Waldorf In The Home With The Five-Year-Old

MY CAVEAT TO THIS POST:  I write these posts from the perspective that the one-year-old, the two-year-old, etc is your OLDEST child in your homeschool, without older siblings to carry things… that may help explain my perspective on wet-on-wet painting and other such animals.  You can see the comments below as well…

We talked a bit about planning for fall in a recent post, and I wanted to make sure my mothers with under-7 children didn’t feel left out.  We are up to the five-year-old now!  I still hold some maverick views compared to much of the Waldorf community, so please take what resonates with you and leave the rest from this post.  If you are searching for the other posts in this series, here is the one- and two-year old in the home:  https://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/01/06/waldorf-in-the-home-with-the-one-and-two-year-old/      and here is the three- and four-year-old in the home:  http://www.theparentingpassageway.com/2010/01/13/waldorf-in-the-home-with-the-three-and-four-year-old/ .  If you review those back posts, you can see life is focused on rhythm, bodily care, singing, work around the house, being outside – no curriculums needed, although you may like some sources for verses, Mother Goose rhymes and songs.  I did do a review of one Kindergarten source here:  https://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/13/a-review-kindergarten-with-your-three-to-six-year-old-by-donna-simmons/

So here comes five!

Five can be such  an odd age.  It is the age that is considered a “golden” age by traditional perspectives, but many mothers of five-year-olds tell me they are pulling their hair out over their child’s behavior.  I think this is mainly because some five-year-olds are still in the four-year-old “out of bounds” stage, and some five-year-olds are beginning that six and seven-year transformation.  Here are some back posts about the five-year-old in general if you need some developmental help: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/02/10/the-fabulous-five-year-old/ 

Here is what I think a five-year-old should be working on with Waldorf In The Home:

RHYTHM!  Here is a lovely article detailing a rhythm in a Waldorf Kindergarten by Ruth Ker:  http://www.waldorflibrary.org/Journal_Articles/blessingker.pdf

Meal times.  Think unhurried, unrushed, singing, having your child help with preparation and clean-up.  Use your meal time now to  work on things to develop their movement – kneading bread, using a rolling pin, sweeping the kitchen floor, scrubbing a countertop, etc.

Rest Times.  I honestly don’t know many five year olds who still nap, and that is a shame.  If your child is not a  “napper” at this age, you can still have a quiet time each day.  Your child  may not be able to do this well  on his or her own (although some will happily play with a play scenario you have set up), but this may be a time to read a story, a time to tell a story, a time to sing soft songs whilst massaging their hands or feet, and just dim the lights and be together and rock in the rocking chair for a bit.  You may also catch some down time for yourself at this time or during outside time if your child gets engaged.

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

Outside timeBeing outside is of extreme importance and to provide opportunities for physical movement outside.  If your child is a reluctant woodsperson, try the following posts:

https://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/25/nature-day-number-8-of-20-days-toward-being-a-more-mindful-mother/  and this one:  https://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/24/connecting-your-children-to-nature/

I think really three hours a day outside is not too much, and you could do more.  It is important.  Some homeschooling mothers arrange to hold almost their entire school day

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 really  is about  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.

To this we add the thought that physical work is very important, not only outside, but inside as well.  Can your wee one help you wash lettuce?  Peel carrots?  Peel an apple? Grind wheat? Knead bread?  These experiences are the first form of handwork for the young child.

Music – as mentioned many times, 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. 

We continue to  work on building up the first four of the twelve senses:

The Sense of Touch: Holding, cuddling, taking baths together, swimming, piggy back rides, games that involve holding hands and singing, wrestling and roughhousing, tickling games if your child likes that, rolling around on the floor together,  being outside in nature, natural materials to touch and play with and wear

The Sense of Life:  RHYTHM, humor and joy!

The Sense of Movement:  crawling, any sustained movement over time such as learning to ride a bike or swim,

The Sense of Balance: RHYTHM again, swinging, rolling, and now working toward more complex gross motor skills – riding a bike, trying the monkey bars and climbing structures,   skipping

If you need to know realistic expectations for a five-year-old, please see here: 


PLAY.  In the imitative phase of the first seven year cycle, your child may very well need some help from you in play without a group around to carry it.  You can see the back posts on fostering creative play and the progression of play by age and suggested toys.

People ask about play dates for this age.  I think play dates need to be structured with the adults doing something that requires taking turns and modeling the behavior you would like to see, and then moving into free play with the adults really in tune as to what is going on with the children (not off chatting in a corner ignoring the children).    I think play dates should be kept short.  If you would like to see more about social experiences, here is a post about the four-year-old I like:  https://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/09/more-about-social-experiences-for-the-four-year-old/  I think much in this post holds true for the five-year-old.  Five-year-old boys also may really not be ready for group situations until they around are seven years old.

Preparation for Festivals. This is a great time to help children participate by DOING, not explaining in words.  There are lots of posts on this blog about individual festivals. 

Art/Creative Experiences

  • Painting –  Some five year olds may do well doing wet on wet watercolor painting  and some may have much difficulty in this  area.  I personally like the idea of starting wet on wet painting during the six-year old kindergarten year, as something special and new for that final year of kindergarten.  Wet on wet painting, to me, should have a very quiet, contemplative and meditative quality. 
  • Coloring with crayons  — you can see this book about Drawing with your child here:  https://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/04/04/drawing-with-your-four-to-eleven-year-old/  And here is an article about block or stick crayons in the Kindergarten from the “Gateways” Journal:  http://www.waldorflibrary.org/Journal_Articles/GW3606.pdf
  • Carding wool – can be a hit as it is repetitive sensory movement.  You can buy fleece to wash and dry and card it with little dog brushes.  This is great.   You could also consider dyeing with plants…here is an article from the “Gateways” journal here:  http://www.waldorflibrary.org/Journal_Articles/GW57grant.pdf
  • Sanding wood might be good as well.  Any thoughts?
  • Modeling – I like the idea of modeling with sand, salt dough, snow, kneading bread.  I would save  beeswax modeling  for the six-year-old children myself.  Again, this differs from Waldorf school.
  • Sewing – I disagree strongly with the kindergarten aged child using a needle to penetrate cloth.  I  know that is not especially popular opinion right now, but oh well.   🙂 
  • Wet felting is a fun activity for five year olds.
  • Finger knitting – can try with the OLDER  five and six year old.  
  • Other Arts and Crafts – some can be successful, especially in preparation for a festival, but I think for the  most part recommendations in books such as “Earthways” the age range is always put lower than what I would put it.  Why be in such a rush to do all this? Six, seven and eight are still good ages for crafts.

Storytelling and Puppetry – If you have not had a time where you light a candle and tell a story, now is the time to begin.  Pick a story, memorize it, and tell it at least three days a week for two weeks to a month. 

Here is where you can start bringing in some traditional fairy tales.  See here for a list of recommended fairy tales by age, but pick one that that resonates with you: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/03/20/fairy-tales-books-and-storytelling-with-the-little-ones/  and here:   https://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/20/the-importance-of-fairy-tales/

You could also make your five year old year your Nature Tales year (there are many on http://www.mainlesson.com ) and then bring in more fairy tales in your true Kindergarten year (your six year old year).  And don’t be afraid to repeat stories from year to year – your children will ask for them!  That repetition is wonderful!

My other thought is to create those stories to address challenging behavior.  There are several examples here in this article from the “Gateways” Journal:  http://www.waldorflibrary.org/Journal_Articles/GW55brooks.pdf

Circle Time is the heart of the Waldorf Kindergarten, but can be a complete flop at home.  I love the book “Movement Journeys and Circle Adventures” (see this post for the review: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/12/29/favorite-waldorf-resource-5-three-resources-to-help-you-get-more-movement-into-your-homeschool/ ), but at home it can really flop.  Still, I think it is worth a try if you can convince your five-year-old to “teach” your younger child, LOL.  Still stick to the verses and songs you have in daily life, and add seasonal finger plays and seasonal songs.

Hope this helps you as you plan.  Please do take what resonates with you.

What concerns or challenges are you facing with your five-year-old?  Please do feel free to leave a comment below. 

Many blessings,


22 thoughts on “Waldorf In The Home With The Five-Year-Old

  1. I am gently planning a “school year” for my 5 and a half year old that will include the age appropriate fairy tales, finger plays, and songs during our circle time. During math blocks he will have puzzles, beads to string, beans to transfer and things like that. Our nature blocks will have stories and activities for him as well. Our LA blocks will include opportunities for him to draw and paint and model, based on the stories from our circle. There will be no formal academics but he will definitely be participating. If this were my first child I would probably not be doing this but my oldest will be starting 3rd grade and I can see that my little guy will feel included in our learning rhythm with his own “work”. After a couple of years being kind of on the fringe of the school day (not excluded!) I think some mild focus will be just right. With 2 children separate work is somewhat rare in our house. This is the dynamic of our family and so I am going to figure out the most nourishing way to meet the needs of both boys and most of all to just be us 🙂

    • Apple- yes, this is where so many of us with multiple children are! They need to feel included! Fostering that is first and foremost!
      Many blessings,

  2. Thank you, Carrie, for squooshing all of this information (and all of these links) into one place; all of this will help me with my to-do list as we ease into kindergarten in a few weeks!

    I can’t resist commenting about one thing: yes, it is a shame (for an overstimulated mother!) that some five-year-olds don’t nap, but after having two boys who gave up naps completely at age 2.5, I am convinced that some little people are just wired differently. Believe me, I tried everything my weary brain could conjure to make naps happen, but to no avail. My mother tells me I was the same way when I was a tot! Thank goodness for little boys who love to draw, and listen to stories, and do other restful things at “nap” time…

    • Lynn- Yup to the no-napping, and thank goodness for mothers who provide that down time instead!
      Many blessings,

  3. This is so timely. Coming off a summer of moving, unpacking and getting organized … I have to say we have really fallen off the wagon with our rhythm. As a result … grumpy mom and grumpy almost 5 yo. Thank you for spelling things out so clearly. The very things that I’ve read over and over again. I really needed to have it boiled down to the pure and simple, which is what this year should be. Sweet and simple rhythm. THANK YOU!

  4. Hi Carrie,
    Tonight, as so often happens, I checked your blog and found exactly what I needed! Newly preganant with baby #4 I’ve been trying to plan three years worth of kindergarten for my four-year-old and have been encountering some stress! LOL! Thanks for reminding me that 4 and 5 are still really little and that what we’re doing with circle time and songs, a monthly story, festivals, some drawing and playdough and lots of time outside is enough for now. The beeswax modelling and sewing and painting will be fun, not frustrating for both of us in a couple of years!
    I’ve meant so many times to comment and say how much reading your blog has inspired and helped me as a parent. We came to Waldorf late with my 7 year old and reading your work this past year has been like having a wonderful mentor as we’ve led our family on a whole new beautiful and challenging path. Thank-you so very much!

    • Sarah – Congratulations on number four, I happen to think four children is pretty perfect! Such kind words, bless you.

  5. Carrie, thanks for the link to Ruth Ker’s article. It reminded me of the time when I was an assistant in a German Waldorf Kindergarten, although our daily rhythm was quite different.

    I would like to comment on the art experiences you listed. I’m looking at a book on Waldorf Kindergartens edited by Helmut von Kügelgen. Here’s the link to the German title:


    In it Freya Jaffke recommends watercolor painting as very enjoyable even for three year olds, and she describes how to go about doing it with different age groups. In the kindergarten I was at, watercolor painting was offered once a week, during free play time. Only the children who really felt like it would come to the table and paint. The others kept on playing. The older children (mostly 6) also got to weave on a loom. They would do that separately from the other children.

    Other household activities were oiling wooden toys with beeswax and washing doll’s clothes by hand.

    For outdoor activities we also played some ball and jump-rope games with all the children.

    • Hi Eva,
      Oh yes, I know wet on wet is typically done with three to six year olds should they choose – and perhaps if mothers choose to do this in front of their children they will. It is just home is not school and to me it really is a meditative activity that can be harder to achieve at home if your oldest is only three or four or even five….much easier with subsequent children and everyone is painting for sure. But to me, if your five year old is your oldest, it is something you could consider leaving a special for that last year of Kindergarten.

  6. Ah, responses from families – thank you for that wealth of ideas! My five year old daughter is my third child and she is very imitative. Holding the space for her to play, on top of main lesson work for Gr 4 and 2 is challenging to say the least.

  7. Carrie, could you explain to me what you meant about the sewing? I was thinking about starting my 5 year old sewing this week and your post has got me wondering what you meant?

  8. Carrie,

    Like Rosaleen I’d love to hear more about your thoughts on sewing and dry felting in regards to little children. Intuitively, I kind of understand what you are saying but would love to have you say what you mean so I am not guessing 🙂 Are there other activities you don’t think are appropriate for the same reason?

  9. Carrie-

    As always, I thank you for the time and thought you put into these posts! My oldest is five- she and I are starting Kindergarten next week, and are so very excited. We’re planning on doing “circle” time every morning with her and her sister- rhymes, songs, stories- before doing a daily activity (craft, baking, cleaning, painting, music) and outside time. Both girls love to sing and love to listen to stories, so I’m hoping this works well for us.

    I completely agree with you on quiet time- my daughter craves order and structure, and still has a 1 to 3 hour nap or quiet time every day. She’ll only sleep once or twice a week, but has taught herself to read and will happily look at her picture books for hours and re-charge her batteries.

  10. Carrie, I really apreciated this comment:
    “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.”

    After much deliberation, we just decided to send our middle son to a preschool co-op that holds to this ideal also, though it is a bit of a drive. I have learned so much from you and this blog about staying home and the values of this for my little guys, and our life has been the richer for it and will continue to be even as i continue to do the inner work myself that i need to do. So many people still hold the belief that kids are small, it isn’t really important the environment they are in or who they are with…but that has always made me uncomfortable, and your perceptive thought here helped me put into words the why behind my unwillingness to subscribe to that distorted belief. Thanks. blessings!

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  14. I need some advice for my little sunshine who just turned 5 years old. I got the Christopherus Kindergarten with your Three to Six year old. I LOVE THIS BOOK. I am excited about creating such a warm home environment for her. Here is my question ( I really don’t know any other families who strive for a waldorf-friendly home and life-style so I hope you can help) my girl is very afraid (especially at night) of elves, things coming to life like clothes. . .we have a “tree” in her room she is afraid the tree will come to life and pick her up. I make sure nothing is scary for her because she has always been sensitive with bad vs good in stories. She really doesn’t get the bad and doesn’t like it at all.

    Here is an example. At my parents house they have a Santa who always has a peppermint in his hands for her. SHE created the story that the elves must live in my parents’ attic and come down put the mint in his hands for her. Well, she wanted a slumber party the other night and she started freaking out about the elves in the attic. They told her that they were on vacation and there was no need to worry. She started crying so hard they had to call me. Slumber party was over. So what do I do with stories and “oh the kitchen fairies must have cleaned the kitchen” or “do you think a fairy lives in that hole under that tree” etc, about the magic and wonder that is so popular in Waldorf? It is mainly for the inside of the house. ie the Easter bunny HAD to leave the gift outside and we did give Santa the “night off” this past Christmas because she freaked out about him being in the house. Please give me some advice on how to deal with this. Thank you.

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  16. Hi I’ve noticed this us 9 years old, is there an updated version with more links that work or a website with similar resources?

    • Hi Ashley! If you use the development header and check under five years old, there are many posts about the 5 year old. I keep writing, so you can find current things but since my children are all growing up, probably more about post 9 year old change and heading into teen years as my children are 18, almost 15, and 10 now. Glad you are here! You can also always email me at admin@theparentingpassageway.com or request a consult by phone if something is going on. Warmly, Carrie

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