The Kindergarten Curriculum
The Kindergarten provides an age-appropriate curriculum for children between the ages of three and six years of age. This page covers the curriculum in depth.
The distinctive features of the curriculum
The curriculum is based on the understanding that the best outcomes are achieved by:
creating a family environment where older children can support younger ones and the youngest children learn from their older peers, ensuring a smooth transition into the group.
providing an unhurried and stress-free environment where there is time to discover the world around and to master social interaction, learn positive behaviours, physical co-ordination, speech, language and other life skills
ensuring the children feel held and secure through a day that follows a consistent and predictable pattern and children do the same things at the same times, carried through imitation of others
organising the day to provide varied pace, with periods of teacher led and child led activities so that children are able to focus on their own interests without the worry about what is going to happen next
structuring a conscious balance between times of activity and times of rest so that creative play is followed by a more concentrated ring- time (music and movement) or energetic outdoor activity by a quiet story
The curriculum emphasises the interconnectedness of physical, emotional, social, spiritual and cognitive development. The learning experience of children under seven, therefore, is integrated rather than subject based.
Young children need to experience their world before they separate themselves from it and begin to analyse it in a detached way. Learning should be centred on the business of daily living.
The conversations around the meal table, give the children the opportunity to become familiar with listening and speaking, rhyming and riddles. Painting and drawing help with balance and symmetry and an artistic sense for colour and form.
Young children find their own learning situations in play. Through play they develop their empathy and social skills.
Through play children are able to exercise and consolidate their ability to understand and think and to develop and strengthen their concentration.
Creative play supports physical, emotional and social development and allows children to learn through investigation, exploration and discovery. It encourages children to become inventive and adaptable.
Children are given opportunity for child led free play (both inside and outside), play arising out of the child’s own observation of life, where they have the opportunity to integrate socially and to use their imaginations and fantasy to recreate and work out situations which they have seen or experienced.
There is little or no adult interference in the play, unless there is a situation that the children need support with.
A kindergarten is a community of "doers" and through ‘work’ the young child learns not only social and domestic skills but are able to develop good motor and practical skills.
They 'think' with their entire physical being, learn through doing and experiencing and 'grasp' the world through experiential and self- motivated physical activity. Their will is developed through ‘doing’
activity which brings long-term benefits to learning later on. Young children learn for life from life.
Rhythm and repetition
Regular patterns of activities create routine and foster a sense of security and self-confidence and help the child to know what to expect.
Working with rhythm helps children to live with change, to find their place in the world, and to begin to understand the past, present and future. It provides a very real foundation for the understanding of time - what has gone before and what will follow - and helps children to relate to the natural and the human world.
Children's memories are strengthened by recurring experiences and daily, weekly and yearly events in kindergarten (such as festivals and celebrations) are remembered and often eagerly anticipated a second time around. Therefore emphasis is given to regular patterns of
activities repeated within the day, week and year to provide rhythm and routine
Repetition helps to support good habits and reinforce behaviour – we always wash hands before eating, or put on appropriate clothing to go outdoors – it is never questioned or made conscious. Every day has its own rhythms, which support the day's activities. Seasonal activities celebrate the cycles of the year. Repeated stories, songs, verses and craft activities relate to the season and a nature table in the room reflects the changing natural world throughout the year, as do the themes of the songs, stories and poems.
The kindergarten day has different ‘moods’ within it, which provide an opportunity for children to learn that there is an expectation to adjust behaviour in different situations.
The creating of different moods to accompany different kinds of activities is done very deliberately as a way of allowing children to become aware of the invisible boundaries that determine what kind of
behaviour is appropriate for the situation. For example, there are moments of reverence each day when the children associate the mood with stillness, awe and wonder.
The mood at mealtime, on the other hand, is more sociable and is associated with being aware of others – ensuring that everyone has a share of the food, listening to another child’s ‘news’.
Seasonal or culturally relevant festivals provide the opportunity to create a special joyful and celebratory mood. Some of these involve other members of the children’s’ families. Birthdays are important events, where the parents provide the 'birthday story' based on the child's own life, this helps the child to feel special and it is a day that they anticipate throughout the year.
The kindergarten day is therefore divided up into:
• Arrival and play/activity time
• Circle time
• Snack time
• Outdoor time
• Lunch and afternoon
All days follow this pattern.
Arrival and play/activity time
In these activities children learn by example, finding their way in to the experiences at their own pace
As the children arrive, they hang up their coats and change into indoor shoes and say good-bye to the parent/carer before the kindergarten teacher welcomes each child.
The day begins with a period of free play, perhaps getting the dolls up and dressed, building with small logs or driving a bus made from upturned chairs.
During this free-play time, the adults are engaged in a task, such as preparing the dough if it is baking day, or the food for snack time. Each day of the week is identified by a particular ‘doing’ activity such as baking, gardening, painting, a seasonal handicraft, modelling, cleaning or woodwork. We will make things for festivals, such as window decorations, lanterns and mobiles, sew or braid, either for the kindergarten room or to take home.
The children are welcome, but not required to ‘help’ with the activity and they are expected to engage in the activity only for as long as
their interest lasts.. Some of the children may prefer to be around the adults, watching or helping, while adults work. These informal moments are vital, not least in a world in which parents are often so busy. In this way the children learn to explore and be creative whilst acquiring a love of work. This manifests itself in an increasing mood of self-reliance and calm industriousness when the children are engaged. The teacher and assistants initiate the next phase by beginning to clear the things away and the children join in helping each tool or object to find its place on shelf or in basket – sorting, matching, folding and stacking. Tidying up is an important task and it is done in such a way that it does not occur to the children that this is something that spoils their fun or is a tedious chore. It is done out of imitation of the adults and more experienced children, and soon becomes part of the rhythm of the kindergarten day.
Once things have been put back in their places after the activity and play, the children gather for circle-time.
The activities in circle time help focus the children's attention, develop their linguistic skills and help strengthen their motor skills.
Circle-time is when the children come together in a circle and sing traditional songs, play games and rhythmical verses are spoken and acted out. Listening and clear articulation is practiced through this kind of rhythmical recitation which is repeated for several weeks. Children leave kindergarten with a rich and varied repertoire of songs, stories and poems, including verses in French, German or other languages, which they have learned during circle time.
Meal times offer an opportunity to develop good habits and important skills.Some of the older children help lay and set the table with mats, cutlery and a vase of flowers. We serve healthy, organic, vegetarian food and each day the children enjoy a different snack such as rice, porridge or soup as well as fresh fruit. We also include vegetables and herbs that we have grown in the garden. The children learn important habits, behaviours and skills including social, communication and mathematical skills. They learn to co-operate in setting the table, sharing out of food, partaking in conversation and listening to thecomments of others about various bits of ‘news’. The children take turns to help clear and wash up afterwards.
The development of the physical co-ordination through movement, balance and spatial awareness is an important aspect of outdoor activity.
We have a garden with a sandpit, mud kitchen, climbing frame, vegetable patch and flower beds. The children can work alongside the adults in caring for the garden, growing vegetables.
They spend much of their time outside playing and exploring, observing the plants, insects and birds, developing their knowledge and understanding of the world. Climbing trees, balancing on poles, skipping with large and small ropes, or doing hard physical digging all provide an excellent opportunity for children to develop these capacities, and to find their own boundaries. Further, play out of doors has a different quality/mood from the indoor play and allows for a different social dynamic to emerge. It also provides an opportunity for children to begin to appreciate their environment.
A well-told story creates an appreciation for the human voice and the beauty and rhythms of language. It helps to extend vocabulary and aids the development of memory.
The morning concludes with story time. Story time is always a very special event. The children are told many different stories that belong to the literary heritage of the culture of childhood. Puppets and props are also used to enhance the story and also to provide a role model for floor play and the children’s own storytelling. Fairy or folk tales and nature stories address the feeling realm and awaken a moral sense. We include stories from the UK and around the world. Children love to hear the same story many times and delight in the repetition which brings them the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the material and to deepen their relationship to it.
Lunch and afternoon
Children who are staying for lunch help to set the table and get the room ready. Children between the age of three and five years of age
have a rest after lunch, the older children go out into the garden. After their rest the younger ones join their friends in the garden where they all spend the afternoon playing and exploring.
The content of the curriculum
Speech and Language
The use of language enables cognitive development and well-chosen words and good syntax support clear thinking. Good memory and recall are reliant on the spoken word, rather than the printed word or computers, and speech develops concentration and empathy, which are essential for formal learning.
The oral tradition is integrated into most parts of the children’s day to encourage listening and speech development. Children are encouraged to speak freely and learn to listen to others. Children listen to stories told by the teacher, which include a rich vocabulary. Good communication and oral numeric skills develop out of playing and working together in an informal and practical atmosphere. Every day the children take part in activities such as counting games, rhythmic activities, poetry, rhymes and singing, including material in foreign languages.
Children experience the musicality of language and its social aspects through playing ring games and doing eurythmy, a form of movement, which works with language and music.
The kindergarten experience integrates mathematical concepts and the use mathematical language on the grounds that grasping mathematical concepts such as weight, measure and shape is most meaningful when it relates to everyday activities and routines. For example, the preparation of food provides an opportunity to weigh, measure, count and use number, and setting the table is another area where math’s is used in a practical way. Through movement games, children recognise and recreate patterns - in, out, alternate, above and below, in front of, behind etc.
Natural objects such as acorns, pinecones, conkers and shells are sorted, ordered and counted, as part of spontaneous play or tidy. This approach to the introduction of mathematics embeds the concepts in a social and moral context.
Formal learning relies on dexterity and physical co-ordination. Children have the opportunity to develop both large and small motor skills throughout the range of directed and child-initiated activities, such as free play, setting the table, finger games and eurythmy. These activities develop hand to eye co-ordination, manual dexterity and orientation. For example, doing some simple sewing or weaving is a useful preparation for reading print from left to right, and a lot of skill is needed in woodwork. Drawing materials are provided, as well as painting and other creative arts and crafts.
Children develop both small and large motor co-ordination in both the indoor and outdoor environment where they learn to stretch their physical abilities in climbing, balance, and learning to manage their own risk taking and boundaries.
The development of social skills and awareness of others are also precursors to formal learning and prepare children for the level of behaviour that is required once children in the classroom situation. Children are encouraged to share, to work together, to care for each other and to respect the needs of others.
The behaviour of children is moulded by what surrounds them. Kindness is practised by teachers and encouraged in the children and they learn to trust the adults and other children. Many items are made as gifts for family members.
Traditional fairy tales and nature stories address the feeling realm and gradually awaken a fine moral sense for knowing right from wrong.
The natural environment
Children are encouraged to appreciate and respect the natural world in order to help them to value its gifts and to understand its processes and the patterns of the seasons. The beauty of nature, plants, insects and animals is brought to the children with awe and wonder.
Domestic tasks provide opportunities for elementary experiences of science and the four elements. When children make toys from sheep's wool, wood, felt, cotton and other natural materials they learn about its origin.
Children are encouraged to look after the equipment, sanding and oiling wooden furniture and toys, mending things that break, washing cloths and other simple tasks which children and adults can do together.
The learning environment
The curriculum is based on an understanding that all the senses of the young child are very impressionable and that everything that surrounds a child has a direct although sometimes extremely subtle impact on the child.
Very careful consideration is therefore given to the detail of the quality of all aspects of the kindergarten environment to ensure that it is beautiful and gentle on the eye, ear and all the senses.
The physical space is designed to be home-like and as free from exterior distraction as possible. The scale of the space should not overwhelm a small child and so where possible the ceiling is low, there are no ‘hard’ corners and it is decorated in soft tones of pink to create a gentle, secure atmosphere.
Each child has his/her own coat peg with their name above it and somewhere to leave a change of shoes and their outdoor clothes and wet weather gear.
There is a nature table, which follows a seasonal theme, and the decorations are also seasonal and are displayed with moderation, using soft material and pastel colours. There is a generally a quiet corner, a home corner, an area for floor play and building large constructions, an area for the activity or snack tables and chairs. The kitchen area is partitioned but within the room.
The furniture is made of wood and is intended for open ended or multi use by the children. Toys are made of natural materials and are deliberately crafted to be relatively undefined to allow maximum scope for imaginative use as props in children’s play. They include wooden blocks and logs, natural plain cloth, shells, and hand-made dolls.
Equipment includes grain mills, juice presses, woodwork tools, spinning wheels and other simple manual tools, watercolours, broad brushes, beeswax crayons, sheep’s fleece, sewing materials and beautiful picture books.
There are also a variety of materials in soft colours for dressing up or using to cover the wooden screens, which can make houses, boats or castles. In the home corner there are small cradles, prams, table and chairs, kitchen equipment and more.
There are often instruments for musical activities, and sometimes a quiet/book corner with a few carefully chosen picture books, which are changed regularly.
The older children in our care need to be recognised. Some of them will have been attending Kindergarten since they were three years old and have been anticipating the time when they will be able to undertake the older children’s tasks and responsibilities.
To help them develop their sense of self-worth we allow them privileges. These can take many forms for example we may ask them to take the water around at snack time, prepare the painting table for all of the children or help set up a story. They are also encouraged to help the youngest children to get ready for the garden and to help us with domestic and outdoor work. They are encouraged to come first to take part in the activity of the day, to do their "work" before going off to play, they will often come to do this of their own volition. The crafts we provide for them are also designed to challenge them.
As well as taking part in the same crafts as the other children, there are also things just for them, for example weaving, making a puppet and their final project, making a wooden boat. These differentiated tasks and activities support the development, strengthen or enhance skills and abilities such as physical co-ordination and integration; social and emotional relationships; imagination and fantasy; scientific enquiry; aesthetic appreciation; ability to stick at a task/maintain focus; independence; confidence; resilience and love of learning.
They will be beginning to change the way that they play from a purely imaginative and transformative stage to a stage where planning is all important. They have grown beyond just performing a puppet play for their friends, they now want to develop the theme by making tickets, serving popcorn or ice cream etc. We are ready to support and encourage this important stage by allowing access to additional resources.
Transition to Year 2 (Class 1)
An additional programme of activities is designed specifically with the oldest children in mind we have called this the Transition Group. The intention of this programme is primarily to allow the children to begin to form their new class, in anticipation of their experience in the main school. We will start this group after the first half term of the academic year to enable the children to settle back into Kindergarten life after the long summer holiday.
These sessions have a more formal feel and are entirely teacher led. We will usually begin with either a game or some skipping and then move on to drawing or some handwork and finish with an age appropriate story, often a chapter from an ongoing story. In the warmer weather we will take them outside for some additional activities and group games.
A taste of school life to come but without any stress or anxiety as it occurs as a gentle transition in line with their natural development. This enables them to experience a smooth transition to Class 1 with their friends, supported by trusted adults, having developed the skills that they will need to give them a good start to formal learning.
Compliance with the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)
The curriculum complies with learning and development and welfare requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) with exemptions which relate to the formal introduction of Literacy, Numeracy as well as Technology.
The Secretary of State has agreed to all the exemptions or modifications requested on the grounds that Steiner kindergartens cannot meet these EYFS requirements without compromising their ethos and practice.
The granting of these exemptions and modifications is in accordance with the established principles route as set out in the Early Years Foundation Stage (Exemptions from Learning and Development Requirements) Regulations 2008 as amended by the Early Years Foundation Stage (Exemptions from Learning and Development Requirements) (Amendment) Regulations 2012.