Understanding the Steiner Waldorf Approach: Early Years Education in Practice

By Janni Nicol; Jill Tina Taplin | Go to book overview

6
Play at the heart of the
Steiner Waldorf setting

Introduction

There is much talk of ‘the play-based curriculum’, and there are indeed parts of the rhythm of the Steiner kindergarten morning that would come into the category of ‘playful learning’ or ‘guided play’ (ring time, for example). However, this chapter discusses why self-initiated free play is such a vital part of a child’s development and looks at the harm that might be caused by the lack of it. We look at what is needed to stimulate and nourish essential deep play and at the place of the adult in this childled activity. Examples are given of how the behaviour of the adults in the setting affects the children’s play and how adults can become successful play facilitators while still leaving the initiative with the children.


What is self-initiated play?

All Steiner Waldorf settings give time and space, both indoors and out of doors, for children’s own self-initiated free play. As Oldfield (2002: 96) writes, ‘In the Waldorf kindergarten, every effort will be made to provide conditions in which play can flourish – sufficient time, appropriate space and equipment, but most of all an attitude of respect towards this most magical characteristic of childhood’ (see Fig 6.1).

‘Free play time’ has traditionally been invested with much importance in the Steiner Waldorf kindergarten. This is the time when the children can express themselves without any adult guidance or goals. The adults’ part in this activity is, at least on the surface, a minimal interaction. It is not the practitioner’s task to, for example, set up a shop with goods to

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