by Marla Macdonald
A day in the preschool begins with removing shoes at the classroom door and washing hands. Then we give mommy or daddy a big hug, and go to the tables for handwork. Monday: home-made playdough, Tuesday: coloring, Wednesday: watercolor, Thursday: chip chop, and Friday: bread day.
As we cross the threshold of the doorway, we enter a sacred space, the domain of early childhood. Each class has a bird name, and the classroom is the cozy nest in which they can grow, learn, and become.
Our day breathes with the rhythm of daily life activities, similar to those a child experiences in the home. As Waldorf Early Childhood teachers we hum and sing our way through the day providing a warm rhythmical tone that carries us all through our daily activities.
After working with our hands at the table each morning, the little busy bees tidy up and we sing our busy bee song,
sweeping with hand-brooms, tucking in chairs, sorting crayons in rainbow colors and gathering wood rollers.
We then gather on the moon boat (circle rug) for movement games and songs. These are carefully designed both to celebrate the season and to help the children use and develop all of the different planes of their bodies, while having fun together. Circle time is followed by a few quiet moments of resting, after which a child is chosen to awaken the others with a wool felted butterfly that lightly touches each forehead, and another child plays the fairy chime (glockenspeil). Then they are dismissed one by one for creative play time.
Each day the children engage in beautiful creative play, building castles, forts, and little houses draped with silks for walls. They make their own puppet stories and create beautiful lakes, woodlands, and oceans using wood blocks, stumps, large stones, and shells through which their puppets move. Some enjoy cooking with small stones, wood dishes, pots and pans, and a variety of large seeds. It is deeply satisfying to watch the beauty and creativity of the children’s play, while being very close by to help with little scuffles and give hugs and put on bandaids. The tidy time song calls the children, and “Old Brown” the wise owl who watches over the children from the classroom tree, flies down from his perch to whisper to each child what their task will be, and we begin the process of putting all our lovely playthings back into their homes, setting our “house” in order before our warm snack is served.
Following tidy time we again gather on the moon boat for a nursery rhyme or a story. The children look forward to the magical revealing of puppet plays.
Warm snack is also rhythmical, Monday rice day, Tuesday oatmeal, Wednesday soup day, Thursday rice, and Friday, bread with honeybutter. The children know the days food rhythm and often say, half question half knowing “Today rice day?” We sing our gratitude song and turn on quiet candle, and rest our voices, so that we can enjoy our lovely warm food. The children then ask to be excused to clean up their spot and wash their dishes.
This is followed by much noisy movement and bundling up. Our hearth helper comes in to help get on snow pants, zip coats find the right holes for our fingers in puffy gloves and pull on boots. Outdoor play is our big outbreath. We run, slide, build, and climb. On Fridays (Journey Day) we trudge through the snow up the magic mountain and over to the park, leaving our little play yard behind so we can also roll down hills, and hang upside down and climb high. The “little birdies” need this time to fly free.
It is a joy to be an Early Childhood Waldorf Teacher. —
“Life today for most families is characterized more by randomness and improvisation than rhythm. Family life today often consists of whatever is left over in terms of our time and energy, when the “work” of the day is done. Whenever I ask a mother or father to describe for me a “typical day” in their home, nine times out of ten they begin by saying there is no “typical.”
– Kim John Payne