Children must play.
In Finland children begin formal schooling at age seven. Up until then, their major activities center on play and movement. Children spend much time playing outside, even in the coldest weather. Waldorf schools highly value free play as a key principle in early childhood education. The preschool program is based on the foundational idea that young children learn about themselves and the world through play and movement. Every day they spend time outside experiencing nature, running, climbing and testing their physical limits. Play also contributes to a sense of wonder and reverence for the world and engages the child’s imagination. Brain research has proven that self- directed play and speech in the young child transform later into higher levels of critical thinking. Play promotes joy and protects the sanctity of childhood in a world where the young child is pressured to do too much, too soon, too fast.
The arts are the backbone of every school.
In Finland, children learn music, the arts, sports and textile handcrafts. These programs are highly valued and considered essential to a well-rounded education. Every student plays a musical instrument and all teachers must be able to sing. All Waldorf teachers sing! Students learn the recorder and often later, a string instrument. The arts play an important role in every Waldorf lesson, from humanities to math to science. Children draw, sculpt, and paint the major themes of all the subjects they study. They learn to knit in first grade and then, through the grades, move on to a wide variety of handcrafts that strengthen hand- eye coordination and their ability to focus on complex projects. Through the creative arts the child develops the critical capacities for literacy and numeracy. Art stimulates and develops imagination and flexible thinking. It promotes problem solving and builds confidence. Every time a child engages in the artistic process, she is exercising her will for painting the canvas of her own life. Facing a blank page, white canvas, ball of clay or piece of wood takes courage, focus, flexibility and creativity.