What is Waldorf Early Childhood Education?

Developed by Rudolf Steiner in 1919, Waldorf Education is based on an understanding of human development that addresses the needs of the growing child. Waldorf teachers strive to transform education into an art that educates the whole child—the heart and the hands, as well as the head. The curriculum unfolds as the child grows and meets their ever emerging curiosity in a way that coincides with their natural inner growth.

~ Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA)

Classrooms are painted in warm colors, playthings are of natural materials and neutral in their function to allow for imaginations to soar! Highly skilled teachers provide a loving, gently held hand as they lead the children throughout the day. Children are provided security and comfort through the days, weeks and months of school with the rhythmic and fluid quality provided by the Waldorf approach to education.

Boulder Waldorf Kindergarten’s early childhood educators are dedicated teachers who see each child as an individual. They teach intuitively in a loving, mindful way, and strive to bring their highest qualities to their classes. Individually, teachers concentrate on developing their inner soul lives and maintaining mindfulness practices in order that they may stay ever present and attune with the children and families in their care.

Coming together in community is a strong impulse at Boulder Waldorf Kindergarten. Festivals are celebrated throughout the year to mark the seasons and families are invited to participate. Parents are encouraged to look at their child’s education not as something separate from themselves, but of value to the whole family. Parent Nights occur throughout the year to inform, educate, and provide a forum for parents and teachers to connect and learn from one another. Together, in community, we explore the wonder of childhood, the complexity of parenting, the peace of simplicity and how Waldorf Education continues to evolve in our current times.

For further information about Waldorf early childhood education please visit the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America.

What is the curriculum like at Boulder Waldorf Kindergarten?

Free Play! Farming! Gardening! Nature Walks! Music! Stories! Baking! Festivals! Practical Skills! Arts and Crafts! Learning How To Get Along!

We believe that a child’s sense of self and their confidence is best built when their first experiences with the world are instilled with truth, beauty and goodness.

Boulder Waldorf Kindergarten is unique in that it is one of only a handful of Waldorf schools in the United States that specializes solely on the child’s earliest years – ages 12 months to seven. As such, we are able to provide an environment that is enriching, educational, and appropriate to a child’s specific needs at each level of early development. Our mixed-aged classrooms provide a rich social system that allows the children to learn from one another and navigate the waters of social interaction in a gently guided and protective space. Our school grounds are beautifully designed and maintained and provide ample space for children to explore, imagine and play.

The “curriculum” at Boulder Waldorf Kindergarten is focused on the developing child – their need for movement to support mind/body development and their need for guidance as they are introduced to the world and people around them. Learning social skills such as how to get a shovel back when a friend has “borrowed” it or how to make amends when we have made a mistake; learning how to come to form (i.e. participating and listening) during creative circle- or storytimes; practical skills such as folding laundry, baking bread, sweeping or pouring water for the snack table; working with fine-motor skills as we sew, knit and braid; and building gross-motor skills as we climb, jump, run and tumble are all examples of the focus of education at Boulder Waldorf Kindergarten. Because the young child learns primarily through imitation, teachers take great care to hold an acute awareness of how they present themselves to the children and are deeply conscious of the examples they set – whether that is through the classroom environment they create, their movements and gestures, or their tone of voice and intention when they they speak and interact not only with the children in their care, but with other adults around them be it colleague or parent. In short Boulder Waldorf Kindergarten’s curriculum allows children to be children, protecting and supporting the natural unfolding of each child so that they may grow at their own pace and in their own individual way.

For further information on Waldorf early childhood curriculum please visit: www.waldorfearlychildhood.org/uploads/Howard%20Article.pdf


What is the child's relationship to the farm at BWK?

Children at Boulder Waldorf Kindergarten have the rare and wonderful opportunity to participate in the care of our two-acre farm which is home to a biodynamic garden, goats, chickens, rabbits and the occasional deer who wander by in eager search of our delicious apples and raspberries!

It is truly a joy to watch as a child collects his first egg – still warm from the chicken.  With pleasure we watch a hesitant child gain the confidence to enter the goat pen to lead them to their pasture.  In the spring we invite the children to help in the garden with the planting of fruits and vegetables.  During summer they water and weed, and in the autumn they enjoy collecting and eating the fruits of their efforts when we celebrate our harvest.

As the days grow colder, we prepare the garden for winter and put the garden “to bed.”

Indeed, at Boulder Waldorf Kindergarten children are encouraged to help on the farm as much as they are inspired to! So many valuable lessons can be taught and so much can be learned through the noble work of a farmer!

Why do Waldorf schools delay academics?

“Little children can copy at a rote level, but they’re probably not using the (neurological) circuits which will connect with meaning. Let it wait. Children of this age should not be sitting at desks, doing academic tasks. Get their busy brains out doing and learning, not practicing lower level skills” Jane Healy, Your Child’s Growing Mind

One of the things people often struggle with about Waldorf schools is the concept of delayed academics, in particular not teaching reading until the age of seven. Rahima Baldwin-Dancy, author of You Are Your Child’s First Teacher says, “there is tremendous pressure in our society to teach reading, writing and math to children at an increasingly early age’.

While some children naturally show a propensity for academic skills early, there truly is no evidence that the formal teaching of early academics has any long term benefits at all.  In fact, articles are increasingly appearing in mainstream psychiatric and educational publications that show just the opposite is true. These findings are based on long-term studies comparing play-based and academic early childhood programs (see links below).

Our day’s activities at Boulder Waldorf Kindergarten include story time, snack time, arts and crafts, a movement and singing circle, and lots of free play both indoors and out.  Rather than copying letters and trying to make sense of math, our little ones are crafting animals out of beeswax, making bread, digging in the sandpit, singing songs, running, exploring and having fun. In addition, they are being given opportunities to exercise their social and emotional intelligences by their interactions with playmates and guidance from teachers with time, presence and skill to help them work through the “bumps.” These are skills that last a lifetime and decrease social distraction when it comes time to sit down at a desk in a classroom.  It is widely understood that having these skills only enhances their cognitive learning in the years to come.

At Boulder Waldorf Kindergarten, children are met, but not pushed, as they come into alignment with the world around them. From watching the wonder of a caterpillar’s transformation into a butterfly to learning by heart age-old verses and stories; from participating in farm chores and caring for animals to imagining the possibility that fairies are painting the leaves in the autumn, our children are learning – through our version of the “Three R’s”: Rhythm, Repetition and Reverence.

So set your mind at ease, despite not being taught to read before the age of seven, by age nine Waldorf /Steiner educated children are achieving just as well academically as those in more “traditional” academic programs.

For more information:



Is BWK a religious or a Christian school?

Waldorf schools are non-sectarian and non-denominational. They educate all children, regardless of their cultural or religious backgrounds. The pedagogical method is comprehensive, and, as part of its task, seeks to bring about recognition and understanding of all the world cultures and religions. Waldorf schools are not part of any church. They espouse no particular religious doctrine but are based on a belief that there is a spiritual dimension to the human being and to all of life. Waldorf families come from a broad spectrum of religious traditions and interest.

~ Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA)


At Boulder Waldorf Kindergarten, we acknowledge the passage of time and seasons through long-honored festivals traditionally referred to as Michaelmas, Martinmas, Advent and Easter.  September brings Michaelmas which celebrates the autumn harvest and honors St. Michael who is said to instill courage and strength as the light begins to fade in the northern hemisphere.  In November, Martinmas celebrates St. Martin, the patron saint of the poor, the hungry and the homeless at a time when our thoughts turn to “thanks” and “giving” in the United States.  The word “Advent” refers to “the anticipation of that which is to come.”  To us at BWK, advent celebrates the return of the light upon the earth with the coming Winter Solstice.  Our community joins together at this time for our Winter Spiral Garden where we enjoy a ceremony of candlelight with the children.  Easter comes in the spring and joyfully welcomes back the warmth and growing season – we celebrate everything Spring and culminate the time with our May Faire.


So while the festivals at Waldorf schools are steeped in tradition, they can be celebrated in many ways.  At Boulder Waldorf Kindergarten we focus on those aspects that join us together as a community and seek to find the common threads that unite not just our community, but the world as a whole.


Education in our materialistic, Western society focuses on the intellectual aspect of the human being and has chosen largely to ignore the several other parts that are essential to our well-being. These include our life of feeling (emotions, aesthetics, and social sensitivity), our willpower (the ability to get things done), and our moral nature (being clear about right and wrong). Without having these developed, we are incomplete—a fact that may become obvious in our later years, when a feeling of emptiness begins to set in. That is why in a Waldorf school, the practical and artistic subjects play as important a role as the full spectrum of traditional academic subjects that the school offers. The practical and artistic are essential in achieving a preparation for life in the “real” world.


Waldorf Education recognizes and honors the full range of human potentialities. It addresses the whole child by striving to awaken and ennoble all the latent capacities. The children learn to read, write, and do math; they study history, geography, and the sciences. In addition, all children learn to sing, play a musical instrument, draw, paint, model clay, carve and work with wood, speak clearly and act in a play, think independently, and work harmoniously and respectfully with others. The development of these various capacities is interrelated. For example, both boys and girls learn to knit in grade one. Acquiring this basic and enjoyable human skill helps them develop a manual dexterity, which after puberty will be transformed into an ability to think clearly and to “knit” their thoughts into a coherent whole.

Preparation for life includes the development of the well-rounded person. Waldorf Education has as its ideal a person who is knowledgeable about the world and human history and culture, who has many varied practical and artistic abilities, who feels a deep reverence for and communion with the natural world, and who can act with initiative and in freedom in the face of economic and political pressures.

There are many Waldorf graduates of all ages who embody this ideal and who are perhaps the best proof of the efficacy of the education.

—From “Five Frequently Asked Questions” by Colin Price; originally printed in Renewal Magazine, Spring/Summer 2003

What is BWK's belief about media?

While Waldorf schools have warned against the use of media for young children since the dawn of the television, only recently has it become widely accepted in the mainstream that media for young children is a threat to their health, development and well-being. This includes television, movies, gaming, phones, iPads and iPods and anything else that has a screen that takes precious time away from children otherwise used for imaginative play and movement.


We find that children exposed to media have a harder time with imaginative play – instead of creatively play acting, they are only able to act out characters that they have seen on television/movies/etc.  Often, children who have access to gaming are more aggressive and disorganized in their play and have trouble socially with their peers.  For all children, sitting in front of a screen is now known to impact brain development in the early years, cause the inability to form mental pictures, and limit imaginative processes throughout life.  Nothing can take the place of real-life experiences in a child’s learning.


At Boulder Waldorf Kindergarten, we stress our desire that media not be used by the children at our school, but we do not require parents to sign a contract of agreement to this request.  We only ask that if you do allow media time for your children, that you do so in a mindful and conscious way. Preferably, no gaming or small-screen activity; parental involvement when watching; content limited to documentaries over Disney and real life over animation; limited exposure – especially during the school week.


There are many ways to engage your children besides media – reading books, playing board games, building with blocks, spending time in nature, drawing, gardening, working with play dough, even a tub of soapy water can entertain a child for the time you need to finish making dinner, pay bills or connect with other family members!  Allow YOUR inner child to shine through and get creative!  Your children will benefit so much more from time creating and imagining than from time spent in front of a screen.  And if some of this creative, imaginative play means time spent with YOU, the benefits are even greater!


See more at: www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/pages/media-and-children.aspx#sthash.AVvSqDkx.dpuf


Does Waldorf Education prepare children for the "real" world; and, if so, how does it do it?

By educating the child, head, heart and hand, Waldorf Education provides the framework for successful academic learning, and in addition, a love of learning that spans a lifetime.  By allowing children to enjoy the freedom of being children, the earliest years are dedicated to play and discovery of the wonders of nature.  The grades unfold as the child unfolds and the curriculum is designed to mirror the very processes that the child is experiencing in his or her development  – whether through mathematics, the arts, literature, sciences or music.  All accredited Waldorf schools meet the necessary requirements students need to apply to any college or university.  Academic advisors work with high school students to support them through their rigorous high school classes, help them prepare for college entrance exams and guide them through college application process.  Through an artistic, contemplative, comprehensive education, students enter into the adult world as active participants – whether attending colleges, traveling, or entering the workforce.  Waldorf students often stand out as young adults who ask questions, who seek deeper understanding, who form healthy relationships with mentors, teachers and managers, and who think “outside the box.” For, it is said, in Waldorf, there is no box!


In the words of a respected university professor, “By the time they reach us at the college and university level, these [Waldorf] students are grounded broadly and deeply and have a remarkable enthusiasm for learning. Such students possess the eye of the discoverer, and the compassionate heart of the reformer which, when joined to a task, can change the planet.”

Arthur Zajonc, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Physics, Amherst College


What do Waldorf graduates do?

Because Waldorf Education is such an alternative approach to teaching and learning, questions often arise as to how successful Waldorf graduates are in higher education and beyond.  To address these questions, in the early 2000’s a research study was conducted and a subsequent report written entitled “Standing Out Without Standing Alone: A Profile of Waldorf Graduates.” It was authored by Douglas Gerwin and David Mitchell of the Research Institute on Waldorf Education.


Main Points of the Research Bulletin:

  • Lists where students are getting their college degrees and what courses of study they tend to pursue
  • Shares comments from professors about their Waldorf-educated undergraduate students
  • Offers a sampling, not only of career choices after students graduate from college, but what aspects of their work life do they value
  • In all areas, it appears that “Waldorf graduates are more likely than not to put the needs of others ahead of their own
  • Explores graduates’ social interaction and relationships, as well as asking whether they would send their own children to a Waldorf school
  • The last page of the report shares a Profile of a Waldorf Graduate using words such as “ethical,” “self-reliant,” “life-long learning,” and “tolerance”

For those interested in reading the full survey, it “is comprised of twelve major sections including statistical comparisons of Waldorf school graduates to the general U.S. population and differences between recent and older graduates. A series of appendices lists colleges attended by Waldorf graduates and collates hundreds of comments by professors who have taught Waldorf alumni/ae.” This study along with many others can be found at: www.waldorfresearchinstitute.org/research-from-waldorf-education