Frequently Asked Questions answered by a Tree of Life parent and Kate Lawes, founder/licensed Early Childhood Educator
Why is nature so important for young children?
There is lots of science on this, but as a parent I believe it is important because I have seen first hand the effect that spending time in nature has on my own kids. When we visit a forest, beach or other natural environment, my children become energized right before my eyes. They play creatively and imaginatively, and they become filled with wonder and curiosity at the things they observe and experience. My kids - and I think most humans - are full of life and joy when they are in nature.
Kids need to feel physically comfortable in order to spend time outside in all kinds of weather. Layers of decent gear make it easier to enjoy and adapt to the weather, whatever it has in store! Think thermals (fleece or wool), a warm sweater or fleece hoodie, a good jacket, rain pants (these will get the dirtiest and likely be worn out fastest), cozy socks, rain boots, warm hats and mittens, sun hats. And extras of everything, because it will all get wet and dirty, often! You can spend a lot on gear, but you don't have to. Most of my kids' gear is second hand and does the job just fine.
Nature pees behind the trees :) And there is either a bathroom on site or a portable solution for nature number twos. Going to the bathroom has never been an issue for my child.
Depending on the park we are in...if there is a bathroom we will schedule regular bathroom breaks. But even this does not mean every child makes it to the bathroom on time. Nature pees, supported by a teacher and well away from where people walk do happen when needed. For other bathroom necessities each educators carries a complete bathroom kit for bowel movements. This allows us to keep the park clean as well as us and the children sanitary. And for a park that we will be at for an extended amount of time that does not have a bathroom we have a sealed port-a- potty that we can safely bring to and from the park.
What happens if the weather is really bad?
You drop your child off and they have a great day! Kids are amazingly resilient and adaptable and they figure out how to have fun in pretty much any situation. And the Tree of Life team are skilled at finding protected spots out of the wind or rain or, if needed, knowing when it's time to head inside to the studio and warm up.
Your child’s safety is our top priority. We have a detailed emergency plan for each park. See Policies and Procedures Manual for more details. All educators are very skilled in assessing the weather and parks we visit to determine the best course of action to keep the children and educators safe in cold or hot weather. We do a daily weather check, risk assessment of the park and safety check to prepare ourselves to have optimal enjoyment of our time in the elements!
What if my child doesn't like to be outside so much?
We find that imaginative play in nature is so much fun, especially with new friends at playschool joining in! There are no walls, so children are able to really be in their bodies and uninhibited as they play and explore our land together :) We find that playing outside comes very naturally to children, even those with less outdoor experience.
We will gently introduce your child to the wonderful world of playing in nature. Their natural ability to play will thrive in this environment once given the time and care to engage with it.
What does it mean to be Waldorf inspired?
That the philosophy and practices of Waldorf education are being shared, but that it is not a strictly Waldorf institution. As a parent it means an opportunity to learn more about the Waldorf philosophy and dive in deeply if you want, or just dip a toe if that feels more comfortable - whatever suits you. As a child it means play, stories, songs, seasonal celebrations, beautiful crafts and much more.
For the children this means...a safe and loving environment with a daily rhythm that includes nature crafts, songs and stories that support their growth and development. We follow a Waldorf philosophy that we are educating the whole child - head, heart and hands. Particularly for early childhood we do this in a way the keeps the child in a sense of wonder with the world around them.
For the parents this means...seasonal celebrations and regular parent gatherings.
For the educators this means...the joy of working outside on a daily basis, a high educator to child ratio so time together and time away is enjoyed.
For the community this means...caring for the places and spaces we enjoy on a daily basis.
For the earth this means...a child has connected deeply with the mystery and wonder that the earth provides and hopefully has formed a respect that will last a life time.
Will Tree of Life Playschool prepare my child for Kindergarten?
Yes! But being 'ready' for school isn't what many of us might think. In the words of my oldest child's Kindergarten teacher, "Children entering Kindergarten do not need to know how to read, write or do math. We are here to teach them all that! They need social and emotional skills to help them succeed at learning." Children entering Kindergarten need to be socially and emotionally ready to start school, and their time at Tree of Life will absolutely contribute to that. Again, there is lots of literature on the importance of early social and emotional development through play and time in nature. If a lack of formal academic learning is of any concern, consider chatting with a Kindergarten teacher about what they feel school-readiness entails.
Yes it will prepare your child for Kindergarten but more importantly it will prepare them for life!