The Statutory Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)

The Statutory Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Birth – 5 years, applies to all settings including ours. It sets out both learning and development requirements and safeguarding and welfare requirements for children from birth to 31 August following their fifth birthday. You can find out more about the EYFS in the Guide to the EYFS in Steiner Kindergartens which you will find in your Kindergarten or on the Steiner Waldorf  Schools Fellowship website. You can also find A Parent’s Guide to the EYFS on the government website. 
Due to areas that conflict with the Steiner Waldorf early childhood principles and practice, we have received some ‘Exemptions and Modifications’ to the EYFS Learning and Development requirements and Assessment regulations under the ‘Established Principles’ route. These are mostly to do with the introduction and in some cases formal teaching of reading, writing, mathematics and use of IT/media and electronic gadgetry. There is no exemption from the safeguarding and welfare requirements. (See list of Exemptions and Modifications in the Kindergarten).
Each child is assessed against the Early Learning Goals which is the base line assessment for all children.

Kindergarten at Michael Hall

Children begin life with openness and trust and the world around them literally impresses itself on the young child. Their development is shaped by these impressions. A child’s learning is directly connected to their physical body and sensory experience – everything they see, hear, and touch has an effect. In the early years clean, orderly, beautiful and peaceful surroundings with natural materials and warm textures are essential. The physical environment should provide varied and nourishing opportunities for self-directed learning.

In fostering this environment the relationship between Kindergarten and parents is central. Teachers strive to support, trust and offer guidance to parents in order that consistency between the child’s experiences is supported as much as possible.

Steiner early childhood education is based on three important principles – rhythm and repetition, imitation and play.

Rhythm and repetition: A strong and regular rhythm promotes security and self-confidence. This in turn supports the children’s ability to live with change, to know their place in the world and to develop an understanding of past, present and future. Rhythm is reflected in the daily, weekly and yearly life of the Kindergarten. Memory is strengthened by these rhythms, as is the child’s understanding of time as it unfolds from their experience.

Imitation: Children learn through imitation and the ‘art’ of learning gains meaning through its relevance to life. The Kindergarten teacher surrounds the children with purposeful activities (such as cooking, baking and caring for their environment) all of which nourish through imitation. As gestures, thoughts and feelings are perceived and imitated by the young child, the Kindergarten teacher engages through conscious loving care and strives to be a role model worthy of imitation.

Play: Creative and self-directed play are central to Waldorf early years teaching in which the task is to support the child in his or her imaginative endeavours through the provision of simple, unformed natural play materials that nurture the child’s senses and maximise imaginative potential. Such play materials allow the child’s imagination to transform one item into another (for example a seaside shell can become a bowl, a boat or a telephone; a muslin cloth becomes a knight’s cloak or a roof for a house). This free flow of imagination forms the foundation for free-flowing thinking as an adult.

Children join Kindergarten at three years old and remain for three to four years. It is usually the child’s first experience of being in a bigger group of children without their parents. Kindergarten children are moving from flux to form whilst the outer physical body grows and the inner organs develop. The children (though naturally of a dreamy nature) become more conscious of themselves and their world, and begin to grow down to earth and into their bodies. The unconscious will forces develop into conscious will. More specifically the aims during this period are:

  • The 3-year-old settles into the group establishing rhythm (willing). The child is reliant upon the adults around them, from which they are not yet separated. They are spatially unaware, dreamy, egocentric and have no boundaries relating to the world in a physical way.
  • The 4-year-old lives in the rhythm of the Kindergarten developing social play/fantasy (feeling). The child gains greater security from rhythm and develops more social connections in play. Movement is fostered through play and creative discipline becomes effective.
  • The 5 to 6-year-old establishes social skills, school readiness (thinking) and a greater consciousness alongside a separation from the etheric. Gross and fine motor skills increase as does planned play and organised, pre-conceived, ideas.

Throughout the time in Kindergarten a child’s development can be expressed in the following ways:

  • In drawing, one sees movement from chaos to form. The 3-year-old’s unfocused scribbles become the 6-year-old’s detailed rich representation of the surrounding world.
  • In movement, the simple acts of putting on slippers challenges the 3 year old but, by contrast, the challenges to the 6-year-old become skipping, climbing, and running with skill and agility.
  • The 3-year-old’s play (that finds him/her next to but not necessarily playing with another), slowly becomes the rich and limitless play of the social 5-year-old. The child is then fully active and using strong imagination to transform any unformed play thing into what they wish. By the age of 6, creative play becomes inner fantasy: the ‘me’ becomes ‘us’ and ‘I’ becomes ‘we’.
  • In language, the 3 year old plays with sounds and words somewhat unconsciously but as they approach the age of 6 they consciously begin to rhyme and play with words and sounds. Vocabulary, alliteration and understanding develop over this time and by age 5, children can sing in tune.

Within the daily and weekly rhythm, the Kindergarten activities include:

  • Care for the environment through purposeful activity (e.g. cooking, baking, gardening, and cleaning).
  • Fostering children’s play (unformed, natural toys allowing free-flowing imagination).
  • Ringtime – where seasonal content develops differentiated language, social development, fine and gross motor skills and movement.
  • Outdoors - creative play strengthens and nourishes the physical body.
  • Snack time – the senses are cared for and nourished and children experience social understanding through eating together and reverence through lighting the candle.
  • Repetitive stories and fairy tales nurture concentration and listening skills.
  • Observation of adults engaging in meaningful tasks develops the will.