Before I had Ocean, I knew that I wanted to take a different type of approach when it came to raising her. I knew I wanted to do a lot of attachment parent type stuff. I knew that I wanted to raise her in a Godly environment. Also, after a lot of reading, I knew that I wanted to homeschool her in an Unschooling/Waldorf type of way. I love most everything about the Waldorf way of learning, ESPECIALLY for young children.
Waldorf learning, in the early years, "focuses on providing practical, hands-on activities and environments that encourage creative play." After my daughter was born, I was trying to research online what kind of things I could do with a baby that would start her off in the Waldorf ways of doing thins. I couldn't find a whole lot online for babies under 2, so I ended up buying a few books. You Are Your Child's First Teacher is a good one. Below I will describe what I learned from reading and experience thus far.
When your baby is under the age of 6 months, mostly all you have to worry about is their sense of touch, hearing and soon after, their sense of sight. Consider all your baby has known up until the point of birth such as warmth, darkness, security, closeness to mother, sounds of mother's heartbeat and voice, etc. We are out child's guardians after birth. We are the only ones who choose what they are exposed to and when. The importance of touching and holding your baby often, talking with him or her and responding quickly to cries is crucial. Stimulation of the senses is so important for development.
The thing they are most sensitive to, especially under 6 months I think, is touch. As much skin to skin contact is so important for so many reasons. Investing in a good baby carrier is a great idea. I still carry my daughter in an Ergo at 14 months, but when she was under 6 months I loved my Moby Wrap. choose fabric that is soft, warm and pleasurable to the skin. Fabric such as cotton, wool & silk! Choosing to cloth diaper is great because it allows your baby to not have to feel synthetic disposable diapers against their skin, but rather cotton or bamboo for instance. Wool soaker are amazing for nighttime and heavy wetter. They are soft and cozy against your babies skin.
Co-sleeping is great for all the senses! For your baby to know you are near through touch, sight and hearing. Having a nice soft material to sleep on is great for their sense of touch and will most likely promote a more restful and relaxed slumber. If you do not co-sleep, having a bassinet close to your bed is another great option. The nice thing about a bassinet, is being able to drap some colored silk over it (blue and pink is the best combination). This is great for their sensitive sense of sight and creates a soft ligjt for them upon waking. Also great for their sense of touch is having them wear (especially at night and naps) natural fabrics such as organic cotton or wool if you live in colder areas.
For your child, your voice is the number one best thing for them to hear. They love your voice. It's what they are used to. Nothing can beat your voice, whether you are talking or singing or humming, they love it. No fancy-light-up-music-playing-night-light devise can replace the sound of your voice to your baby. Paying attention to the quality of sounds that you let your baby hear can really be beneficial to them later in life. If you wish to play music for them on your ipod, chose something gentle and soft like harp, pentatonic chimes or flute.
Once they get a little older and start to sit up and crawl, we start to get into toys. They honestly do not need a whole lot at first! Something I heard said before, which I loved, was when looking for toys consider the following:
Is it beautiful?
Does it feel good?
Does it leave room for imagination?
Will it inspire imitative play?
These are the things to look for when considering what toys to buy.
Some great things to start off with are a few playsilks, a lovely prism (to hang in a window or door where it will catch light and cast rainbows across your room), a few wool balls, organic cotton teething toys (if they are starting to teeth), a rocking chair for you, a harp (if you cannot afford this like me, your can opt for listening to the celtic harp station on Pandora), a mirror, water/sand toys (these do not HAVE to be natural because it is harder to find, but if you can find natural items even better) & a basket full of safe items they can explore (driftwood, large shells, a wooden spoon, silk pieces, a little mirror, pieces of finger knit wool yarn, etc).
Rainbows on the floor from her prism in the window.
Sensory time with her shell, driftwood, wooden spoon & bowl.
Playing with her playsilk
Once they get a little older, I'd say at least a year old, you can start art with them! I was very eager to start this early, but there really is only so much you can do before they are a year old. Before 1, you can definitely start with finger painting. Just do one color at a time or introduce simply the primary colors to them only.
Once they are around one, you can invest in some beeswax crayons, a wooden personal sized chalk board, natural paints & brushes & an easel if you wish (Ocean got hers from Opa for her birthday.) Ocean is JUST NOW learning what it is to color ON the paper and she is just hitting 14 months. Before this, she would just put whatever I gave her in her mouth. I did make her some natural finger paint and natural play dough, before she was one, with colorings like spirulina & beetroot powder so that they could be edible.
Playing in her sandbox I made her.
Finger painting with homemade paint.
Imitative play is something important in Waldorf learning. Kids love to imitate whatever they see their parents do, and this is STRONGLY encouraged. This also makes it essential that you be a good role model. If you are cooking a lot in the kitchen and they like to watch you cook, then get them a little kitchen set! If you can't afford one, simply give them some pots and pans so that they can imitate what they see you doing. You can even make a simple kitchen oven top out of cardboard and a marker! If you are constantly sweeping and mopping and they see you doing it, get them their own little mop and broom set! Easy as that!
Ocean on her wool rug that she got from Papa for her birthday, playing with her wooden vegetables.
This is a wool rug I found for $7, a piece of driftwood used for a playsilk hanger, a wooden piano I got for free at a garage sale & and organic Waldorf doll.
A few other things I feel like I should mention are rhythm & nature . These are important in Waldorf learning. Rhythm is important for any child. I haven't incorporated this a whole lot yet, but I am slowly trying to add more rhythm to our days. I try to make sure that we do some things every day at around the same time, like visiting the park or playing outside in sandbox or water, bathing before bed, singing a special bedtime song while getting ready for bed, etc. Doing little things like that daily, as a routine, adds much needed rhythm to your child's life. Start small. Simplify your day. Try to at least do your routines such as meals, nap times & bedtime around the same time and in the same way everyday. All the gaps of time in between is when you can change it up and add in whatever fun stuff you want to do.
Nature is important, not only for Waldorf education, but for all education. At least it should be. Being outside in nature and using natural elements as much as possible is not only great, it's free! Using natural elements like rocks, sticks, mud, sand, tree stumps, driftwood, grass, flowers, you get the idea, is great for their strong sense of touch at their age right now. It lets them feel different textures and get to know what smooth is and what rough feels like. It's also great for their sense of smell to be outside in nature, learning about different smells. (Another things I like to do, is bring some natural elements inside for Ocean to explore while listening to her harp Pandora station and burning some pleasant essential oils like orange, vanilla & lavender.) Once they get a little more into art there is SO much fun things you can do that involve nature and art, like painting with flowers for instance!
"Your soul needs the wild." -Luke 5:16