Working with Imitation and the Will
To observe and share the way a young child grows, is important in realising how a young child also learns. In the very early, formative years the young child grows to uprightness. In infancy their heads are proportionally large, and they grow down into their body and limbs, eventually developing a sense of uprightness in standing and walking.
Dr. Rudolf Steiner expressed how in the early years, up until the age of seven, the young child is still developing their organs and physical body, their sense of balance, coordination and gross motor capacities. Furthermore, he observed that the young child learns through imitating the world and the role models around them.
The kindergarten allows for this healthy experience of being able to imitate and work willingly in the room, and in the garden. The teacher models healthy work, such as winding some wool, which some children may come and imitate. The teacher may pull out a sewing basket to fix something and the child may in turn reach for their craft basket and sew something too. The teacher is focused in their work, and the child is too. The class is guided through the day by rhythm and the children imitate the work of the teacher.
Formal instruction is replaced by imaginative pictures, such as when learning to finger knit, a song is sung that the children can follow by visualising the process, rather than introducing instructions which involve intellectual or abstract thinking at this young age.
The children are active in practical as well as creative ways, developing skills, strength, and coordination along the way. They help in preparing the morning tea: chopping, peeling, grating, kneading, cooking, milling, oat-rolling, serving, washing up and drying. They become independent learners in this work. They wipe, polish, sweep, rake, dig and care for their environment. In their play, they imitate and act out the scenes they meet in the real world. They interpret, internalise and come to know this through their own sense of wonder, exploration, design and resolution. The healthy child is calm, resilient, robust, empathetic and caring.
In addition to the relationship with their kindergarten teacher and their immediate environment and sense-world, the kindergarten child begins to learn how to be in a class of children. They develop skills in self-regulation, learning to be part of a group, to sit and listen, and rest when appropriate.