The years that I have spent as an early childhood teacher have helped me to become familiar with the elements of storytelling and how it plays such an important role in a child's overall development.
Waldorf education is premised on a holistic approach to child development that includes body, soul, and spirit. Just as a growing child needs healthy food for her body, she also needs healthy nourishment for her soul and spirit. At the very heart of a child’s relationship to the world is her own inner life of imagination. In the Waldorf Early Childhood curriculum this central capacity is nurtured through the use of age-appropriate stories and fairy tales. Fairy tales embody a perennial wisdom, the fruit of an ancient spirituality. Authentic folk and fairy tales contain a moral catalyst that can be released into the child’s imaginative life through the art of storytelling. By providing this gift we are helping young children to tap into their own inner wellsprings of imagination that can then flow spontaneously into their play, providing an important source of enjoyment and meaning. Storytelling becomes a nurturing art when the teller is able to transmit wisdom lovingly through words and gesture.
In Waldorf Early Childhood education two of the many ways we stimulate and nurture the imagination of the children are through daily storytelling and through puppet shows presented by the kindergarten teacher.
The teacher tells the stories and presents the puppet shows by heart and refrains from using any recorded material or reading from a script or text. It is the teacher’s goal to create a space where the imagination can color in all the pictures suggested by the spoken word. Children sit at the edge of their seats with open mouths, wide, dreamy eyes, and flushed cheeks – all indications that their imaginations are fully engaged. Now they are part of the story. Now they can feel, smell, and hear the wind that blows in the tale!
Inspired by daily exposure to stories and puppet shows, the children soon spontaneously create their own stories. During the course of the year, the children will eagerly create standing puppets in order to make their own puppet shows – all with the teacher's gentle guidance.>
A selection of fairytale characters such as kings and queens, guardian angels, gnomes, noble knights, and fiery dragons will emerge with the help of needle and thread, scissors, felt, wool, and yarn.
Tables, wooden boards, silks, colorful sheets, and a collection of simple props from nature are elements of the puppet show stage. Sometimes a skillfully crafted cardboard castle might be in the center of the puppet show.