Cobnuts Steiner Kindergarten was established in 2005. The initial impulse was an enthusiastic group of parents. We have sole use of the ground floor of a house and a large garden surrounded by mature trees, which we use daily. Cobnuts is a child’s haven where they can interact and socialise with their peers in a secure, calm environment. Here creativity can unfold within their play and work.
Steiner Kindergartens structure their day around rhythm, repetition, imitation, care of the senses and free movement. Our approach is based on the Steiner Waldorf curriculum, which has evolved from the work of Austrian philosopher and educator, Rudolf Steiner. The first Waldorf school was founded in 1919 and there are now hundreds of schools and kindergartens around the world. The nearest schools to us are in Canterbury, Forest Row (near East Grinstead) and Greenwich.
Our kindergarten consists of one group of up to 15 children aged between 2½ and 6 years. Sessions are on Monday to Thursday mornings, from 9.15 am until 1.00 pm. The number of sessions attended varies with the age and need of each child.
What happens in the Kindergarten
The kindergarten provides a secure and homelike environment, with a calming indoor space and a child-friendly garden, which are both beautiful and nourishing for the child’s developing senses. The equipment provided is chosen to enable and support the child to fully engage in play creatively and imaginatively. Objects from nature and equipment of natural materials are provided, including shells, fir cones, fleece, wood, cotton veils, soft dolls and simple materials for building. With such equipment the play possibilities are endless.
Each morning has its rhythm, with time for children to play creatively outside and inside. Play is the serious work of childhood, and through it children learn, by investigating, exploring and discovering. This supports physical, emotional and social development: fundamental tools for life.
We play in the garden in all weathers. Here the children can run, skip, balance, climb, dig and build, and learn new physical limits and skills. While inside the children build or create their own play areas using the natural materials and equipment provided.
These periods of creative play are balanced with times that are teacher-led, such as singing and story time. Here the children enjoy songs, finger-games, rhymes and stories. These are repeated for a length of time so that the children can learn them by heart, thus aiding memory development. Circle-time is movement based and a social time, which allows the children to experience their bodies and learn about the world around them through song and rhyme. Through the use of rich language and song the foundations are laid for language, numeracy and literacy skills later on.
The kindergarten is a hive of activity, and the emphasis is very much on ‘doing’. Through ‘work’ the young child learns not only social and domestic skills, but develops good motor and practical skills. We bake our own bread, draw, paint, model, make seasonal handicrafts, sew, cook, polish the wooden toys, wash up, tidy up, sweep the floors and attend to the garden.
The seasonal cycle of the year forms the basis of the curriculum and provides for endless possibilities for the children to make and to do. Autumn might be a time for grinding wheat and Spring time for planting. Stories, puppet plays, songs, verses and craft activities relate to the season and a ‘seasonal area’ in the room reflects the changing natural world throughout the year. The children come to activities out of their own free will, and learn by imitating the teacher.
Young children learn best through example and imitation. Formal instruction is avoided, and instead the children are able to participate in activities and learn by doing and so with a sense of wonder and reverence they learn to respect each other and the world around them. The faculties of willing and feeling are protected by avoidance of a rush to attain early intellectual targets, allowing the children to experience their rightful need to play and unfold at their own pace.
Rhythm and repetition are crucial. Regular patterns of activity create routine and foster a sense of security and self confidence, helping the child to know what to expect. The children grow to learn that Monday is baking day or that on Thursday we make soup, for example. Although the activities may change from day to day, the rhythm of the day stays the same, so the children always know what comes next in their morning. For example, the period of creative play ends with a song, which the children learn to signify that it’s time to tidy up for story-time. The recurring rhythm of the day, the week and the year through repeated activities, festivals and songs brings structure and security into the kindergarten, and enables the children to develop confidence.
Working with rhythm also helps children to live with change, to find their place in the world and to begin to understand the past, present and future. It provides a very real foundation for the understanding of time – what has gone before and what will follow – and helps children relate to the natural and human world.
We provide a healthy daily snack, cooked freshly each morning in the kindergarten, along with a drink and fruit. This is a pleasant social time, when we all sit around our big table together. The children are given the opportunity to talk and listen to each other.