Author: Cindy Sudan
Sunflower Garden Kindergarten Lead Teacher
Young children love to imitate the adults around them. Just pick up a broom and begin to sweep the floor, and if you happen to have small brooms around, only moments will pass before the little ones are busily sweeping with you, especially if you sing while you are sweeping!
Imitation is an intrinsic need of the child in the first seven years of their life and is an important part of their developmental growth. Imitation begins soon after birth as babies start imitating facial expressions that they see in their parents, caregivers and people around them. There will be many imitative milestones within the first three years of the young child’s life, including achieving uprightness, walking and speaking.
During the first seven years, along with self-discovery, the growing child learns from the people around them. A mother cooking dinner can always count on a helper, a little one who wants to do just what Mommy is doing. As a father is getting out his tools to fix something around the house, he will soon find his young one digging through his tools wanting to work with Daddy too.
The rhythm of the day and week in a Waldorf mixed-aged classroom provides many opportunities for the children (ages 3 to 7) to imitate the adults in room. They will emulate songs, verses and movements in the morning circle, proper manners at snack time, help with cooking, handwork, carpentry, folding laundry or be part of the many activities that happen during the “work and play” time. At the end of the day they listen and learn the story or puppet show that the teacher tells for consecutive days. Parents will often share how their child will repeat the stories that they have heard in the classroom, repeating it with the same tone and inflection in which the teacher had told the story.
During the “work and play” time during a kindergarten morning children engage in a variety of tasks that the teachers take on each day. Often, these pertain to the preparations of the daily snack. Organic grains are prepared each day for the snack time and the children help to “chip-chop” vegetables for vegetable soup, roll the oat groats into flakes for oatmeal or grind rye or wheat and help make fresh bread.
The children love to see the teacher working at the workbench and will happily join in to help sand boards or to repair a broken toy. When the sewing box comes out, many nimble fingers are eager to thread their needles and begin sewing little gnomes and eventually dolls or animals which they will excitedly stuff with wool. All these activities provide opportunities for the children to refine developmental skills including fine and large motor skills, eye-hand coordination, sensory and bilateral integration.
As we move outside into nature each day, there are numerous activities worthy of imitation that provide opportunities for healthy physical, cognitive, emotional and social development. These activities might include sweeping, raking, gardening, harvesting, building, woodworking or hauling compost in the wagons and wheelbarrows.
Whether it is sewing, working with wool, wood or bread, all of the children are free to work according to their own development and capability. They are continually working on their pre-academic skills, all in preparation for the educational journey through the grades. By modeling the teachers, parents or even older children and family members, they repetitively complete tasks that give them confidence in their accomplishments and the result is happy, enthusiastic children, active and industrious in their daily lives.