Thursday, 6 March 2014

February 2014: Rhythm, Rhyme & Finger-plays

Monday 24th February - Sunday 2nd March

The Sunflower Children nod to the sun,
Summer is over, Autumn begun.

Oh Summer, I’m not quite sure we are ready to say goodbye just yet! It seems the garden feels the same way with most of the tomatoes still green, and the corn only just flowering; but Autumn has arrived this week, the days are drawing in and the weather is changing ever so subtly.

Mousey Brown (5) attended his first morning in Kinder/Prep at the local Steiner school this week, which went really well. I stayed for about half of the morning, working in the kitchen preparing food for the children with the Kindergarten helper. When Mousey Brown was settled and enjoying himself,  Little Deer (3) and I left to visit the library and do a few small things about town. We returned a couple of hours later to a happy child. Hooray! We plan on continuing attending one morning a week at school so that he has a chance to play with friends his age and is familiar with the rhythm of school life if he chooses to attend next year. 

Our days at home have finally settled into a reasonably predictable rhythm too:

~ Breakfast, followed by unstructured play time
~ Morning Walk
~ Morning Tea, followed by unstructured play time
~ Circle Time
~ Story
~ Main Activity (Handwork/Baking/Craft/Painting etc)
~ Unstructured afternoon free play, plus an afternoon rest time. 

As usual, much of the boys play has been outdoors this week. Cubby building, trampolining, gardening, bush walks, and setting up an "outdoor course” of log balance beams, jumping wood rounds, old tires, and a climbing rope ladder to practise their gross motor skills and balance. So much fun!

Play is important child's work in our home. We make plenty of time for play. Unstructured play is incredibly important to a child’s development. As adults we may tend to trivialise play, but child-development specialists describe unstructured play as essential to children’s growth and crucial in cultivating creativity and imagination. <Here> is a wonderful article which points out the crucial role play has in expanding intellectual, emotional, and social skills. 

So what are they learning?  

{ Pre-Literary Learning in Early Childhood Education }

<Here> is a great article about reading, writing and pre-literary skills in the Waldorf kindergarten. 

Many people are surprised, even uncomfortable, that the focus is not on intellectual “book” learning in the early childhood years in Waldorf/Steiner education. There seems to be a move in mainstream education to start children reading and writing at an earlier age than previous generations, this is in spite of research showing there is no long-term benefit in doing so. 

Instead we are using verses, poems, rhymes, songs and stories to develop a sense of the rhythm and cadence of language, to develop memory skills and listening skills, and to expose both boys to a wide range of interesting and varied vocabulary. 

Chants and rhymes help build vocabulary and develop sound discrimination. “Both of these skills are crucial to the development of literacy. The size of a child’s vocabulary and his ability to discriminate sounds are strong predictors of how easily a child will learn to read when exposed to formal instruction” (Schiller).

Whilst they are not actively taught to read or write, children in Waldorf/Steiner Kindergartens are able to recite from memory many long poems and verses. Mousey Brown (5) has been able to recite 'The Owl and The Pussycat’ poem by heart since he was 3 years old, and knows many others. 

{ Kinaesthetic Learning & Brain Development }

Circle Time action rhymes, songs and fingerplays develop coordinationfine motor skillsgross motor skills, and what is known as midline crossing.

These are also developed during normal unstructured play, or during work the boys help with around the house: crawling and crab crawling games, climbing trees, jumping, playing catch, using a ribbon wand, sand play, stirring, kneading dough, pouring water from one container to another, cutting vegetables, spreading butter on bread, grating cheese, using a rolling pin, washing dishes, sawing, hammering, sanding, sweeping, winding wool, finger knitting, beading, sewing, etc. 

Singing, finger plays, actions, rhythmical clapping, and stomping further enhance these skills. Pairing language with movement sets the stage for cognitive and kinaesthetic learning. The right hemisphere of the brain is our emotional side where much of our creativity is channeled. The left hemisphere organises logical skills such as language. When children are engaged in movements determined by the lyrics of a song, the brain automatically cross- references both hemispheres, mapping creativity and logic (Fishburne, G. 1988). 

During our Circle Time we: 

~ Sing most rhymes/songs at least twice, leading with a different hand each time to develop coordination. 

~ Standing circle songs we move both clockwise and counter-clockwise. 

~ Standing on each leg, hopping and skipping are all gross motor skills that can be incorporated into circle time song. 

~ Eye tracking during finger-plays is another game we sometimes incorporate.

~ Actions or activities that use both sides of the boys at the same time are used to cross the brain midline. 

{ Story Time }

We finish Circle Time with a story, sometimes read from a book, often a simple story retold from memory, using silks, props, puppetry and toys to help bring it to life. Listening to stories helps children enhance their vocabularies and use longer sentences. Another wonderful benefit is it helps increase their attention spans and ability to focus on what is being said. Stories without pictures help develop inner mental imagery and imagination.

In the afternoon, we have a quiet time which usually lasts around 45 minutes. Practising stillness is a great skill to teach to children; relaxation can be learned. We enjoy listening to the sounds of nature, lying quietly with eyes closed, or listening to a story. We have been absolutely loving Sparkle Stories audiobooks (available online), and often listen to one of these as part of our afternoon rest time.

{ In Handwork this week }

Mousey Brown has had a seeming endless supply of crafty inspiration. We have been practising plenty of fine motor skills with beading, finger knitting and making wool “twisties”, all favourite activities. 

Clay “mining” has always been a favourite outdoor activity at home, with the boys cooperatively running a "clay shop” at least a few times a week., but rather than simply selling clay this week, they have been using it in a number of activities.  

Making ‘fossils’ and imprints in clay
Clay Stegosaurus and Tyrannosaurus Rex 
Clay and Stone Fairy Houses
Mousey Brown also worked on a (entirely self-directed) project building a wind up pulley system from a tissue box, skewer, and toilet paper rolls!

Leaf rubbings

{ In the kitchen this week }

Sugar/Dairy/Gluten-Free Banana Bread
Adapted from Quick Easy Paleo

1 1/2 cups almond meal
1 heaped teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons bicarb soda
1 cup chopped pecans/walnuts
2 large eggs
3 overripe bananas (mashed)
1/4 cup applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Preheat oven to 180.C
Mix dry ingredients.
Whisk egg, stir in mashed banana, apple sauce and vanilla. Mix until just combined.
Fold dry ingredients into wet ingredients.
Pou into greased loaf tin. 
Bake approx 30min, or until cooked through.

{ In the garden this week }

Collecting seeds, 
Waiting for tomatoes and eggplants to ripen, 
Crossing fingers!
Planting beetroot, parsley, leeks, lettuce, coriander,
Collecting eggs.

{ Late Summer Circle Time }

Opening Verse
Good morning dear earth
Good morning dear sun
Good morning dear trees
and flowers, every one.
Good morning dear animals
and birds in the tree
Good morning to you
Good morning to me

* * * * * * * *

O Dandelion (Verse)
O Dandelion, yellow as gold, what do you do all day?
“I just wait here in the tall, green grass, ’till the children come to play.”
O Dandelion, yellow as gold, what do you do all night?
“I wait and wait, while the cool dew falls, and my hair grows long and white.”
And what do you do when your hair grows white, and the children come to play?
“They take me in their dimpled hands, and blow my hair away!”

* * * * * * * *

Go Wind, Blow! (Verse)
Go wind, blow!
Push wind, swish!
Shake things, take things,
Make things fly!
Ring things, swing things
Fling things high.

Go wind, blow.
Push wind, whee!
No wind, no
Don’t push me!

* * * * * * * *

Windy (Action Song)
Like a leaf or a feather, 
in the windy, windy, weather 
We will whirl around and twirl around, 
And all fall down together.

* * * * * * * *

Scarecrow (Action Song)
When all the cows were sleeping

And the sun had gone to bed

Up jumped the scarecrow

And this is what he said!

I'm a dingle, dangle scarecrow

With a flippy floppy hat

I can shake my hands like this

And shake my feet like that.

When all the hens were roosting

And the moon behind the cloud

Up jumped the scarecrow

And shouted very loud.

I'm a dingle, dangle scarecrow

With a flippy floppy hat

I can shake my hands like this

And shake my feet like that.

When the dogs were in the kennels

And the doves were in the loft

Up jumped the scarecrow

And whispered very soft.

I'm a dingle, dangle scarecrow

With a flippy floppy hat

I can shake my hands like this

And shake my feet like that.

I'm a dingle, dangle scarecrow

With a flippy floppy hat

I can shake my hands like this

And shake my feet like that. 

* * * * * * * *

Two Little Blackbirds (Fingerplay)

Two little black birds sitting on a wall. 
One named Peter and one named Paul 
Fly away Peter. Fly away Paul
Come back Peter. Come back Paul

Two little black birds sitting on a cloud
One named quiet and one named loud
Fly away quiet. Fly away loud
Come back quiet. Come back loud

Two little black birds sitting down low
One name fast and one named slow
Fly away fast. Fly away slow
Come back fast. Come back slow.

* * * * * * * *

The Wasp (Action Rhyme)
I climbed a ladder in the apple tree.
(Climb a ladder slowly using opposite hand/knee)

I put one in my basket balanced on my knee.
(Make a circle with one arm against your side. 
With the other hand pick fruit above head, crossing over midline to place fruit in “basket”)

Along came a wasp, buzzing to and fro,
(make figure 8’s with a finger crossing the midline of the body)

“Snap!” went the currawong; “Snap!” went the crow. 
(Snap the air using a thumb/index finger pincer movement)

* * * * * * * *

This is a house for a robin
(make a nest with hands)

This is a hive for a bee
(two fists together to make a hive)

This is a hole for a bunny
(thumbs and pointers on both hands to make hole)

And this is a house for me!
(Arms and hands form roof overhead) 

* * * * * * * *

Pygmy Possum (Fingerplay)
Here is a tree-hole.
(Bend fingers on one hand) 
Inside is a Possum.
(Put thumb inside fingers.) 
See she comes out
(Pop out thumb)
When Banksia blossoms. 

She stays out all summer 
In sunshine and heat. 
She hunts in the bush 
(Mimic picking and eating berries)
For berries to eat. 

When snow starts to fall. 
(fingers fluttering moving side to side)
She hurries inside
(Bend fingers of one hand)
her warm little home
And there she will hide. 
(Put thumb inside fingers.)

Snow covers the ground 
(Place one hand over the other.)
Like a fluffy white rug. 
Inside Possum sleeps 
(pretend to be sleeping)
All cozy and snug.

* * * * * * * *

 Autumn (Closing Verse)
Yellow the bracken,
Golden the sheaves.
Rosy the apples,
Crimson the leaves.
Mist on the hillside,
Clouds grey and white.
Autumn, good morning!
Summer good night!

* * * * * * * *


  1. This is wonderful Heidi! We are about to start homeschooling next term with our 6 yr old (he has done prep and started yr one this year at our village school), and while we won't be strictly following Waldorf, I suppose you could say I lean that way ;) I think it will be a great way to involve our 3yr old with circle time etc. Its nice to read the waldorf way from an Aussie perspective! I'm an IG follower too ;)

    1. Hello lovely! I recognised your name straight away :) How wonderful you are starting homeschooling. I can’t wait to follow your journey on IG x