Montessori and Steiner Waldorf Education

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Most children in Aotearoa New Zealand start school at age five, but Steiner and Montessori philosophy suggests keeping a child at pre-school for longer.  

“The future development of each individual child and of humanity as a whole depends on health-giving experiences in the first seven years of life.”

The Education of the Child in the Light of Anthroposophy: Rudolf Steiner

“Education, therefore, of little ones is important, especially from three to six years of age, because this is the embryonic period for the formation of character and of society (just as the period from birth to three is that for forming the mind, and the prenatal period that for forming the body).”

The Absorbent Mind: Maria Montessori, p. 221

When you visit centres that say they provide a Montessori or a Steiner/Waldorf education, check that they subscribe to and follow the specific education principles and that it is not just a marketing ploy.

Steiner Waldorf Education

Steiner Waldorf Eduction

Steiner centres work out of the pedagogical indications developed by Austrian Philosopher and Scientist, Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925).

Steiner centres have an emphasis on free play, use natural materials and toys, and grow and cook vegetables straight from their gardens.

“An atmosphere of loving warmth and guidance that promotes joy, wonder, and reverence supports such healthy development. The most essential aspect of the work with the young child is the inner attitude of the educator, who provides the example for the child’s imitation. Therefore the work of the Steiner/Waldorf educator demands an ongoing process of research and self-education including anthroposophical study, meditative practice, artistic and practical activity.

“The child who lives in such an atmosphere of love and warmth and who has around him really good examples for his imitation, is living in his right element. One should therefore strictly guard against anything being done in the child’s presence that he must not imitate. One should do nothing of which one would then have to say to the child, ‘You must not do that.’”

The Education of the Child in the Light of Anthroposophy: Rudolf Steiner
Specialised equipment like the Roman Arch is available at Montessori Centres
Here a child has completed the Roman Arch. This specialised equipment helps children to use and learn Roman engineering principles to build an arch that seems to defy gravity.


Developed by Maria Montessori in the early 1900s, the Montessori philosophy responds to the sensitive periods in young children’s lives when they pick up new skills easily. 

These centres provide children with choices of structured activities and materials and the emphasis is on order and independent learning.

The approach to learning is based on a balance between freedom and structure, and on the unique needs of each child, not adult expectations. Children choose their own activities and work on them for as long as they are interested. Children develop concentration, self-discipline and respect for themselves, others and the environment.

Montessori education includes practical everyday activities (such as grating a carrot), sensorial (e.g., sandpaper letters), language, maths, botany (nature) and environmental studies, geography, art, and music.

Specialised equipment such as the Roman Arch (pictured) is a distinguishing feature of Montessori centres.

You may also be interested in:

A copy of the My ECE Parents’ Checklist for Choosing a Quality Early Childhood Education and Care Service

Learn about Playcentres in NZ

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