Ask Kytka Archives from July 12, 2002
Q. “Our daughter is 2.5 years, and we decided about a year or so ago that we are going to home school. Is there a “curriculum” of sorts for a toddler/preschooler? ”
A. There is no curriculum for a child of that age. However there are many wonderful things you can do to give your child what is truly the “best start”. What a child of this age needs is rhythm, repetition and an active home life where Mommy allows her to participate. Helping you with your daily work, cooking, sweeping, etc. is the best curriculum you can offer. Neurophysiological researchers are finally confirming what wise parents and teachers have always known, that the first seven years provide a foundation for all of life.
Toddlers and Preschoolers love to model your behavior and their play consists of acting out everything they take in from their surroundings, therefore the surroundings you create must be worthy of this imitation. Are you doing your housework with a “whistle while you work” attitude, or are you setting her in front of the TV or telling her not to bother you while you are busy. Many parents do not realize that young helpers grow to be willing participants in life whereas children who are told to step aside grow to be lazy and unwilling to lift a finger when it’s time to help.
You must be conscious and awake to what your child is taking in. Is the TV off? Does she have her own tools to work alongside you in the kitchen, garden, etc.? At our house we realize the importance
of little hands helping so we have small sized cutting boards, knives, gardening tools, rakes, brooms and so forth all around the house. These items are an investment in the child’s education because they ARE the curriculum for this age group. Children also love to cook and play with dough. Bake bread, make soup, go to market and discuss what you are buying, and why. (Not with scientific explanations, but rather to give the child some sensory experiences. Example: “Oh my, look at all of these lovely apples. Which should be choose for our lovely cake?” and then smell them point out the bruised ones and behave as though the bunch you chose were the best of the lot – and what a great eye for apple picking your little one has!)
A child this age imitates, so provide creative opportunities where she can imitate you. There isn’t much need for any explaining or discussion… Just go about your work, humming a sweet tune and soon your child will be working happily alongside you. She is watching you and wants to do as you do, so be aware of HOW you go about your work. Your child is learning how to behave and how to react during this time.
Children of this age also delight in simple movement games, nursery rhymes and finger plays. If you want to feel like you need to “do something” as far as “curriculum”, Than an informal circle is a good addition to your day.
Allow your child to play. provide silks, stones, clips and indulge her wanting to build castles and hiding spaces. Allow your child’s imagination to take over and try not to “instruct” your child on things at this age. When I worked as a parent toddler leader, I was so saddened by the parents who had to tell their child everything. They never allowed their children to explore or discover anything for themselves. The child would pick up a simple wooden block and begin to play and the parent would rush over “Oh, I see you have a block, what are you going to do with that?” – Meanwhile, for all we know, the child imagined it to be a piece of fruit, a person, a friend… Parents and children often quickly became agitated and the children would react by behaving in anti social ways. So allow your child to wonder and to imagine, to dream. Step back from the feeling that you must explain everything… now is not the time.
Finally, rhythm, rhythm, rhythm. This is KEY in the life education of any child. The child needs to know what she can count on, and know her place in her world. She just blossoms when there is order and simplicity and she feels good following a routine. Do you have a daily rhythm? A weekly rhythm? A seasonal rhythm? Do you celebrate festivals and holidays with your child fully involved?
In closing, I wanted to add that you should feel good that your child is home with you and know that in itself is the best start. While children from deprived homes may benefit from a nursery program, the IDEAL for toddlers and preschoolers is a stable, secure and loving home life with a parent who provides and encourages satisfying and creative activities for the child. A home such as this is what Waldorf nursery programs are striving to imitate!
The following links take you offsite.
(Don’t worry – link will open in a new window and you will not lose this page.)
The Pre-School Part 1
The Pre-School Part 2
Lunch Program (cont.)
Bread-baking (with song)
Holidays – Hallowe’en (with songs)
Holidays – Thanksgiving
The Pre-School Part 3
Puppet Play – The Greedy Cat
Puppet Play – The Little Boy
Puppet Play – Mashenka and the Bear (with song)
The Pre-School Part 4
Puppet Play – Summer Play
Puppet Play – Giant and the Gnome
Stick Puppets – Design and Instructions
Verses and Song
There is a wealth of ideas, inspirations and materials available on this site. Please visit our site guide to get an idea of just how vast the resources here are. I think some time spent reading through the different sections on preschools, daily rhythm, work and play, etc. will provide you with much “curriculum”.
Are you doing too much?
I’ll tell you what’s scary for me when thinking about preschoolers today: Just TOO MUCH! Too much over stimulation for the young ones… too much improper foods later in the day… too much activity and not enough rhythm… too much “adult” subject matter going on in the background… and just “too much” in general.
When planning your curriculum for a child this age please remember that a young child’s pace is so much slower than our own, and they are literally sense beings, taking in EVERYTHING around them… This includes the “background” noises and images of the tv or radio (even the “noise” they play at the stores!) This includes the colors of the walls, the signs, the million other cars on the road, the many people… crowds, traffic, lines, etc… it’s not “natural” for a child to be exposed to all of that on a DAILY basis.
Children need rhythm, balance and peace. They need to just sit and “be”. At the parent toddler group I taught, so many times the children would FINALLY settle into their own rhythm, and along would come mommy “Oh, are you having fun? what is your friends name, what are you playing, do you like to come here, etc…” LET the child have his/her OWN moment and experience. There are times for silent contemplation… times that we need to step back and just observe… children need to NOT have every question answered in an intellectual way… they need to be allowed to wonder and learn about the world around them at their own pace!