Early Childhood

“The best preparation for being a happy and useful adult is to live fully as a child”
-the Plowden report

Imaginative play, artistic expression and extended contact with the natural world are at the center of our Early Childhood Program. We offer three Early Childhood classrooms: Starflower Preschool (ages 2.5-4), Sunflower Kindergarten (ages 3.5-6), and outdoor-based Sugar Maples Kindergarten (ages 4-6).

Starflower Class

Based upon traditional Waldorf Education, the focus of our preschool curriculum is imaginative play, artistic expression and extended contact with the natural world. Daily, weekly, and seasonal rhythms that encourage the child’s social, emotional, and intellectual development lay the foundation for inspired lifelong learning. Our Starflower Class Teachers lead the children in the classroom rhythms and age-appropriate activities that nurture the child. The school day includes a nutritious snack, hot lunch and afternoon rest for full-day students. Both full-day and half-day options are available, for three, four, or five days weekly.

Sunflower Class

Sunflower Indian Lake Field Trip #2Our Kindergarten Class Teachers create a warm, naturally beautiful environment in a home-like setting. Days allow ample time for indoor and outdoor play. Children benefit from participating in purposeful tasks throughout the day, such as cooking, cleaning, gardening, washing, and more. Circle time allows young children to participate in seasonal verses, songs, stories, and games. Our students grow and develop through exposure to artistic offerings, such as puppet plays, live music, drawing, watercolor painting, and beeswax modeling.

This daily schedule encourages the development of balance, coordination, and important gross and fine-motor skills while supporting the child’s imagination, sense of wonder for the world, and reverence for life. The school day includes a nutritious snack, hot lunch and afternoon rest for full-day students. Both full-day and half-day options are available, for three, four, or five days weekly.

Sugar Maples Class

Nature preschool horizontalIn keeping with our other early childhood classrooms, the Sugar Maples Class takes a predominantly outdoor, nature-based approach to early childhood education. The Sugar Maples will spend much of their time outside, weather permitting and taking into account seasonal adjustments. The curriculum is nature-themed, incorporating the same activities and rhythms of our other Early Childhood classrooms. Snack and lunch are served outside (weather permitting), while afternoon rest is back at school, where the Sugar Maples have a home-base classroom. The school day includes a nutritious snack, hot lunch and afternoon rest for full-day students. Both full-day and half-day options are available, for three, four, or five days weekly.

Madison Waldorf School Essential Early Childhood Principles

  • We believe that early childhood, from birth to age seven, is a unique period of life that deserves respect, guidance, nurturing and protection.
  • We strive to work primarily out of Rudolf Steiner’s pedagogy, which stresses that children not only possess a physical nature but a soul and spiritual nature as well.
  • Meaningful work and creative play in a structured environment are the pillars upon which a healthy life can be built.
  • The gradual development of the young child’s social skills is of the utmost importance for their education and interpersonal success.

Madison Waldorf School Early Childhood Tenets

1. Young children have a drive and a desire to master the physical world.

Young children are gradually “moving into” their physical bodies, and need plenty of opportunities and space to move, work and play.  They are also building up their physical bodies in the early years, requiring warmth and movement.  Their education at this time takes place primarily through an active participation in the life around them.

2. Young children are best supported by strong daily, weekly and yearly rhythms.

Consistency and predictability are the foundations for child’s health, development, sense of self, confidence, and learning.  A breathing, unhurried unfolding of the day, the week and the year benefits both the children and the teachers.

3.Young children can learn best in a mixed-age environment with consistent caregivers.

Ongoing, nurturing relationships are essential to a child’s sense of security and emotional well-being.  A setting that includes children of diverse ages allows younger children to aspire to their future and the older ones to serve, lead and nurture the little ones.

4. Young children need support, loving guidance and practice to develop social skills.

Much of the young child’s work is about learning healthy social skills:  meeting new friends, sharing, waiting, asking, thanking, helping those in need, etc.

5. Young children need ample time for creative and social play.

Imaginative, uninterrupted play with open-ended toys and materials that can be continually transformed is the cornerstone of childhood.
6. Young children need to experience meaningful, purposeful, practical life-skills.

Children benefit greatly when they have opportunities to join in, as they are able, with adults engaged in the daily tasks of life:  cooking, cleaning, gardening, washing, woodworking, sewing, building, etc.

7. Young children need to have daily, extended contact with the natural world.

Indoors, the child’s senses are deepened and developed when surrounded by playthings made of natural materials.  And when they are outdoors, seasonal discoveries and transformations in nature are a healing balm to the young child.  Children are able to form bonds with the earth which can later develop into a true attitude of stewardship.

8. Young children grow and develop through experiencing the nurturing arts, as practiced by the adults who care for them.

Children know they are loved when they are fed, washed, sung to, given a rest, bandaged, have their hair brushed or their back rubbed.

9. Young children experience health and well-being when they help prepare, serve and eat nutritious, mind and body-building food.

When children know where their food comes from and participate in its preparation they develop skills that will serve them throughout their lives.

10. Young children grow and develop when they are exposed to and take part in artistic offerings.

Puppet plays, live music, song, verse, and storytelling provide children with a language-rich environment.  Such an environment stimulates the child’s imagination, gives him pictures to inform his moral intelligence and provides soothing human connections.  Drawing, watercolor painting and simple handwork projects allow her to connect her inner and outer worlds while developing important fine-motor skills and neural pathways necessary for later learning.