*We encourage children to play in Nature, all around the year- soil, water, wind,climb trees and breathe fresh air.
*We provide organic-homecooked-locally grown/ sourced food. Children eat a good amount of Freshly cut fruits everyday.
children participating in cooking work
*Parents take children for Nature walks, park, farms instead of Malls and plastic playgrounds.
*Children are encouraged to play on their own with anything available in the environment, this way they do not depend on anyone to engage them. This also doesn’t make the child dependent on watching screens to entertain/engage them. That results in ZERO screen time and more physical play.
*More physical play helps in better metabolism, children’s appetite increases and they eat well.
*We believe falling ill is a natural way of fighting antibodies, we let fevers and colds run its course and use natural ways to heal them unless severe.
Welcome to the World of Waldorf! Through this article and subsequent pieces, I will attempt to explain the Waldorf philosophy and what it stands for. Waldorf was started by Dr Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). After the First World War in Germany, Steiner initiated a school for children of people working at Waldorf Astoria cigarette factory, thus the name Waldorf. He gave his first lectures there to the teachers of the first Waldorf school and it was documented into a book called “Practical Advice to Teachers.”
The focus in Waldorf methodology is on the development of the whole human being which consists of Body, Mind and Soul, also known as Willing-Feeling-Thinking.
Waldorf begins at home with a simple lifestyle and day-to day-routines. There are no academic goals to be achieved until your child is 6-7 years old. Yes, you heard it, No activities, no worksheets!
What does the Waldorf philosophy say?
According to Dr. Rudolf Steiner, human development can be classified into 7-year cycles – 0-7, 7-14, 14-21 and so on. One of the basic concepts of Waldorf Education is the threefold human being – Willing, Feeling and Thinking. For the first 7 years, we focus only on the ‘will’ of the child. Will is in the Body, Feelings in the Soul and Thinking in The Spirit or Mind or Ego (not the negative ego, here it means the higher self).
As we focus only on the Will of the child it means we work only on the development of the child’s body, not touch the feeling and thinking aspects yet, as those are yet to be developed in the later stages of the child’s life. In the early years, Eat-Play-Sleep-Repeat is the only mantra.
What does the Waldorf philosophy recommend in the first cycle?
So what is needed to foster the healthy development of the child’s body? Rhythm, Sleep, Nutrition, Movement, and Warmth- these are the FIVE golden keys of parenting, as suggested by Helle Heckmann who has been running an early child care center in Denmark for the last 30 years. Let us look at these 5 things which are all a child requires until the age 7:
What is rhythm? Why do we need rhythm? How can we build a rhythm?
We find rhythms in nature – daily, weekly, monthly and yearly
Setting up a Rhythm is essential in daily life- it establishes security in children- life must be predictable rather than full of surprises for children. Repeating your daily routines at the same of the day is known as a day rhythm.
Examples to include in your daily rhythm Wake up, Bath time, Meal time, Indoor Play with Open-Ended Playthings, Washing vessels, Cleaning the house, Putting things away, Peeling fruits, Eating them, Gardening and so on.
Modern life causes hindrance to build rhythms- automatic washers, dryers- we can stock up loads of clothes and wash any time, without regard to weekly rhythms. Children no longer see the tasks of daily life in a process.
Irregularities in rhythms create illness.
Rhythms are a gift from nature. We will talk about monthly and yearly rhythms in a different blog.
Modern day throws up the challenge of not enough sleep, a worldwide issue.
Set up a regular sleep time-children begin to feel drowsy, saying a prayer, story, lighting candle-switch off lights and gadgets.
Every child needs 12 hrs of continuous sleep to rejuvenate- children’s rhythm should be such that they should wake up on their own and don’t need an external alarm.
A lot of physical and mental development happens during sleep.
Sufficient physical movement helps children fall asleep.
What is the right nutrition??
We eat to live! Lack of proper fuel can cause hyperactivity, poor mental ability, obesity, malnutrition & so on.
Food habits are determined by yearly seasonal cycles & how climate influences crops. We must eat what is grown locally (where we live) at that time of the year. Nature provides what is needed for us from the natural vegetation in any given place.
Include wholesome ingredients for breakfast, lunch & dinner. Reduce spices, salts & sugar. Avoid refined, processed, fried food.
Make it a habit to eat together vs eating in front of a TV.
What are the games you played as a child? Today’s children sit far too much!
Movement and Speech development are so interrelated- Movement in early years lays the foundation for walking, speaking, thinking
Free movement: WALKING- cross coordination helps build a connection between the left & right brain/ cerebral hemispheres. Running, climbing trees, falling are very important.
Essential clothing- comfortable for child to move about freely, loose fitting-not tight, Child should be able to become dirty without thinking about fashion accessories. Avoid poor quality clothes, invest in good cotton clothes. Cotton is child friendly and appropriate for our climate. You should be worried if you get a clean child home, end of day.
Hat during sunny days and proper footwear!
Children play best when they don’t worry about their bodies.
Play helps in healthy development of inner organs, social skills, creativity and imagination.
Waldorf parenting or slow parenting for me, is a lifestyle! If you were born in the 80’s or before, go back to your childhood and recollect your earliest memories. All you did was eat-play-sleep-repeat, compared to a child today, who is bombarded with an overload of information through books, activities, some 100 toy options, packaged food, screen time, worksheets, tests in the early years. Today’s children sit more than move around to play. If you ask a speech therapist, he would also say speech is related to movement and today’s children don’t move as much as we did!
Homeschooling is an overhyped term in recent times, thanks to social media! Not sending a 2 year to school is now called homeschooling. Homeschooling is not bringing school work to home. I would say be a mother, slow down, be with your child, give time, give warmth, cook fresh food, eat at the right time and play with your child. Your child needs you, not a teacher! Early childhood happens only once, it is precious!
2 yrs ago, I was in the hospital waiting for Sinchana to be born.. We waited for 41 weeks, yet she did not choose to come out and we had to force her! I knew then, that in life, she will always be pushed to do things she not ready for! They say each pregnancy is different and each child is different, yet people expect everyone to behave in a normal way! Everyone think it is funny to advice young couples to plan for kids, in reality no one prepares you for what actually happens when you are pregnant and when the child is born, all you see is a glossy image.. You are made to believe that everyone goes through this and it is acceptable and normal! I did not have it easy, nor did my husband.. It was a very emotional bumpy journey for both of us.
Our education system and society focuses on all the useless things except educating us on raising children in a developmentally appreciate way. We had ‘aunties’ advising us on which oil we should use for massaging the baby, what I should eat, how I must remove drishti(bad eye) each time I admire my own child, how my child should sleep and so on. But no one cares if the mother was happy, empowered and content within. I believe our ancestors knew the art of raising children and we have a lot to learn from them, but sorry, the knowledge is now a mere orthodox belief and is forced on us with a fear.
The first year after Sinchana was born was the toughest year in my life! We chose an alternative route to raise our child and we had an objection from every person around us, we only survived because of Abhay’s positive beliefs that we are doing the right thing. Second year was more comfortable, as I experimented all the theory I learnt when I was working in waldorf kindergarten, it gave a good parents perspective and we really enjoyed the independence of raising Sinchana without much interference from the society. Abhay and I are always willing to learn and change to give a better life for Sinchana. We discuss, we laugh, we argue, we disagree and agree… There is great need for both parents to be on same page while raising a child. I am very proud of Abhay, he does everything a father should do and doesn’t believe that some work are to be done by mothers/women only. He also gives me examples of how his mother managed to be strong and raised her children as a single parent. Tomorrow(9th march) Sinchana turns 2, the actual adventure begins Now as she steps into toddlerhood, ‘terrible twos’ as some people call it.. But we are willing to learn more and do the best in the coming year. End of the day, a child learns by watching, both parents need to set an example which is worthy of imitation.
Thanks to all the people who supported us in our journey and listened to our thoughts(lecture) over the last few years 🙂
People have been asking about How To Use Wooden blocks. This is useful information I found.
Building with blocks provides one of the most valuable learning experiences available for young children. Block play stimulates learning in all domains of development, intellectual, physical, and social-emotional and language. The current research shows that block play is fundamental for later cognitive success for learning math and numbers. In a research study, “Block Play Performance among Preschoolers as a Predictor of Later School Achievement in Mathematics”, published in the Journal of Research in Early Childhood Education, the researchers proved that children who play with blocks when they are 3, 4 and 5 years of age will do better in math, especially Algebra in middle school.
There is a natural progression of block play and introducing infants and toddlers to block play is invaluable.
TODDLERS- When toddlers are first introduced to blocks they may learn how to hold on to them, how they feel, how heavy they are and begin to carry them around. They will experiment with how blocks may sound when they fall, or when they bang them together. Soon toddlers are learning cause and effect as they are filling and dumping, stacking, knocking down, and laying blocks side by side on the floor. Concepts such as learning sizes, comparing objects by making exact matches and the order of objects are also being learned. Socially, block play contributes to their developing self-confidence, for example as they learn how to stack blocks they are proud of their success and feel a sense of accomplishment. Through block play, a young child’s expressive and receptive language is being expanded by learning words such as “fill,” “dump,” “pick up,” “stack,” “balance,” “tall”, and “short.”
3 YEAR OLD- Three-year-olds block play will look different as they move into a simple constructive type of play. A three-year-old usually plays alone or near other children and are beginning to engage in pretend play. They are starting to build enclosures that resemble zoos, farm pens, roads, and castles. They are learning concepts such as sorting, ordering, counting, one to one correspondence, size and shape.
4 and 5-YEAR-OLDS- At four and five children’s block play is more experienced, developed, balanced coordinated, and organized. Constructive play involves play that is more open-ended and exploratory. Children begin to combine structures to make more complex buildings. Socially, four and five-year-olds are beginning to share ideas and are starting to cooperate and build with others. They may use block accessories such as people, transportation vehicles, and animals to engage in imaginary/ pretend play. They are learning more complex patterns, classifying, sequencing, counting, fractions, and problem-solving. According to article “Constructive Play” written by Walter Frew et.al, “Block play shows the opportunity for conceptual understanding in the area of structural engineering as children explore forces of gravity, compression, tension and the relationship between materials and successful design to achieve balance, stability, and even aesthetic sensibility.”
Preschoolers are beginning to notice and explore more 3– dimensional objects such as cones, cylinders, cubes, and prisms, (geometry). Science is also being learned through block play as children start making predictions, comparisons, experiment with cause and effect, stability, and balance. Their vocabulary is also expanded by block play as they develop an understanding of spatial relations and words such as “under,” “over,” “off,” “bottom,” “top,” “through,” and “beside.”
What type of environment and materials are needed to encourage block play?
Toddler Environment- Block play should be set up in an area that is free from other distractions and out of traffic. The type of blocks needed in meet the Environment Rating Scale for Infants and Toddlers – Revised Edition, should be non-interlocking and at least 2 inches by 2 inches. The ITERS-R tool suggests at least three sets of different types of blocks. Each set should contain at least 10 blocks to allow the children enough to properly explore. Accessories such as people, animals and transportation vehicles should also be available to expand play.
“Children often express emotions and thoughts while playing with dolls that they might not be able to convey using words,” says Allan Gonsher, a play therapist in Overland Park, Kansas.
I always do my best to source alternative things children can play with compared to the ones available in market. My aim is to reach out parents who are conscious about what they want to give their child, be it food, toys, books, education, gadgets and so on. In my journey of running My Little Bookshop, I have succeeded to meet so many like minded parents and I have learnt a lot from them too. One such person is Sudha Chakravarty, who is homeschooling her two lovely children in Mumbai. Sudha is a strong individual and follows her heart. I personally felt she was the right person to share her experience of giving cloth dolls to her children and she happily shared her views with My Little Bookshop on request. This is what she has to say
I am a mother of 2 kids aged 8 yr and 4 yrs .I have consciously given gender neutral toys to them and never excess, I constantly declutter. The thing that struck me someday was there was way too much plastic in their toys,when most things in the house are either recycled, upcyled.. why am I creating junk through these??? while these thoughts were in my mind I was gradually meandering towards homeschooling my kids… what should I teach ..how..were the questions clouding my mind. In one such search I came across Waldorf or Steiner philosophy. It blew my mind off I started meeting online such families throughout the globe and bingo came my answer NATURAL toys.They believe kids from a very young age should be given natural toys preferably unfinished ones and it can be anything….
Both the kids have been introduced to dolls very early and some were plastic ones (my daughter never hankered for a Barbie). I saw in one such experimental session the kids took away each part of the doll and didn’t really feel bad that the doll is destroyed… their demand was they wanted 1 more!! But I noticed one thing they never did any such thing with their cloth dolls.. my question was why such discrimination and after a chat with my son I discovered the following…
The cloth dolls are soft to touch just like human body
When they sleep with them they don’t feel the hardness of plastic
Our cloth dolls are big they wear their their infant size clothes ,they love dressing them up with convenience…(it’s ok the hand gets twisted or neck gets twisted..atleast they will not break)
They have named them and no one treats a friend like that ..specially a friend who sits near their head at night when the room is dark.
They can be easily carried here and there in bags.
We have quite a few dressed in woolens …they feel its warmth in the cold seasons.
The couple of plastic dolls they have all scribbling on their face… when I asked why you don’t scribble on the cloth dolls … the answer was simple people don’t scribble on their friends face …
The feeling of love and most importantly feeling of ownership and respect is what develops through this warmies ..another name for cloth dolls in our home. Parents here play a very important role after they choose the cloth doll they have chosen they should too respect it, we never put them in the drawer it’s always on their bed ..the dolls are refered always by their name, never thrown always gently handed over and they are very few in number, hence always get carried on vacations!!! they are clothes so easily maintained hand or machine washable !!! we now do not own a single plastic doll now but just 4 cloth dolls…they are treated in great respect and love. I would tell every parent to give a slight thought on all natural toys they go a long way teaching valuable lessons.
I hope Sudha’s experience will give a new perspective in your parenting journey. Thanks for taking time to read 🙂
You may visit our eStore to buy Cloth dolls which are handmade by villagers in Auroville. Some of the popular toys are
I am often asked, what story books do I recommend for infants and toddlers. So here is my story… My toddler wakes up very early in the morning, this allows her to watch all the morning activities at home. Brushing, preparing coffee, cutting vegetables, preparing breakfast and so on. She then eats her breakfast (typical south Indian breakfast) and sets off to play in the balcony, there she watches the birds chirping, dogs barking and if she is lucky, she will sight a cat too. The days when my mom or mother in law visit us, they would prepare the breakfast and she loves both of them pampering her! In my mother in law’s house, she loves to walk in the garden and look at the flowers, bees and butterflies. After her lunch and nap in the noon, we usually try our best to walk down in our society and also play in the park. My daughter loves to explore sand rather than swing or slide and I just let her be. We would return home and have a quick wash followed by an early dinner and then we have our storytime with her favorite stash of books before she is off to bed.
Considering this being a typical day in an infant or toddler’s life, I would pick books that have well-thought illustrations of stories that speak about the child’s immediate surroundings and rhythms. Like preparing dosa, beautiful red flower, chirping birds, warmth of family, lush green garden, pets following you and so on. These are more appropriate content for 0-2 years as children are still exploring their environment and they can relate well when the stories speak about things they can physically see, feel and hear.
Children pick up language so quickly when you say stories regularly to them. Do refer to my earlier post on how you could start reading to children. It’s best to begin saying stories in your mother tongue or translate the English stories in your own words. Indian books from Tulika and Pratham have a large variety of books in regional languages.
I have shortlisted the best books available for 0-2 years. I hope your child enjoys them as much as mine did 🙂
Akkad Bakkad: Adorable book for toddlers! It is themed after the Indian rhymes/songs like Akkad bakkad bumbai bo- A wacky lot of numbers have the time of their life in this all-time favourite Punjabi rhyme! A must have!
Gajapati Kulapati: This is one of the most popular book, so popular that they have part 1, 2 and 3 🙂 This book has a mention of all the people we see on our street regularly.. banana seller, flower seller paati, akka, anna, postman. All children and adults love Gajapati, kudos to Ashok Rajagopalan to come up with this lovely series.
Goodnight: Baby Elephant has decided to sleep in his parents’ bed tonight. But, despite his inventive arguments, Papa Elephant is categorical, our young hero must sleep in his own room. But when it’s time to sleep, the little fellow decides to sneak in…a whimsical and charming tale!
Mala’s silver anklets: You can find Mala in every house literally, adorning the jingle-ful silver anklets! It is one of our favorites… we love the common man’s scooter that appa has, simple everyday clothes that Mala dresses up with, Mala’s two plaits with ribbons and Ajji’s traditional tawa and dosa! Imagine how a child will feel to hear a story about little pleasures of life 🙂
Where is Amma: Oh the beautiful watercolour illustrations! Little Kiran looks for his mother all through the house… room, balcony, kitchen… just take a look at the kitchen, richness of an Indian home can be seen here…. my little one recognises the grrrr…(mixer), kauck(coconut), kakari(tharkari) and all the little things this book offers.
Pooni Pooni: A charming find-it book for toddlers, from the creator of the other bestselling Pooni books, ‘Where’s That Cat?’ and ‘Pooni at the Taj Mahal’.
Let’s Go: Perfect book for children who love vehicles, we see them around us and a child can associate so well, also has numbers if you want to introduce it to your toddlers.Remember not to expect a toddler to understand the value of numbers yet, he may only repeat the numbers just like another sound he learns.
Juniour Kumbhakarna: Every night, Kukku wants his father to tell him his favourite story. It is about the giant Kumbhakarna who sleeps non-stop for six months — and Kukku falls asleep just as Kumbhakarna does. In Kukku’s dream, everyone is trying everything to wake up the giant. Nothing works . . . A lively retelling of an episode from the Ramayana with wildly funny pictures.
Little Fingers : When ten little fingers come together, they make many things happen. In playful verse, with bright uncluttered visuals, this story draws children into a game of all that their busy fingers can do.
You may buy these books from my eStore www.mylittlebookshop.in I will add more titles to this list as and when I find the books are available and have appropriate content.
Frankly, there is no one formula to raise children. Each child is different and we all know that! Yet, we adults compare our children with others with regards to achieving milestones, eating, sleeping, reading, writing, and so on.
Here, I will talk about reading storybooks! Yes, not all children have an interest in books and it should not be forced because we want them to read books. Having said that, books if introduced at an early stage is definitely an advantage in the long run!
My association as a teacher with a popular kindergarten in Bangalore helped me develop an interest in children’s storybooks and how it supports their development. I began to buy storybooks from the local stores in my city and gifted a stash of books to my 2.5 years old nephew back then. Every day, we sat down for our storytime and read out the same 4-5 picture books. Translating the words in our mother tongue, simple and easy words to recollect and their repetition helped him connect to the books instantly. Eventually, he started to come to me with those books after his outdoor play. We had a fixed time and space for reading books.
I gradually added a few more books and as he grew bigger and joined kindergarten, he was compelled to communicate in English and he did not like it a bit! I then started reading the same old stories in English and he would understand as he already knew the storyline and did not need an explanation. He would often ask me to use our mother tongue and I would do so but continued English until he was comfortable. He then learned phonics and started recognising words in the storybooks, he eventually read all the books on his own and that is when we got him a large collection of books! Today he is 9 years old and loves sports more than books.
With my daughter, we introduced picture books when she was 9 months old and she instantly loved the pictures and could associate words/sounds with pictures in the storybook. She is 15 months now and continues to enjoy us reading books to her in our mother tongue. When we are not around, she flips through the pages herself during the day and tries to repeat certain sounds with the pictures she sees. Our usual storytime is just after her dinner time.
We all live in a world full of rhythms. Rhythms are of different types – daily, weekly, monthly and yearly. My focus in the current post is on yearly rhythms. Festivals and Seasons and birthdays occur rhythmically, once every year. They can be great starting points for story narrations. Tell the child stories about these events that occur every year during the seasons -summer, rain, fall, and winter; festivals -Pongal, Ganesha Chaturthi, Diwali, Christmas; Children cherish stories about their own birth and homecoming.
Children feel a sense of belonging in these stories as they can see the elements of the story right in front of them and relate to them. You may start narrating seasonal stories to babies, children 1-6 years. By repeating these topics every year during the season or festival, children understand deeply about their environment and culture. For example, you can speak to a toddler about Rain in a simple way. Talk about how the raindrops falls down slowly and the ground gets wet. Observe how all the animals, birds and people who run to take shelter from the rain. This can be done by observing surrounding or supported by picture books. There are several beautiful books that discuss these everyday happenings.
Sunu Sunu Snail Storm in the Garden– Sunu-sunu the snail is playing in the garden with his friends, the ants. Suddenly there is a storm. He ‘hurries’ home to his mother and tells her all he saw and heard.
The Red Umbrella– It’s raining. What happens when seven animals have to share one small umbrella?
Little Frog is about a frog who asks his mother when it will rain. When the sky is dark with clouds, his mother replies. Every day of the week, Little Frog looks up at the sky and awaits the rain. It is also a story about days of the week, things you can see in the sky, and other creatures
Raindrops: From her window, little Anju sees familiar scenes of a rainy day – cloudy skies, umbrellas, puddles…
Let’s Catch the Rain: The author plays with big monsoon clouds and the message is simple: rainwater is free, pure and precious, Let us save it.
If you are narrating to a 4+, you may add new Vocabulary and further details about how the clouds are formed with water and once the two clouds bump into each other, it rains. You can also talk about the magical rainbows.
You can connect the season with the festivals celebrated in that season and their significance. In this way, we connect the season with the celebrations associated with it. We can build seasonal stories as they grow. I have some lovely storybooks on Festival- Amma Tell Me Books
Grandparents and parents have their own version of stories related to the birth of Krishna, how he ate the sand, how he lifted the Govardhan hill with his fingertip. Children love to see all the preparations that take place during festivals. Children of the Christian faith and Muslim faith love to see the rituals and preparations that are marked by Christmas or Eid respectively.
I have had the pleasure of seeing children bring these stories alive into their pretend play. This indicates the child is absorbing the stories and need not be questioned. I advise parents to watch and enjoy, but not interrupt to correct them. Observe children deepen their understanding in their play, conversations, and gestures. We may only awaken the little souls from the dreamy state by questioning their intellect.
Rhythms are integral to life and by narrating stories of rhythm and helping children observe them in their daily lives, we are imparting an important lesson gently. Children respond to this soothing cycles of rhythm by seeking their own and building their center of calm and quietude.
In my journey of curating children’s story books from Indian publishers, I have come across several books (Mainly Tulika and Pratham) and it has been an immense learning experience for me. There is so much richness in Indian books which cannot be found in any other foreign publications. Our illustrators and writers have really done a great job and it’s definitely worth having a good number of Indian story books in your child’s library.
People often get overwhelmed when they look at my Stock list although I try to limit the collection, some look for options and variety and I try to satisfy my customers/buyers as much as possible. In terms of Storyline and Illustrations, I have tried my best to arrive at the best-selling books at My Little bookshop. Trust me it has been a hard selection and I hope you all appreciate them as much as I did.
Well, there are many theories about reading stories, since I’m from Waldorf background and that I have worked with this Philosophy in the kindergarten, I believe storytelling can be studied and understood in depth.
Reading a book to a young child is a very different experience from telling a story. Sensing a child’s need to hear a story coming directly from them, it can be a great experience to break free of written words and speak a tale from memory.
Today I would like to suggest one of the topics which can be used for infants and toddlers (0-3 years)
Stories from Nature
You may weave simple story about the Flower in your garden, the Butterfly which came to visit the Flowers, the Crow sitting on the Tree opposite to your house, the Sun, Moon and Rain… They do not require to understand the scientific explanations in these nature stories. Benefits of saying nature stories is that your child sees the same flowers, trees, birds, cats and dogs everyday in her immediate environment.. so she can relate to these stories better than stories about a snowman, penguin, crocodile, flamingo which your child might not see in his environment. It also brings a sense of security to the child when the story is repeated often.
These stories can be modified for 3+ children by adding more details to the story with rich vocabulary(verbs and adjectives).
Telling stories to children helps in language development, imagination, creativity and much more. Have you ever wondered how children learn language? Do they start with ABC, no! It is through everyday conversations and listening to stories. Grammar too is learnt by using the language in your everyday conversations, not through books or flash cards!
Stories from your personal life
Here children love to relate to your childhood, Where did you live? Who did you play with? Who and what did you love? As you share your real life incidents with them, they especially study your feelings. They need to hear their whole family group spoken of with loving and positive interest. Children can learn from us to respect and empathise with other family members.
Choose one memory and prepare to tell this as a little story. Children can make impressions of the stories you say which may deeply influence their adult life.
Try to have one meal a day together as a family, share these little stories during meal -time or when you spend time together as a family. This will indeed bring about family bonding, a sense of warmth and love among children.
The stories told are an important legacy you will leave your child in terms of a world-view. Storytelling also helps children satisfy their curiosity or bring out latent feelings. The precious thread of storytelling strengthen the parent-child bond.