Imaginative free play involves natural materials – wood, fibre, wool, shells, seed, coloured cloth, different fabrics and the simplest of soft dolls.
The purpose is to call from the child inner imaginative qualities – in such a way the child can feel “the world is good” and know that this is true in the teacher and in the kindergarten environment.
In the kindergarten, the “seeds” of science and the humanities begin. They are not presented intellectually, but through the development of a sense for the land and living plants and animals around them. The stories told, the songs learned and sung, the small plays acted, deepen this experience. They are chosen from many cultures and languages.
In the kindergarten, the children are “doing” their learning in the activity of their growing limbs and their developing bodies.
Children live in a world of senses. Our mission is to nurture their senses and protect the wonder of childhood. The Kindergarten strives to foster the child’s imagination, to convey a feeling of reverence and to engender a respect for the environment. To have respect and to feel thankfulness are two far reaching qualities in human life. The seeds of these qualities are sown at Te Rawhiti Kindergarten – to respect nature and each other and to be thankful for all that we have.
One can see how young infants, though physically helpless, seem to soak up new experiences like a sponge! Before kindergarten, the child has learned to stand, talk and think – learned chiefly through imitation. Imitation really characterises the first 6 or 7 years of the child’s life. Uncritically, the child mimics everything – speech and gestures but also attitudes and values of close adults or peers! The Kindergarten teacher strives to be worthy of imitation and will try to pass on a true feeling of reverence and gratitude.
Care is taken with all that comes to the child through the senses and not to over-stimulate. Quality rather than quantity is emphasized. A warm and homely environment is created that is friendly and secure.
The child’s work in the Kindergarten progresses through rhythm and harmony. Rhythm is an integral part of all living processes. The Kindergarten programme is based on the recognition that rhythm provides support and security for the children: it provides a balance of group and individual activities, quiet and active times, inward and more outgoing moods. The daily and weekly rhythm is part of a larger seasonal rhythm which includes the celebration of festivals (e.g. Harvest Festival or Mid-Winter Festival) and the changing of the seasons. Children love the anticipation and preparation towards festivals.
The emphasis in the Kindergarten is on “doing” activities where the child’s will is engaged. The children are not asked to give their energies to understanding abstract ideas and intellectual concepts. There is no formal teaching in writing, reading and mathematics. The children’s task is to experience their world in play with as natural materials as can be provided. Activities in the Kindergarten arise out of the children imitating the Kindergarten teacher involved in real human activities in which children participate both outwardly and inwardly through imitation. The activities include traditional tasks such as bread making, artistic or craft activities.
Creative and imaginative play is greatly valued. The toys are deliberately simple and made from natural materials. The child’s imagination is called upon to complete the form. Various shapes of wood shells, pinecones can become anything in the child’s imagination, and may change from a boat to a tree to a hedgehog within one morning. Cloth carefully dyed in pure colours can be used for house building, a cape for a king or for wrapping a favourite doll. Where actual toys are used they are simple and not fixed to or defined in a particular role. Simple dolls can become grannies or princes. The more possibilities there are for using imagination in play during childhood, the more the attributes of creativity and flexibility will be carried on into adulthood.
Fantasy is also nourished through stories which are told rather than read, so that the child has to call upon his/her own mental pictures. Some stories are fairy tales, others reflect the day to day experience of the children. Fairy tales (of various cultures, including many from Aotearoa) are told to connect all children with their spiritual origin and common humanity, while nature stories and stories from life help the children integrate their own land, times and culture. The way stories are told engages and expands the child’s concentration span. Music and songs help to create the calm harmonious atmosphere in the Kindergarten. Creative movement allows for self expression and gross motor skills. Painting, drawing, food preparation and play develop creativity and fine motor skills.
The Kindergarten is open to every child whose parents support this kind of philosophy. Every family’s spiritual and cultural background is respected.