Holiday Gifts

“Black Friday”, “Cyber Monday.” More stuff is about to invade!!!

Parents in my classes are expressing concerns about how to handle the holidays–all the gifts that come from well meaning family members. They also are wondering how to have a more simple, meaningful observance of the time of year that is about light in the darkness. Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice. So below are just a few suggestions and quotes….

  • “Speak to our major bearers of clutter (I mean gifts), extended family and especially Grandparents about your wish for simplicity. Thank them for raising you in such a way that led you to make conscious parenting choices, that they gave you the strength to not be manipulated by marketers and the morals to not confuse love and care with “stuff”. Framing a conversation about your parenting values first takes the potential sting out of a request to keep the gifts simple”.–Kim John Payne  Simplicity Parenting
  • A good guideline, especially for babies is “Passive object, active baby” and to avoid the “active object, passive baby”
  • ask your family to give ‘experiences’ , take your toddler for a walk in the woods, a walk through the Zoo, or help pay for one of the parent toddler classes….
  • ask for only homemade/handmade gifts instead of participating in the commercial frenzy that happens at the holidays
  • have a ‘recycling’ family gift exchange– give and receive something that you or family members own and have enjoyed.

When looking ahead at the celebrations, spend some time now each day–maybe just a few minutes, contemplating what the holiday means to you –what is the essential, deeper meaning that nurtures you –gives you renewal?  Then spend some time in reverie–how to bring that in a simple way to your family?


Parent Infant and Toddler classes, not just enrollment outreach….

In every 3 year old there is a 2 year old, a 1 year old and a baby waiting to be born –D.W. Winnicott


What positive impact does having a parent infant and parent toddler program have on a school? There is, of course, the hoped for impact of increased enrollment, but what else?

I have observed 4, 5 and 6 year olds peering in the windows of my classroom to catch a glimpse of the babies. Often they stare, then their gaze turns inward. Are they remembering themselves as babies? As toddlers? Perhaps, seeing the youngest ones, helps these children connect to the pre-verbal part of themselves. They are growing and moving into the world, but can take this little baby-with-mama/dada with them, inside themselves.

Often, in one of my classrooms, I have children from the nursery and kindergarten come to use the little toddler sized bathroom (of course not when I am holding class).  I think they feel a sense of mastery –of how far they have come

The teachers of one of the Mixed age Kindergartens at Acorn Hill Waldorf Kindergarten & Nursery told me that it is helpful to have parent infant classes in the school. When the children begin to tease a child with “Billy is a baby” the teachers can respond “oh there are no babies in our classroom–they are all in the baby class”  this seems to stop the children who shift to a more contemplative mood….”I used to be in that class–when I was a baby–I crawled around!”

Or the joy of having these little ones in the school, arriving with their mothers or fathers. Does seeing the babies remind them of the baby inside them? A memory echoing from deep within? One day a line of  Kindergarten children followed their teacher through the Acorn Hill lobby on their way out to the play yard.  Some parents were bringing their babies in arms through the front door to my class. The kindergartener’s usual song of “Ho ho ho, the children in a row….” spontaneously changed to “We love babies! we love toddlers!” The baby parents certainly got a warm welcome that day.

Perhaps the babies and toddlers allow even the 3 year olds to help someone younger. One of the most heartwarming examples of how the Waldorf ECE pedagogy supports empathy and the ‘healthy social life” happened last Winter at the Washington Waldorf School.

Snow and ice caused a delayed openiing for the school, but the “Moon Garden” parent infant class started at 11 am–we could meet! When I arrived early to school, I faced an ice slick stretching from the gate to  the yurt, or ‘garden house’ classroom in the Children’s Garden play yard. I imagined mothers with small babies in arms –yikes! The Forest Kindergarten and the nursery class  were bundled up and sliding around happily. I spoke briefly to the teachers to say I would go find some ice melt and come back to begin hacking a path from gate to the yurt.

When I returned with the facilities manager and some ice melt, what I encountered warmed me with joy and gratitude! There were 3, 4, 5 and 6 year olds (and teacher) shovels in hand hacking and cracking the ice with focus and gusto. “We’re making a path for the babies!” said one child to another who slid up to ask. I took up a shovel and joined them and together we made a welcoming, meandering path. At one point we saw that a nursery child had made a ‘path’ about 2 inches wide. “Look! I’m making a path for the babies” Her teacher smiled. “lets make one for the mothers and fathers, too” and the path was joyfully widened.  The sun shining, the ice and snow sparkling, the children so joyfully working to help others–this was a picture of what we want in our schools–a healthy social life. When we care for and show respect for the youngest in our midst, we  all feel that in our hearts own core….



Snow Day!


Above all, plan for your regular, healthy rhythm of snacks, naps, meals, indoor outdoor and bedtime.
Activities within that rhythm:
Bake something (or cook something)
covers two bases—activity and snack!
Simple whole wheat rolls(recipe at the end) that can me kneaded, rolled into balls, snails, snow-people, etc… if you have a young toddler, you may need to do the bulk of this with them helping or playing with spoons and containers nearby. Also, you can cut veggies for a soup– give your toddler a cutting board and butter knife to help cut soft things.
Make something
craft craft craft. Here are two ideas from Carol Petrash’s book Earthways:
  • Try an orange and clove ‘pompador’ – putting cloves into an orange then hanging it with ribbon—it will dry and smell wonderfully! –you need to make starter holes for the cloves with a nail, a bamboo kabob stick or something you might discover works well.
  • Make bird feeders– slather pine cones with peanut or soy nut butter, then roll in birdseed, sunflower seeds … hang on a tree outside.
Clean something
Seriously—you and I may know cleaning is a chore, but they don’t yet—lets not spoil it for them! Washing dishes is warm, bubbly, watery, and feeds the senses! Either turn a chair so the back is to the sink so they can stand up with you and help wash, or put a few towels on the kitchen floor with dish tubs and dishes for them to wash while you are at the sink.
Try putting socks on their hands to dust the base molding—or table legs
polish wooden bowls and cutting boards with a beeswax polish, or oil them with mineral oil.
Leave them alone
As long as you’ve toddler proofed and you’re not too far away, give them some space/time for free play. This usually only works if we adults decide to do some ‘real work’ (not talking on the phone or working on the computer) like cooking, folding laundry, sewing, making something, repairing a broken piece of furniture….you get the idea.

Go Outside!

Suit them up – and yourself too and go out into the winter wonderland! Hang your bird feeder, take a snow walk (you may not get far as there may be so much to see and do). Make snow angels, if there is enough snow, roll some balls and create something. Shovel /sweep snow off of a sidewalk or your car—give your toddler a tool with which to help. Catch snow flakes on your tongue…… get rosy cheeked and tired, then come back in for warm soup…..
Turn off screens, Slow down, be present, breathe…..
Recipe for whole wheat rolls:
1-2 Tablespoons dry yeast
1 teaspoon honey
2 cups warm water
2 cups whole spelt flour (or whole wheat)
1/2 c. honey
1/2 c. olive oil
4-6 cups combined white and whole spelt (or wheat)
1 teaspoon salt added with this flour.
Mix together the first 3 ingredients and let stand until bubbly. Mix in the 2 cups flour and let that get spongy.
Mix in the oil, honey and remaining flour (with the salt) one cup at a time until the dough is stiff enough to turn onto your work surface. (flour on work surface) Knead in some more flour until it’s not sticky then cut small pieces to shape into balls. put on baking sheet. Cover with a dish towel and let rise. While rolls are rising, preheat oven to 350. When they have doubled, bake for 15-20 minutes.

Talking to Toddlers about Race

This is from a hand-out I give to my Parent Toddler classes.  It was given as a handout in a diversity training at Acorn Hill.  I think it has a lot of good stuff. Please let me know your thoughts! (and if you know the author/source, please help me out so I can share)

Starting a lifetime of conversations about diversity and racial identity

  Even if your child can’t yet talk about race and culture, he definitely is picking up on what is OK to talk about, what is off limits, and how the adults react to the topic. Here’s how to begin discussions of race with your toddler.

Like many other topics, race can be challenging for adults to discuss among themselves, let alone with their children. But while open dialogue about race is limited in our society, that doesn’t mean you can’t make decisions and set the tone for discussions about race in your home. Talking with young children about race is an opportunity, one you may or may not have experienced when you were growing up.

Some well-meaning parents feel if they do not address the topic of race, their children will be “color blind.” But the reality is that race does have meaning in our society. Your conversations with your toddler will depend on your own racial identity, the racial make-up of your family (immediate and extended), and your values regarding race—both those you express and those you imply. And like other crucial conversations you might be beginning to have with your child right now, race discussions should start early and evolve as your child grows.

What They Understand

Kids under 24 months do not understand the adult meaning of race: the historical implications of it or how the history and current meaning of race affects our society. But at this age, toddlers are beginning to notice differences in appearance. And right now, your toddler might simply look longer at or perhaps point to a person who looks different from the people she’s most used to seeing in her everyday routines. During these moments, your child looks primarily to you to gauge her own interest and reaction—toddlers this young are still reliant on their parents’ opinions and actions to shape their own. This goes without saying, but how you act around and discuss people from your own culture and other cultures is what your child will first consider appropriate. Toddlers internalize the beliefs of their family and immediate society, a process that will continue throughout their development.

What to Say

Say something! Your child’s understanding of race begins both with what you will talk about and what you do not discuss. Children learn that if they ask a question about someone’s race and they are shushed, it’s not something they can discuss and is therefore taboo. Talking about race normalizes the topic and makes it less scary for kids.

As any parent who’s caught their toddler staring at someone in the checkout aisle or pointing to a passerby in the mall will tell you, racial observations may be embarrassing. It really is important, though, for you to address your child’s observations and take that moment to acknowledge the differences they’re noting.

When your child points out (or later asks questions about) people with different skin color than his, address it. For example, if your child is white and asks why an African-American child’s skin is brown, explain, “Grownups and kids have all different skin colors. Some have tan and some have brown.” When possible, use accurate ethnicity language with your child: “She is white (or Caucasian)/African-American (or black)/Latino (or Hispanic)/Asian-American,” etc.

Though toddlers likely won’t ask questions about race at this age, kids in preschool or grade school will have the vocabulary to articulate observations. Your child might ask why a person has skin a different color or hair a different texture than his. When he does make an observation or inquire about a race, answer the question and give correct information, which may mean doing some homework yourself. Think about and take responsibility for the stereotypes and assumptions we all have about race.

What to Do

These are some basic ways you can prepare for a lifetime of conversations with your child about ethnicity and diversity:

Self-reflect. Take some time and think about your own racial identity, the assumptions you hold, and what lessons you would like to teach your children about race. Talking with friends, family, and other parents can be really helpful. Look for other parents who are interested in open dialogue about race in their families. Talking with other adults will also give you clarity and increase your comfort level when answering questions if this is a challenge for you. Remember, this is often a scary process for adults. Understanding and challenging that fear will be helpful in conversations in your family.

Don’t avoid the topic. Particularly in white families, some parents decide to not discuss racial differences. This reinforces that it is a taboo subject for your children. When you have had early conversations about appearances, for example, as your child gets older, you can also begin discussions about racism.

Winter and Spring classes enrolling now!


Silver Spring

Acorn Hill Waldorf Kindergarten and Nursery

Winter 2017

Parent Infant I -For a parent and infant 6 weeks to creeping- Thursdays 11:30-12:45: Jan 12-March 2

Parent Infant II- Parent mobile babies and new walkers to 16 months Fridays 11:30-1:00 Jan 12-March 2

Parent Toddler– Parent and Toddler 14 months (w/confident walking)- 2 years      Choose Thursday or Friday 9-11 Jan 5/6- March 9/10

Spring–dates/enrollment coming soon!


Washington Waldorf School

Spring 2017

Moon Garden Parent and Infant class: Wednesday – 11:00 – 12:15PM Spring Session I AND/OR  11:00 – 12:15PM Spring Session II 

Spring Session I – March 1 through April 5
Spring Session II – April 19 through May 24


Star Garden Parent Toddler – Tuesday 9:45 – 11:30AM OR
Wednesday 8:45 – 10:30AM
Tuesdays – March 7 through May 16
No class on April 11
Wednesdays – March 8 through May 17
No class on April 12

About the classes

My Parent Infant and Parent Toddler classes are based on insights about the young child   from Emmi Pikler, Magda Gerber, Rudolf Steiner, and Infant Observation community. I also highly value the individual parent’s ‘parenting intuition’ and work to strengthen that so a parent can make informed parenting choices based on good current research, along with  the observation of THIS child in front of her.

Each class begins with a quiet settling in and observation time. A time to just be, to let our babies and toddlers be, and to observe the unfolding of their natural development.  The environment is calming and nourishing to the senses with developmentally appropriate, natural materials. In this way we can learn about who this child is, and begin to unpack and sort our expectations/projections from the child’s self.  We have a circle time to learn simple songs , baby games and lullabies, and in the toddler classes, there is a snack and outdoor time.

About the teacher (me)

I am a board certified dance/movement therapist, a Waldorf Birth to Three specialist, a RIE® intern, and I have taken  level I and II, and advanced Pikler™ courses in Budapest (2007, 2010, 2016), and continue my Pikler™ studies. The focus of my work is in supporting free, self initiated movement within a secure, warm, consistent relationship. I am currently enrolled in the Infant Observation Seminar at the Washington School of Psychiatry.



A Deepening Journey with Pikler®

“The joy of learning, by the way, does not always depend on the result. Trying something out without arriving at the goal can be as joyful an experience as a successful experiment. The moment itself brings joy and it would be difficult to decide in which instance the child learns the most ‘successful’ or ‘not successful’. These playful experiments are necessary parts and form the basis of future development.” – Dr. Emmi Pikler

Since 2007 I have been on a journey of deepening, of deepening my sensitivity and “tact” of deepening and widening the space inside myself. Of slowing down when I’m around children. Spaciousness and timelessness. Of noticing the quality of touch I use. Of deepening my trust and respect of each infant’s individuality and rate of development. This journey began when, in June of 2007, I first entered the doors of the Pikler® Institute in Budapest, Hungary. I was privileged that summer to be in the presence of such great teachers as Anna Tardos, Ute Strub, Eva Kallo, Gabriella Püspöki, Judith Falk, Maria Vincze. I was privileged also to be in Loczy—to sense what was practically emanating from the walls– deep thought and regard for infants and young children. Care giving that was so respectful it made me cry with gratitude that there is a place on this earth where baby humans are welcomed into this difficult earthly life with true warmth, care and respect.

Since that first summer, I have traveled to Budapest 2 more times and all over the US for training. In my own work as a birth to three parent child teacher and dance/movement psychotherapist, I have grown and profoundly increased my knowledge of early childhood development. I think I became a better  mother to my now two adult sons. At the core, though, it is really me as a person that has undergone the transformation. I am a better person, warmer, kinder, more respectful and more authentically me.

On this journey, I am honored to have the opportunity to be a Pikler® Pedagogue candidate.  But that will not be the destination, I will not be done. I will continue to deepen and broaden—to offer to others what I have internalized from my teachers.

I have profound gratitude to the Pikler Institute, to all my Pikler teachers and and colleagues in the journey. And for my luck or was it ‘destiny’ to discover this place. This has been and continues to be a journey of joyful learning.–Liz


Boundaries: How to help your child feel secure

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This post is mainly  my notes form a lecture given by Nancy Foster, a master Waldorf early childhood teacher and teacher trainer. She has given me permission to share these, and to embellish with my own thoughts. It’s long, but I think worth it to read…. Please let me know your thoughts!

We give children boundaries to strengthen a child’s  sense of security. If a little child grows up without appropriate boundaries, that child feels the effects throughout life. It’s like a premature baby who doesn’t get the full time in the protective womb. Boundaries are how we experience personal space. Skin is a boundary.

Boundaries are a loving gesture. Like a hug, an embrace. Young children need to be safely held physically, and with our love.

Rudolf Steiner said that the child has different needs at different developmental levels–from birth to age 7, the child needs to experience “the world is good”.  Boundaries are one of the things that let the child feel secure and that all is well–that the world is good.

Sometimes, we lose patience, we flounder around because we don’t know what to do. We stop and say ‘is this really me? Is this the best I can do?”

I can’t tell you which boundaries to set—it’s your family’s culture. Think of boundaries as a human embrace you want an embrace that is warm and protective but not restrictive. You have to consider the whole family—consider your own needs– it’s no good if you are feeling frazzled. I offer you 4 proverbs to guide us when working with children.

  1. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure (or a stitch in time saves nine).

You have clear expectations and can communicate them when you see something beginning to happen—not wait until it is a crisis.

You structure something so that it is not a problem. For instance giving small helpings at mealtimes.

Rhythm– every day has a particular flow from one activity to another.-This makes the child feel secure—they know what to expect. Regular rhythm avoids trouble as the child can ‘rest in the flow of time’ Its helps to just say “it’s time to go to bed” or “it’s time to wash your hands” instead of “I want you to wash your hands now” This takes it out of the personal power realm and into stating the rhythm.–if every day before dinner we wash hands, then there is a hand washing time—its just what happens—its in the flow of time.

  1. Out of the mouths of babes.

Children can teach you what they need. Not necessarily by what they say. Observe them—you will learn what they need. It is good to give them what they need even if they protest. For example, you observe that they are tired, but they are screaming that they don’t want to go to bed.

Our goal is not to seek for them to love us. They do love us. It is egotistical to seek their acceptance.

Observe your child. For example, through observation, you learn that a particular child doesn’t handle crowds very well. So you can then plan accordingly by avoiding as much as possible taking this child to big, crowded events.

Observe, then act.

  1. Honey catches more flies than vinegar.

Tell young children what to do, not what not to do. If you tell them to stop doing something, they are left empty—not knowing what to do. For example, a child who is helping stir cake batter suddenly starts waving the spoon around, and batter starts to fly. This is where the adult’s self discipline comes in– maybe our first reaction is wanting to say in a loud voice “stop! You’re making a mess!” But instead, we say in a firm, kind, but dispassionate tone: “the spoon is for stirring” then gently guide the spoon back into the bowl and stir with them a couple times.

“Lets” is a magic word here.. It is aligning yourself with the child. Then you do accompany the child. [You want to be on their side to accompany them on their journey –not putting yourself in opposition to them]. “Let’s put our hats on “ “Lets wash our hands” “lets have a nice rest”

Also, don’t wait to respond to your child until they are whining.

  1. As you sow, so shall you reap.

This has to do with being prepared. First of all, it is important to know what kind of seeds you’re planting, and what kind of blossoms you hope for.

Set aside some time each evening to review how things are going—what went well, when did you feel good? “Timmy was upset getting into his car seat again—he probably will tomorrow” So then you can plan for tomorrow. It feels better when you know you have a plan—you are on top of the situation—even if what you try doesn’t work. Then the next evening, you can say—“well that didn’t work, is it worth trying a few more times, or should I try something else?”

The benefit is that since you have a plan, you don’t lose your patience. That in itself helps because your child doesn’t feel you getting upset.

This kind of self discipline is a great example for your child.

Self discipline aligned with regular rhythm can help retain that feeling of warm embrace of boundaries.

  1. Bonus Proverb: Don’t cry over spilled milk.

It is your striving that really means the most to children. (Rudolf Steiner said this to the first Waldorf teachers) Don’t lament all your parenting mistakes, just keep striving to be better.

Picture an angelic image of your child sleeping peacefully. They feel totally secure and at peace. We as adults need the same feeling– to rest, feel taken care of.

If we hold a loving, peaceful image of our child before we go to sleep, we can wake up with an idea or inspiration of how to support them.

Notes on some of Nancy’s answers to parent questions:

Sometimes doing things the way you know is best and healthiest is so hard, we wonder if it is worth it. [For example, leaving the store immediately when the child is in a tantrum or otherwise ‘out of themselves'(eg: yelling, demanding, whining). This means we don’t get our shopping done, but it is best for the child—they are over stimulated.]

Concerning ‘melt downs’: They are out of themselves. There is nothing much you can say to a child in the middle of a tantrum. Some children you can pick up and hold tightly in your lap in the rocking chair. Other children need to be left alone.

One parent asked about respect. That a lot of psychologists are saying we need to talk to children to find out what they are feeling that this is respect.

Nancy said again they cant hear you, or speak about it when in tantrum, and then they are ready to move on.. it’s not good to bring them back to talking about it.

Liz’s 2 cents on this topic of respect:

I agree with Nancy that it is not fruitful to try to talk to or reason with a young child in the middle of a tantrum. An adult can show even more respect with non-verbal communication. Holding them and rocking them, or just accompanying them with our grounded presence helps them feel less out of control, and then they come back ‘into themselves’ we can move on to the next thing “now we can have our snack” or “now we can look at a book”. They may say something about the tantrum-listen don’t dig, or maybe you can say ‘I wonder what was so upsetting’ and wait to see if they say anything—listen and accept what they say if you dig for more information, it could prolong the upset. For them, the storm is over, the sun is out and all is well. It is your job as the adult to use your observations to discover the possible reasons for the tantrum.