Words of Waldorf Wisdom
“Before age nine, the most important thing is for children to learn how to properly sleep”.
-Rudolph Steiner, Understanding Young Children
As we have spoken about before, rhythm and routine are important components of a Waldorf Kindergarten. One of the key parts of the day is rest time.
“The day in a typical Waldorf kindergarten is usually divided in two distinct parts. In the morning, the children engage in free play, have a circle time in which they do movement activities and perhaps eurythmy, listen to a story, sing, have snack and end the morning with a walk-in nature or playtime outside. They are active and engage throughout” -Aniko Gereb. The afternoon nap in a Waldorf Kindergarten. – An essential for healthy development.
When noon comes, the beautiful morning program ends, and we slowly move into a new dimension. Rest helps the children find the peace they need to not only continue on in a highly stimulating social space, but as Dr. Daria M. Breizinski puts it, rest is:
"...An essential key to creative intelligence is something totally lacking in a child’s world today – silence. Allow time for a child’s quiet space…. When a child is calm, they become more sensitive to the finer qualities of life.”
The above could also be applied to adults with our busy schedules. And how do we cultivate silence in the Kindergarten?
In our classrooms, the ritual is always the same and is maintained throughout the school year, and we would love to paint you a picture of our afternoon.
The Physical Space and curating the environment
Everyday the beds are ready in the same spot to build habit and rhythm. We will share with the students if there is ever a change, but we strive to maintain consistency.
There are two to three teachers and each play different roles. It can differ in each unique classroom, but there is harmony in their work. They connect using very little words, and focus more on gentle gestures to start bringing the quiet into the space.
The cozy mood is also aided by closing the curtains, and turning of the lights. The teacher starts to sing or hum a calming song, calling to attention that it is time to rest.
The Class Rhythm
Lunch is over, bellies are full, and it is time to pack up. The students know the routine well, heading straight to the washroom and then find their beds. Getting cozy, they take off the indoor shoes and lie down covering themselves with their blankets. By 1:00pm all or most children should be settling.
One teacher plays the lyre or another stringed instrument, slowly bringing the children know again, that it is time to rest. When there is a moment of silence, the vibrations of the strings ring out into the room.
The teacher can softly guide the children with words. For example: we’re going to rest / this is a quiet time for all of us / find the silence and keep the silence / find a comfortable position for your body / put your head in your pillow (usually one or two of the options).
Then one by one, we sing a little song to acknowledge each individual child in the space: …. student name….is ready and covered with your blanket, find your bed…find your bed…
The teacher plays music for a short time, or tells a short peaceful story. After they remain silent and cover themselves with a sweater, modeling how to be cozy, still, and reverent.
Silence for all of us.
You can imagine it is not always silent and we gently remind the children that this is the time to rest and we’re resting our voices and bodies.
Sometimes the teacher can sew or knit an on-going project, the same bag of needles and yarn. Whether they do choose to do that, they must keep the energy of the space low. The teachers themselves are also modeling a sleepy feeling, breathing slow and deep, eyelids, and bodies heavy.
After a while, around 1:50pm, the teacher darts to hum and then sing oh so lightly at first:
Morning has come, night is away,
let’s rise with the sun and welcome the day.
We open curtains and let in the natural light, like waking up at home. And again, the students know the routine and start to tidy blankets and bedsheets into their personal bags, sometimes with the help of the teacher.
Then we put on our slippers or our indoor shoes and use the bathroom. As the whole class transitions to being awake and tidying, the students and the teacher draw or engage in other quiet activities around the table.
Finally, it is time to go home, we put away the materials and sing songs and recite verses to say goodbye to the day. Then we all prepare to go play outside one last time.
With this rhythm we help to teach children how to sleep, or to find inner quiet. We let the children digest part of their day, and replenish, to find the energy to continue on with their evening routine at home.