Mixed-age Care

Importance of Natural Play Spaces for Children and Connecting with Nature by Audra Harvey

Audra writes: What if playgrounds were natural landscapes where children explore their outdoor surroundings and create their own play structures?  What if children’s crafts were inspired by nature and made from natural materials?  Can you imagine a world where the forest is a child’s classroom?  What if a child’s curiosity was fueled by the world around them, unhindered by media and marketing?  What would it look like?  I am lucky.  I don’t have to wonder!  My children attend a Waldorf school and the area where I live in Austin has many different childcare and school options.  My family is fortunate.  Many children in our country do not experience the outdoors daily.

Mixed-Age Care by Amanda Quesnell

Amanda writes: One way that LifeWays is unique is because it has mixed-age groups of children. Many times people have asked me if it is harder to have a variety of different ages in my care, but I always tell them it’s actually easier. Having a mixed-age group allows the children to be in the same suite, with the same children and with the same caregivers, from the time they start to when they go off to “big kid school.”  This allows the children to form strong relationships with both the other children and their caregivers.

Half the Fun Is Getting There by Jaimmie Stugard

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.” 

Peaceful Beginnings by Serenity Gordon

Serenity writes: When I had my first son, Noah, I had to return to work quickly. I was lucky that as a private-duty nurse I was able to bring my baby to work with me and have him looked after by the wonderful loving family of my patients. I planned to practice attachment parenting and was a co-sleeping, baby-wearing, exclusively breastfeeding new mother. I was a happy new mom, but I always felt rushed through my day, trying to get everything done and be good at every role I played. I thought at the time that I should offer my son every educational gimmick on the market. I purchased programs that claimed to make my baby an Einstein and teach him to read as early as humanly possible, as well as other books and videos that are promoted throughout parenting magazines and baby registries.

How LifeWays Transformed my In-home Program, by Rahima Baldwin Dancy

Rahima writes: In 1984 another Waldorf teacher and I dropped out of the school to be home more and opened one of the early home-based Waldorf programs in the country. As lead teacher, I essentially re-created a Waldorf kindergarten for three- and four-year-olds in a dedicated room in her home that opened out into the yard.  Since working with 12 children instead of 19 was easy for me, she was free to tend to her new baby and put him down for a morning nap before joining us.  This all went on upstairs, away from the children, because who had ever heard of a baby in a Waldorf kindergarten or preschool?

Materialism, by Jaimmie Stugard

Jaimmie writes:  Recently, a plumber came to LifeWays to repair the garbage disposal.  At the time, we were getting dressed to go outdoors.  As soon as they caught sight of the plumber with his toolbox, a group of little boys in hastily-assembled outdoor gear were in the kitchen doorway watching the “worker guy.”   One by one, I coaxed the intent observers back to their hooks to finish dressing. We fixed backwards snow pants and adjusted an upside-down jacket, put on a missing boot and a discarded mitten.  Throughout the entire process, the little fellas kept inching toward the kitchen and stealing glances at the plumber (all the girls were in preschool on this particular day). 

Laughter and Versatility, by Mara Spiropoulos

[Editor's Note: This article explores personal experiences with two of the attributes of "The L.O.V.E. Approach to Discipline" developed by LifeWays founder, Cynthia Aldinger.  To learn more or to share your own experiences, see information at the end of this article.

L - laughter and listening
O- order and objectivity
V - versatility and vulnerability
E - enthusiasm and energy]

Today as I lie next to my sleeping eldest child, watching her breathing calm and her sweet hands twitch from dreamy wonder, I whispered an apology. I had grown impatient with her just before she fell asleep. Ellia, four-and-a-quarter years old, is my deeply sensitive thinker of a child with a stubborn streak. More often than not, she resists napping.

A Winter Festival Celebrating Community, by Rahima Dancy


At Rainbow Bridge we always scheduled our “Winter Festival” on the last day before winter break.  We would invite all the parents to come from 11:30-12:30 and take their children home with them—no afternoon care that day because it’s so hard for children to have parents come and go without taking them home.  Because December is COLD in Colorado, this festival required careful planning to fit everyone inside! Here’s how we did it.

Helping a New Child, Then Stepping Back

I'd like to share with you something I learned last Fall. It was mid-September, and there was a new little boy in the room, one of many. This boy however, rather than bond with all the teachers equally, bonded exclusively with me. I must admit, it made me feel special. I alone had the power to comfort this little one. I was happy to give him a comforting smile when he looked for me. I was delighted to pick him up when he reached for me. Our dynamic continued in this way for a week or two.

Pumpkins All Year Round!


Children love the jolly jack-o-lanterns, but at Spindlewood we like to keep our pumpkins alive all year round, beginning with hunting for them in the overgrown summer garden.


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