Jaimmie writes: It is another frigid Wisconsin day here at LifeWays Milwaukee, and we are getting all bundled up to go outside. We begin by making sure everyone has at least two layers on top and bottom. The children go to their drawers to fetch extra pants, socks and sweaters, and we start pulling on all of our layers. I help the youngest children by laying out their snowsuits for them and helping them get their legs into place. I remind them to keep pulling until they see their feet. We go on like this for quite some time, singing a merry tune as we work, “Snowpants, boots, jacket, hat – Mittens are always last.”
--Excerpted from an article by Mary O’Connell, Director of the LifeWays Training in Oregon and Wisconsin, and Founder/Director of LifeWays Early Childhood Program in Milwaukee, WI.
Mary writes: We can’t really determine if any childcare program or school benefits our child until we identify what it is that we want for them. If you ask a parent what his or her long-term goal is for their child, often the parent will say, “I want my child to grow up to be happy.” We all want that for our children, but realistically, we can’t really ensure our children’s happiness. Happiness is a very individual thing… So I challenged myself to identify three goals for our children that are attainable, that will impact their lives in a positive way, and that might actually improve their chances at happiness. Here’s my list:
With an average of ten toddlers from the ages of 18 months to 3 years in an indoor space, there are times during the children’s free play when they need additional quiet rest times, that supplement the traditional afternoon nap. These “rest times” generally do not involve sleep, but allow children who have been hurt, anxious, overtired or overwhelmed to settle back into their bodies and gather themselves. These framed rest times positively affect the quality of the day not only for the individual who receives them, but for the other children and teachers as well. This allows for a more peaceful and fluid day all around.
"In our modern civilization, where all eyes concentrate on outer, material things, no attention is given to the state of sleep, although man devotes to it one third of his daily life. Never should it be thought that man is inactive while he sleeps. He is inactive only in so far as the outer external world is concerned but as regards to the health of his body, and more especially in the health of his soul and spirit, sleep is all important. True education can provide for a right life of sleep, for whatever activities belong to a man's waking hours are carried over into the conditioned of sleep, and this is especially the case with the child."
Rudolf Steiner, The Modern Art of Education
For young children, it is good to have very clear routines and rituals around sleep. It helps to think about what you are doing for the two hours before sleep, what you will do to prepare them for sleep, and what you will do when they first wake up. I call this "framing" sleep. The routines and rituals provide the frame.
Here is an example of a sleep frame:
An hour or two before nap, the children are outside playing. It is important that they have a full experience of the natural world and can play as freely as possible. When you bring them in, perhaps a special song or game gathers everyone together, and you playfully return inside.
As we respect the importance of rhythm in the life of the young child, creating a rhythm and space for rest time in our busy day at the Seaside Playgarden is critical to good health and well being. I want to share with you what we have done to create a quiet space for this special part of our day. During lunch break, the teachers create a space for rest in the sun room. The furniture is moved into the front room, and light blue curtains are hung in the doorways to define the space and the mood. Light blue soft flannel blankets and pillows are laid out on the circle rug for each child.
It’s a puzzle to me how and why so many of the Waldorf and LifeWays early childhood programs I have visited turn on some kind of mechanical device to make “white noise” when it’s time for nap. These teachers have heard and believe Rudolf Steiner’s indication that “the young child is all sense organ,” and they apply this understanding in a wide range of other activities. They wouldn’t think of putting a lullaby on a CD player before leaving the nap room, or playing recorded music during the morning. They go to great lengths to try to create a harmonious environment that surrounds the children with living sounds and are even likely to use a broom or carpet sweeper rather than whipping out the vacuum cleaner after snack, to avoid the noise. Yet they don’t hesitate to turn on a fan or the clothes dryer or a machine with recordings of static or nature sounds, all in the name of lulling the children to sleep and keeping them there.
Boulder Waldorf Kindergarten, one of our LifeWays North America Representative Programs, was flooded this week during the storms in Colorado, and although they have been able to salvage tables and chairs, everything else will need to be replaced.
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