Every family is different, but these days, it’s common to work for families who subscribe to specific philosophies about how children should be raised and educated. For toddlers, preschoolers, and beyond, there are so many different and expert-recommended ways to help them develop their skills and abilities, and often, parents will be looking for a nanny who can tailor activities and learning experiences to fit a certain developmental theory.
One such theory is the Waldorf educational philosophy. Like the Montessori or Reggio Emilia philosophies, Waldorf is a set of ideas and practices for helping children, particularly those who are toddlers or preschool-aged, develop new skills and begin learning important concepts in a way that is fun and developmentally appropriate.
What is the Waldorf philosophy?
The Waldorf style of early childhood education was established in 1919 by Rudolf Steiner and Emil Molt, based on Steiner’s philosophy of Anthroposophy. Steiner believed that people most benefit the world at large through their own individual growth and spiritual development. As such, the Waldorf education style puts an emphasis cultivating children’s individual intellectual, emotional, and physical development through creative and play-based experiences. These experiences often involve the arts, like making music, dramatic play, and storytelling.
Waldorf in practice
Many preschools and early education programs adopt the Waldorf philosophy, but that doesn’t mean you need to be in a classroom setting in order to incorporate Waldorf ideas. You can practice the basic tenets of Waldorf right in a family’s home through simple activities that children will love.
- Make up stories
Storytelling is a major component of the Waldorf philosophy because Steiner believed it is important for stimulating children’s developing imaginations. He encouraged caregivers to learn how to tell engaging stories rather than reading out of a book, so that children would be exposed to new words and ideas and develop “thought pictures”-their own impressions of the meaning of a story-that can grow and change with them over time.
- Listen to and make music
Music is another key component of the Waldorf philosophy. Young children can be exposed to different kinds of music and even experiment with playing instruments and learning new songs. Steiner believed the making of music is essential to being a human being.
- Connect with nature
Playing outside is important for physical activity and for creativity. The Waldorf philosophy suggests that children should be in tune with the world around them, so making time for outdoor activities that children love, like collecting rocks and flowers, playing at the park, exploring at the beach, and going on nature walks, is essential.
- Practice unstructured play
The Waldorf philosophy posits that children build imagination when they are left to explore on their own terms. For this reason, Waldorf practitioners advocate for fewer and more simple toys-like wooden blocks, stones, cardboard, and yarn-that children can repurpose for their own imaginative exploits. Often, these items can tie into arts and crafts time as well, which is another important component of Waldorf-style learning.
When possible, the Waldorf philosophy also encourages children to learn and be exposed to other languages, so if you are bilingual, that’s a skill that should be highlighted!
For ideas on how to structure your day in the Waldorf style, look no further than the internet. Instagram has dozens of Waldorf-inspired accounts that feature fun activities and ideas for incorporating the philosophy into your normal routine.
One is Earth Schooling, a page devoted to Waldorf-inspired homeschool activities that can be adapted to suit any situation.
The account wild.wittle.folk shares incredible ideas for incorporating Waldorf ideals to create sensory and play experiences specifically for toddlers and preschoolers.
And, of course, the Waldorf Education page shows how kids of all ages and from around the world are learning and benefitting from Waldorf-inspired learning activities.