The materials in the play-space
are selected to allow for imaginative play and a variety of natural tactile and
sensory experiences, but especially without over-stimulation of the child's
developing senses. With the prevalence of ADHD and other hyper-stimulation
disorders, this method of carefully selecting experiences and equipment is a
natural PREVENTATIVE and heath-building approach to today's SPECIAL NEEDS
Examples include NO battery-operated toys, or loud audio cassettes for music, but in their place, such things as simple wooden trucks which the child's imagination can create into whichever vehicle it wishes, or a box which may be a car or a table or another unique and fun toy. Like-wise a silk cloth may be a cape to wear, or a tablecloth or a butterfly's wings.
Also, only our living and natural human voices are used to sing or tell stories, which are repeated weekly to foster oral language acquisition and development. The use of the human voice and facial contact is especially beneficial for HEARING IMPAIRED children, enhanced further with the various actions and gestures used with songs, and hand-made puppets used to tell the stories.
With the unnatural
child-rearing practices of our western world, communities now must provide
opportunities for isolated parents, who may never have cared for a toddler
sibling themselves, to come together to learn positive parenting skills from
others slightly more experienced or perhaps from trained parent educators.
These others can show by example, with their own children in the group, the
various ways to set limits, encourage social
skills and nurture and care for ourselves as parents in an oasis from the fast-paced adult-life of supermarkets and video-entertainment.
With 20 years of experience as a parent (of three) and 17 of those involved in parent-support playgroups and kindergartens, I can say that EVERY PARENT HAS SPECIAL NEEDS in their day to day role as caregivers. By coming together to a gentle group where lullabies and nursery rhymes are sung, crafts such as toy-making, knitting, sewing and cooking are practiced, the traditional skills of yester-year are kept alive in our culture, and such skills enhance the parents' self esteem. Both mothers and fathers knitting at a Steiner Playgroup is a common sight!
All activities and materials
are chosen to support environmentally-friendly practice. For example:
Care is taken to bring organically or bio-dynamically produced fruits for morning-tea, and flours for bread-making etc. Thus, care for the childrens' developing bodies is taken. Scraps saved for chooks or compost for the vegetable garden are also 'pure'. The conscious elimination of pesticides from the environment is a desirable and beneficial endeavour.
Salted chips and lollies are certainly discouraged for both their un-friendly non-biodegradable wrappings, and their toll on childrens' negative social behaviours. Dietitians and pediatricians strongly recommend natural, healthy eating for all, but especially for SPECIAL NEEDS children with ADHD and other illnesses such as asthma and allergies. However, if groups do not work together on such important values, it is hard for parents to go against the consumer-trend of this type of product.
Wooden chairs and tables are not only pleasing to the eye as objects of beauty, but are present as items made lovingly by the human hand, and come as gifts from Nature. They can fill the adult with wonder and gratitude
that is all around us in the natural world. Also, they die naturally when they have fulfilled their task. Many, many years hence, they may be re-cycled into wooden toys, or burnt in a fireplace, but always they are in harmony
with nature. Plastic chairs, on the other hand will not die such a noble death, but sit filling our Earth as toxic waste.
For this and other reasons all
the toys and cloths are chosen, wherever possible to be made from natural
fibres. They are usually hand-made, often by the adults in the community which
provides a further opportunity for parents to contribute in real ways to the
children and the future. This provision of opportunities for hand-skilled
employment, both voluntary and paid is a positive and much needed contribution
to our modern machine-made
and technologically biased world.
Early childhood is the perfect time to re-introduce the values of human endeavours through our careful choices. The fruits of technology will be there waiting for the teenagers of tomorrow, but it is today as the live, eat, sing and play that we can bring LIFE-GIVING forces to their developing bodies.
Songs and Stories Together - a book and video of over 100 songs, verses and
rhyming stories especially for 1-5 year olds by Kim Billington.
The Incarnating Child by Joan Salter. Hawthorn Press 1987.
You Are Your Child’s First Teacher by Rahima Baldwin. Celestial Arts, 1989.
Beyond the Rainbow Bridge by B J Patterson. Michaelmas Press 2000.
Work and Play in Early Childhood by Freya Jaftke. Floris 1996.
Lifeways: Working with Family Questions by G Davy & B Voors Hawthorn Press 1987.
Child and Machine by Alison Armstrong.
The Plug-In-Drug by Marie Wiun. Penguin, 1986.
Who’s Bringing Them Up? by Martin Large. Hawthorn Press 1990.
The Education of the Child by Rudolf Steiner. Anthroposophic Press.
Childhood: A Study of the Growing Child by Caroline Von Heydebrand. Anthroposophic Press, 1988.
The Way of a Child, and The Recovery of Man in Childhood by A C Harwood.