The Sweet Wait For Christmas: Advent. (A Waldorf Way)

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Walks and Toddlers: 5 reasons to walk with your toddler and 7 tips to make it work.

photoDid you know that physically, a toddler can walk about a mile? It’s true! I’ve even seen small children walk more than this. It may come a a surprise to some that walking is one of the best activities for children. Why?

1. Walking increases endurance. If you can build up the endurance for physical activity, your toddler will be better able to play longer and have more tolerance for difficult situations that arise.

2. Long walks make for better sleep. By reducing stress, expelling extra energy and getting some good fresh air, your toddler may just surprise you with longer naps and better nighttime sleep.

3. Makes hungry bellies! Once your digestive fire is going from all of the exercise, a toddler might willingly devour a whole plate of cucumbers or kale! Mine will!

4. Helps build and improves the rhythmic system (heart, lungs, blood flow). (Stay tuned for a whole post just on this topic based on the work of Rudolf Steiner)

5. Concentrated quality time. Children love to pay close attention to hidden things nature and delight in the joy found on the earth; they LOVE when we share this with them.

 

Now, that probably sounds great but I bet some are wondering how on earth to make that happen. Toddlers wander and get tired, they fuss and stop for hours to look at a rock. Well there are some simple rules I follow when walking toddlers. Safety is important to me and I also like to relax on my walks. Following these tricks that I’ve learned over my teaching years help make our walks a safe and fun experience.

1. NEVER walk where you would not want them to wander. Their body will remember the pattern. So if you climb a big hill one day or go into the bushes to pick berries the next, expect to do it every single day. Where you walk is sort of like a crayon path that they will want to go, so mark your path well. If you are very, very careful about this the first 5 walks, then it will make things much easier and much SAFER for your future walks.

2. Create ‘stopping points’. Toddlers love to run off but if you can enforce a very clear expectation that they can only run to a certain point, they will stay in your sight. On your first walk, communicate very clearly the place that they must stop and wait for you and then make them stop here every single time you are out. Walk to that spot with them and then SIT THERE with them for a few minutes. Name it something fun like ‘the sitting rock’, ‘the butterfly bush’ or ‘the great big tree.’ Check out nature and chat about the clouds. Then make a big deal when its time to go again.

3. NO PHONES! Walking with your children is like concentrated quality time every bit if attention you give to them and to your beautiful surroundings will triple to inside play. (Possibly an exaggeration, but this point must be stressed) They do not want you on the phone either so will most likely create mischief to get your attention back. ;)

4. Go slow. Like turtle speed slow. If you have an hour long to walk then expect half a mile, total! When your children are more used to walking you will be able to go further.

5. Walk daily, gradually increasing the distanceStart by walking to the end of the block, then a little more, and a little more every day. In the beginning don’t go far as you may end up carrying your toddler home; 30 pounds is not fun to carry for 1/2 a mile.

6. Sit still and observe. When you stop and play, don’t hover over your children, let them explore. When you stay in one place, you will be a strong foundation for them and they will be more free to explore knowing where their home base is. They love it when we quietly watch them in reverence; take joy in their discovery of the nature that surrounds  them, you will be surprised what they see that you may have overlooked.

7. Trust your toddler, they are smarter than most people realize. If they tumble or get stuck, resist the urge to rush over and help them; often they will fuss for a second and then become delighted in a bug or rock that they have found on the ground in front of them. Don’t help them climb trees and hills; it is safer if they can climb it themselves as they will learn how to manage the tree (you can help them get down though) They will feel that you trust them to take on the challenge instead of nervous that they can’t do it on their own.

BONUS 8. DON’T EAT FROM PLANTS! If you will be so lucky as to walk deep in nature, learn about the animal droppings and plants in your area that may be unsafe to touch or eat. You could also learn about what is safe to eat from the wild, but I don’t think I would let children under 6 eat straight from wild plants as the younger ones will do it to ALL plants and not know the difference. For little ones you could always pick plants that you want to eat at home, like blackberries or fiddle heads. Remember that they do what they see you do, if you eat a blackberry from a plant, they may feel inclined to eat nightshade berries, just like mommy. Be safe and resist the urge.

I hope that this is all helpful for you. Please let me know the tricks and tips that you use when walking with your children.

Ten Reasons Why I Love to Nanny With My Baby

ImageBefore my son was born, I knew that I would nanny with him. I had worked with children of all ages for many years before deciding to have children so I knew that I would figure it out. When he was 3 months old we began this journey into nannying together. At first it was really hard, but then I adapted and I was pleased by all of the benefits!

1. He has pseudo siblings. Lucas gets so much friend time that it just doesn’t feel like he needs a sibling right now. Now that he is 1 1/2 years old people love to ask me when the next one is coming and it’s very easy to shrug off the question and say “who knows!” It’s great because I really don’t want another child right now but would struggle with this if he didn’t have daily exposure to other children.

2. He learns to care for others. Ever since he was a baby, he watched as I cared for the other children in my care. I often involve him in this process now that he is older, such as: “Sophia is so sad, can you help her feel better?” I am really enjoying the level of empathy he seems to have gained from this.

3. He knows how to share mommy. I can hug and love other children and he has not yet complained about this. He will often come over for a quick hug while I hug the others, but then goes on his way. I have lots of love to give and am happy that he seems to know that I can share that love.

4. He learns patience. Sometimes, he’s just got to wait. I have to cloth, change and feed other people, including myself. I feel that if I were alone with him he would not see that he AND other children are all learning to wait their turn and that is just a part of the world.

5. I learn flexibility. As I must balance everyones needs, I learn how to meet them with calm and grace. It always works out for the best and I have learned to trust this. I know my personality and if I were at home alone all day I would never go anywhere or do anything to disrupt my routine comfort. This makes me braver and I am happy to say that his infant time was filled with fearless outings.

6. I gain close parent peers. I see parents at playgroups and church, but it’s only at most once a week. When I nanny I see the parents multiple times a week and so we are better able to openly discuss the challenges and successes in our parenting. I feel like it’s closer to the type of ‘village’ that used to raise children. (Though it is nice that there are parent groups that are beginning to heal this loss of community, like the Peps Organization and Meetup.com)

7. He gets to live in the early childhood world. Adult voices can be so exhausting for small children and we just don’t know how to play anymore. When my son gets to be around other children, I feel as if he can relax more in his own peer group. He plays better and has a calmer disposition when there are these little people around that are just his same size acting in the same silly little way.

8. He learns more! When watching the older children, little ones see how life is lived. The simplist activities like crawling, walking, holding a spoon, putting on a shoe or sitting in a chair are demonstrated much better by someone who has had recently learned all of this. (The plus side for the older children is that the gain confidence when they can teach this!)

9. He is not the center of the universe. It’s not all about him, not now and not ever. I believe that it’s crucial that we learn this as human beings; there are other people in the world that we must always consider. A little selfishness has it’s place but building good communities start with selflessness. My feelings, daddy’s feelings and anyone else in our care’s feelings matter too and the quality (vs. quantity) of the care he receives from me is what will matter in the end. When he actually has to experience this now, it’s easier than having to teach it to him later.

10. I have so much fun! Sometimes days are tricky, but mostly the days are filled with cooking, cleaning, playing, laughter and joy! It’s very fun to share this with multiple children because when something is fun, it’s so much MORE fun with each additional child! Sometimes I feel like I have bright, shiny wings and 20 arms while I dance and sing about like a pixie! I was born to be a mother and teacher of small children so this is excatly where I WANT to be.

If you are considering nannying with your own children I feel that you must ask yourself several questions: Do I have an amazing amount of patience? Do I mind being really messy all of the time? Do I have the ability to practice meditation and inner work so that I may have a peaceful and empty mental space for the children? Am I okay with my baby crying while I care for the other children? Can I successfully and happily juggle 30 things at once? AND MOST IMPORTANTLY: Will I be able to strive for really good and open communication with the parents I work with? The most important part of working with a family is the communication. Once you find a family that you feel fits your just right, then it can blossom into a beautiful experience. I have had great succes because the families I like to work with are kind and genourous families that share a similar respect for their children as I practice with my own.

See these sleepy little cuddle buddies. When I ask if he’s ready to go see the children I nanny, he laughs, nods and says “YES!”

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Tantrums Can Be a Blessing

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There is a recently published article about tantrums that I’ve been thinking about. The article itself gives some great advice on how to help your children avoid a negative emotion space caused by stress by creating routine, predictability and good sleep opportunities. “It’s important for parents to be predictable in their routines and responses,’ Kurcinka said. ‘Because toddlers don’t understand the difference between weekdays and weekends, she encourages parents to be consistent on a daily basis with activities such as getting dressed, mealtime and nap-time ” Great! Though my contemplation lay in the feeling of the title, “How to stop your children’s meltdowns.” It seems to be causing quite some upset in comment threads, and one in particular on Janet Lansbury’s Facebook Page. There are very conflicting views on HOW people view tantrums and how one deals with them when they arise. We can do our best to avoid such a state for their own benefit but tantrums and tears will inevitably happen from time to time. This is an area that certainly gets me going! The topic of crying and how our society views this is varied and there is one view that is particularly unfortunate and unhealthy saying that crying and tantrums are dangerous for children. Such comments and myths causes much of frustration and helplessness for parents. Trying to STOP the crying may actually damage our relationship with our children because it may feel quite disrespectful to tell them to stop experiencing their motions. It would be the same as if a friend came to you in need, weeping and crying and you simply said “stop crying, please stop crying, you are fine. It’s time for you to be happy, here’s a cake.” I know that that’s not what I want when I’m sad (maybe the cake part though), what I want is a good cry to let out my feelings to someone eager to hold me and listen.

There is specific scientific evidence that shows that crying actually RELEASES damaging stress hormones. In this study it states: “What are the effects of crying? In 1963, American psychiatrist Karl Menninger wrote in The Vital Balance that “weeping is perhaps the most human and most universal of all relief measures.” The observation applies well to both classic divisions of emotional tearing: tears associated with positive feelings such as joy, and tears associated with negative feelings such as grief. Crying is commonly thought to release emotional tension. Theologian Albert Richard Smith said that “tears are the safety valves of the heart when too much pressure is laid upon it.” It is often said that we cry when some internal barrier, a kind of dam, breaks, as in the expression a “well of tears.” Psychologist Dalbir Bindra found that crying episodes soften or dissipate the initial emotional state that triggered them, again suggesting a mood-relieving function.” When our child is crying they have reached a point of stress in their body that they cannot manage and a really good cry helps them to release higher levels of cortisol (stress hormone) in their brain.

Among these threads were some misinformed comments that actually claimed that crying DAMAGES the brain, which simply not true. Where this came from is that there are studies suggesting that prolonged crying may be a sign of brain damage and that prolonged stress may cause brain damage. Well, what we see in studies is that crying ELIVIATES stress which one would think (if you look at it logically) would reduce any possible brain damage. There are many factors that raise stress/cortisol levels and crying (and laughing) are the easiest way to release stress. There are also studies that say that leaving your newborn alone for extended period of times crying may cause brain damage, but this is not what I am talking about here; I am talking about letting you baby or toddler cry and fuss in your loving arms while you re-asure him. Say “You are sad, thank you for telling me,” or “It’s OKAY to cry and yell, I am here for you and you can just let it all out.” Don’t say “Shh, your okay” or find an immediate distraction to the crying as this will not allow the cortisol levels to release and they will STILL FEEL THE STRESS!

Some reasons why spreading these myths are so damaging is that it send the message to new parents that there child is in pain and hurting when they cry and it causes frustration and fear when they can’t “STOP” the weeping and tantrums. I had this horrible information when my son was first born and I was in agony; you can read this post where I talk about my epiphany and finally let him cry in my arms. Everything was better as he finally released all of that tension and stress that I was giving him by trying to STOP his tears.
So I am suggesting a different view to be spread around: tantrums and tears can actually be a good thing! Tantrums can help you connect with your child. When your child is so upset because you just said no to something this is a great time for you to come in and hold them and say “yes, this is making you sad is making you so sad you can hold mommy and tell me all about it.” This is what will bring a connection for you and your children. Down the road when your toddler becomes a teenager is having a hard time, instead of thinking they can’t come to you with their emotions, perhaps they will feel open to do so because of the long standing respect that you have fostered in your openness towards their big emotions. If you begin thier life with you by telling them you don’t want them to talk about your feelings, how can you ask them to do this when they are older? So start now! Look at those big emotions as a good thing and be happy for the opportunity for connection. Tantrums and tears need not be a curse of parenting, they CAN be a blessing.

Routine, Routine, Routine! Everything you Need to Know About Routine and Flexibility for Your Baby!

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The Joy of Work in Early Childhood

I am so excited to be writing this post! My child has officially entered this stage and I couldn’t be happier! We spend so much time together because my son will come up to me just to imitate my actions. “Do you want to help mommy,” I will ask and then hand him his own copy of what ever I am doing. He will sit and work with me until he eventually wanders off into something else.

Work is his play and play is his work! What I mean by that statement is that when children work with you, this is play for them as well as great quality time with mom or dad. When they play this is the work that will develop their growing motor skills and mental capacities. I highly recommend reading Freya Jaffke’s book, Work and Play in Early Childhood for more wonderful information and tools on this concept. Freja Jaffke was born in 1937. She worked at Reutlingen kindergarten in Germany for many years and now lectures throughout the world in teacher training colleges. She provides tried and tested advice on this important stage of development.

On this great Parenting Passageway Post on chores, Carrie writes “I remark here that rhythm in the practical work of the home and working TOGETHER in joy is what lays the foundation of wholly independent work… IMITATION is also another way to help children learn about chores when they are young.” Here, she lists a great number of chores that can be done with your children, including (for your toddler) “wipe tables and counters with damp sponge, wash vegetables or tear lettuce, help provide water and food for pets, help clean up after play and meals, water plants outside, pick up toys and books, throw things out for you, help clean up spills and messes…” and many more on the post!

Your little ones LOVE to help you and love the time with you in this way because all they want is to learn to do what we do as adults. So here is the amazing thing: you CAN get your housework done with small children in the house! Don’t wait until they go to nap because then they miss all of the fun! Do your work around them and they will come to you to help. Include them. “Do you want to help mommy wipe the counter? Here’s a rag for you!” “Do you want to help mommy fold laundry? Sit on my lap and we will do it together!”

I am so enjoying this part of my sons development and everyday I think of all of the fun housework we can do together. For those of you that do not love housework, you may think I’m nuts. But if you try housework with your little one, you may find that there is a level of enjoyment that you never thought possible.

What are your thoughts on housework with your child? What are your plans for implementing chores with your young family members?

Protecting Childhood in Our Modern World: Early Childcare in the Light of Anthroposophy.

I have decided that it might be nice to publish my final paper on Early Childhood Education from Sound Circle Center. It is a little lengthy but worth a read. Let me know your thoughts! Enjoy!

Protecting Childhood in Our Modern World: Early Childcare in the Light of Anthroposophy. 

Four essential characteristics that can be implemented into mainstream childcare

Introduction

In Autumn of 2009 Helle Heckman, director of Mixed-aged Kind came to lecture here in Seattle and spoke of how our children were not entering Kindergarten after a long stay at home while mothers cooked and cleaned and children played; children were entering care very young, during a crucial age for growth and bonding. Then after years of multiple caregivers we finally receive them in Kindergarten programs, in great need of the work we do. I knew that what she spoke was the truth; our children have needs that we are not meeting! Childcare from an anthroposophical point of view is relatively new and it has been a little controversial. It is viewed that the child should be at home with the mother of father. In an ideal world, this is very true! However, we do not live in an ideal world.

I was privileged to visit Nøkken for two weeks and work directly with Helle Heckman, who then directed me to the work of Bernadette Raichle. I took a workshop with Bernadette Raichle, which was deeply inspiring to me, as she shared similar views and passion as Helle. These programs are based on the work done by Rudolf Steiner and Emmi Pikler[1]. Through researching their programs and the work of Steiner and Pikler, I have attained what I see to be the four main principles to giving holistic care to the child from birth to age three. Waldorf childcare is a new idea that has been taken up by prominent leaders in this field. In Denmark, Helle Heckman has created Nøkken, a mixed-age Kindergarten with children from 1-7 years. In New Zealand, Bernadette Raichle has created Awhina, a day nursery for children 6 months to 3 years. I chose to research these models because of the experience I have with them[2].

Through this paper I will share the benefits of how and why Waldorf Early Childcare can be beneficial to the young child. In my research I have discovered that there are four areas of which we can use as a foundation for building a care center that focuses on the needs of the growth period from infancy to around 3 years. I will then share my exploration into how we can implement these aspects into a mainstream childcare center to better serve the young child that is not able to benefit from Waldorf Early Childcare.

Four Foundational Aspects

 

Upon speaking with Bernadette Raichle and Helle Heckmann about how they support the child and based on what mainstream research has shown, these aspects have stood out as major areas of improvement in mainstream models. While we all know that the mother is the best option of care in the first years of life, this is not a fact of life. In 2005 roughly 70 percent of children under the age of 5 were in non-family care. Childcare is on the rise as careers become more demanding. It is our job not to shun these mothers but to understand the work that goes into raising a child and having a full-time career. We are here to provide support and understanding and to help the parents. Raichle states “the feelings of the mother are the biggest concern after the child. The child and mother are bonded and we must support and respect this.” In this new work that we do, we can make it the best possible option to serve the parents and to serve the children. The four areas that we may work with the children are: the relationship of the child to the environment, the relationship of the child to the other children, the relationship of the child to their caregiver and the relationship of the child to their growth process.

In Waldorf it is primarily the Kindergarten and Preschool that is the focus of Early Childhood trainings and schools, but can it be different? Can we build a mixed-age training so that we may provide the support that is needed?

Relationship of the child to environment

Clinical experience and developmental research reveal the importance of environmental stimulation on children’s social, emotional, physical and cognitive development. There are examples of extremes of environmental care (e.g., children raised in orphanages) that provide clear evidence of the impact of a lack of stimulation on development. The poor developmental outcomes of children who experience extreme early sensory deprivation reveal that the need for novel, stimulating experiences is not ‘biologically extravagant’, but required for survival and successful development.

Sensory stimuli that young children require does not need to come from being entertained by adults of from interactive toys. The stimulation infants and young children need comes from the everyday care and experiences such as being held or swaddled, exploring a textured object, tasting breast milk or a new vegetable, smelling mother’s breast or a rose petal, looking at objects or people, or listening to a caregiver’s singing. All of these experiences occur naturally in the environment, and no special toys, tools, or technology are required to provide the range and variety of experiences a baby naturally seeks out for healthy development. Therefore, what children need to grow and develop adequately is typically provided for during everyday experiences in the context of a relationship with sensitive caregivers in the child’s natural environment.

Simplicity is essential for the very young child as is the care of the environment. How we prepare a space greatly affects the child and how they perceive their environment. We know that a space is best when naturally lit with simple surroundings and toys but we must go a step further in this. When we clean and prepare a room everyday, the pace at which we do this is crucial. If we rush around and create flurries of energy, the young child feels this and will become agitated.  Everything we touch in the environment must be cared for with a sense of unhurried reverence. When we fill the environment with peace and calm, this is a loving gift that we are giving the children. As Bernadette Raichle so lovingly states “The task of the day nursery for the young ones is to take care of the child. The bigger task is to re-awaken the need for protection of the child.”

Relationship of the child to the other children

When our grandparents stayed home with their mother’s, it is likely that they had many siblings and cousins around them and that the children in a community were much more connected than they are now. There was so much to learn in all of that good mixed-age play, and mom could count on older siblings to help with the infants and toddlers.  One of the essential things we have lost during the individualization of our culture is the mixed-aged children’s relationships that are built in home situations. Not all is lost however, this is work that we can take up and re-create. Nøkken specifically addresses this very need.

This past summer I had the privilege to visit Nøkken and work first hand with Helle Heckman. Here I saw the beautiful potential of the mixed age program. In Denmark the citizens are privileged to have one year or maternity/paternity leave after the birth of their child, so infant care is less of a demand. Because of this Nøkken takes children at the age of one and they stay with the program until they leave for first grade. All of the children spend the morning walk together and interact with all the ages of children and with all four caregivers. The caregivers give space so that the children may succeed in caring for one another. It is such a beautiful thing to see a 5-year-old rush over and help a one year old that has fallen down or needs help or to see the 2 year old sit and watch the older children play together, observing the social skills. From these interactions there are crucial skills they learn. The older children learn empathy and learn to care for the younger children, skills that will translate into their own parenting when they are adults. The young child learns the proper manners and behaviors from the older children, at such an imitative age, they pick up so easily how to properly play and work. Because this cycle has been going on for more than 20 years, generations of childhood wisdom are passed on over and over to incoming children. The same rhythm has been in place for so long that the caregivers and the children always have it deep within their bodies making it a therapeutic experience for all. Helle spoke a great point: We have the grades children with one teacher from 1st to 8th grade so why are we splitting up the young child’s care?

Relationship between caregiver and child

One thing we can do to truly serve the children is practice bonding and attachment to the children in our care. Switching between multiple caregivers during the first years of life have negative side effects on the child. One of these is Reactive Attachment Disorder based on the Bowbly Theory of attachment. Bowlby[3] believed the task of the caregivers in the first years is to offer the child a secure base to build solid, emotional bonds.  The quality of the primary attachments affects the child’s functioning throughout life.  The child forms an internal working model about the world based on his/her first primary relationship with the caregiver.  It becomes a map for all future relationships.

If a child did not develop secure attachment with a primary caregiver by age two, it may have serious negative consequences for the child’s social and emotional development. Some of these side effects are a lack of emotional bonds in relationships later in life, a lack of empathy and detachment or lack of interest in life.

Bernadette Raichle has established a Primary Care system at Awhina. Up until three years the child has a primary care person who does all of the care for that child from feeding to changing to napping. Primary care does not mean exclusive care; everyone in the environment knows that the one individual is that child’s main person. So the other caregivers help the child, but the child is bonded with that caregiver. Here in the U.S. it is common to have separate classes and teachers for each age group: infants, toddlers, preschoolers, pre-kindergarten and finally kindergarten. That separates the child from their caregiver many times and the children do not like this. They have bonded with a caregiver and are distraught when they have to move up to a new class; they are distraught because they are trying to tell us something: They have a fundamental need to be connected!

Relationship of the child to their growth process

Another crucial element to the development of the young child is the way in which they learn motor skills. In 1930, Emmi Pikler started research on how children best develop these skills. She found that children who received little or no help learning to do activities such as roll over, sit up and stand fared much better than those that were encouraged or taught how to do so. In writing about Pikler’s work, Susan Weber[4] states, “that the very basic elements of competent behavior are self-dependant initiation of action, independence of performing the action and the effectiveness of the action-in which the formation of contact with others is deemed the primary capacity above others.” In our work with young children it’s important to let the child do activities themselves. If we are always doing the activities for them, they will never become self-reliant and suffer in the long run from lack of confidence in their bodies. When I visited Nokken, it was seen as essential that the young children complete tasks on their own. A sleeve was helped on or off with little assistance, but the child completed the task in the end, thus building confidence.

Magda Gerber[5] speaks of Selective Intervention, which means knowing when not to interfere with the child. When the children get into a difficult situation (such as climbing, or putting on shoes) it is important to wait until they resolve it themselves. She speaks of being near the child so they know we are available but when we leave them be it lets them know we have confidence that they can do the task themselves. If a child is having a hard time, we can speak to them and ask if they need help. In this case it’s important to do a small part of the task and then let the child have some sense of completion. This is not only about giving the child a chance to develop motor skills, this is above all giving the children our respect and trusting that they are capable individuals.

How we can implement these 4 ideas into established care centers in Seattle.

 

Ideally, It would be the best idea to start a little home program for small children, however I chose to focus on how to change the state of current mainstream care centers with the hope that if this work could be taken up, more children would be reached and helped. In care centers in Washington, there are strict rules determined by the Washington Stare Department of Early Learning Licensing. These rules are in place to maintain safe environments for children, so it is a good thing to have a department looking after our children’s safety. However, it is sometimes hard to meet the children’s fundamental needs within some of the restrictions.

Licensing requires that in a center, for the infant and toddler we provide materials and opportunities for large and small motor skills and a wide variety of learning and play materials that are easily cleanable. It states that the environment must be free of clutter. The room must also be well lit, but this can be done with daylight-balanced lights. This is all that is spoken about the environment, so there is quite a bit of liberty to create a cozy, simple space with natural toys.

When we look at the relationship between the children to themselves, it is actually encouraged by licensing that the children do activities that strengthen self-awareness and control. It’s a matter of giving ample time for the child to do these activities. It must be put in the schedule of the day that the transitions will be very long to help the children develop the skills they need to become confidant in himself or herself. This is not really a matter of working with licensing; it’s a matter of educating directors, caregivers and parents that self-initiated activity will ensure the growth of the child’s fundamental needs. It is often the case that when a child becomes distressed, the adult will rush to them to finish the activity. This does ease the immediate distress, but causes more distress and harm in the long run.

The child’s relationships to other children and to the caregiver are both issues that come against a wall. It is of course encouraged to form bonding relationships between child and caregiver, but this does not help with the consistency of care. This is a place in which we must get creative to help with this issue. According to licensing, in a center there are strict rules to which ages may be together. From birth to three is the crucial age where bonding takes place and this is the stage that is spilt up the most. An infant under one must be separated from children older than this age. From 12 months to 29 months this is considered a toddler and 30 months to 5 years is considered a preschooler and these 2 age groups must be separate to maintain maximum staff to child ratio. There are two exceptions that allow for some combining of these ages. You may combine walking toddlers, preschoolers and school-age children as long as the class size does not exceed twelve children. You may also combine infants with older children for one hour if the class size does not exceed eight children. Based on these requirements, you could have a class from walking age to kindergarten age. Since infants are not allowed to be with the older children for longer than an hour, they could perhaps visit when numbers are lower, but it’s generally the case in childcare centers to fill to the max that licensing allows. So the infants are still in danger of having as little as 3 different caregivers during these first 3 years (mother and teachers). It seems, as this issue is so paramount that the only real solution is to work with licensing and try and make a change and bring more awareness to the negative effects of lack of bonding.

 

Conclusion

I have a background working in mainstream childcare. The whole time I was in the centers, especially with the infants, my heart would ache a little at the way they were treated. Like little objects that produced the results adults wanted. Often these results were achieved through shame or punishment. After coming to Waldorf, I was confused for some time about where my place was. I knew what my options were, but I saw the need of the child under 3. This year, having worked with Helle and Bernadette it has given me hope that my passion for helping and protecting the young child is something that we can and should be working towards in the realm of such a beautiful philosophy as Waldorf Education.

Through the four foundational aspects we can serve the children that must leave their homes at an early age and through Waldorf Early Childhood philosophy, we can create a loving home-like environment to nourish the soul. As stated before, the controversy of Waldorf Childcare is the view that the child should be home with the mother. For whatever reason, the appeal of staying at home to raise children has been somewhat lost. In time perhaps, through our work with these children and the joy we ourselves have in home-like tasks, we can re-enliven the great and beautiful responsibility of the homemaker for future generations.


[1] Emmi Pikler was a Hungarian pediatrician who devoted her life to the development of the young child. Because of her work, she was invited by the Hungarian government in 1946 to create an orphanage for children from birth to three years old whose mothers had died in childbirth or from tuberculosis.  This center was called the National Methodological Institute, or more familiarly ” Loczy, ” after the name of its street location.

[2] I would also like to point out that the Lifeways program has also taken up this work, but was not an area I researched at this time so I suggest further investigation into this if you are as moved by this topic as I am.

[3] John Bowlby (February 26th 1907–September 2nd 1990) was a British psychologistpsychiatrist and psychoanalyst, notable for his interest in child development and for his pioneering work in attachment theory.

[4] In New Hampshire, Susan Weber has created Sophia’s Hearth, a childcare center with children from 3 months to 6 years. Sophia’s Hearth has a foundation in the RIE method and a RIE training is offered at the center.

[5] Magda Gerber was born in Hungary, and received a master’s degree in early childhood education in Budapest. Gerber incorporated many of Emmi Pikler’s theories into her own philosophy, which she termed RIE. In 1997 she wrote Your Self-Confident Baby: How to Encourage Your Child’s Natural Abilities from the Very Start and in 2003 she wrote Dear Parent: Caring for Infants With Respect.

Encouraging Baby’s Independance…And Mother’s Sanity

When my Son was 4 months old, he never, ever wanted to be set down on his own. When I needed to eat or use the restroom, he would get so mad that he was out of my arms and scream the entire time. Carrying around a 15 pound child all day long was not only physically exhausting, but emotionally exhausting as well, as I did not have my own space to take care of my basic needs. In addition to what I was feeling, my Son was not getting what he needed either. Sure he WANTED to be held, but he NEEDED to be able to move on his own and explore his individual place in the world. In her book Dear Parent: Caring for your Infant with Respect, Magda Gerber writes: “Parents who carry their babies most of the time are not giving their infants the opportunity to move according to their readiness. Most animals can show emotion only through touch, but we as humans have an extensive, varied and refined repertoire of ways to demonstrate love.”

So I was in a position where I was ready for something to change before I had a breakdown. Following Magda Gerbers advice, I would set him down for longer and longer periods of time. At first, he was so mad, he would cry and cry. After a little time, I would pick him up and instead of just mindlessly carrying him around as I had done before, I would really be present with him. I would talk to him about how great he was doing, getting used to being on his own, and how it IS hard to adjust to life here on earth and it’s perfectly alright to cry about it. Eventually, he was on his own longer and in my arms less and we were both finally free to be independent beings, co-existing with respect and love for the other.

Now I have my Son who couldn’t be happier crawling around my whole house while I sit in peace drinking tea and working on my own. He has finally gained the confidence he needed to play on his own. In her post Infant Play-Great Minds at Work, Janet Lansbury writes: “Babies are self-learners and what they truly need is the time, freedom and trust to just “be.” She shares a video of a boy who was left to play on his own for uninterrupted play from infancy:    

 “The first section is a four and a half month old boy playing outside. We then see the same boy at two years old focusing on a puzzle.  This boy spent his early years in free exploration between naps, feedings and diaper changes.  He was never directed, taught, or otherwise shown ‘how’ he should play. He was only interrupted when absolutely necessary.” I try to remind myself of the last part, and let my Son play uninterrupted. When he needs me, he always lets me know.

One thing I want to be clear of after sharing this story is that this what what my son and I needed. I know of so many mothers who choose to hold and wear their baby for large portions of the day, and I think that is great. It shows me that those mothers are responding to what THEIR children need. If it works for you and your family, then it must be the right fit. If it doesn’t work, which in my case was true, children are adaptable and intelligent beings that will fit into the lifestyle that works for you and your family as a whole.