Author: Cindy Sudan
Pre-school and Kindergarten Teacher
Babies’ accomplishments of finding their fingers and toes, rolling over and taking those first steps are just the beginning of a myriad of important developmental milestones in the course of their growth during the first seven years. During these early years, young children continue acquiring important skills while they explore the world, integrating their sensory experiences and moving through their day, learning balance and where they are in space. These seemingly simple accomplishments are actually highly important to the neural processing and synaptic formation and activity in the brain. According to information provided by Zero to Three National Centers for Infants, Toddlers and Families, “brain development is ‘activity-dependent,’ meaning that the electrical activity in every circuit—sensory, motor, emotional, cognitive–shapes the way that circuit gets put together.”
Learning through daily practical activities is one way we can help children develop the needed brain circuitry to support their academic success. Activities such as sewing, setting the table, finger knitting, woodworking or even folding the laundry all require concentration, eye and hand coordination, and help to develop order and pattern recognition. Activities like stirring, hanging laundry, raking leaves and sweeping not only engage the larger muscles and enhance coordination but also stimulate the important ability of crossing the midline which supports the communication of the left and right hemispheres of the brain and the development of bilateral coordination, which is a key to successful learning.
Once we start looking, we can begin to see healthy movements in many of our daily tasks. Children learn through imitation and love to emulate the adults around them. By engaging the children into our own work, we can offer them a sense of purpose and accomplishment, as well as offer opportunities for refining their developmental skills and engaging their sensory experiences.
Creating a rhythm for daily activities at home is supportive to the young child and fosters a sense of security and promotes self-confidence. We can find rhythms in old songs and nursery rhymes, as there was traditionally often a daily, weekly and seasonal rhythm to family life. Some of us might remember our grandmothers repeating some of these: Wash on Monday, Iron on Tuesday, Mend on Wednesday, Churn on Thursday, Clean on Friday, Bake on Saturday, Rest on Sunday.
In the Waldorf Parent-Child, Preschool and Kindergarten classes, the teachers consciously participate in modeling meaningful work and provide opportunities for the children to join in as they practice their most meaningful work, which is play. Singing, while one works, can bring a sense of joy and fulfillment for the task at hand. A number of songs for daily tasks can be found in the Parent/Teacher Resource Songbook and CD, “This is the Way We Wash-a-Day, Singing with Children Series” by Mary Thienes-Schunemann. One of my favorites by Schunemann is “Sweeping Song:
“Old broom, Sweep my floor, Old broom, Sweep some more… Sweeping my worries and cares away, I’m going to sweep them all up and toss them away now…Fairies all love it when the floor shines bright, Then they dance and prance in the silver moonlight…” ~ M.T Schunemann
The brilliance of practical daily life activities and freedom of expansive movement through play are the best gifts that we can offer children during their first seven years of life. In providing these gifts woven in rhythm and warmth, we can give them the foundational structure their young bodies need for successful learning through and beyond their school years.