Early Childhood at East Bay Waldorf School
Movement and play are the work of the young child and imitation is their special talent and natural way of learning. The early childhood teacher creates an environment where natural beauty and reverence for life abound, respect for children’s naturally unfolding capacities is palpable, and warmth, security and cooperation are an integral part of the child’s world.
In Kindergarten, the teacher participates in practical and artistic activities which the children imitate — baking, painting, drawing, beeswax modelling and handcrafts in a weekly rhythm — coloring the work with seasonal moods and festival celebrations.
The children wholeheartedly reenact these guided activities in their free, creative play. With joy and devotion they express wonder for life and enthusiasm for work, building a strong bridge to later academic learning:
- Songs and nursery rhymes cultivate intimacy with language building literacy skills;
- Listening to stories, watching puppet shows and dramatic play strengthen the power of memory and imagination;
- Counting games and rhythmic activities build a solid foundation for arithmetic and number skills;
- Work activities develop coordination and the ability to concentrate;
- Outdoor activities, including play and hiking, encourage healthy physical development and an appreciation of nature and seasonal changes.
Here the young child’s fantasy and imagination is nourished and allowed to unfold, leading to an inner vitality out of which grows the capacity not only for dynamic and original thinking but also for creative and effective adult life.
“I wonder” is the response you hear often in Waldorf early childhood. This article provides a modern take on the value of awe and wonder.
- The first three years of a child’s life are a precious time of bonding and learning about himself and the world. In our Sweet Pea Parent-infant classes, we give our loving attention to our babies, learn how to observe them and read their cues and support their developing movement. We enjoy a simple circle time with songs and movements, and discuss topics relating to parenting the young infant.
We currently offer Parent Child Classes for Infants (3 months) through Toddlers (3 years), with an adult.
In an atmosphere of quiet observation, we explore and learn about the unfolding stages of very early childhood. Using a body-centered approach, the classes support bringing natural harmony and ease into the parenting experience. Each week, we will visit different themes that will help parents understand the foundations of movement development. Through observation of the babies as well as parents exploring some of these movements in their own bodies, we will gain greater insight, joy and understanding of what the child is trying to accomplish at each stage. To fully embrace the many elements and stages of natural discovery is a great gift for parents and babies. The movements in the first year of life are our foundation for everything we do later in life. This class supports your baby in building a strong foundation.
Learning about the Waldorf philosophy from practices, articles and conversation will support parents in understanding the role of daily rhythms, learning about the senses, imitation, the importance of sleep and creating a family life that supports you.
3 Months – Crawling:
In this class we will observe the progression from lying on the back to rolling and belly crawling, and the interplay between gravity and levity. What motivates the child’s movement? How does the child find its way into locomoting through space?
Crawling – Early Walking:
We observe how the child, increment by increment, comes to higher and higher levels of movement, crawling, standing, walking. Social interactions come now more into play and exploring contact with other babies is part of this class. Moment is the mother of joy.
Birthe Kaarsholm teaches the baby classes at the East Bay Waldorf School. She is a lifelong student of movement and expression and has a special interest in how our connection to the body can support us to be present in our everyday life. Being a parent of a young child can be an incredible inspiration to deepen the connection with your own body and find ways to be nurtured and supported in the demands of caring for a young child. Birthe is a registered Movement Therapist with certifications in Body-Mind Centering, Laban Movement Analysis and Breema Bodywork. She has been connected to the Waldorf movement for more than 25 years.
Our toddler class is a time for children to explore and play freely while parents can relax and quietly observe their increasingly capable child in the context of other children. Here children move, experiment with how things work, enjoy self-directed play and interact with other toddlers. In this way, they develop their physical, intellectual, social and emotional capacities. Toddlers increasing skills can delight and frustrate them and pose a challenge to parents. How can we best support them in building their own knowledge and impulse-control? Seeing their child among children of a similar age, parents learn to view their child from a capabilities perspective — what can they already do? What are they experimenting with? What skills are they still working on?
Each week we discuss child development and parenting topics based on the insights of Waldorf education, the RIE® and Pikler approaches that make parenting easier and more enjoyable.
All classes include a circle time with songs, rhymes and movement and a wholesome, organic snack.
Younger Toddlers, age 12-24 months and walking:
In this 1.5-hour class we observe the increasing quality of movement and fine motor skills, their self-directed exploration and discovery through play, as well as the interplay between themselves and others.
Older Toddlers, age 24-36 months:
In this 2-hour class, we observe older toddlers gaining an understanding of how things work, beginning to demonstrate their thinking, and developing their play in a more imaginative way. As they gain impulse control, we support their increasing interpersonal skills. This class includes outdoor play time and a story at the end of circle time.
Outdoor Toddlers: age 12-36 months:
Nature is the ideal environment for the young child. Outdoors, toddlers increase the strength and quality of their movement on Earth’s uneven terrain, experience beauty, feel a sense of wonder and a greater connection to the world, use and integrate all their senses, and get nice and tired. We use nature as our playground, letting the children find their own way to explore and play in this environment without formal toys. We walk to the garden, sing songs, have a short “sit” in nature to experience all that it has to offer and help ourselves slow down to its pace.
Jennifer Doebler teachers the toddler classes. She has a special interest in supporting parents and children in the magical time from birth-three, when children learn to walk, talk, and think but also when they form their foundational views of themselves and the world. By bringing consciousness to the task of parenting, we embrace the demands of caring for a young child and give our children a secure base from which to grow into the world. Jennifer is a Waldorf parent, has completed the first year of Waldorf teacher training at BACWTT, is a RIE® Intern and has completed Advanced-level Pikler training.
- Young children learn through imitation and imagination. Whether the activity is teacher led or self-directed imaginative play, there is an atmosphere of unhurried purpose and joy. Daily and weekly rhythms of practical and artistic activities promote social awareness while honing fine and gross motor skills. Joyful engagement with complex, rich language and stories also lay the foundations for later intellectual pursuits.
Together we spend approximately 70% of our time outdoors, taking hikes and building connection to nature and the wider world, as well as stamina and resilience.
Preschool is a three or five-day program from 8:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Aftercare is available until 5:30pm for an additional charge. Students can be dropped off as early as 8:15am.
Children who are 3 years old and toilet-trained may enroll in the Preschool program. Provided there is room in the class, applications are accepted throughout the year. Children who are at least 4 years & 9 months by the beginning of the next school year may move on to Kindergarten.
The East Bay Waldorf School Early Childhood Center is a licensed Preschool provider in the state of California & a proud member of the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America.
CA Preschool License Number: 073408218
Play is the work of the young child; imitation is their special talent and natural way of learning. The kindergarten teacher creates an environment where natural beauty and reverence for life abound, bringing warmth, security and cooperation to the child’s world of constructive fantasy and imagination.
The teacher participates in practical and artistic activities which the children imitate–baking, painting, drawing, clay/beeswax modeling and handcrafts in a weekly rhythm–coloring the work with seasonal moods and festival celebrations.
The children wholeheartedly reenact these guided activities in their free, creative play. With joy and devotion they express wonder for life and enthusiasm for work, building a strong bridge to later academic learning: Songs and nursery rhymes cultivate intimacy with language building literacy skills; Listening to stories, watching puppet shows and dramatic play strengthen the power of memory and imagination; Counting games and rhythmic activities build a solid foundation for arithmetic and number skills; Work activities develop coordination and the ability to concentrate; Outdoor activities, including play and hiking, encourage healthy physical development and an appreciation of nature and seasonal changes.
Here the young child’s imagination is nourished and allowed to unfold, leading to an inner vitality out of which grows the capacity not only for dynamic and original thinking but also for creative and effective adult life.
Each day we begin kindergarten with a reverent greeting. Our intention is to create a safe space for children to play and grow in. Through our example we aim to give children a model of how to treat one another and the world around them.
A unique part of our program is our rich outdoor curriculum. We spend between 50% – 70% of our time outside exploring and learning in nature. We have special destinations that we hike to daily including our biodynamic school garden, frog pond and wildcat canyon.
Our outdoor adventures help children cultivate a familiarity and love of the natural world. Over the course of the year children experience the changing seasons and begin to develop a sensitivity to the subtle transformations in the landscapes around them.
Kindergarten is a five day program from 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Aftercare is available until 5:30pm.
Children who are at least 4 years & 9 months by the start of the school year may enroll in the Kindergarten.
Most students attend two years of Kindergarten, which provides a solid foundation for the grade school. Our Kindergartens are mixed-age classrooms.
A child must turn six before June 1st of the school year to move on to First Grade.