Do wonderful work with the hands
Today’s task is to do wonderful work with the hands.
If you glance through Waldorf blogs or pinterest pages you’ll see so many crafts - the emphasis on handwork in this method is obvious. But what might not be clear is that in the preschool years “handwork” is all the work that the child does with the hands. When a child is making mud pies, rolling playdough, using scissors, folding paper, washing dishes, spreading butter, building with blocks, and picking daisies, he is doing handwork.
The human hand is an amazing thing, right? There’s so much strength, sensitivity, and capability in the human hand and this is part of what makes us unique as human beings. The hands become capable with use and developing fine motor skills is an important part of early childhood. This happens naturally through the course of the day and of course it’s important to provide opportunities to play with modeling materials and to do real work.
Fingerplays are also fabulous work for little hands. Fingerplays can be very simple gestures that you make up to go along with a song or verse or they can be ones you remember like “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” Your library will also have big books full of fingerplays. You can do fingerplays anytime just for fun and they are also a great way to get attention if you want a child to come settle down (at the table or for a story, for example).
At the same time, it is wonderful for parents to be doing work with their hands as well, making beautiful and useful things. In the early years we work through imitation rather than instruction. So all the crafts you see? Yes, do them if you like! But don’t feel that your preschool child should also be doing them. Let it be an invitation rather than a requirement. Your child learns so much just by watching you be creative!
Handwork, nature crafts, and making toys for your child are all excellent ways to hold the space while your child plays. Even better is making a little basket of real supplies available to your child. Invite your child to join you but don’t be concerned if he’s too busy playing! Your child might also come to do the project with you but take it in a completely different direction - again, that is just perfect in the early years.
How to do wonderful work with the hands:
1. Notice all the wonderful ways your child is exercising her hands every day.
2. Make fingerplays, modeling, and rhythmic work a regular part of your days.
3. Practice making beautiful and useful things by hand in front of your child. Provide supplies for your child too and invite her to join you. Let her learn through imitation rather than instruction in the preschool years.
4. Please don’t put pressure on yourself to keep up with the pinterest crowd! I hope you understand by now that the Waldorf method is so much deeper than just the materials and crafts. If you are guiding a rhythm, holding the space, and connecting with your child you are doing it right.