The sense of security of the child grows through the rhythm of the day and the repetition of the familiar. The rhythm and repetition of how things are done, where things are kept, as well as a rhythm in the appropriate response of the teacher: all contribute to the development of the child.
In his series of talks to the teachers in the first Waldorf school, Rudolf Steiner referred to the need to teach the child to breathe rightly in the widest sense and on a number of levels. There is a rhythmical flow of contraction (breathing in) and expansion (breathing out).
When we are sitting quietly and still, we go inward, returning to ourselves to gather strength and find a sense of self. When we expand, we actively go out to meet the world, revealing our social, communal and expressive, interacting nature.
Our physical and emotional wellbeing depend on a balanced interplay between the polarity of contraction and expansion. This balance is beyond the conscious choice of early childhood. The responsibility for this element in the life of the young children belongs to the adults who care for them.
Our Educational Center routine rests firmly on this rhythmical principle. Rhythm helps to guide the child containing or exerting energy until such time comes naturally.
According to Steiner the will impulse of the children cannot be directed by telling them once what the right thing is, but by getting them to do something today, tomorrow, and again the day after.
This early experience of regularity is the seed for self-discipline in the future. In our Educational Center, children wait for the candle to be lit and sing before eating or story time, wash hands and put on an apron for baking or painting are small doses of delayed gratification that strengthen self-control without resorting to bribery, threats or punishment. Rhythm by its very nature has an innate logic – it has a natural order. The steady rhythm instills a feeling of safety and trust in children and they feel confident to wait what is going to come next and what be expected of them.
Once this balanced routine is in place, the children can take a step into creative play. They role play in a world without boundaries and learn opportunities that are essential at this preschool stage of their development.
In our Center, every effort is made to provide conditions in which free play can flourish, such as sufficient time, appropriate space (indoors and outdoors) and a variety of undefined natural objects and equipment. Whilst playground equipment usually provides plenty of opportunity for physical vestibular stimulation and imagination tends to be developed in a less ordered environment. A wilderness of long grass, trees, ditches, and stones opens up endless possibilities for hide and seek, building a den, hearing the lions in the jungle or sailing to a desert island. Most of all an attitude of respect needs to be present, toward this most magical and imaginative time of learning in childhood. While playing, children can assert their competence to assume adult roles eventually. Through play with their peers they assert their social competence, as well as their ability to make and keep friends. Play is a transformation of reality into the true source of wisdom and the basis of all forms of creativity.