Guest Post: Meaningful Work For Toddlers

(I asked my dear friend Liza to write this guest post because she has experience in weaving a life full of meaningful tasks that her twin toddlers do to help nurture their home.  What a wonderful experience they are having, and I thought her experience could help some of you out there who might be wondering about what kind of work toddlers could do!  Enjoy!)


Dear Friends,

I am a new mom, almost three years into parenting twins, and am humbled each day by what my children teach me.  How it is the simple things that bring them the most wonder:   the slow and steady journey of a snail’s trek across the patio, grandmother moon shining bright on a sunny day, how every flower on our morning walk is met with reverence and a deep inhale.  From them I am learning to slow down and settle into the sweetness of their early years.

I have also come to learn that time spent with my children at home is ultimately the most rewarding, for them and for me as well.  It is better than a visit to the playground, an organized class, or family adventure.   A bowl of sudsy water and a cup is like a trip to the ocean, dawdling around in our urban backyard feels like foraging through the forest and work- real work done with their hands (and mine) is deeply enriching. So we nest a lot, building and strengthening our home, caring for the objects and animals that surround us and attending to our rhythm.  Basically…doing lots of things with our hands.

When Hannah and Eli were born I joined the Christopherus Waldorf at Home Forum and there (enter angels singing and skies parting), was a group of mothers whose wisdom, humor and intelligence cradled my nascent mothering soul. Carrie was one of these inspired mothers/mentors.  I brought to this group my deepest anxieties, my ‘silliest’ questions, my fears and self doubts.  And trust me, there were a lot. But ultimately I brought to them my children to help me nurture, support and love more fully.

The sub-forum for those with children under seven was a particularly lively and active group.   We discussed everything about living with small children- from the practical aspects of coordinating nap-time, to building rhythm into our days, to finding love for your children when they do not seem so lovable. Overwhelm, burn out, and irritability came to the forum most days, right along side sibling conflict, strong emotions (formally known as tantrums), and whining.  From beneath the words of encouragement showered on each mama’s struggles you could almost hear the soothing siren song of this unspoken mantra:

slow down sweet mama,

take a deep breath,

you are doing a great job.

look gently within (take responsibility for what you might be contributing

and then forgive yourself),

connect back in with that little spirit who wants only to be loved.

And find some work to do with their hands

And so while the first four tasks are surely all parents’ karmic work (we have chosen the ultimate “path of service” it seems- the one that gives us access to expansive love…and a whole mess of other feelings), I leaned into the challenge of finding jobs for my children. And you know what?  It works.

At eighteen months we started small: stirring mama’s tea in the morning, grinding daddy’s coffee beans, making the morning eggs.  That bowl of sudsy ocean water soon had spoons and a sponge in it- a towel on the side to dry them with. The spray bottle entered our world and washing windows began- bliss was known.  Folding laundry became a game of discovery, an opportunity to run through the house delivering missing washcloths to the bathtub and napkins to the napkin drawer.

As time passed we found more work to do.  We stirred pancakes, made endless batches of muffins (and delivered them to the neighbors promptly lest they were all eaten by mama), made soup, pickles and bread.  The salad spinner is just as likely to be found on the countertop as it is the floor, the back deck…the living room.  Did you know you can spin almost anything?  We learned to pour with a pitcher, cut with a knife, peel with a peeler, use the cherry pitter, cheese grater and whisk.

We wash woolies in the bathtub, then wrap them in towels, stomp on them like grapes and hang them from a makeshift line under the kitchen island. That is a full morning’s work.  Bringing in the groceries one by one down our long apartment hallway to the kitchen still ranks high in the ‘fun things to do with daddy’ category- running fast like kitty cats with the apples, slow like turtles with the eggs.

There is a pride that emanates from a little one who has just accomplished a task they have watched you do over and over.  You can see it in their faces, their bodies and their spirit.  When they ask, “Mama, I do it!” I nudge you to let them try.  It is indeed messy, there is of course some risk, you may need to come back later and do it over.  But really, the rewards are huge.

I am still working to “de-mechanize” our day so that my daughter, whom I keep close to my side lest she finds her very capable hands pulling her brother’s hair or knocking over his carefully constructed ‘hayride’, is included in my housework.  Then my son who is only sometimes interested in working can play nearby and join in when he is inclined- apparently they have an agreement that he has claim over the salad spinner when the time comes to use it. And so it goes that sibling conflict is greatly reduced when we are busily working.  Self-esteem and positive exchange between all family members swells.

I recently bought some special wool felt to make a banner for the children’s play space- an attempt to add crafty to my day.  I put this little project in a basket in the living room so that I could attend to it when there was a free moment- idealistic I know.  When my daughter happened upon the basket of carefully folded rainbow felt she exclaimed, “my laundry!” as if it had been missing for years.

Yes, love, that is exactly what it is.

She has since added some kitchen towels, a couple of matchbox cars…a wooden chicken.  I often find her in the window folding her laundry and singing a little song. “Just a moment,” nodding over in my direction, “I am almost done folding the laundry”.

And so it is that imagination trips on the heels of imitation.

The forum ended a few months back and I missed the chance to heart-fully thank the women for all they had given me, to my children…to our family.  When Carrie asked me to write something up about work and toddlers I thought- what could I, fledgling mama, share with you?  And then I heard that siren song and I remembered the mantra, the trick that helps me shepherd two  often cranky toddlers through the day… and helps them back into their much more important work of play.  Thank you Carrie.  And thank you mamas.

Here are some ideas for including toddlers in your work…and play.  I would  sure love to hear what you are all up to!

  • Load/unload the dishwasher with supervision
  • Wash silverware ( in a little basin)
  • Learn to use a sharp knife; grating
  • Practice pouring into a glass
  • Stir, pour, play with flour/dough, etc.
  • Make coffee for daddy- press button on grinder
  • Spread butter on toast
  • Pick the leaves of kale, tear lettuce, spin in dryer
  • Shell peas
  • Scramble eggs
  • Unload groceries
  • Spray and wipe windows and bathroom walls
  • Wash tub with sponge and baking soda
  • Polish wooden toys/furniture
  • Hand me items from the laundry basket as I fold and then help carry to each room/drawer OR I have a basket ready in each room and I hand the kids an article each from the clean laundry and they deliver it to the appropriate room.
  • Sweep
  • Help take out garbage cans/bring back in
  • Get napkins and silverware for table
  • Water plants outside
  • Dig hole for new plants
  • Practice training dog with treats
  • Learning to iron
  • Polishing silver
  • Help make bed

Some additional resources have supported me:

Allison Carrol, Director

http://www.sfwaldorf.org/programs/earlychildhoodprogram.asp

And this verse by Steiner:

Into my will,

let there pour strength.

Into my feeling,

let there flow warmth.

Into my thinking,

Let there shine light.

That I might nurture this child

with enlightened purpose,

caring with heart’s love

and bringing wisdom

into all things.

With love,

Liza, mama to Hannah Simone and Elijah Moon

Thank you Liza, for sharing your experience…

Many blessings to you all,

Carrie

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:

https://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/10/13/back-to-basics-emotional-and-physical-warmth/

https://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/10/02/trust-your-intuition/

https://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/11/07/the-one-year-old/

https://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/03/22/the-twelve-to-twenty-two-month-old-a-traditional-perspective/

Many blessings to you,

Carrie

The One-Year -Old

Right now, I have the great and distinct privilege of closely watching some one to eighteen -month old children grow and develop and change.  I love watching what interests them! 

Have you ever noticed that the one-year old likes to:

  • Eat and drop things over the edge of their chair, feed the dog, and drop the food down their shirt or put it in their hair.
  • Move furniture around
  • Take things in and out of something or open and shut something.
  • Shriek loudly.
  • Wiggle out of your arms and move!
  • Watch what you are doing and imitate the motion of it
  • Use different objects to imitate the gesture of  things (ie,  use a kitchen spatula or a spoon for the gesture of  combing their hair)
  • Be outside to feel the grass, the dirt, the leaves…..and to try to eat it all
  • Be sung to and have fingerplays and rhymes bouncing on your knee
  • Laugh
  • Play peek-a-boo
  • Be held and kissed
  • Catch your eye when they are doing something and smile
  • Empty out a bookshelf or drawer of kitchen supplies
  • Roll a ball back and forth with someone
  • Give you things and take them back
  • Wave bye-bye
  • Make piles of mulch or leaves
  • Ride in a sling
  • Pull the cords out of things – look carefully around your house!
  • Go for walks
  • Talk! Coo! Communicate!

Have you ever noticed that a one to eighteen month old:

  • Is more likely to have erratic napping?
  • May wake up during the night due to teething or other developmental milestones?
  • May have an increase in appetite for solid foods  (or may not!)
  • Will still nurse a lot!
  • Can often have cold hands and feet – keep checking their levels of warmth

Just a few thoughts and observations.

Many blessings,

Carrie

Talking In Pictures To Small Children

A small child under the age of seven needs to hear you paint a picture with your words instead of a direct command.  This can really be a very difficult thing for us to do as adults, and as such we find ourselves barking commands (politely, of course :)) at our small children all day long.  “Come to breakfast!”  “Use the potty!”  “Get your shoes on!” “Now please!”  “Stop doing that!”  Even if we frame things positively and say what we do want, the point is that a million times a day we are asking our child to do something.  And when we only use a command, we are essentially giving the small child a chance to think, a chance to decide their behavior, and then we get angry when they don’t do what we want when we want it.  How funny how that goes.

Small children are often in a fantasy, imaginative world much of the day as they play and create games.  They are not adults, they do not view time as adults do, they do not have the sense of urgency that you do.  And nor should they.

A small child lives in the physical realm and in their bodies.  So, to most effectively parent, we must reach to that for the small child as often as possible instead of playing commander, or worse yet, trying to drive the car with our horn by yelling at the small child. 

Here are some examples:

  • Think of animals that involve what you need.  Can the child hop like a bunny, run as fast as a roadrunner bird, swim like a fish?  Can they open their big  crocodile mouths to have all those teeth brushed?  Can you be a bear that needs a big winter coat ?  (And as you say this, you help put the child’s arm into the coat)….It is the imaginative movement plus the physical piece that gets it all done.
  • Can you involve their dolls or their imaginary friends?   Quietly take their favorite doll and start to get it ready for bed and sing to the doll. “ You and Tim (the imaginary friend) can sit right for dinner “( and lead the child by the hand to the table).
  • Can you employ gnomes, fairies, giants, leprechuans?  Today a four- year- old and I looked for leprechuan shoes by my back door….  Oh, look at these leprechuan shoes sitting here, do these fit YOU?  Oh my, look at the turned up toes on your shoes, I wonder if those shoes will lead you to a pot of gold!  How about gnomes exploring the mouth cave for teeth brushing?  Big giant steps to settle into a big giant bed?

You do not have to do this to the point where it is tiring to you, but do try here and there, because I find most parents employ very little imagination with their children during the day and the children really do respond to it well and do just what needs to happen.

Your part though, is to plan enough time so things are NOT rushed.  Rushing is the death of imagination and the beginning of stress.  Please plan ahead! 

Also, rhythm is your friend.  It is in that space to help you and your child.  If you do something different every night to get ready for a meal, to get ready for bed, what cues does your child have for when things are going to happen?  Again, their sense of time and urgency is not that of an adult.  Also, please seriously evaluate how many places you are dragging a small child.  Are these places for them or errands and would your child just rather be home?   I am just asking you to consider this piece of the puzzle; only you know the answer for you and your family. 

The last piece is the physical end of it, DOING something with a child whilst using the imagination and movement goes much better!  Yes, it is tiring that that is what small children need.  But better to do that than to complain and moan and groan that your small child, who is perfectly  normal, is “not listening”. 🙂

Try it out, I think you will find life to be much easier. 

Many blessings,

Carrie

“Discipline Without Distress”: Discipline Tools for Toddlers 1-2 Years: Action

Judy Arnall starts this chapter with this observation that I  see all the time, “Parents believe if they don’t nip many behaviors in the bud at this stage, the behaviors will grow and become monstrous later on and their children will be destined to become criminals because they were too lenient when they were toddlers.  NOT TRUE!”

The toddler stage does not involve reasoning.  There is no reasoning yet.  Toddlers are just realizing they can’t always get what they want, and this leads to temper tantrums.  Your toddler is “doing” and the best you can do as a parent is to childproof, supervise, redirect, distract, provide substitutions, pick up your toddler and move them around with your gentle hands away from danger or situations that they shouldn’t be into. 

Toddlers can sometimes follow two word commands.  On this blog, I write from a traditional perspective and also a Waldorf perspective.  The Waldorf perspective on this would be to engage the child’s body and not expect a tiny child to follow a verbal command only.  You cannot parent a toddler from the couch. 🙂  GET UP!

A toddler is going to express negativity. “ No”  has power, “no”  has meaning.  Toddlers often use their body to express their negativity – hitting, biting, pushing – because their words are not totally there yet.  Even the ones that are “verbally” advanced lose their words when they become upset!  They want to be independent (the “me do it” stage), but still need help.  They don’t play with other children yet, they have fears of things such as thunder or animals or vacuum cleaners.  Their thinking really is “this is here, this is now” without much  memory involved.  They do, however,  IMITATE what YOU do!

Saying no frequently is not helpful in guiding your child – tell them what you would like to see, and better yet, SHOW THEM.   Childproof your environment so you don’t have to say NO fifty times a day.  Also, Judy Arnall points out that “parents have no control over eating, sleeping, toileting, and learning.  The parent can facilitate those processes, but not force them.”  This is something important for a parent to come to grips with.

She lists a page of discipline tools for toddlers including staying with your no, changing the environment, planning ahead, having routines, holding and carrying and restraining the child as needed, giving encouragement, ignoring some things if you can, time-in (see my take on “Time In for Tinies” here: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/01/12/more-about-time-in-for-tinies/  ), saying no another way, letting the child have their feelings (my note is that you can’t “fix” how another person feels!  Let them have their feelings!), supervision, parent time-outs, modeling, redirection, holding, hugs and many more tips. 

The author recommends anticipating problems ahead of time and planning ahead.  She also says “avoid play places if you know they get frustrated and hit other children.”  Provide toys whilst changing a diaper or change the diaper standing up or in front of a mirror.  She talks extensively about the fact that toddlers love routines, and also gives examples of some “routines” that small children can do – for example, hanging towels after taking a bath, putting clothes in the basket, everyone carrying their things in from the car.  Essentially, you are laying down the house rules and chores that will become embedded in the existence of a three and four year old.  A three and four year old really knows and understands how things work in your house!

Judy Arnall has sections in this chapter regarding toilet learning, handling emotion, toddler sleep problems, why toddlers don’t understand rules, separation anxiety and how to deal with it, picky eating, toddler aggression and tips for handling this….Another great chapter!

This book deserves a home on your shelf!  Check out Amazon for a copy!

Many blessings,

Carrie

The Twelve to Twenty-Two Month Old: A Traditional Perspective

There are several posts under the “Baby and Toddler”  header that deals with toddler behavior and how to best live peacefully with a baby ages birth through three, but I thought I would highlight some traditional viewpoints of these ages again. (And whilst we have a traditional developmental perspective and realistic expectations for ages twelve months through age nine on this blog now, I still have the birth through twelve months to go!  Whew!)   We are also  going to circle around to loving guidance for the baby through age two in  several posts in the next several weeks or so.  It seems like there would not be a lot to talk about there, but since a 1994 (and yes, let’s hope that this has since  changed for the better in the past 16 years!) Canadian study showed that 19 percent of US mothers spank their under one-year-olds, I think we still have some work to do in helping mothers achieve an understanding of normal developmental behavior!!  If you need help with gentle discipline, suggestions as what to do about “defiance” and such, please do look at the “Gentle Discipline” header for a start.  There are also a lot of posts dealing with anger in parenting and just some general inspiration!

So here goes for the twelve to twenty-two month old, a traditional perspective.  Again, my main resource is “Your One-Year-Old:  12 to 24 Months” by Ames, Ilg and Haber, the Gesell Institute of Human Development.

Twelve Month Old:

  • Very lovable; friendly, sociable, typically adapts easily
  • May be creeping on hands and knees, pulling to stand, walking
  • Has pincer prehension – grasping objects between thumb and forefinger; they love to grasp and release things; they may try to stack a few blocks if you do it first
  • Baby loves an audience!  Waving bye bye, clapping, are all up there with fun things to show off for people!  Has a few words to show off as well!
  • May be down to one nap in the late morning (or not, in my experience with families!)
  • With eating of solids, may want to stand, may need toys to play with during meals
  • Tips for this stage:  you do not need a lot of toys, just time to spend with your baby and to be warm and joyful with your baby – they love to be sung to, rocked, held.
  • Your baby will also need time to explore on his or her own a bit.  Observe, but stand back a bit and let them be.  They are discovering things for themselves and don’t need you to point out every little thing for them!

Fifteen Month Old:

  • Many like to walk, and to be carried.  Sense of balance is not fully developed
  • Not especially cooperative, not especially social with other people
  • Wants what he wants when he wants it, independent,
  • May imitate household chores he has seen you do
  • Not typically interested in other children
  • Loves to empty and fill things, good at dumping things out
  • Will creep on hands and knees when in a hurry
  • Language is about a dozen words or so, although may imitate words you say inconsistently – can respond to more words than they say
  • Wants to do things for himself or herself but cannot really manage to do what they want to do
  • Motor drive is strong, tends to grab things, tries to feed himself with an upside down spoon, better at staying seated for eating but wants to self-feed and be independent
  • Typically down to one nap a day that takes place after lunch
  • Difficulty in dressing is to be expected
  • Tends to grab, scream, yell because he has strong needs that he cannot yet verbalize
  • May do well be wheeled around in a stroller for a walk or in a sling for a walk
  • Wakefulness at night common – RESPOND TO THEM! 
  • May resist bathing – try bathing together is my recommendation
  • Highest point/age for throwing things
  • Tip for this stage:  Do not press this baby too fast; neural pathways are still being laid down

 

Eighteen Month Old

  • Age of Disequilibrium – see back post here on disequilibrium: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/27/the-typical-ages-of-disequilibrium/ 
  • Easily frustrated; temper tantrums – even if you did  everything “right”, there would still be temper tantrums.  Needs a lot of gross motor outlets!
  • Wakefulness at night is common- RESPOND TO THEM!
  • Often needs help to be bodily moved rather than verbal commands.
  • Can walk and run but will fall, usually has arms up and out for balance, can stop and start well but has difficulty turning corners
  • Loves to go up and down stairs or to climb up onto large chairs or sofas
  • Does not think ahead at all, just is motor driven and runs around – the adult must think through the environment
  • Loves to lug, tug, push, pull
  • Short attention span; hard to “entertain” because the attention span is so short
  • Apt to drop whatever she  is handling; gross motor predominates over fine motor
  • Doesn’t like to have diaper changed,
  • Very little peripheral vision; will turn whole head to look at something
  • Language skills vary tremendously; may be starting to form two-word sentences; also gets very frustrated with speech because he often cannot express what he wants to; not all words are to communicate, but just to express words for the sake of the pleasure of making sounds and talking
  • The idea of “mine” is prevalent
  • Separation anxiety when mother leaves
  • Still lugs, tugs, pushes, pulls, probably can play for longer times outside than inside
  • Usually decrease in appetite

Twenty-One Month Old

  • Unpredictable – can act more like an eighteen month old or act more like a two-year old.  Get to know your child and if they typically run ahead with developmental stages or behind or right on cue.
  • May have difficulties falling asleep
  • May bite when frustrated; pushing and pinching may also occur
  • Walking in crowded areas, church, stores may be problematic- don’t be afraid to keep outings not related to the child to a minimum
  • Per The Gesell Institute’s “Your One Year Old”, this is often a difficult age for working mothers – the child wants to tell mother what has happened during his day and really doesn’t have the words for it and becomes frustrated.  As increased language comes in, this eases.  Hang in there, working mamas!
  • Not typically interested in other children
  • Girls’ speech more advanced than boys’ speech typically; still may lack the speech necessary to make wants and needs known leading to frustration
  • Great at taking off clothes and running around naked!

 

Sometimes I think the Gesell Institute books come off a bit negative; please read them for yourselves and pick from it what resonates with you.  I look at the child less from a strictly traditional viewpoint myself, but these are pretty accurate markers for the ages, so having an idea what to expect at different ages will be a big help to you and in your efforts toward gentle discipline.  Please see the gentle discipline header for more articles regarding how to handle “defiance” and different developmental stages.

Many blessings,

Carrie

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!

Love,

Carrie

“Warmth, Strength and Freedom” by Mary Kelly Sutton

This was a wonderful article by anthroposophic physician Mary Kelly Sutton.  I have permission to re-print it here from the owner of the Greentaramama group where I first saw it –  the list owner has a wonderful store to buy children’s woolens and silks by the way.  Here is the link to that store: http://www.greenmountainorganics.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=6
Thank you Michelle for this article and your store!
“““““““““““
WARMTH, STRENGTH, AND FREEDOM
There are times when I sound more like a grandmother than a doctor in
advising families how to be healthy. ‘Dress warmly!’ ‘Eat a good
breakfast!’ ‘Get to bed early!’ ‘Let your body fight its own colds!’
But each of this advisories is powerful, no matter how simple it
sounds.
WARMTH
Warmth is related to the element fire. All the other elements —
earth, air, water — are easily bounded. Warmth goes through
boundaries. This is no surprise when you think of the love (emotional
warmth/fire) you feel for your children. Nothing stops it. (That is
why you are reading this.)
Healthy human beings have a rhythmic body temperature of approximately
98.6, slightly lower in morning than evening. Cold is a stress for the
body. Touch your child’s fingers and toes — with your own warm hand.
(If your hand is cool/cold, first warm it up.) Then feel other parts:
the trunk, front and back, abdomen, forehead, chest. The fingers and
toes should be as warm as the warmest part of the body. If they are
not, the child is dealing with cold stress, and you can help him/her a
great deal by changing the clothing so that fingers and toes become as
warm as they should be. Shunting blood away from the extremities is a
survival mechanism in the body. It protects the vital organs (heart,
lungs, liver, kidneys).
Cold stress can make children overactive, in an effort to warm up.
Warm clothing allows them to settle down, join in group activity,
focus and learn.
In some children coldness interferes with normal weight gain. I have
seen one wiry 5-year-old in New Hampshire who gained two pounds in the
first week her mother put her in wool underwear.
Runny noses commonly are related to coldness. And coldness is a
significant factor in more important immune suppression in a very
significant way. ‘The skin is the proper place for disease to happen,’
states an old holistic medicine pearl. If the skin is cool, the battle
with a common germ cannot be waged on the skin. The blood has gone
into
the deeper organs, and with it, the battle is carried to deeper
organs. This is an important way that complications happen from
common illnesses, such as a cold or chicken pox. In medical school, I
first saw in my Internal Medicine textbook, that chickenpox
encephalitis commonly occurs when there are very few pox on the body.
The
inflammation does little damage on the skin, but can do a great deal
of damage in a deeper organ. Keeping the skin warm keeps the battle
with a germ where it is safe for the body. I have heard a German
pediatrician describe how he recommends to parents of children with
measles that the parent rub the calves with dry terry cloth until the
calves are pink. This over-warming action draws the circulation to the
surface, and pulls
the battle with the germ to a safe place, outward and downward, away
from vital organs.
This principle can be applied in daily life simply by dressing warmly,
and being attentive to the warmth of our children’s extremities. We
both prevent illnesses, and keep their course uncomplicated if they
occur, by having warm extremities.
Physical warmth is an early sense for the newborn baby, along with
smell, taste, and hearing. But the child does not sense temperature
accurately until about age 9. You are not surprised when a toddler
runs around the house naked, and older kids and adults are reaching
for shoes and sweaters. We have all seen this. In New Hampshire, the
kindergarteners rush into the lakes on Memorial Day, and the third
graders look at them like ‘what’s wrong with you!?’
So you, the parent, must decide what is the right clothing for the
young person you are responsible for. Don’t ASK the young child ‘what
do you want to wear?’ This question is appropriate at times for an
older child, but it is scary for a young child to be the one making a
decision in the presence of an adult. It is hard in our culture NOT to
ask our
children what they want, because we hear it so commonly. I remember
falling into this and asking my 5 yr old son what t-shirt he wanted,
and he looked at me and said ‘I don’t know. You’re the mommy!’ So
often our kids show us what we should have known. Be willing to BE the
Mommy or the Daddy. Make the decision about the clothes you feel are
right for the climate, and say with surety: ‘Here’s your undershirt
and top, your tights and skirt. Let’s get dressed. You’re set for a
wonderful day!’ Your authority is their security. Their strength is
modeled after yours, so give them a strong, insightful, kind authority
figure.
But what to wear, if hands and feet are cold? The rule I’ve used in
New Hampshire is to begin with is three layers on the top with one
tucked in, and two layers on the bottom. One of these should be like a
second skin, closely investing the body, not baggy. This means long
underwear, or tights, or at the very least an undershirt. If the child
is sweaty,
take off a layer. If the child is still cool to touch, change to a
warmer fabric. Natural fabrics breathe best: cotton, silk, and wool.
Down does not breathe, nor do synthetics generally, so body heat is
trapped if the person is overdressed. Cotton can be both cooling and
warming, and is good for hot countries and Arizona summers. Silk is
more warming, then wool-silk, and wool is warmest. A source for
children’s long underwear is: www.greenmountainorganics.com
A helpful image to use is that foxes and rabbits grow fur, thicker in
the winter than the summer. We didn’t — so we have to put on our fur
to be able to run around outside like foxes and rabbits in the winter.
Hats, gloves, sox are all part of the fur we didn’t grow. Clothed
well, we have new freedom to move outdoors. Long underwear in some
seasons
eliminates the need for bulky outerwear, and movement is less
restrained.
So you have the knowledge of WHAT to do, and are confident in your
authority as a parent being the best thing for them. Then life
happens. The child is simultaneously developing his will, so a
wonderful opportunity comes for the child to say ‘NO!!’ to any
parental statement, including clothes. This requires tact, cleverness,
determination —
every adult attribute in the book. Don’t rush into action. Wait,
watch, assess, and plan HOW to do this thing you know is good for your
kids. A young girl may need stylish (warm) tights or long johns that
you have seen ballerinas wear, because, after all, their leg muscles
dance more beautifully if they are warm. A fierce 4-year-old warrior
may need a swashbuckling (warm) pirate muscle shirt, leggings, and
sash, with a story of how to stand and walk like a pirate as they are
put on. A two year old may just need a chase around the room, a
friendly capture, and a lot of loving contact as he/she is poured into
warm layers. Some children will need to know you consider this so
important that favorite activities are actually dependent on dressing
correctly, or that some other consequence is incurred. And then, you
must stick to your word. Because if you don’t really stay home from
sledding because the long underwear couldn’t go on when you said it
must, then maybe you won’t really follow through on all the promises
of love you have made. The child’s mind is consistent even though it
is not fully conscious. It is better not to threaten a consequence
unless you are one hundred per cent ready to carry it out. Your word
is your word, whether it is spoken as lawgiver, or pledging love
forever.
There is no virtue to overdressing. July in southern Arizona is not
the time to insist on the 3-on-top and 2-on-the bottom. The way to
make the decision at any time is to feel the child’s fingers and toes,
rather than to abstractly apply a rule.
BREAKFAST
Eat protein generously at breakfast. (Breakfast like a king, lunch
like a prince, supper like a pauper, the saying goes — and it can be
changed to the other gender: queen, princess, bag lady.) Protein at
breakfast stabilizes the blood sugar for the whole day. (Lunch protein
cannot do the same job; the window of opportunity is past.) EVERYONE
has better co-ordination, endurance, moods, and ability to learn.
Options: eggs of any sort, cottage cheese blintzes, smoothies with
protein powder (preferably not soy), grilled cheese sandwiches,
cheeseburgers, chicken tenders, fish fillets.
(I had great success with my teenage boys telling them they would not
get a ride to school unless they ate breakfast. We lived 4 blocks from
school. They complained, they ate, I drove. As they got older and were
driving themselves, occasionally, they would wake up so late, they
would eat very little. I would just say ‘do the best you can,’ letting
them know what I think is important, but that I trust them. No rule
can substitute for human judgment, and older kids need some freedom to
vary from house rules and learn from life and how they feel; trust
your instinct and love for them in choosing an approach.)
REST AND RHYTHM
Machines are either on or off independent of environment usually,
while living beings have rhythms, gentle alternations of activity and
rest, breathing in and breathing out, that are fundamentally tied to
the Sun. Every Waldorf kindergarden teacher works very consciously to
provide focused activity, then free play or outdoors time. In this
way, the
child is carried through the day harmoniously, with the least
exhaustion, the least likelihood of overload or eventual illness. And
the greatest chance for unfolding his/her human potential creatively.
Our physical make-up is tied to the sun’s movement, light and dark.
The biorhythms of enzymes and hormones follow the diurnal (daily light
and dark) rhythm, even if we work night shift. Bigger rhythms of month
and year and lifetime are present, and more being discovered.
If we live in sync with the way our body is designed, we will have the
greatest health. For children, whose task is to grow and to learn,
this means regular waking, rest, and sleeping times, and regular
mealtimes. Like the gradual change of seasons brings gradual change of
light, we need not be rigid, but in general have a few anchors in the
day that are
constant. Most important are bedtime and breakfast time, in my
experience.
The hours before midnight are the most restorative. So for an adult,
eight hours sleep beginning at 9 pm is more valuable than eight hours
beginning at midnight. A child needs more sleep, in varying amounts at
different ages, and sometimes differing from one child to the next.
The younger the child, the earlier the bedtime. poem A well-slept
child
generally will awaken spontaneously and be happy. If the child is very
difficult to arouse or repeatedly grumpy, the bedtime should be nudged
earlier until a better morning experience is seen. In adolescence, the
cycle shifts later, and the average sleep need is nine hours and
fifteen minutes daily. Since high schools often start very early in
the
morning, a significant stress is unavoidably part of the school week
for adolescents.
Lavender oil as massage, or fragrance on bedclothing, or as warm bath
as part of bedtime ritual, is very helpful for those children who tend
to be alert at bedtime. The bedtime ritual is wonderful to begin with
very young children, as a habit of letting go develops, leading to
sound sleep, and being secure enough to sleep alone. The ritual can
include
bath, story, tuck-in, prayer, kiss with calm ‘sleep tight. love you.
see you in the morning.’ The young child’s ritualistic approach to
life is hierarchical by nature, with Mommy and Daddy all-powerful in
his/her young eyes. The natural order of the world at this age can
readily include God or Higher Power and Angels or Guardian spirits and
be of value to the child’s sense of order and security in the world.
Later, when the nine-year-change comes, and a child senses deeply his
separateness from his parents, the early images of God and higher
beings protecting and guiding his daily actions and sleep can be
reassuring in facing this first big realization of separateness.
A light supper, with little protein or completely vegetarian, helps
sleep come easily. Remember, we want to wake up with an appetite for
breakfast, the foundation meal of the day’s activities, so it’s best
not to overload at night. Time-honored warm milk is a fine
sleep-inducer. Carbohydrates are sleepy foods, while protein, fat,
salt, and caffeine
tend to wake us up.
Almost all children are born with some tendency to one-sidedness, and
our task as parents is to help them find balance. The rhythm of the
day shows whether it is hard for our youngster to settle down, or hard
to get up and move about, and we can help bring about comfort with
both sides of movement, etc.
Should a child have difficulty waking up in the morning, even after
enough hours of sleep, rosemary lotion in cool water is an
invigorating fragrance and can be applied to the face (forehead, then
cheeks) carefully with a damp cloth to bring alertness. A positive
statement about the day ahead is an important medicine in this
treatment: ‘good morning! what has that robin done outside your window
since yesterday? I have a wonderful breakfast ready for you! rise and
shine! what a wonderful day it is!’
THE COMMON COLD, THE USUAL CHILDHOOD ILLNESSES
Recognize acute illness as an exercise class for the immune system,
and treat in a non-suppressive way. It is not a sign of immune
breakdown, it is a chance for strengthening. The big three to help the
body do its best in fighting acute illness are: WARMTH, REST, and
CLEANSING. Add a few low potency homeopathic remedies and herbs, and
you can support the body in this important immune work, not simply
suppress symptoms. See
separate writing for detailed treatments. person as medicine
CHILD DEVELOPMENT
All of these advisories support VEGETATIVE functions, the unconscious
health-giving parts of a human being that are the bank account we draw
on for growth, learning, and later, our work in life. (This vegetative
bank account is also called the etheric forces in anthroposophic
medical terminology. As adults, the strength of our etheric body
manifests as our vitality, our ability to recover, to have energy, or
to endure.) A child’s job is to grow, and to learn things appropriate
to his/her age. With a strong foundation of warmth, nutrition, rest,
rhythm, immune exercise from ordinary acute illness if the body in its
wisdom allows it — the child’s optimal development proceeds, and a
strong physical
foundation is laid for the entire adult life. The vegetative functions
are sometimes characterized by the cow, who is mostly a metabolic
creature, chewing, making milk, sitting and walking and lying down. No
executive tendencies here, nor highly developed sense organs. A
masterful vegetative existence.
The other pole of the human being, opposite the vegetative, is the
CONSCIOUS pole. The parent (or teacher) does this work in the child’s
life, so the child does not have to draw on the bank account of
vegetative forces by making decisions too early. Judgment, analysis,
logic, decision-making are characterized by the far-seeing eagle,
whose highly developed sense capacity is combined with the cunning and
decisive movement of a predator, a majestic lord of the skies.
As parents of young children (1-7 yr old), you are protectors of the
cow-nature, the vegetative foundation, which your child will use
throughout his/her life. As enormous physical growth takes place, the
child uses limbs and explores movement thoroughly. The child is
imitative, copying the way Daddy sits with the newspaper, or insisting
Mommy sit at only her right place at the table, like a learned ritual
the child has mastered. This physical life is accompanied by a mental
connection with images, not reason. Thus the love of bedtime stories,
preferably told, not read, and repeated till every beloved detail is
memorized. Also you find the young child’s questions more
satisfactorily met by a picture than an analytic explanation. Some
questions can even be better avoided, if they are asking for adult
information. But you can always comment ‘What a wonderful mind you
have! You ask such wonderful questions! Let’s get your teddy bear next
to you for nap/lunch.’ The child has made contact, you have responded
lovingly and appropriately.
You see that spark, the flashes of individuality that is waiting to
show itself fully. Your wisdom holds the child’s day steady, rhythmic,
fed and bedded, building the strength of the vegetative side of your
eagle-to-be. It requires trust and patience to let the child unfold in
his/her own time, and not call on adolescent or adult qualities too
early. This time of life can be boring for parents, who have full
adult capacities and thrive on change and excitement, not routine.
Your sacrifice is commendable. Parenting is among the hardest jobs
there are, and each stage of childhood gives parents an opportunity
for a
different form of selflessness.
The heart of childhood is 7-14 yr old, when a respect for worthy
authority is natural, and feeling opens for beauty itself in the world
around. More than vegetative support is required now. The lion’s heart
of courage and strength must be met, with stories of the same, and
exposure to real artistic expression so the beginning of the moral
nature is fed with the beauty and strength it is seeking. This is
often the age of the least illness, and the most harmonious time of
childhood.
But change comes, and the young Philadelphia lawyer casts a disgusted
glance at the parents who have brought him/her thus far — usually
some time around 8th grade. The eagle’s predatory power is evident. No
more contented baby learning movement and the physical world, nor
sweet-natured heartfelt child growing before your eyes. The intellect
is unfolding, and the first object of critical analysis is often the
parents. It’s good timing that powers of judgment and analysis begin
to unfold just as puberty begins. Let the intellect’s sharp powers
master the hormones that rage. From 14-21, the individuality is more
pronounced, decision making should be shared and guided in preparation
for independence. Privacy is important. Learning results of choices,
such as wise consequences in the home, helps put control of behavior
inside the individual.
The wise ‘governance’ of a child goes in stages somewhat like human
history has evolved. The young child is benefited by a benign despot,
the loving parental authority; in the middle years, the child natively
respects authority, but has a developing sense of contributing his/her
wants and needs though not ready for independent decision making;
democracy is built into the adolescent, and the parent gives the
structure of what is or isn’t tolerated by virtue of a structure of
consequences.
The stages of development are given at their usual ages, but there
will be early hints of what is to come and echoes of prior times
varying with each individual. Behaviors I described may be different
due to the family dynamic, or the particular learning path the
individual child carries as part of his/her destiny, or our culture.
The culture we live in pushes adult information into even the very
young child’s life — computers and IQ testing are part of some
preschool programs. Adult decisions are often part of the oldest or
the only child’s daily diet of conversation. Sexualized clothing and
media surround children of every age, and give parents a challenge to
minimize this early maturation influence. Early intellectualizing and
early sexual information pulls the young child out of the vegetative
physical mode that is home for him or her, and spends the child’s
etheric forces on coping and understanding rather than physical
growth.
****************************************
As nuclear families rear children alone in today’s culture,
grandmothers are hard to come by. The pediatrician and family doctor
assume the role that aunts and grandmothers had in helping with
illness and childrearing. But the swap medicalizes common events, and
we take a further step down the pharmaceutical-answer-for-everything
road.
I hope this work can reawaken faith in the capacity of the human body,
enlarged with the scientific understanding that shows why this faith
is reasonable, reconnect us with the healing gifts of nature as they
are enhanced with human insight and become remedies,
and show through the caring for our children, the presence and power
of the human spirit.
Mary Kelley Sutton

__._,_.___

An Anthroposophic View of Walking

Anthroposophy views the tasks of the child’s first three years to be learning to walk in the first year; speech in the second year; and the emergence of thinking in the third year (and yes, a later post will address why we start academics around age 7 when thinking begins to emerge before that time).  Today we are going to look specifically at walking and why this is important in anthroposophic terms.

I am currently re-reading Karl Konig’s “The First Three Years of The Child:  Walking, Speaking, Thinking.”  For those of you new to Waldorf and anthroposophy, Karl Konig was a physician who founded the Camphill Movement in Scotland in 1939.  The Camphill Movement includes schools for children who are differently abled and also villages for adults who are  differently abled.

Konig talks about the progression to being upright as starting with controlled eye movements amidst that generalized chaos of random lower extremity movement that begins in the first few days of life.  The sequence of walking begins from the head down, and Konig remarks that “This process seems to be patterned after that of actual birth.  Just as in birth the head is the first part of the body, so here , out of the womb of dissociated movements, coordinated movement is born and oriented step by step toward standing and walking.  At the end of the first year the process of the birth of movement is completed.”

The head occupies an important place with learning to walk because as long as the head is “restless and wobbly”, as Konig puts it, walking cannot be attained.  Other important things leading up to the development of walking and seen in newborn includes a positive support response (ie, a newborn will take weight on his or her legs when the soles of the newborn’s feet come into contact with the ground), a stepping response and a crawling response.  These responses disappear and then come back as the true crawling, walking and standing.  Konig writes, “The ability to stand, the reflex walking movements, crawling and the athetotic movements of premature births differ fundamentally from the new phenomenon of walking.  They must disappear in the course of the first year to make walking possible.”

Most of all, anthroposophy sees walking as very important for several reasons.  Walking upright differentiates man from animals.  “Endowed as they are with a horizontally oriented spine, the animals remain part of the world.  They are overwhelmed by sense impressions and the abyss between self and world does not open.”  In anthroposophic terms, walking is also related to the ability to control feelings and moods and also the conscious use of memory.

Happy hmusings for your baby’s first year of life,

Carrie

Nokken: A Review of Two Books and A Few Thoughts

(Post updated 6/28/2012)  Nokken has come up on almost every Waldorf Yahoo!Group and Waldorf forum I am on, so I thought it was about time to address the work of Helle Heckmann.  More and more, Nokken is being held up as an example within the Waldorf community of what to do right within child care for young children, and as an example of the value of outdoor play and outdoor time and connection with nature for young children.  For this post, I read both “Nokken:  A Garden for Children” by Helle Heckmann and “Nokken:  A Garden for Kids September 2003 Celebration Edition.”  I hear there is also a lovely video about Nokken that I have not yet seen.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Nokken, Nokken is a Danish approach to  Waldorf-based childcare in Copenhagen, Denmark.  The minimum age for children to enter is walking age.  Helle Heckmann writes, “The child must be able to walk away from her mother and into the world on her own,” on page 26 of “Nokken:  A Garden For Children.”  The center is open for six hours a day only, from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.  “Our idea is that we share with the parents,” writes Helle Heckmann on the same page.  “We look after the children for six hours, the parents have them for six waking hours and the children sleep for twelve hours.  In other words, the family will still exert influence on the child’s development.”  The staff at the center does not change during the day, unlike child care centers in the United States that are open for long hours that necessitate shift changes.  The children are together in one group from walking age to age 7, and sibling groups are welcomed and kept together, which is again different from the vast majority of child care centers in the United States.  Most Americans would agree this is a huge and vast improvement over the majority of daycare centers in the United States.

Helle  Heckmann writes on page 27 of Nokken,”  It is obviously difficult.  Parents often need longer opening hours, while at the same time they want the world’s best early-childhood program with a motivated and relaxed staff.  This is a difficult task, and knowing that we cannot accommodate all needs, we have chosen to favor the children.  It is a conscious choice we have made as a child-care center. Most of our parents also have to make a choice.  They change jobs, reduce their working hours, or work flexible hours:  the solutions are many and varied as they consciously choose to spend a lot of time with their children.”

She goes on to write that the role of child care has changed; in the past it was for primarily for social stimulation and now,  “The centers must teach children the basics to help them achieve the necessary skills to choose their life style at a later stage.  The parents’ role is mainly to stimulate and organize activities of a social and/or cultural interest.”

Ouch.

Okay, I guess since I am home with my children, perhaps I have a different perspective on this as a homeschooling mother.  Why as a society do we throw up our hands and say, this is the way it is?  People have to work, people have chaotic home lives, so the children are better off in child care than with their own families?  Why are we not coming up with more ways to support and develop parents?  Why in this age of abundant information (yet, often contradictory and just plain wrong information!) are parents feeling so confused and isolated as to what children truly need?  Why is there not more understanding of children as children and childhood development and such as opposed to treating children as miniature adults?

Back to the things that are good about Nokken.  On page 31 Helle Heckmann writes, “Our first priority is to spend most of the day outdoors.  We spend five out of the six hours we are together outdoors.”  The children and staff walk daily to a park with open natural spaces and also have a garden with many fruit trees, berry bushes, sand pits, a hen house, rabbit cages, a pigeon house, a vegetable garden, a herb garden, flower beds and a laundry area.  The children who are younger and need to nap sleep  outside in an open shed, which is common in Denmark.

Children are met in the morning with a handshake, which I find uncommon for Early Year Waldorf programs in the United States.  This seems very awakening for the child, and something I truly only hear of teachers of Waldorf Grades doing with their students in the United States.  Perhaps my Danish readers can tell me if this is a cultural difference?  My husband’s family is from Denmark but have not lived there for a long time, so I have no one to ask!

The daily schedule is something that is lovely and takes into account the ages of the children.  On page 60 of Nokken, Helle Heckmann writes, “We are careful not to let the youngest children participate in story-telling.  If it is a long story, the three year olds sit in another room and draw, because in my experience it is important not to engage them in activities for which they are not ready.”  She also talks about how festival celebrations are mainly for children over 3 as well.  I love this.

The part I have the most difficulty with however, outside of the few things I mentioned above, is the perspective of child development based upon the work of Emmi Pickler and Magda Gerber and their Resources for Infant Educarers.  I realize this puts me outside of most in the Waldorf community, which has embraced RIE.

I liked Helle’s description of the need of the infant to cry as a form of communication.  However, much of the thrust of her perspective of infant care seems to be “to leave the infant in peace and quiet to sleep or, when awake, to get to know herself without constant intervention from her surroundings.  Often it is difficult to show this infant respect and leave her alone. Constantly satisfying your own need for reassurance and your need to look at your beautiful baby will often influence the infant’s ability to be content with herself….By giving the infant peace and quiet for the first months of her life, she will get used to her physical life; the crying will gradually stop, and the baby may start to sleep during the night without waking up at all hours.”

As an attached parent, I believe I can respect my child and still enfold her within my protective gesture and be physically close.  I believe I can still carry her in a sling and nurse her and  have her act as a (passive) witness to my life without overly stimulating her.  I believe in our particular culture at this particular time, parents need reassurance to enfold their child within themselves and their family unit, not to separate their children in their infancy to be independent.  Perhaps this is a cultural difference than Denmark, I don’t know.

However, I also have to say that I  do not believe baby-wearing is an excuse to take my children everywhere I went before I had children.  I believe in protecting the senses but doing this in an attached way.

I do agree with some of Helle Heckman’ s statements regarding infants, including her statement on page 17 of Nokken that, “The more restless the adults are, the more restless the children will be.”  However, statements such as “The less we disturb the infant, the better chance she has of adapting to her life on earth,” rather bothers me.  I agree in not initiating the disturbance of  the infant, but I fear too many parents will take this as license to just set their infant down and let them cry or to keep them passively in a crib.  I do  agree with Helle Heckmann’s assessment that it is difficult to care for children under walking age within a child care setting  because of the high needs of care and because infants need peaceful surroundings.

As a homeschooling mother, what I take away from Nokken is the lovely thoughts of a forest kindergarten, napping outside, using action to communicate with small children and not words (see page 32 of Nokken), using singing as a way of talking to small children (page 51), Helle’s constant inner work and development, her obvious love of the children.

And as a homeschooling mother and attached parent, I don’t like the whole notion that is invading Waldorf Education that children under the age of 4 or 4 and a half should be out of their homes, I don’t like the notion that the child care center, no matter how outdoorsy “shares” the child with the parents, and I don’t like the idea that parents are not as empowered as they could be in childhood development.  Why are we positioning anyone but the parents to be the experts on their children and acting as if someone else knows better?    Waldorf schools are also taking children earlier and earlier into Kindergarten, and I also have an issue with that.   I would like to see more effort to again, empower and inspire parents within the Waldorf movement to be home.   The hand shaking to greet a small child with such pronounced eye contact also baffles me.

There are many wonderful things at Nokken, and many American parents who need child care would be thrilled to find a center such as Nokken in their neighborhood.  Many mothers attempt to create such an environment as part of their homeschooling environment or take in children from outside their family for care so they may stay home with their own children.  These are all realities.

However, I would love to see a movement toward empowering and inspiring mothers to be homemakers, to be truly spiritual homemakers, to encourage families to make tough choices to be home with their children,  because I feel this is where the power of the next generation is truly going to disseminate from.

Blessings,

Carrie