Our Nursery School is rated “Outstanding” in a recent School Inspection Service (Ofsted) report of April 2015. Even more important is that the children love being here and parents consider it the best nursery school experience possible.
(In the Steiner Waldorf tradition, the word “Kindergarten” is used for the nursery school and reception years – ages 3 to 6)
When you cross the open field to our Kindergartens (Nursery Schools), it is easy to sense a change of pace and atmosphere. With beautiful mature gardens and in buildings painted in delicate light filled colours and natural materials, the motto of the kindergarten teachers is, “Here we have time”. Ensuring that children are not rushed, over-stimulated or turned into mini-adults, our programme is designed so that the children under seven are allowed space to develop the necessary skills that will form the foundations for life long learning. Mixed age groups of 3 to 6 year olds, an emphasis on domestic, artistic and craft activities and warm supportive encouragement from teachers helps to emulate a lively extended family where children can learn through imitation – the easiest and most holistic way to learn.
Here the children sing, paint, draw and move to music. They listen to stories told in rich and imaginative language, create puppet shows and little plays; bake, grind flour and help prepare their daily healthy, organic snack. They plant and harvest and tend the gardens; weave, sew and use simple tools. Festivals, so significant in creating community, are a major part of kindergarten life, with parents joining in the celebration of our rich spiritual and cultural heritage.
And of course they play. No other activity is given as much support. Natural materials, kept as simple and multi-functional as possible support a range of rich and imaginative possibilities. Gardens are tended to provide an optimal environment for creative exploration, physical challenges and hard work. A schedule where annual, weekly and daily rhythms are honoured supports the development of self confidence, trust in the world and a strong sense of security. Combined with the loving care of the kindergarten teacher, children grow through gentle nuturing, giving them the best possible start in life.
We use natural materials in our Kindergartens, developing the child’s connection with nature and creating opportunities for them to observe the beauty in the natural world around us. These may include leaves, bark and berries collected on walks, to using beautifully dyed felt and wool. The wooden toys and cloth dolls also support the idea that Nature offers us many gifts and is a rich source of inspiration as many wonderful things can be made from the things that live around us.
We involve the children in the preparation of the mid-morning snack, enabling them to truly engage with whatever we eat together later on. Often the food may have come from our gardens, or we will have mixed and kneaded the dough. At snack time when the table is layed, helped by little helping hands, we all sit together for a social time of sharing.
Rain or shine, our gardens and surrounding areas are used every day allowing the child a healthy rhythm of play both inside and out in the fresh air.
Stories are a big part of the kindergarten daily rhythm, allowing the child to feel secure as they know what is happening next. Whether this be the walking day, the baking day or the painting day, children trust in the rhythm of each day and week, which helps them to flourish and grow as this rhythm is both nurturing and supportive of their growing beings.
Ready to Learn
By the time the children leave kindergarten, at the age of 6, they are well prepared for formal learning. Reading, writing and mathematics require a range of skills that are developed by kindergarten activities. The children’s cognitive development is supported by the use of rich language – through songs, rhymes, and stories – which, in turn, develop their memory skills. Active listening is also enhanced through storytelling. Mathematical concepts and language are used in connection to daily life – through counting spoons and bowls for snack, for example, or weighing oats for making apple crumble, or through enjoyable counting games and rhymes. Activities including weaving and sewing help the development of hand-eye coordination and dexterity, while garden time provides an opportunity for the children to develop their gross motor skills. Uninterrupted creative play provides the children with opportunities for developing their imagination and concentration. Through play, children explore and investigate, as well as learn social customs and qualities like sharing, respect and empathy. Equipped with these skills, children leaving kindergarten at the age of 6, are not only ready to learn, but they will want to learn.
Read more about the Steiner Waldorf Early Years approach by downloading this document prepared by the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship: