During the first seven years children are physically forming and live very much in their imagination. This great capacity to enter into imaginative pictures and stories is a good place to begin the process of learning. Free, creative play is considered the best preparation for self-realisation in adult life.
The teacher endeavours to create an environment that gives children time to play and encourages them to exercise their imagination so that learn to conjure up ideas from within themselves. Simple homely tasks and artistic activities to both do and see are balanced with storytelling, singing games and generous play times. A rich supply of natural materials provides scope for imagination in play, which refined toys often deny.
Activities offered for the four to six year olds are based on the home and garden. These include sweeping, gardening, cooking, building cubbies, looking after animals, singing, listening to stories, helping to prepare the meal table, cutting fruit, painting, clay modelling and drawing. Children learn to enjoy building, using the natural materials in the room to make their own constructions and patterns. Practical experience helps the child develop confidence and capabilities.
Steiner education seeks to nurture the senses through water-colour painting and singing, beeswax and clay modelling. The teacher works consistently to provide rhythm and structure to the day, week, year and whole curriculum, to harmonise with the child’s natural rhythms.
At this age, children are discovering how to relate socially with a peer group and take part in fundamental life tasks. Through meeting and playing creatively together, children learn vital interpersonal skills. The teacher plays an important role in enabling relationships between children to strengthen through play.
Young children develop primarily by doing, learning through imitation and physical activity. The role of the teacher is to provide a model for the children and a secure space in which to discover the world. They are not yet ready for more formal classes. Thus, the teacher reserves the formal teaching of numbers and letters for the child’s next developmental stage, signalled physically by the change of teeth, at about the age of seven.