The Children's Garden
Parent-Child Programs, Nursery (Pre-K), and Kindergarten
We believe that young children have innate capacities for wonder, awe, and imagination and our early childhood programs help nurture and strengthen these qualities. We see early childhood as a very rich developmental stage that should not be rushed through.
Our philosophy is based on the insights of Rudolf Steiner, Austrian philosopher, scientist, and educator. Steiner recognized that children develop in distinct stages. In the earliest years, children are best suited to learn primarily by imitation and activity rather than through formal instruction. Our program emphasizes creative play as a foundation for independent activity and creative thinking. Through play and other elements that make up the daily rhythm of the Children’s Garden, children learn a variety of life skills and gain a solid preparation for the future.
Activities of the Children’s Garden
- Creative Play
- Circle Time with Singing, Movement Games, and Fingerplays
- Storytelling and Puppetry
- Painting, Drawing and Beeswax Modeling
- Seasonal Crafts and Festival Celebrations
- Baking and Cooking
- Outdoor Play, Gardening and Nature Walks
- A Weekly Eurythmy (movement) Class
Children’s Garden Hours
8:30 – 12:30 regular class hours
12:30 – 3:00 afternoon program option
3:00 – 6:00 extended day option
Play is Paramount
Creative play is at the core of our early childhood program. We believe that play is an essential part of healthy development and are committed to providing children with stimulating play environments and ample time for play indoors and outdoors. It is through play that children try on different aspects of life. They build houses and trains, islands, and marketplaces. They interact with each other as mothers and babies, carpenters, and shopkeepers. Our classroom materials are natural and open-ended so that they can be used in many different ways. The teachers guide and assist the children with their play and are also involved in focused activity such as baking, housekeeping, or artistic activity, helping set a purposeful mood in the classroom that inspires play. Play comes naturally for children and as their imaginative capacities develop, they create their own elaborate play worlds and scenarios in our classrooms.
Movement and Practical Activity
Young children love and have an irrepressible need to move their rapidly growing bodies! The Children’s Garden is an active environment of hands-on exploration and vigorous movement. Many of our toys and furnishings encourage large-scale movement and exploration. Houses are erected using tree stumps, boards, and cloth. Ships are built out of crates, tables, and brooms. This need to move is also recognized by engaging the children with practical work such as sweeping, setting the table, or preparing the chairs for story time. Outdoors we spend an extensive amount of time, rain or shine, in our expansive play yard where the children run, dig, and test their developing physical abilities on our play structures. Outside we also play a variety of games, garden, and enjoy nature walks. Our playground adjoins parkland, offering an ideal setting for class walks, hill play, and puddle stomping.
A child’s capacity for fantasy and imagination are intentionally encouraged and protected in our Children’s Garden. We foster children’s imaginations by choosing simple toys that allow the child’s power of imagination to determine their use and fill in the details. Examples are our simple cloth dolls, large play frames, wooden crates, and colorful cloths that can be transformed into an endless variety of props and structures. The child’s capacities for fantasy and imagination are also enriched through the daily circle time of verses, songs, and drama. Further, our teachers tell stories in the oral tradition, allowing the children to create their own inner pictures, again fostering a capacity for later creative thinking.
Young children respond strongly to rhythm and benefit tremendously when they have familiarity and predictability in their lives. In the Children’s Garden, we are guided by daily, weekly, and seasonal activities that provide this essential rhythm for the child. Each day follows a pattern of activity, for example, greeting, circle time, indoor play, cleanup, snack, outdoor activities, and story time. Weekly rhythms are achieved by having a special activity each day, for example, Monday for painting, Tuesday for baking, and so on. The yearly rhythm is experienced through the use of seasonal stories and crafts, and the nature table. We also mark the changing of the year through celebrating seasonal festivals, drawn from a variety of traditions. It is deeply satisfying for the children to feel held in the predictable, nurturing rhythms that form the life of the class.
Learning – A Solid Preparation
While formal lessons and academic work are not part of the Children’s Garden, our curriculum supports a tremendous amount of developmentally-appropriate learning and prepares children for later academic challenges. Current brain research supports the importance of play and movement as foundations for literacy. Our program provides a strong emphasis on oral language development, which a child experiences through the teacher’s storytelling, verses, songs, and puppetry. Fine motor skills grow through our weekly rhythms, which include baking, finger knitting, coloring, and beeswax modeling. Larger motor skills are developed through active indoor play, practical work, circle time, and outdoor play. Counting games, cooking, building, and rhythmic activities build a solid foundation for numeracy and other mathematical competencies, such as understanding spatial relationships and problem solving. Social skills grow through many of the activities such as interactive play, snack preparation, and circle time. And central to our curriculum, is the stimulation of a child’s imaginative capacities, which lays a foundation for creative and lively thinking in later childhood and beyond.