have a very close relationship with baby (always held and cuddled, nurses on demand, etc) and and a fairly good rhythm before we left home. But, I’ve felt so frustrated and mad since we’ve been here (about a week) and I cannot get a grip on why. All I want to do is stare at the computer to escape and not do anything useful like playing with baby, taking care of husband, cooking, cleaning, interacting with in-laws, or anything else. If anyone has any ideas on how to get past this, please let me know. I’m generally pretty laid back, but I’m so upset and cannot “settle” here.

    • Merreves,
      I think that can be common when visiting for such an extended time; you are in not in your own home and not really in control of your own rhythm. It can make one feel like a fish out of water!
      I think what you are describing almost sounds like depression. I think if you can get outside every day and exercise by walking with your baby, it will help.

      I am sorry you are experiencing this. Hope to hear some things have resolved soon.

  20. I googled “Waldorf for 1 year olds” and was magically transported here.

    I’ve just read your post and all the comments.
    I wanted to mention the previous comment especially. Well, actually, I wanted to express my thoughts/feelings on your response.
    I felt the upset in Merreves post.
    I was incredibly thrilled by the way you, Carrie, responded to it. “I think what you are describing almost sounds like depression. I think if you can get outside every day and exercise by walking with your baby, it will help.” I felt like you were wrapping/swaddling her in understanding and acceptance. Perhaps that sounds silly. I have manic depressive illness. It gave me such a warm peaceful feeling to see you approach her turmoil with such gentle honesty and sound ‘advice’.

    I came looking for some advice myself. Starting this week I am being blessed with the opportunity to look after my one year old GrandDaughter two days a week. It’s been more than two decades since my youngest was a toddler ~ I’m older, and hopefully wiser, now. I want to give my GrandDaughter everything I can to help shape her world. (I certainly do not mean ‘give’ material ‘stuff’!) I want to add magic and peace to the wondrous life her Parents are already creating for her. “Waldorf” keeps popping up in my online travels. I see magic and peace there. I am now on a quest for information on spending this precious time with my precious Jane. I think I have found a wonderful place to stay and read awhile.

    Thank you.

    • Maija,
      Thank you for your warm introduction and comment. Many blessings to on this journey, and to have the enviable position of having such fun with your granddaughter. 🙂
      Happy New Year!

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  22. Thank you so much for this inspiring post. It is so true that we need to slow down and enjoy life from a child’s point of view so that we can help them make beautiful memories. I still remember how gentle my mother was when we were young and that left such sweet memories and feelings of my childhood days. Today’s pressure and stress tend to blind us from what is really important…to fill our lives with happiness and love. I am a single mum of a very active 2 year old, was studying for a Diploma until very recently and deprived from much needed rest and sleep for many months to be able to do everything. There were moments when I wished I could clone myself!!! 😀 I had already started practicing being calm and patient because I saw that frustration was getting between me and my son. It is not an easy task but slowing down to the rhythm of children and nature enables you to enjoy those beautiful moments of innocence. I believe that being happy and full of love is what is most important in order to grow happy children. The rest can wait!

  23. What a beautiful writeup. I have so much to improve as a parent and these pointers will be my guideline to become the mother that I hope to be…

  24. Thank you! I REALLY appreciate this. Such good reminders too for our family, like not rushing mealtimes and showing love and care in household work. I have a question about interaction…My daughter is 18 months exactly and has just undergone a huge emotional growth spurt and seems to need a lot more interaction, attention and play time with other children suddenly. Just a month ago she seemed content to be with me most all day, and now literally stands at the door every morning whining and crying to see her little next door neighbor friend of the same age. I didn’t see this mentioned in your post and am just wondering your thoughts…

    • Hi Katie,
      I was on vacation and just getting to answer comments now…hope you are still out there..18 months is a fussy age usually. A strong rhythm involving meaningful work is really important, such as in this back post: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/06/28/guest-post-meaningful-work-for-toddlers/ There are actually several great back posts on this topic – meaningful work for toddlers, and also all the posts under the development tab that are marked “one Year Old”. I think it is super important to hold a strong rhythm of doing things in the home for the children to model and eventually take out in their play (see posts about fostering creative play). 18 month olds are certainly aware of other children, but I don’t think is what is called for at this age in a true sense of the word play or friend. I think what is called for is a steady routine and rhythm, marking the small seasonal changes, making bread, being outside… and to gently call her to a time of circle time with little fingerplays or verses or a morning walk if that is what is called for. A Morning Garden type situation for new walkers and such would normally meet once a week with parents in a Waldorf School setting, so I would be on the lookout for more social behavior, but not to have it become an overwhelming piece to be attended to, if that makes sense. Please let me know how those thoughts resonate with you and many blessings – Carrie

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    • Hi Steph!
      I am so glad you liked it! There are many, many posts on here regarding the development of the 1-5 year old and homeschooling that age group so I hope you find other posts that resonate with you here. Many blessings, Carrie

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