A child in the first seven years is full of will and learns about the world through play. The five senses are awakening — every sight, sound, and taste is an experience to explore. A child at play is full of vitality, imagination, and curiosity. Play is truly the work of the young child, and the creativity and skill involved in free play an essential foundation of intellectual thinking.
The Early Childhood programs are pre-academic and address the developmental needs of the young child by creating a beautiful, nurturing environment where the young child can safely explore and create. The classroom is a delight to the senses. The walls are lazured in comforting pinks and peaches, a beautiful nature table displays special, seasonal gifts of nature, and natural light illuminates the room.
The play materials in the room are all simple and made of natural materials. Children become absorbed in imaginative play using logs, stones, seashells, pine cones, silk fabrics and such. There are also weekly artistic activities including watercolor painting, handwork, crayoning, beeswax modeling, woodworking, gardening, and outside play. These activities help the children to gain confidence in using their bodies and their hands.
Rhythm is very important in the young child’s life, providing him or her with a feeling of safety and security. The program is organized in a rhythmic way so that the children know what activities will take place in the classroom each day. The family-like setting creates a sense of community, and the daily activities mirror home life. Our teachers also spend time doing household tasks in the room such as sweeping the floor, washing dishes and caring for the plants in the room. The children may work with the teacher and often imitate these tasks in their play. While working, the teacher is conscious that all of her actions must be worthy of imitation since children will imitate all that adults do, say and feel.
Children also participate in circle time, which blends movement, song and verse, and often reflects the seasons. There is a daily story time when the children sit in a circle, a candle is lit, and the teacher tells – rather than reads – a fairy-tale, a folk tale, or puts on a simple puppet play. Throughout the week, children will hear the same story, which aids in developing memory. In this manner, the future activity of learning to read is being grounded in a rich field of oral learning and meaning, and a foundation is carefully being laid for literacy. At the Waldorf School of Pittsburgh, there are four programs, or stepping stones, we offer for children within specific age ranges. Each program builds upon the other as the child matures through the first seven years of life on his or her path toward the grade school years.