Tracy has been working in the field of education for many years specializing in both Waldorf and Montessori methodologies.
Waldorf School Approach
During the time that my children attended a Waldorf School, I was amazed at the positive influence it had on our family. Although they attend school during the day, they carry home with them a peaceful yet enthusiastic sense of the world that is engaging and contagious. I feel that all families could benefit from this educational method, even without having a child attend a Waldorf School, so I have made a list of suggestions.
Before I get to the suggestions, I would first like to summarize what the Waldorf philosophy is about. The Waldorf method of education is based on a keen awareness of child and human development and seeks to educate the child as a whole person, not just their academic development. This theory considers every aspect of the child’s growth with an emphasis on the heart, hands and mind. With respect to our goals for children, Waldorf Education founder Rudolph Steiner states:
Our highest endeavor must be to develop free human beings, who are able themselves to impart purpose and direction to their lives.
From an early age, movement is highly regarded and is an integral part of as many activities as possible. During the first seven years of life, children learn primarily through repetition and movement. Most of my suggestions involve incorporating movement into your child’s day. This is one of the main aspects of Waldorf which set it apart from most other methods of education. Waldorf parents are encouraged to follow up with the philosophy at home. Here are some easy ways that all parents can provide their child with this kind of experience in the home for free.
1. Allowing your young child as much free play as possible.
Free play in the early years is encouraged with open-ended toys like silks, blocks and dolls. This kind of play is needed for the healthy creative and emotional growth of a child and is the best foundation for later intellectual development. (See more about free play and developing your child's imagination.)
2. Encourage outdoor play.
Outside play is a large part of the Waldorf school day. Children are encouraged to climb trees, run and dig in the most natural setting possible. It is through movement that a child connects with themselves and their environment.
3. Shut off the TV and minimize media as much as possible.
It is believed that TV and media prevent proper development in part because the child is sitting still. Remember that children are naturally inclined to move and that if your child is sitting for extended periods your child is doing something that is unnatural. Television also disrupts the development of a child's inner imagery by furnishing imagery from an outside source, replacing their own natural responses.
4. Eat meals by candlelight.
When Waldorf children eat, they do it with reverence, and so can you. What better way to bond with your family than by sharing a meal lit by candlelight? In our home, we sing a blessing before we begin the meal and during the meal we share acknowledgments with each other.
5. Cultivate and maintain a consisten environment.
Waldorf educators believe that children feel safest and flourish when they have a consistent environment. When a child knows what to expect this offers a sense of security and in this environment, your child can focus on learning and developing. Early Childhood classrooms even serve specific meals on days of the week, for example, soup on Mondays, rice on Tuesdays; this also helps children learn the day of the week. In your home, you can provide consistency by having bedtime routines, dinner together or perhaps something like waffles every Sunday. Kids look forward to these predictable activities.
6. Have a bedtime routine and aim for a consistent sleep schedule.
Consistency and rhythm hold value in the day as well as into the evening. Getting a good night's sleep is highly encouraged by Waldorf Educators. A good bedtime routine helps kids to get to bed on time and get the hours they need. If young children are not in bed by around 8pm they often start to get a second wind and end up staying up too late.
How Much Sleep do Kids Need?
Toddlers (1-3 years)
12 to 14 hours
Preschoolers (3-5 years)
11 to 13 hours
School age children (5-10 years)
10 to 11 hours
Teens (10-17 years)
8.5 to 9.25 hours
Celebrate the holidays with traditions.
Celebration of holidays also offers consistency as well as a way to connect with heritage, tradition, culture, their community and to learn about the seasons. By celebrating the holidays of your heritage you are offering this enriching opportunity to your children. Children will naturally know about the holiday of Christmas even before they have learned that there are 12 months in a year. Commemorating holidays is an integral part of a Waldorf Education that you are probably doing already.
8. Use fingerplays and nursery rhymes.
These are highly valued by early childhood Waldorf teachers and you can sing these with your child, The Wheels on the Bus and The Eensy Weensy Spider are good examples. If you consider that language, learning, rhythm and movement are so vital in this whole-body learning philosophy, then you will see that these songs and rhymes meet a lot of the criteria for nurturing a child through heart, hand and mind. (See more about finger plays)
9. Have children work with their hands.
Waldorf students finger knit in kindergarten and knit with needles in first grade. Encouraging your child's involvement in crafts such as a loom, or hobbies which utilize their hands is a way to keep up with their Waldorf counterparts.
10. Have children do chores.
Children learn a lot about self-sufficiency and their importance as a helpful and vital member of the family by doing chores. And it is another opportunity as well for them to use their hands and keep their bodies in movement by such activities as sweeping the floor or wiping a table. Getting kids to complete the chores can be a struggle but the payoff is well worth it. In the preschool classroom, Waldorf children take part in the chores such as window washing, sweeping and table wiping.
11. Paint with watercolors on large paper.
Waldorf students begin painting using the ‘wet on wet’ method. This means that the paper has been wet with a sponge. When the child paints the color is fluid, thus allowing the child to “experience” the color and the movement. This kind of painting is very much about the experience of painting and not about the finished product. The large paper allows the child to make wider movements, which benefit the child’s physical and spatial development.
12. Read classic literature aloud.
These stories, like fairytales and fables, encourage imagination, human understanding, morals, thought and connect on a deep level with the listener. It is also a great introduction to literature for children.
13. Invite children into the kitchen to cook with you.
Waldorf children take part in making the daily snacks in the early childhood classrooms and kindergarten. Cooking with kids has a long list of learning benefits including measurement, community, science and self-sufficiency.
“I am struck by the fact that the more slowly trees grow at first, the sounder they are at the core, and I think that the same is true of human beings. We do not wish to see children precocious, making great strides in their early years like sprouts, producing a soft and perishable timber, but better if they expand slowly at first, as if contending with difficulties, and so are solidified and perfected. Such trees continue to expand with nearly equal rapidity to extreme old age."
- Henry David Thoreau
As a parent you might already be following some or many of these suggestions. Things like chores or playing outside seem like common sense, but with the TV on and video games to play it is often hard to remember what kids really need. It is empowering to remember that although educators can do a great job in educating your child, you are your child’s first and best teacher and you have the greatest impact of all.
I hope that this information has been useful to you and I encourage and welcome any comments. This list could be longer but I feel that it includes the essence of what the Waldorf philosophy can offer to the home life.
© 2011 Tracy Lynn Conway
Mary Grace on August 08, 2020:
The activities here are something that we can do, especially now that there are more parents working from home. Thank you for sharing.
Laura Pruitt on February 17, 2018:
Thank you so much for a wonderful read! I have shared this and will bookmark for future reference. I love the simple way you wrote this and the layout is easily readable. Thank you
Devine Jevine on September 20, 2016:
This is so inspiring,it is reality to the child not all the misleading toys we have nowadays.Thank you for posting!
Janryl on June 28, 2016:
thanks for the nice hub!
Eniolorunda oshodi oyeleye on March 12, 2016:
In fairness I'm really impressed with your work, in fact you have given me the best ways to handle my Amazons, thanks a million God bless us Amen.
gaurav oberoi on February 15, 2016:
Wow a really great Hub. Thanks for sharing
Gemma on February 15, 2016:
we are a Waldorf Project in Ciudad Real (Spain), and we have read your article Waldorf in the Home; 13 Ways to Give your Kids the Benefits of an Expensive Waldorf Education for Free in HubPages.
We just loved it; we find everything you say makes absolute sense with what we try to do in our everyday lives outside the school. For this reasoon we would love to share it with everybody.
Would you mind if we translate it into Spanish so that everyone can have access to it here? We would specify the origin and author of the text, of course. We would share ir in: waldorfciudadrealmadreselva.blogspot.com.es
Thank you very much for your attention and great ideas.
Priya Barua on February 14, 2016:
That seems really right. My school is very academically oriented, and the most imp thing are grades. You are intelligent if you have good grades, otherwise you're not.
Shakeh Hart on February 13, 2016:
Jen on February 13, 2016:
Thank you writing this article Tracy!
While it may be true that some 'believe' " TV and media prevent proper development in part because the child is sitting still," there are volumes of actual research showing the effects of media on the developing brain.
Waldorf is an educational revolution that is far ahead of it's time. Visit your local independent Waldorf school to learn and see more. There is nothing to 'believe' in. Just the facts. I love that this conversation is happening! Thank you Tracy!
Kimberly Vaughn from Midwest on March 16, 2015:
I had never heard of The Waldorf Method before. I'm so glad you shared your knowledge!
Rosetta Slone from Under a coconut tree on August 17, 2014:
As a Montessori teacher, I've never really taken the time to find out more about Waldorf but this article has piqued my interest. There are definitely some great points here that any parent or educator should take into account when raising children. I'll be trying the wet on wet painting this week!
Maggie.L from UK on July 20, 2014:
A great article reminding us all what's really important when bringing up children. I especially agree with limiting screen time and encouraging physical activity.
Tracy Lynn Conway (author) from Virginia, USA on November 16, 2012:
Literatelibran - The "wet on wet" technique offers a great introduction to the properties of color and the relationship between colors in a simple exploratory way for a young child. Once the painting is dry it has a unique look as well. I am glad that you enjoyed the article, Thank you!
literatelibran from Williamsburg, Virginia on November 16, 2012:
I had no idea what "wet on wet" paining was- what a neat idea! I definitely agree about the screen time, and LOVE the idea of incorporating more fairy tales and free-play into learning! Great post.
Tracy Lynn Conway (author) from Virginia, USA on October 29, 2012:
Sharon - I am glad you enjoyed the suggestions and photos! Thank you for stopping by and commenting.
Sharon on October 22, 2012:
Thank you for the list. I love the photos you have with each example.
Tracy Lynn Conway (author) from Virginia, USA on March 14, 2012:
Thank you, Spangen! These Waldorf methods have been known to make for contented kids.
spangen from Woodstock, Ontario on March 08, 2012:
Great hub! Great information and going to look into it. Sounds like your wee ones are happy.
Tracy Lynn Conway (author) from Virginia, USA on February 18, 2012:
Kellyward, thank you so much, I really appreciate your compliments.
kelleyward on February 06, 2012:
Great Hub! Loved the content and the pictures! You did such a great job. Thanks for sharing.
Tracy Lynn Conway (author) from Virginia, USA on November 29, 2011:
Your comment makes me so happy. I think there is so much value in this method of education and parenting that can benefit others even if only in small ways. Thank you so much!
Brenda Trott, M.Ed from Houston, TX on November 27, 2011:
Tracy, I am a big Waldorf fan but I have never been able to describe it to others. You've done a wonderful job of spelling out the essentials and making it easy for others to understand. I'll be sharing it with others!
Tracy Lynn Conway (author) from Virginia, USA on November 23, 2011:
Cee, I am so glad that you have find this information helpful in redirecting your family back to a more wholesome place. Your comment has put a smile on my face and warmed my heart. Thank you!
Cee on November 20, 2011:
Thank you for the straight forward article. We have moved far away from our Waldorf Preschool and my kids are getting older. I have lost the connection and a lot of chaos has entered our home. You very nicely laid out a plan for me to get our house and home back to what it could and should be to help keep the family healthy, happy and whole. Thank you!
Tracy Lynn Conway (author) from Virginia, USA on November 19, 2011:
Marie, thank you!
Marie on November 19, 2011:
Cool, cheers Marie
Tracy Lynn Conway (author) from Virginia, USA on August 11, 2011:
@Ubanichijioke - Thank you for your generous compliments, they are much appreciated and are inspiration for my continued writing.
Alexander Thandi Ubani from Lagos on August 08, 2011:
You ve penned down a great piece for the total education of the child. You re an awesome writer. I love your work
Tracy Lynn Conway (author) from Virginia, USA on June 26, 2011:
Kate, Thank you so much for the compliments, they mean a lot to me. Having worked with children for so long, you must already have a great deal of knowledge. You sound like you are on your way to one day being a great parent. I think more parents (or future parents) should have access to this kind of information since raising great kids is the most noble goal of all. Thank you for your votes and for sharing.
Kate Spenser from Austin, TX on June 25, 2011:
This hub is fantastic - probably one of the most informative and useful hubs I've read on the site. I'm not a parent (yet), but as a nanny I've worked with young children for years, and I've always been curious about Waldorf education and have started to consider it for when I have my own kids. These are fantastic suggestions! I'm definitely going to bookmark this hub and come back to it in the future, and I'll pass it along to others as well! Up/Useful/Awesome!