What happens in parent-toddler groups?

Parenting Blog

September 15, 2008

"We have had our first week of school and it was wonderful! I am so happy to have seen old friends and met many new ones. The wonder of child development is so apparent after not seeing children for a few months. I am always interested in the questions and comments that come up in parents when they encounter this education. I have been involved in Waldorf education for many years and I understand the need to ask questions because I have had many. Often the journey to finding the answers to my questions brought me to new questions but it is the questions that defined my path and therefore, the information I found along the way.

Why do we use glass cups with such young children? All the choices we make are carefully considered, so you can trust there is a reason. We chose glass because we wanted a natural material that is also affordable (if I could find a good deal on those ceramic-lined metal cups often used for camping, I'd buy them). Natural materials change. A plastic flower never decays and a plastic cup never breaks. The benefit of using a glass cup instead of plastic outweighs the risk associated with breaking glass. In about 40 weeks of parent-toddler programs, we have broken three cups. When glass breaks, there is a good lesson there for children as well. The adults calmly clean it up. At all times while children are handling glass, adults are near by. No child has ever been hurt by broken glass!

Therefore, we have decided that the benefits of trusting the child to hold a beautiful glass cup elevates the experience of snack and they deserve it. It is not just an ordinary snack, it is a school snack when we are gathered with our friends. The children (unconsciously, of course) appreciate the festive mood and quite quickly learn to meet the challenge of holding a glass cup. Besides, how else could they see the beautiful red liquid? We eat with our eyes, my husband always says. Especially for the young child, we consider the full sensory experience of everything we do. Imagine for a moment the tactile experience of holding a plastic cup versus a glass one. Then add the other senses and consider that children soak in their environment deeply and it actually becomes a part of them, then choose which experience you would want for your child.

Next, I will respond to a comment about how calm and centered a parent felt all day after the parent-toddler program. She wondered how that could be since she felt we had not done anything. First of all, to gather eight families with babies, toddlers and some preschoolers together to play, socialize, make a snack, clean the room, have integrative movement, share a snack, clean dishes, hear a puppet play and then go outside joyfully and peacefully all within two hours time is doing something!

I am guessing that the parent's comment has to do with cognitive activity. We were not busy thinking about what to do when, the program is planned out for us so that we can honor the children by being in the present moment with them, breathing in and out from group activities to more individual ones, from active to more restful moments. When we participate in the parent-toddler programs, we enter the world of the young child. It is a world of safety, innocence, warmth, timelessness and goodness. Think back on your own childhood and those years from birth to seven. There is a universal quality of early childhood that has not changed (although the rest of the world has) and we strive to provide an environment that respects the needs of the young child...and in that environment, adults receive benefits, too."

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