I don't know about you out there, but I get the Autumn Fever!!!
It is all about waiting for the cooler days to come, watching the leaves turning gold and thinking about cosy evenings and log fires, even if i don't have a burner...maybe one day!
There is something about the Autumn mood, of drawing in, gathering, mellowing. The seasonal food reflect this with colours and flavours, sweeter squashes and pumpkins, chestnuts, aromatic and earthy mushrooms, truffles, sweetcorn and tomatoes...
The light in the sky, softer and golden and a bit hazy. The dew drops on the spider webs...
Although nature is turning onto decline and death, strangely, I feel a renewal energy as well. I feel change and new beginnings. Goning back to the old routines but also creating new routins, adding new ventures, the journey might take us to a new job or direction or consolidate the old but adding new angles and wider perspectives.
I have new children to look after, and also the same ones as before, and they are growing, some going to full time kindergarten or starting school...it's all about new beginnings.
I am in a de-clutering mood as well; to make room for the new stuff, new clothes, new books, new stationery, etc...we are getting rid of old things. I am throwing away stuff, lots of stuff!
We painted Morgana's room and now is looking a cool light blue and white curtains, just bed and table and bureau. a bit more grown up!
My daughter talking middle school language already when she announced that her timetable had double science the next day!
It all feels exciting and lovely, and a bit scary too!
I am anticipating a happy return to school and my parent and child sessions. I am longing to see all the old group regathering, some have gone, and i will miss them, making room for new ones.
I thought I might share what I do there, this might be of interest if you are a new mum, a parent who come to my group already, or other Waldorf Steiner families out there, leaders, teachers or home educating parents with babies, toddlers and young children.
This is me, Susannah, mother of Morgana, wife of J.
Nanny-child minder, carer, parent and Child group sessions leader at Greenwich Steiner School.
Acorns Parent and Child group sessions
The apples are rosy red and the last summer sun rays are ripening the berries;
The miller is grinding the flour and the farmer gathering the harvest.
This is the new term, the big children back at school; all feels fresh and new.
This is a little guide full of resources for the sessions, compiled by me; I do it for myself, really, but I like to share with you.
First of all I remind myself why I lead Parent and Child sessions:
My main reason is because when I came to Acorns with my daughter Morgana, I was welcomed with warm heart and hands, a smile and a soft gentle voice and a warm cup of tea. It was like coming home, or visiting my auntie or my granny; it felt like a soft kiss and a gentle hug that I have been craving for years, and now I have found it. The sing song, the gentleness, the beauty of the settings, the light, the toys, the happy and playful children, the calm atmosphere, the warm bread and butter at snack. The feeling that that was the only and forever place for my daughter to be and the longing to be part of it…all of these and much more is what I want to give to other new mums and dads who come to Acorns.
So first of all, when I set up and prepare for my session, I hum a sweet melody and shift tables and chairs, the stands and cloths, making little sacred spaces and curious corners, the dolls in their cradles and the toy tea pot on the toy cooker. I see that the cloths and flowers on the nature table reflect the mood of the day/season. It can take me up to 45 minutes to prepare if I need to clean the carpets before.
Setting the space is an orderly and beautiful way invites the children to play well. The children respond to the environment, so they don’t run and shout but look around the space with eyes full of wonder.
I set up the activity and start making tea and working at the table so that when the children come they see me, the teacher/adult figure at work; their curiosity leads them to that activity table and soon they wish to join in.
Timing is important, and so is preparation and anticipation. I have everything worked out in my head before, I plan ahead. I sometimes have a plan B too. I like the parents who come at the beginning of the session: it means they know how important the rhythm is. Rhythm follows a natural breathing in and out creating a flowing time where we transit from free play to tidy up onto singing, etc…
The breathing out is when we allow the children to relax, explore, enter into their imaginative world and creative play; it’s a contained freedom. The breathing in is when we come into a circle or gather around the table to sing, to eat and chat; it makes us more aware of ourselves and our surroundings and interact with others. The session follows a rhythm and this is always the same.
In a capsule, this is what Steiner Parent and Child session is about: Freedom, spirituality without doctrine or specific religion, respect of human beings, respect of nature, reflection of the seasons, enriching and enhancing of our resources, creativity and artistic side, learning through doing and being together, respect and care, warmth and security, not rushing learning, the children learning through doing and imitating the adults rhythm and repetition. the chance for children to be free and not rushed in their play, as play is how they live their reality, play is how they communicate, grow and learn.
I trained at Steiner house and have been reading books to learn more. Between teaching in nurseries and kindergarten, caring for children, running sessions, above all being a mother, I learned through observation and through practice! There is a lot out there and the first recommended book is the parent and Child group ‘Bible’ so you can start with this one first and pace yourselves after! For inspiration for crafts and seasonal songs I use the little books of Magic Wool, All Year Round and the Wynstones press - Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summerbooklets.
Recommended Reading List
Repetition and structure: Planning and weaving
I use repetition, knowing that children, especially when young learn through asking for the same thing again and again and again. They like to be in a place that they feel safe in and recognize things, feel relaxed and recognize the familiar. Routine is repetition and repetition is learning, feeling safe and secure.
Within the session the children know and anticipate after they have been a few times, enjoy and relax fully in the rhythm; this is how they feel they can manage things, without feeling frustrated or rushed or having fear of the unknown and strange. Children thrive when they are not nagged and told to do things all the time, ordered about, etc… so leaders don’t give instructions or yell, or order them to do things, we just do them and sing a song about it and they will follow like happy sheep! After a few times they know that the sequence is after snack is wash hands, put shoes on and go out, etc…They feel they are in control and want to do things because that is the way we always do it and they remember. Remembering is learning! Children anticipate as they grow more confident, it gives them a sense of control, it makes them feel proud and independent!
I always do things in the same order, same verses and songs and change a few adding a few seasonal ones, but always the morning song first and the same sequence, the same gestures and blessing at the table the same opening and closing song at story time, etc…etc…
I plan my sessions ahead, following what is happening around in nature, the festivals and their meaning or my understanding of them, as it needs to ring true within myself. I try to find a link and use an imaginary thread to weave a theme with a season, finding connections with verses, activities, songs and stories, following natural seasonal rhythms and my intuition and connection with things Above all have I always try to find a pure and simple intention and a higher purpose in the choosing and doing. I want to silently portray a meaning through what I do and say and sing, and also, be true to myself. I wouldn’t do anything I don’t truly understand or like myself only because Steiner said or other people do it.
So I change my nature table regularly mainly twice each season, and subtle changes weekly. For example I start with yellow, orange in September and October and then go to dark red and brown in November, leaving just brown until before Christmas adding blue and silver and gold. In January change to white and stars, and so forth. Songs and activities are best changed every 3 weeks and it is nice if leaders agree to do same ones as some parents come to more than one session a week.
But I keep more than half of the ring time songs the same and just add a few seasonal verses/songs.
I also use the same sequence which I remember as I find a logical thread within the sequence.
I remind myself each time to keep things simple, too, as often I forget what is like to be first time mum and caring for a little one, no time to read or talk, just keep to the basic and putting children first. This is why it is important for the parents to learn a nice craft and relax as it allows them to feel acknowledged. The children play better when the adults are working and learning and sharing. The children sense the community, feeling and play in this lovely space we are all creating together. This is the magic of the Parent and Child sessions. Usually, at some point in the middle of the session time stands still and everyone and everything is connected and there is a little silence…
Seasons and Festivals; Autumn Festivals
In this term we have two main themes: the harvest, and the days getting darker and colder.
Within these themes we have Michaelmas, Halloween and Martinmas.
For the meaning of each festival please refer to the Festivals book or go google info, I have also separate sheets and resource documents, I gathered info in the past years.
The ring time songs talk about squirrels gathering nuts, apples falling, leaves dancing and winds blowing, story time brings tales of animals gathering food and getting ready for the colder days; the activities suggested are below but please keep it simple if you are a new leader:
Grinding flour and making bread rolls
Leaf and seed/conker mobiles
Pressing leaves, tracing leaves – drawing and colouring on top- leaf crowns
Animals and people made of cones-sticks-conkers, etc…
Conker spider webs, with sticks and wool
Making apple juice, or apple sauce or apple tarts
Walnut cots with little wool baby
For Michaelmas, dragon bread or dragon wool- felted or knotted magic wool figures
Pumpkin carving, pumpkin soup
And for the St Martin or lantern Festival, making lanterns
For lanterns I like also using the same paper used for drawing on pressed leaves with orange yellow red and brown crayons and put very diluted red and yellow paint. When dry I oil the paper for flame proof and transparent shiny effect. I make simple cylinder shape lanterns. Some leaders have been making papier-mache lanterns using balloons and tissue paper…I don’t like using glue and balloons with children; that is just my preference!
Singing is part of my everyday life, but the children really respond well to singing, or even just a friendly high pitched singing voice. It is a natural thing we do with young children as we know they really respond to higher frequencies! It is important to be melodious and sweet rather than in perfect tune and to use your higher singing voice, which is easy to find if you don’t shout the song but just whisper.
If I find that the children playing and the mum chatting is getting a bit too loud I hum a tune or sing a song, also to call children to the table; for example if the dough is ready and I start making rolls I set the aprons and the washing hands bowls and ask my assistant to help with getting the children ready as I am sitting at the table already kneading the dough, I sing pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake bakers man, or five current buns in the baker’s shop…
Before ring time I sing the usual tidy up song:
I met a little tidy mouse
He said let’s tidy up this house
Tidy, tidy here and there
Tidy, tidy everywhere!
When all is tidy and the toys covered and things are safe, we make a space in the middle of the hall.I go and stand there and call everyone.
Who will come into my small ring, my small ring, my small ring,
Who will come into my small ring and make it a little bit bigger.
Good morning dear Earth, good morning dear Sun
Good morning dear stones and flowers , everyone
Good morning dear creatures, and the birds on the tree
Good morning to you and good morning to me.
Down is the Earth, up is the sky
Here are my Friends, and here am I;
Two eyes to see, two ears to hear
And two feet to walk and run;
Here are my hands, give yours to mine: Good Morning Everyone!
Each song, or verse I sing or say twice.
Hide away, hide away, hide away!
Where are all the children gone?
AAAAh! Here they are! (this game is repeated three times)
Ten little fairies stand up straight
Ten little fairies make a gate
Ten little fairies bow to the king
Ten little fairies make a ring
Ten little fairies dance all day
Ten little fairies fly away
Where did the fairies go?
Fairies, where are you?
Here they come again!
(repeat all twice, the second time I say they flew into the garden, bye bye fairies!)
In the garden this morning I saw:…
Incy Wincy spider…sing the nursery rhyme
Or a snail….tell a snail verse…etc…
A nice one for babies on laps if they lay down is round and round the garden like a teddy bear, one step, two steps, tickle you under there! It’s a good one for mum and baby eye and body contact! So you can decide to stay on the floor and do more hand gesture songs like Hickory Dickory dock, etc… or stand up after a few songs, after you done some horse ride songs, the old time favourite! You can repeat each song up to three times. Then go to snack or I start a Journey and might say, to keep the thread going,
-What a beautiful day for ride on a horse: and sing
Horsey horsey don’t you stop
Just let your feet go clippety -clop
The tail goes swish and the wheels go round
Giddi-up you are Homewood bound
Trot trot trot trot trot- go and never stop
Trot along my dearest pony, where is rough and where is stoney
Trot trot trot trot trot- go and never stop
Mummy and daddy and auntie Con
Went on a horsey and rode along
Mummy fell off-wheeeeeee!
Daddy fell off- wheeeeeeeee!
And auntie Con went on and on and on!
I try to be clear with my words and gestures, I think about the gestures to go with the songs and remember lots of parents and carers might know the rhymes and songs but equally many don’t as they might be new to this or maybe from a different culture! For a group with mainly babies who are not quite walking yet, a ring time with mums sitting on the carpet and babies on their laps is more appropriate. If there are a few older children, a standing up rhyme is good with movements like jumping is a good one to do now as they would start to feel a bit restless. So we can also walk in a clockwise direction and sing a squirrel song, a farmer or miller song…
To remember what happens next I take the group to a ‘journey’. The ponies and horses took us to a field/farm/meadow/or forest.
I would stick to the usual ring time songs and maybe just add one extra ‘Steiner’style seasonal song. The first two or three weeks I sing about the wind: if you don’t know the tune just say it as a verse but in a high sing-song voice:
When the wind blows, then the mill goes;
When the wind drops, then the mill stops!
Clickety clackety clack!
(I make my arms look like the mill and when it stops drop my arms straight and noisily down my sides)
You can sing Old Mc Donald had a farm, or Here we go round the mulberry bush, or any other song you are familiar with.
I like to look at Autumn Poems, Songs and Stories Wynstones press for inspiration.
These are my favourite ones:
The leaves are green, the apples are red
They hang so high above our heads
Leave them alone with frosty weather
Then they will all fall down together!
The leaves are green the nuts are brown
They hang so high and will not come down
Leave them alone till frosty weather
And then they will all come down together!
For little children is nice to come back home after the ‘journey’ and I ‘ground’ them with a good bye squirrels, forest, meadow, fields/farm, apples, etc… and lead them back ‘home’ and sing ‘Wind the bobbin up’ song which is a come back into the house after the pony-horsey ride- adventure and then is time for washing hand and snack
Not until I tell Polly to put the kettle on!
As the term progresses and we get into the time of first frosts and colder darker I start singing about gnomes going into the forest with their lanterns and a few lantern songs. I think it is very important for each leader (parent/leader, or carer) to do what rings true to oneself and sing what you enjoy and know well, also what your child likes too, especially if your child is with you at the session. It is a lovely thing to put one’s personality and sense of enjoyment and what the leader is familiar with. Because I am Italian and speak a bit of French I sing a few French and or Italian songs, especially if there are a few children in the group who speak those languages. In my Thursday group I had 4 children who either spoke French at home or had some French connection. The classic English nursery rhymes are old time favourite and many songs are in the mood of the fifth. A lot more about music for young children in the above mentioned book of the seasons by Wynstones press ; each of the four booklet has the same introduction.
From the Autumn book I particularly like songs on pages 17,23,25,26,29,30,31,32,41,62.
After ring time the transition is very smooth and after a couple of sessions the children know that when Polly put the kettle on is sang, then we go wash hands.
I prepare a bowl of warm water with a drop of soap or lavender oil and a clean towel;I count children and set the table before ring time, while we tidy up.
At the end of ring time I sing This is the way we wash our hands (on a sunny/rainy/windy/frosty morning)
The table is empty and I put a centre piece of cloth, flowers in a low vase, something pretty. No candles. I don’t light a candle. But what I do is similar, a gesture of reverence; I might add a stone or crystal or pine cones and rearrange the flowers with loving gesture.
When we all are gathered, sitting on chairs around the table, I catch the attention with a movement rhyme I made up so to stop children banging on the table.
I then sing:
Blessings on the Blossoms
Blessings on the fruit,
Blessings on the leaves and stems,
Blessings on the root….
Hold hands, hold hands, hold hands everybody:
Blessings on the food,
Blessings on the food!
Acorns: a gentle nurturing environment for babies and young children.