Below, we outline some of the main features of Waldorf preschools and daycares. Keep in mind, though, that these programs can vary in terms of aims, policies, teaching approaches, and more.
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Features of Waldorf preschools
- Child-centred: Like Montessori and Reggio Emilia, Waldorf preschools are mostly child-centred. While there is a daily schedule, kids often have the freedom to pursue their own interests and passions. This can spark their curiosity and inspire a love of learning.
- Pretend play: Kids are given lots of free-play time. They also have plenty of outdoor recess and field-trips. This promotes imaginative and play-based learning and an appreciation of nature. It also allows kids to develop important social skills.
- Traditional academics begins in grade school: These programs don’t focus much on core academics. They typically don’t offer formal instruction in math, reading, or traditional subjects. Core academics doesn’t normally start until grade 1.
- Focus on the whole child: The focus is not just on cognitive development. The aim is to educate the whole child: “head, heart, and hands.” Teachers use a wide range of strategies to educate children’s cognitive, active, and emotional sides.
- Focus on art: Waldorf preschool focuses quite a bit on art. Kids are given lots of time for arts and crafts, including drawing, painting, and modelling. They also have regular circle time, where they engage in songs, games, and listen to stories. This can inspire creativity, imagination, and curiosity.
- Practical learning: The Waldorf preschool philosophy emphasizes lots of hands-on and experiential learning. Kids take part in plenty of practical tasks, like cooking, cleaning, and gardening. This allows them to learn important skills, and be independent and responsible.
Answers to the question “What is a Waldorf preschool?” from school officials
“Waldorf education offers an experiential and academically rigorous approach to education that integrates the arts in all academic disciplines to enhance and enrich learning. Waldorf curriculum respects the pace of childhood development, inspires lifelong learning, and encourages children to fully develop their unique capacities. A curriculum that is developmentally appropriate means that it is based on exactly what is happening in the child’s physical and emotional development at that time.” Lylli Anthon, faculty chair of Halton Waldorf school, in Burlington, Ontario
“The main question parents need to ask themselves about the Waldorf curriculum is: What is being taught if it is not math work sheets, early readers book series, or desk work? What is experiential learning like in preschool and kindergarten? For math and reading it looks something like this:
- Math: Measuring for baking bread, setting the table for snack (who is absent, who is visiting), measuring to make a wooden plane, numbers of seeds to plant for a garden (and their the length apart), finger and body circle activities, counting, sorting, planning, and sequencing and number games.
- Reading: Memory skills, poetry, verses, listening skills, story structure (through plays and puppet shows, storytelling, rich vocabulary, and phonemic awareness.” Jennifer Deathe, head of admission at Waldorf Academy, in Toronto, Ontario