A Day in the Life of a Waldorf Kindergarten

A Day in the Life of a Waldorf Kindergarten
Written by contributor Sarah Baldwin of Bella Luna Toys

A note from Jamie: While not technically a homeschooling day, this post provides a helpful look into an early childhood Waldorf classroom, which is largely based on a home atmosphere. Many popular homeschooling curricula spring out of this philosophy, so I greatly appreciate Sarah sharing her expertise with us. Enjoy!

It’s “Soup Day,” in my Waldorf kindergarten class. My assistant and I arrived early to don our aprons and prepare for the day. A basin full of water has been set on the table. Vegetable scrub brushes lay nearby.

A small wooden cutting board, wooden bowl and “crinkle cutter” have been set in front of each chair.

At 8:10, the teachers gather to read the morning verse. We end with Rudolf Steiner’s words, “Receive the children with reverence, educate them with love, let them go forth in freedom.” We are ready to start our day!

At 8:15, the children begin to arrive, each one proudly carrying a vegetable to add to our “stone soup.” Lucy brings a potato, Aidan brings a carrot. Frances brings broccoli, and Max a beet. It takes a village to make stone soup!

Each child finds her symbol above her hook – it might be a bunny, an apple, the moon, or a squirrel. She hangs up her coat, takes off her outdoor shoes and puts on the soft pair of slippers that is kept at school.

Children then put on a small apron and come to the table where I am seated to help chop vegetables. The conversation is lively as we chop. I begin to sing, “Stone soup, stone soup, cook a pot of stone soup,” as we work.

Photo by Sarah Baldwin

As each child finishes, he brings his bowl of chopped vegetables to my assistant, who adds them to the big pot on the stove. Now it is time to play!

Play Time

Free play is the heart of the morning in a Waldorf kindergarten, and the children waste no time. A trio dons silk capes and crowns, the leader declares “I’m the king, you’re the knight, and you’re the bishop!” They’re off to slay dragons.

One boy pulls out a log stump, and soon others are lined up to take turns jumping off it.

Photo by Sarah Baldwin

Another pair pulls out two wooden playstands, and begin draping them with silks and play cloths, fastening them with chunky wooden clips to create a cozy little home.

The two teachers finish lunch preparations, while two children set the table.

At 9:30 I sing:

Tick Tock goes the clock, what does it have to say?
Time for us to pick up our toys, and put them all away.

The children gradually transition from their play, and begin to fold silks, put shells and stones back in baskets, and move the playstands back to their places. We gather on the rug in the center of the room for circle time.

Circle Time

During circle, I lead the class through a series of seasonal songs, verses, gestures and movement. The children imitate me. We repeat the same circle every day for two weeks, until the children know every song and gesture by heart, taking pleasure in their mastery.

We end circle with the following verse:

Now the sun has gone to bed,
The stars are shining overhead.
In their nests the birds all sleep,
Into their homes the snails will creep.
Children now no more will roam,
It’s rest time now and we’re safe in our home.

Rest Time

The children lie down on the rug for rest time. I sit in a rocking chair with one child on my lap, who gently strums my kinder lyre. The soothing notes of its pentatonic scale help create a restful mood.

When all are settled, the “wake-up fairy,” a silk marionette, comes to the resting children, one-by-one, to kiss them on the cheek and tell them it’s time to get ready to go outside.

Outside Time

We go outdoors every day–rain or shine, snow or mud. Living in Maine I’ve learned that it’s possible to enjoy being outside even on the coldest of days if one is dressed properly.

Photo by Sarah Baldwin

In the winter that means wool long underwear covered by lots of layers, down jackets, a warm wool hat and insulated mittens. In the spring (or, as it is known in Maine, “mud season”) it means rain pants and rain boots every day.

Out on the playground, a group of children dig tunnels in the sandbox, others climb a tree, some build fairy houses, a pair sit and talk on top of the big boulder making plans. I rake leaves.

At 11:15, I sing, “Come and follow, follow, follow, me!” The children line up like little ducks behind me as we make our way back to our warm and cozy classroom.

The children hang up their coats, put their slippers on and find a seat in the circle of chairs my assistant has set up. It’s story time!

Story Time

As with circle, I will tell the same story every day for two weeks. Today the children hear the story of “Mother Holle,” a Grimm’s fairy tale.

Throughout the year, the children will hear a variety of fairy tales, folk tales and nature stories (sometimes with puppets), which they listen to with rapt attention, never tiring of the repetition.

Lunch Time

Now it’s time for lunch! We sit at the table, light a candle and say the following verse:

Earth who gives to us this food,
Sun who makes it ripe and good,
Dearest Earth and Dearest Sun.
We’ll not forget what you have done.

And finally we get to enjoy our stone soup, which has been simmering on the stove all day. One lucky child finds the stone in her bowl and gets to make a wish. She then passes it to her neighbor, and all of us around the table will get to make a wish with the magic stone.

Photo by Douglas Mott

After lunch, two children help do the dishes, while the others get dressed to go back outside.

Goodbye

At 1:00, parents have arrived. Children, teachers and parents gather in a big circle, hold hands and sing:

Dear friends, goodbye
Dear friends, goodbye
Now is the time of day
When we all go our way
Dear friends, goodbye
Dear friends, goodbye

We’ll see each other again tomorrow on “Bread Day!”

Are there any elements of my kindergarten morning that are similar to your homeschool mornings? Any ideas you’ve gleaned here that you’d like to incorporate into your days? I’d love to hear!

Originally published on February 4, 2011.

About Sarah

Sarah is an author, mama to two teenage boys, and Waldorf early childhood educator. She is also the owner of Bella Luna Toys, an online shop offering wooden and natural toys inspired by Waldorf education. She writes about childhood, play, parenting and Waldorf education on her blog, Moon Child.

Comments

  1. Jenny says:

    This sounds so fun! I love that the kids have comfortable slippers to wear at school. That probably is so much more relaxing than having sneakers or boots on all day.
    Jenny’s latest post: Wordless Wednesday- A Day In The Life of Kitty

    • So true, Jenny. And not only that, having a nice big rug and a class full of children wearing slippers is so much quieter that 15 children running around on bare floors with sneakers!
      Sarah Baldwin’s latest post: The Rhythm of the Waldorf Kindergarten Day

      • Lisa says:

        oh thank you for bringing the Waldorf kindergarten perspective as we are Waldorf homeschoolers and with children 7 and a half years apart have done Waldorf nursery and kindergarden homeschooling for 15 years. Now that we are homeschooling in the grades, I love helping moms and families create the mood of Waldorf early childhood at home. It is a very special time and place of life. thank you for including it!

  2. Annie says:

    I love the “grace” before meals. We are atheists but I think it’s nice to be thankful for the food we have.

    • Yes, Annie. I think the practice of gratitude is so important, no matter what our spiritual beliefs. It takes our minds off all that is “wrong” in our lives and helps us to remember all the abundance we enjoy.

      A meditation that I like to practice at meal times is to think about all the hands and human energy that were involved in bringing my food to the table — the farmer who sowed the seeds, the hands that harvested, the person who drove the truck from farm to market, and so on. What a lot of work went in to each bite we are privileged to eat!
      Sarah Baldwin’s latest post: The Rhythm of the Waldorf Kindergarten Day

  3. andie says:

    i have to say the slippers make me smile. we’re currently overseas and my kids attended a preschool last year. all the kids have special slippers they wear inside the school (even the teachers, and if we were to come inside we had to take our shoes off, too). we’ll definitely carry the slipper tradition with us always, no matter where we live.

    i also love how all the kids participate in making and cleaning up from lunch. i had never thought of making that a part of our school day.
    andie’s latest post: a just-for-fun story

  4. Sarah M says:

    love this! Although we don’t do waldorf exclusively at our house, we definitely incorporate some of it into our routine…and I love the peek into the school!
    I’ve even though of doing a waldorf curriculum for my oldest next year because I love how seasonally festive it is.

    Sarah M
    Sarah M’s latest post: This Moment

    • Stephanie S says:

      We’ve had to be careful with “trying” seasonal festivals because the following year our children were waiting for it. So, just be aware that it may be something that continues for years. If this is the case, I’ve found it helps to keep a notebook and at least a page on what we did and the sources and recipes that I used, along with my notes on how it went or what to change. Some festivals, Easter, for example might have projects that need to start some time before the holiday so a calender of starting dates for projects helps too.

  5. Pure Mothers says:

    Oh I miss the Waldorf schools in America. The one my son attended in Northern California for parent/toddler classes was amazing. The one here in London is not as nice. :-( Can’t wait to move back to the states in a couple of years!
    Pure Mothers’s latest post: Earth Day Exploration

  6. Heather Brandt says:

    I’d love to learn the tune to the clean up song you mentioned..

  7. Crystal says:

    Oh, I just loved reading this post. So relevant to me right now, as my husband and I toss the idea of Waldorf school back and forth and back and forth…. my oldest will be Kindergarten age next Fall :) Thank you for this post. I think I’ve pretty firmly swung in the Waldorf direction now :)

  8. Erin says:

    It sounds lovely. This is my first introduction to Waldorf schools. Thank you.
    Erin’s latest post: God Gave Us Christmas by Lisa Tawn Bergren- art by David Hohn

  9. Sue Klingseis says:

    I am a retired public school teacher on the other side of the US. Our kindergarten is like a factory pushing children to get ready for tests, tests, tests. Your day is what kindergarten SHOULD be. Lucky children in your school.

  10. Kara says:

    Oh what a happy post!! My daughter is doing a Waldorf class right now through our homeschool co-op and it is very similar. I feel like I am learning a lot too!

  11. Aimee says:

    What is a good Waldorf resource for homeschooling moms that teaches how to order your day like this, the graces, the helping with food, etc?

  12. Kimberly says:

    Another lovely post Sarah! My Daughter is lucky enough to be in a Waldorf kindy on an organic farm on an island in New Zealand. The rhythm of the day is exactly the same, songs and all. It is such a fabulous start in life that I know i do not have the skill set or patience to otherwise offer my children. I am so grateful that many children partake in such programs. Thank you for sharing!
    Kimberly’s latest post: The long post in which I answer THE question…

  13. Dallas says:

    I loved it! Wait until my husband sees me bring home log chunks and set them in the living room! :) And just the first peek at the room… ahh, beautiful.

  14. Jamie says:

    I think this post is why I woke up craving vegetable soup for lunch, Sarah!

    Love this beautiful overview and I have a question, too. What tools do you use to introduce the chopping of vegetables? A regular knife or something else first?

    Thanks for sharing with us!

  15. Leigh says:

    Thank you this is a wonderful post about the rhythm of a young child’s morning in a Waldorf classroom. I have to say I LOVE the room. Would it be possible to get a more in-depth look at the classroom with an explanation of why things are there? It looks like it helps create a peaceful and productive day. This post gave me tons of ideas to put into place.

    Thanks for sharing!

  16. Carol says:

    I picked up an old book on child rearing well before my children were in this Waldorf kindergarten, and I was impressed by its emphasis on order and repetition. I got our days into a pattern pretty quick, and I was amazed and so pleased — after a while they learned what came next every day and I didn’t have to talk about it … we just came downstairs from naps and they headed for their coats to go outside. On the best days, it became a dance. After the girls entered this kindergarten, I pruned out plastic toys and moved to far fewer but oh so lovely natural fiber items. They are now in their early teens and remember their childhood with gratitude and joy. thank you Sarah!

  17. Oh, I loved reading this post! I am definitely going to borrow the “tick tock” rhyme; I know the littles will love it.
    We actually have several “waldorf” toys and love many of the ideas behind it. I love how calming, natural, and repetitious many of the elements are. It gives the feeling of truly enjoying childhood.

    {Though I did feel the tiniest twinge of guilt, reading that they always go outside regardless of the weather. I’m great summer, spring and fall. Winter is not my favorite time of year. It’s freezing and when it’s so cold, I just want to hibernate!!}
    Jenn @ Beautiful Calling’s latest post: John’s 6 Hour Home Birth Story

  18. KYNDALE says:

    It feels calming just to read the post! I love the beauty and rhythm of a Waldorf classroom : )
    KYNDALE’s latest post: being vulnerable

  19. What a beautiful classroom! We incorporate a lot of Waldorf principles in our homeschool. I’m guilty of not going out with the kids in winter too, though. Here in MN it is often far below zero and none of us want to venture out! :)
    Magic and Mayhem’s latest post: 10 Signs You’re Doing Something Right as a Homeschooler

  20. cat says:

    I absolutely adore the meal blessing! We are non-christian and one thing I’ve always appreciated and missed was saying grace before supper. I tried “tell me what your thankful for” but it resulted in half hearted nom nom nom’s “food and family” nom.

    Is Waldorf education: a family guide, a good first time resource? I’ve looked waldorf and montessori up on amazon and the outcome is overwhelming. I can’t really figure out the differences are.

  21. Bernadette says:

    Oh, it’s so lovely! It makes me so homesick for my daughter’s Waldorf preschool back in Colorado. We’ve moved to Missouri where there are no Waldorf schools.

    • Nissa Van Riper says:

      Are you near St Louis? There is a Waldorf school, Shining Rivers, and a fantastically supportive community there.

    • Jessica says:

      I believe there’s a Waldorf preschool in Columbia as well. We moved away from Columbia before my daughter was preschool age, so I never got the chance to check it out.

  22. Nicole Justice says:

    I am so inspired by this post! I just was introduced to Waldorf education and I cannot get enough of it. Sadly, I live in an area with no Waldorf schools and very few people have ever heard of it and none have had any first hand experience with it. I have read “Waldorf Education: A Family Guide” and “The Creative Family” by Amanda Soule; and now I am reading “You Are Your Child’s First Teacher” and “What Is A Waldorf Kindergarten?”. Truly I am struggling, but by reading this post and following Bella Luna on FB, I feel like I have a better understand on how to practically and tangibly transition my home into a Waldorf home for my children.

  23. Marie says:

    Just lovely, cheers Marie

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  25. AMBER says:

    Love this!! Just curious though, are there lessons and/or any type of worksheets for assessment of any kind throughout the day?

  26. Monica N. says:

    Hi, I was wondering if any of the photographs in the article are creative common licensed? I am a volunteer with a Waldorf inspired charter school that is set to open this fall. We are trying to locate a picture of a Waldorf classroom in order to illustrate the type of furnishings the classrooms will need, in special the Kindergarten classrooms for a community funded project.
    Thank you for your time and the great article!

  27. Darla Tuning says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I teach in a “traditional” school, which is far too strict for my liking, especially for the younger children. I am trying to find ways to make my days more like what you have shared here, while still staying within the requirements of the school. Some day this will be my school though.

  28. Shelly says:

    My children also enjoy cooking and lots of free play- from Little House on the Prairie to Ninja and lots in between. I have to add that this room decor is amazing! It looks like a fairy tale!
    Shelly’s latest post: An Unschooling Novice’s Approach to, Well, Unschooling

  29. Faigie says:

    Sarah have you ever heard of The Bank Street Approach? Waldorf sounds very close to it.

  30. Kari says:

    I would sell my soul to be able to send my child to a Waldorf school. I can’t understand why all schools are not run this way– seems obvious that children would thrive in this environment!

  31. Tanya Hulbert says:

    Although I love the hands on approach of Waldorf schools, I am not in favor of giving thanks to the earth rather than the earth’s Creator, God. If you’re a Christian family, please look into the deeper teachings of Waldorf. Just a respectful thought.

    • Linda Wilson says:

      I agree Tanya. To ignore the One who created us all and gives us all good things to enjoy is a ‘nice’ slap in His face.

  32. Tristan says:

    I love the predictable rhythm Waldorf seems to offer and look forward to checking the the books mentioned for some more information! As mama to a large and growing family with eight children, five of whom are Kindy or younger, routines are so important in my home. I would love to incorporate some themes into our days! We do a morning devotional with the same two songs before our family scripture study and I was just noticing this morning that on day 16 of the new songs all my children know every word of all the verses. I need to plan our next two songs to learn!

    Thank you for sharing, I have wondered for a long time about Waldorf ideas but have found little available to me locally to learn more.
    Tristan’s latest post: Nutty Wednesday Randomness

  33. Misty says:

    I have always found Waldorf classrooms so beautiful. I have no training or experience in A Waldorf classroom but I really want to make my environment magical and beautiful for the children. What’s the best place to start?

  34. Misty says:

    I have always found Waldorf environments so magical and beautiful! I haven’t had any trainings or experience with Waldorf but would love to figure out how to incorporate some of the ways into my in home daycare. I do follow a lot of the Montessori philosophy in my daycare. Since I don’t practice any form of religion in life and/or daycare, this would work perfectly for us!! Earth based stuff is what my life is all about!! What’s the best way to find out more information?

  35. Lya says:

    Hi, I’m Lya, I’d like to ask you about the age of the kids in your kindergarten. My boy is 4yo, and next year, I’m planning to have a homeschooling session with him, I’m thinking of a year of homeschooling before he’s ready to go to real school. When do you think kids could help in the kitchen and using knife etc? Thanks

  36. Michelle G. says:

    I really liked this post! One question, why the rest time so early in the day? It feels like the day has just begun so why do a rest at that time?

  37. Jessica says:

    I really enjoyed this post. I love the idea of incorporating Waldorf education into a homeschool, such a lovely nurturing environment.
    Jessica’s latest post: {GOALS} Twenty Fourteen

  38. Nola says:

    I find elements of this very interesting, but actually applying some of these things would be much more difficult in a family setting with different age groups involved. Something to think about though.

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