Lena Learns How to Code

by Hanna Vock


Lena (name changed) was eight years old when she had to spend a few weeks in a clinic, far away from her home. The clinic had its own school, the children had to bring their school supplies and a letter in which the home class teacher had listed which school material was to be given in the next six weeks.

Lena wanted to go to hospital school on the 3rd day after her serious operation because it was boring for her to lie on her back the whole day almost motionless and look up at the ceiling. She did not have to attend class for a long time and the nurses wanted to dissuade her. But Lena managed to get her to go to school in bed.

She was very lucky and met a sovereign and mentally mobile young teacher. He briefly checked the contents of the schoolbooks for the next few weeks, was visibly surprised and said: „You can do it all already“.

He only needed a few seconds to make the decision: „Then we can put away our school supplies.“ A few seconds later followed the question: „Do you want to learn to program on the computer?“ It was a long time ago, and it was a C 64, but the young teacher was already fit because of his own interest in computing. Here he had something he also wanted to teach, although the subject of computer science did not yet exist in schools, let alone in primary schools.

It only took Lena seconds to say yes without having an exact idea what „programming“ meant. But she was highly gifted, had already skipped a class and apparently had confidence in the teacher in a few seconds. After all, he had recognized what she was already capable of at lightning speed, and had drawn a reasonable conclusion: Put away school supplies. Then his suggestion could also be interesting.

Nothing is without problems:
How can you work on the computer when you have to lie in a plaster bed after the operation? But there were two people here who were capable of unconventional solutions.

„When may you get up?“ „In one week, I’ll get a plaster corset and will be allowed to wallk.“ „Well, we’ll have to do some theory first.“

The word „theory“ had magic powers for the eight-year-old. It played a big role in every phone call with the family.
A clipboard, which held not only the upper but also the lower paper margin, helped Lena to write down the programming rules and steps that the teacher taught her. Soon the first small programs were written, because Lena only stopped working „when the clipboard had fallen on her nose a few times and her arm forces were exhausted“ (original sound teacher). After a break she continued because she loved to learn programming.

Later the leg forces limited the workload, because a plaster corset is a heavy thing and she was not allowed to sit down at all. So Lena stood in front of the computer and tried out whether the programs developed in theory worked in practice. And so it was continued until the legs threatened to buckle – then theory went on.

Lena learned a lot in these weeks. The discomforts of hospital life were suppressed in her feelings by her enthusiasm for learning. When she returned to her home class, absolutely no rework was necessary. It was as if she hadn’t missed a day at all. But she was now able to program – which could not be demonstrated at school and which, unfortunately, no one was interested in.


Date of publication in German: May 2012
Translation from German: Hanna Vock
(Sorry, there is no money for a professional translator. If you discover any gross errors, please let me know. hannavock@ihvo.de)

Copyright © Hanna Vock, see imprint.


Mrs Becker Stages an Opera

by Hanna Vock


Mrs. Becker was a music teacher with heart and soul. In addition, as a class teacher she had to teach a 3rd grade with 28 children, in everything except mathematics and sports. Her class was a very average class in terms of performance.

After one year of rehearsals, she performed the opera „Pollicino“ five times with her pupils in the Great Concert Hall of the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Hannover (University of Music Hanover). And all children reached the class goal of the 3rd and 4th grade, nobody had to repeat the class.

How did Mrs. Becker do it?

She inspired the children for the exciting story of the opera: it is a mixture of the fairy tales „Hansel and Gretel“ and „The Thumbelina“, and there is also a man-eater.

The music of Hans Werner Henze (1926 – 2012) is so modern that an estimated 1 percent of all listeners could say with certainty whether or not this particular tone was struck by the singing child. This took a lot of pressure off the children, but did not prevent them from practicing with unbelievable diligence.
My daughter, who „gave“ a man-eater´s daughter, often sang parts (not only her own) from the opera at home. Often she suddenly fell: „Oh, I was singing off-key.“ Parents: „We didn’t notice.“ „The other parents don’t realize it either, but Mrs. Becker notices it.“ And until the performances, the children could really sing the difficult parts properly.

Mrs. Becker convinced her headmistress to take part in the project and to warm up the restrained school authorities. The initiative for the project came from a professor at the conservatory, the opera house then took over the production. Three grammar schools (one each was responsible for the scenery / the animals of the forest / the orchestra), two primary schools (movement choir / brothers and sisters) and the Hanover Opera House (director, dramaturgy, conductor, six opera singers who took on the adult roles) took part.

There was a great deal of excitement, from the first rehearsals in class to the visit to the opera house stage, getting to know the adult participants (and their voices and instruments), costume and make-up rehearsals, dress rehearsals and at last the performances.

She transferred her own enthusiasm for the music and the project to the children.

In my opinion, this was one of the decisive factors for the success: Mrs. Becker acted with great pedagogical self-confidence, experience and sovereignty. Let me shed some light on that.

A modified timetable and the worries of the parents

When the rehearsals started, the children received a modified timetable. It was unusual. Every day the first or last lesson was reserved for rehearsals, depending on when Mrs. Becker had lessons in this class. There was just a big A or B on the plan.

The class was divided into two groups (A and B). Both were equal and later performed the opera. In each line-up there were, according to the requirements of the opera, six brothers of the eponymous hero Pollicino and seven daughters of the man-eater. (To their disappointment the man-eater daughters did not get a costume, but should bring their „most beautiful nightgown“.

The advantage of dividing the two casts was that hardly any child missed a rehearsal, as they could rehearse with the other cast if necessary. And so the great frustration that would have arisen if a child had not been able to attend the performance due to illness was avoided. At least once every child was attending a performance.

For the timetable the double occupation meant:
If one A was in the timetable, the cast A had to be there, the other (B) had these hours off – and vice versa.

Towards the end of the school year, when the performance dates were approaching, Mrs. Becker expanded the rehearsals; there were now two additional afternoons a week for rehearsals in the opera house.

But even at the very beginning there was unrest in the parenthood: The children would miss too much lessons and would not achieve the class goal. Those were the worries of the parents.

At the parents‘ evening Mrs. Becker performed very confidently. She described to the parents how enthusiastic the children were already about the project, explained the learning value of the children’s opera project and that the children experienced a great boost of motivation to cope with the „other things“ (German and the other lessons teached by Mrs. Becker). The execution of the rehearsals was linked to the children’s learning progress, their attention and activity in the remaining lessons and the reliable completion of their homework. The kids knew that.

It worked! And I still have the sentence that Mrs Becker confidently recited in my ear today:

We can manage the necessary little bit of reading and writing too!

Sometimes an analogy comes to my mind: the „little“ housework (which many women who are not working away from home feel used to the full) does the working woman and mother „by the way“.

One child in Mrs. Becker´s class decided on its own initiative not to take part, three other children were forbidden to take part by their parents. As the school year progressed, the parents of the children involved became calmer. The smarter ones noticed that the opera rehearsals also contained a lot of German lessons: the children had to read the text over and over again, the plot was repeatedly illuminated and discussed from different sides – and much was done for the children’s memory – some children learned the text completely by heart. Not to mention the increase in endurance and discipline!

And the material lessons did not have anything arbitrary on the subject (as for example The toilet flushing / Our spring flowers / Rain-Ice-Snow) but the real functioning of a theatre and the musical instruments.

The „lack“ of a few hours per week had absolutely no negative effect on the children’s learning success.

The performances were a complete success. They were always sold out, there was frenetic applause. The children found themselves in the press and fought for autographs of the adult participants they admired. By the way, the „man-eater“ was a fine guy and also asked the children for autographs. When asked why he was doing this, he said:

„That’s not a gag. The children have done a tremendous job. Respect!“

Because of the great success there was later, when the children were already at the secondary schools, a resumption with several performances.


Date of publication in German: June 2012.
Translation from German: Hanna Vock
(Sorry, there is no money for a professional translator. If you discover any gross errors, please let me know. hannavock@ihvo.de)
Copyright © Hanna Vock, see imprint.


It Takes Courage to Overcome Fears

by Hanna Vock

Presentation „Courage to learn and teach freely“ (slightly shortened),
held at the symposium „Competent education for competent children“
in Düsseldorf.

Dear listeners,

what do you make of this? Original sound of a highly gifted girl, 11 years, 7th grade of a high school, just back from school in the early afternoon:

„Can you tell me why I went there today??

Can you tell me why I sat there for six hours today?? – Shall I tell you what I learned there today?? Nothing!!! Once again: Nothing!!!“

A permanent frustration that manifests itself in anger. Anger at school that does not meet learning needs, which forces pupils to sit out lessons and adapt too much. It’s good when anger is felt and expressed so clearly.

It’s good when anger looks for constructive paths and becomes courage: Courage to attend language courses at the adult education centre at the age of 11, to move to boarding school later to find better learning conditions, and even later to go abroad to learn.

But how much better it seems to me when the school changes, when the school also offers highly gifted students on site so many suggestions and spiritual challenges that the children and young people feel comfortable there and can use their strengths effectively for learning in their school.

I saw how this can be done from 1992 to 1995 at the Christophorus School in Braunschweig (Brunswick). But such schools are the big exceptions.

Why is my lecture called „Courage to learn and teach freely“?

Because teachers and students need courage to deviate from the usual and to go unfamiliar paths.

But also because there are various fears that can inhibit and hinder the learning processes of gifted children. To overcome these fears, children need their own courage and constant encouragement from parents and teachers.

First of all there is the fear of being different; the fear of exclusion, of rejection; the fear of being presumptuous, of not being understood.

Yes, highly gifted children are different; from an early age they have different needs for play and learning than children of average ability, especially in those areas where they are highly gifted. Some activities that other children enjoy are not appealing to them. On the other hand, they are attracted to activities that others are not yet or never interested in.

What helps against this fear?

The courage of adults to deal with these differences openly and clearly. Encouragement to value and freely develop intellectual strengths in oneself and in others.

To enable highly gifted children to stand by their often unusual interests and thoughts without hiding or denying them, they need a school that understands talent differences, different learning paths and unequal learning speeds as facts and can handle them well.

This is all the easier if not only one highly gifted child sits alone in class, but if several similar children have a say in the learning climate.
See also: Concealing Abilities and Interests

There is still the fear of negative reactions from the environment. The fear of incomprehension and isolation. In many social environments, naming the child’s special abilities and learning needs is like outing, with all kinds of uncertain and stressful reactions from relatives and acquaintances.

Sending the child to a special school, enroling early to school, letting it skip a class, creates a need for explanation, and not everyone will understand it.

On the other hand, the mere existence of schools that take the needs of gifted children seriously can help to make the situation appear more self-evident in the medium term. The school enables contact and exchange with other „affected persons“, which has a direct relief effect on children and parents.

Many parents would like to have their child change to such a school because they have experienced how exhausting it is and how much courage has to be shown again and again in order to deal with a school – often without success too – which has no or only half-hearted support for gifted children in its programme.

There is the fear of parents that their gifted child could become an outsider and a loner, it could not make friends.

This fear cannot be overcome by urging the child to adapt. Encouraging are positive group experiences, the search for „real“ friends, the successful cooperation with similarly talented and interested people.

The highly gifted children need – apart from the many other children – also other highly gifted children in order to receive and also to be able to give enough suggestions.

In many schools – or even in kindergarten – highly talented children experience time and again that they get off better when they play or work alone, because this is the only way they can pursue their ideas to the end:

This lays the foundation for solitude.

Encouraging cooperation for gifted children is teaching at a high level and involving serious interdisciplinary project work. The possibility of self-confident presentation of the results achieved alone or together is also encouraging.

This creates a sense of achievement that leads gifted children to the ability to work in a team.

There is the teachers‘ and parents‘ fear of exceptions to the rule, of the child’s individualism. Even the child who can already calculate the workload of the 3rd class has to do the arithmetic exercises of the 1st class at home, even if this is pointless.

This is not taking the child’s willingness to make an effort seriously.

Adults and children can develop serenity and generosity towards different talents, if each child’s individual learning process fills and determines the lessons. Here the well-founded exception, the own learning path, the own learning pace becomes the rule for pupils and teachers.

There is the concern that the gifted child will not learn the so-called secondary virtues (diligence, perseverance, care, communication and cooperation skills, etc.) if it is not up to adapt to the average level.

It should acquire frustration tolerance and show perseverance and care even when learning things that it has long been able to.

An absurd situation.

The enormous frustration tolerance that the gifted child already has by going to school every day, which gives him little, is underestimated (see example at the beginning of this lecture).

And besides:

Whether the child has stamina, care and good communication skills can be observed where the child is allowed to learn at its level. This can be seen in intelligence tests – or, as I learned in my own practical work as a kindergarten teacher, in special group offers for gifted children.

The secondary virtues or as they are often called: personal competencies cannot be learned and internalized as long as the basic mood of the child is depressed or aggressively tinted because important things are withheld and denied.

If a gifted child wants to deal extensively with difficult contents, which correspond to his high talent, it must experience constant appreciation and emotional confirmation. Since this is a basic need, its fulfilment must not be made fundamentally dependent on the good behaviour of the child in the way: „First you do your homework properly – and then you get something to drink today“.
However, the child’s duties (helping in the household, tidying up his things, doing his homework) can certainly be demanded, and even in the case of an 8-year-old, they can be preceded by the following: „Yes, of course you may play „Minecraft“ (on the computer); first you have to tidy up your room and go shopping“.

There is also the fear of one-sided development and deficits in learning areas in which the child is not highly gifted. Thus „the other“, which is more difficult for the child, is often demanded before it is allowed to deal with its domain. An educational method that doesn’t work well.

Only when sufficient time, sufficient space, sufficient stimulation has become part of the area of giftedness, is the child relaxed enough to turn to the less satisfying things.

The question is:

What is enough time or stimulation?

Hard to answer. Probably a lot more than you think. When gifted children shed their fears, make friends (children or adults) with the same wavelength, they often show a breathtaking pace of development and a very extensive time commitment to their domain or to exciting projects that fit their stage of development. Everything else becomes a side effect. There is a lot of talk about exciting, challenging projects and interdisciplinary teaching in some schools, and then very little happens.

There is the fear of overstraining – the overstraining of the child and the parents and teachers. Experiences from my parenting consultations: Teachers show good will after conversations, they increase the level of difficulty. The six-year-old child no longer has to count with the class: 7+5, but is allowed to count 17+15, which the teacher thinks is much more difficult because she knows that the class will come there weeks later.

Perhaps the gifted child has been able to solve tasks of this type for a long time and would now rather deal with what 17 is divided by 15 and what the comma really means in the result. The well-meaning attempt of the teacher runs into the void. She feels confirmed by the child’s further unwillingness that the cause was not the too easy tasks – but perhaps the pressure that the parents exert on her child – or the child’s lack of discipline. What a fatal and sad mistake!

In order to explore the child’s level of development and to build on it, an appropriate attitude of the teacher, but also small, manageable learning groups are necessary. Then the fear of the children’s unusual learning pace can also be reduced.

And then there’s the fear of letting go. Many gifted children show an early complex judgement of the situations in which they find themselves. This judgement and the urge for self-determination want to be recognised.

A request to the parents: Don’t hold your child back when it want to explore the world and seek its happiness. Let the children (with all necessary care) go into the near and far world.

In the long term, this brings children and parents closer together.

Many of the psychological difficulties and blockages faced by gifted children stem from a long experience of confusion and frustration. Sometimes something goes wrong even at an early age or in pre-school.

That is why I am committed to ensuring that giftedness is already recognized in kindergarten and that kindergarten teachers are allowed to learn how to adequately support highly gifted children in kindergarten.

It is important for gifted children and their parents that there are more and more competent schools and kindergartens that make a serious effort to support the highly gifted, whereby kindergartens should in any case work integratively.

Children who can learn together with other highly gifted children have it easier to register and enforce their learning needs. Children can use their courage better and more effectively in a school where they can learn freely. They do not have to wear themselves out in (often unsuccessful) fights for the most natural thing, but can test their spiritual powers on interesting questions.

Parents can bring in their questions and thoughts in a highly talent-friendly school climate without pressure and at a high level.

I wish the (highly gifted and all the other) children that their teachers in class and in the teacher team can do effective and satisfying work without struggling every day as lone fighters against schema F, break bell, subject boundaries, too large classes and prejudices against headstrong children.

See also:
Permanent Frustration Because of Being Underchallenged and Facing Incomprehension

My First Year at School – Interviews with Children (German version)

Do Gifted Primary School Children Have a Better Standing these Days? (German version)


Date of publication in German: July 2016

Translation from German: Hanna Vock
(Sorry, there is no money for a professional translator. If you discover any gross errors, please let me know. hannavock@ihvo.de)
Copyright © Hanna Vock, see imprint.

An „Old“ Concept – in Full

by Hanna Vock


I wrote this kindergarten concept when I had completed eight of my ten years of work in kindergarten. The text reflects the status as of December 1999. (Only the spelling was changed.)
The subject of giftedness was already at the forefront of my mind at that time, and the promotion of giftedness also took place practically in our kindergarten, several examples in the manual date from this time. In our kindergarten there were far more gifted and particularly gifted children than statistically would have been expected. The fact that there were many suggestions and challenges for particularly clever children was well known and word got around more and more. My husband and I also conducted the „Warum-Klub“, a support programme for gifted primary school children, in our group room after kindergarten time.
Nevertheless, the topic of giftedness is not reflected in the concept, which was accessible to those interested, because the rest of the team and the board did not want it.

The concept was very extensive and could not be written during working hours. I hope, however, that the many tasks I invested at that time will make it easier for other colleagues to work on their own concepts.

Perhaps others can take this text as a basis,
which will then be critically evaluated and suitably redesigned for their own kindergarten.

… in a nutshell …

The concept was completed in this form in 1999 and contains the following structure points:

1. Why conception?
2. Who we are
3. Our kindergarten – a place for positive thinking
4. Development opportunities for the individual child
4.1 Development goals
4.2 Conditions for a happy development
4.2.1 Settle in and get used to the new environment
4.2.2 About the value of self-esteem
4.2.3 Having time to live
4.2.4 Play, imagination, creativity
4.2.5 Moving all day long
4.2.6 Holistic learning
4.3 How we live together
4.3.1 The importance of the group
4.3.2 Being allowed to have feelings, argue and tolerate each other
4.3.3 Girls and boys, women and men
4.3.4 Rules in our kindergarten
4.3.5 Leave freedom and set limits
4.3.6 Interacting with nature, animals and plants
4.4 Health and nutrition
4.4.1 Foodstuffs
4.4.2 Eating and drinking
4.4.3 Clothing
5. Working methods and structures
5.1 Working methods
5.2 Structures
6. Festivals and other highlights in the course of the year
7. The role of parents
7.1 The emergence of the parent initiative
7.2 Parents‘ expectations

There is also an abridged version of this concept given to all new parents and other interested parties.

The long version served not only as a working basis for the team and as reading material for particularly interested parents, but also as a content basis for our ten pedagogical parents‘ evenings per year.

One annually recurring topic, for example, was acclimatisation (see point 4.1.1). Of course, the new parents were particularly interested in this, but many old parents took the opportunity to present their views and experiences.

Further topics for pedagogical parents‘ evenings were recurring every year:

    • Nutrition, exercise, clothing
    • Importance of free play, time to play
    • Our rules, their justification, compliance and non-compliance and enforcement
    • Language development, communication
    • Holistic learning in kindergarten
    • Self-assertion against assaults by children or adults
    • Transition to school

Two other parents‘ evenings a year were thematically determined by the parents.

The parents were satisfied with the annually recurring themes, as they experienced them differently each year (due to their further experiences) and could contribute different things.

At each parents‘ evening the current projects and offers were reported and discussed. The parents were told what the children had done and learned and to what extent they were enthusiastic.

To the photos in this article

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the originals anymore, but could only take the pictures from the anniversary brochure printed in black and white. The technical quality is accordingly bad. But the pictures still seem meaningful to me.

Here begins the text from 1999.

1. Why conception?

Our parents‘ initiative has now been in existence for over 25 years. So far we – and all the parents and pedagogical staff who were there before us and founded, kept alive and flourished the parents‘ initiative – have apparently managed quite well without a written concept.

Or was there something once, and today we just don’t know anything about it?

Some time ago, board and staff decided that the concept should be written down.

That should serve this purpose,

    • to make life and work in the kindergarten as transparent as possible for the adults involved,
    • to present and justify the basics and principles of the work as clearly as possible,
    • to find and describe our place in society and in the field of child rearing,
    • to make it easier for new parents and new employees to get started,
    • to compare the reality in the kindergarten and the written concept again and again and to develop both further,
    • to make us known to the interested public.

Questions, suggestions and criticism can change and improve this paper.

It is always possible to discuss the concept with interested parents.

The contents of the concept also serve as a basis for parents‘ evenings.

2 Who we are

Our kindergarten was founded in 1973 by committed parents. It blossoms and thrives.

The people:
20 children between the ages of 3 and 6 and their parents, four pedagogical assistants, three of them working part-time, and one civil servant. We are also supported by a cleaning lady.

All the children stay all day, so they eat their lunch together as well; therefore we are a day care centre. But for everyday language use we like the term „kindergarten“ better.

Happy three-year-olds. Click on the picture to enlarge.


At first, the kindergarten „lived“ for several years in a former farmhouse. After an arson attack at night, during which the building was largely destroyed, the city provided a school pavilion – first as a temporary solution, later as a permanent solution. The neighbouring school was not happy about the loss of its pavilion, but in the meantime the initial tensions have long since given way to a good-neighbourly relationship.

Even today, the kindergarten is still run by the parents‘ initiative.

Every year the composition of the association changes when our big children go to school and new, mostly three-year-old children are admitted together with their parents. This means that there is always a fresh breeze and new ideas. Parenthood takes care of all the tasks that a kindergarten sponsor has to fulfil.

We pedagogical staff also think it good to work in a parents‘ initiative. Although it is often uncomfortable and not so easy to work together with active parents (some of whom also have employer functions), there are many interesting sides to it.

Life in the shack is Monday to Friday from 7.30 a.m.. At 4 p.m., peace returns and our longest serving member Else, the water turtle, remains alone.

By the way, we are pleased about interested visitors, a short telephone reservation is sufficient.

3. Our kindergarten – a place for positive thinking

When we thought about the situation of children in our society, many negative things occurred to us at first. We remembered a list of theses from an advanced training course. Unfortunately, we don’t know who originally wrote it down. We find it so accurate that we want to include it here:

Change from childhood in the last decades:

1. Childhood is media childhood, especially television childhood.
2. Childhood is educational childhood.
3. Childhood is still self-designing and self-cultivating.
4. Childhood is school and kindergarten childhood.
5. Childhood is future childhood.
6. Childhood is small family childhood.
7. Childhood is a domesticated childhood.
8. Childhood is city/urban fringe childhood.
9. Childhood is often multicultural childhood.
10. Childhood is buying and consuming childhood.
11. Childhood is playground and road user childhood.
12. Childhood is sportive childhood.
13. Childhood is a more and more bourgeois- and etiquette of middle-class lifestyles.
14. Childhood is more and more emotionally charged childhood.
15. Childhood is a planned, stressed and rushed childhood.
16. Childhood is isolated childhood.

We deal with these conditions in our pedagogical work.

In addition, the following negative, frightening slogans occurred to us:

Over-stimulation – pressure to perform – hectic pace – lack of time – lack of exercise – headaches – psychosomatic illnesses – isolation – isolation of habitats – aggressiveness – brutality – consumerism – claims – addiction to sweets – boredom in abundance – eating disorders – sleep disorders – fears – neuroses – lack of concentration – drug addiction – sexual abuse – school failure – egoism – despair…

These are ghosts we want to protect our children from – at home and in kindergarten.

With our small kindergarten we want to create a small, but thoroughly positive counter-concept. We want to consciously use our strengths and ideas to achieve this.

Our kindergarten should always be a place where children and adults can feel at home, where they can live well together and where everyone can develop positively.

And so we work on the problems:

    • The problem:
      We see that the education of small children is still extremely underestimated. It is an important and exhausting social task, but it is rarely appreciated. Working mothers, housewife-mothers, „new fathers“ and educators all suffer as a result.
      Our answer:
      In our kindergarten we value working with small children highly and are proud of our joint successes. No mother should have a guilty conscience because her child goes to kindergarten all day.
    • The problem:
      We see that parents and children often suffer from lack of time. They are forced to adapt to time structures that are hostile to the family. Many families suffer from too much job stress or unemployment. In addition, there are various global or personal fears about the future.
      Our answer:
      We want to encourage and support each other. We want to secure long, undivided periods of time for the children in kindergarten and let them play undisturbed.
    • The problem:
      We see that little consideration is often given to children’s needs. This applies, for example, to urban and residential construction, traffic planning, the furnishing of rooms and the design of green spaces.
      Our answer:
      The kindergarten should be a place for children that is designed according to their needs and in which they have room for manoeuvre.
    • The problem:
      We see that it is often difficult to break through the isolation of small families. As a result, many children spend too little time with other children and adults.
      Our answer:
      The kindergarten should enable children and parents to make contacts and share experiences – even outside the childcare hours.
    • The problem:
      We see that children often have to observe unpleasant and destructive relationships between people in real life and through the mass media. They see indifference, aggression, envy, rivalry, recklessness, fear, humiliation.
      Our answer:
      We want the children in the family and in their kindergarten to have different experiences. In kindergarten they should get to know friendly, open, constructive relationships and group structure.

4. Development opportunities for the individual child

4.1 Development goals

When we were thinking about development goals, we asked ourselves:

What qualities and skills do we want for our children, so that they can
– find their way around the environment and society,
– can exist psychologically, physically, morally and materially,
– develop satisfactory contacts and possibilities of cooperation with
other people?

We have written down what is important to us:

    • have a good sense of self-worth, like themselves
    • have good sensory perception, can observe well
    • to be able to perceive one’s own and „foreign“ sensitivities and needs in a differentiated and secure way
    • respect and protect all living things
    • be stable in health and physically strong
    • be able to express one’s own feelings and needs clearly (at first body language, better and better also language) – do not hide behind a mask
    • be able to ask for advice and help
    • have a stable self-confidence, are confident of their own judgement and achievements
    • have good self-control (be able to act out or control yourself intentionally, let go or hold on to yourself)
    • have a sure feeling for the appropriateness of reactions, for possibilities and limits of social situations
    • can be just (fair)
    • have a rich and flexible repertoire of social skills at their disposal: be able to make contact, break off and reject contact; assert claims, waive or wait; argue, take sides, mediate and get along; share and work together; abide by rules, invent and agree; seek and reject closeness and physical contact; take initiative and engage in ongoing activities; interest others in one’s own plans; be helpful and caring; fend off unreasonableness
    • have good coarse and fine motor coordination
    • be able to express yourself well in terms of language and body language, be able to talk in larger groups, be able to report experiences in a coherent and lively way, be able to tell stories, be able to answer questions precisely, be able to contribute something to a topic
    • want to know the truth and be able to say, admit mistakes
    • make decisions independently and stand by them
    • to search for new impressions, to enjoy discovering and understanding, to be able to react with interest to new things, to be astonished
    • know the risks of everyday activities, learn to assess them better and better, be cautious and prudent
    • be able to think logically (therefore-because, if-then), to recognize regularities, laws, structures, systems
    • be able to keep joke and seriousness apart, be able to move with relish on the joke level
    • be able to concentrate on what is going on at the moment; be attentive and persevering in interesting or necessary activities
    • be able to complete an activity that has been started, terminate an activity that has become meaningless, plan and organise activities
    • be able to recognise the performance of others
    • questioning authorities and, if necessary, being able to defend oneself adequately against them, questioning assertions (developing a critical level)
    • be enthusiastic, learn to overcome inhibitions and fears
    • not to take externalities too seriously, to be able to live relatively simply, to experience certain externalities as superfluous
    • be able to behave in a nature-friendly manner
    • experience group life in a positive way, cultivate friendship

Anything that restricts or impedes the development of these abilities must be rejected.

It should be borne in mind that we consider these development goals to be important not only for the kindergarten but also for the family.

A three-year-old girl and the author at the top of the climbing frame.
Click to enlarge.

Three- to six-year-old children should develop all these qualities and abilities in their basic features.
The individual prerequisites and development possibilities of the individual children, i.e. their talents, are different, which has to be taken into consideration.

It is important to us that the children receive all the necessary development impulses as early as kindergarten age, because at this age important „decisions“ are made for development and because there are sensitive phases that we do not want to let pass unused.

4.2 Conditions for a happy development

4.2.1 Settling in and acclimatizing – if children are new in the kindergarten

Children who have only been in kindergarten for a short time need time and peace to settle in, to reduce their fears. They have a shelter: the group room. Step by step, they detach themselves from a caregiver. They explore and conquer the room for play opportunities and establish contacts with other children. Each child in its own individual way, quietly and calmly or with a joy in movement, loudly or rumbling. They learn and experience rules that must be accepted and observed in such a large community.

The children do not only get support and help from our kindergarten teachers. Children help children! This works when trust, openness and honesty are lived. We adults have an important role model function, we accept the children as they are, with their weaknesses and strengths, and we do not allow exclusion.
The first time in kindergarten is particularly exciting, but also very strenuous. It’s hard work for the child! We would like to respect that.

Some children have it harder than others

We are happy when we don’t have to force a child to stay in kindergarten longer than it feels it can cope with. But we also see the need of some parents, who have to work full-time again quickly, and try to calm them down: Your child does not have it easy now, but in the end it will overcome this phase.

The acclimatisation phase is dramatic for some children. We believe that it is partly due to the fact that in our culture the small children often grow up very isolated. In contrast to other cultures, some children are only cared for and comforted by their mother at first. Some children play almost exclusively at home during the first few years before entering kindergarten. Often they have not yet experienced a natural, intensive or lasting relationship with other children and adults. Occasional visits or two hours a week in a playgroup do not replace „the village it needs to care for a child“. If it is the first or only child in the family and perhaps the father and grandparents hardly appear, the children understandably find it difficult to cope with the completely different kindergarten situation and the sudden detachment from the mother. They have little experience and practice in dealing with other people and only feel safe when the mother is with them.

A lot of new things are appealing and frightening

In the beginning there is a lot to learn for every new kindergarten child:

    • separate from mother / father without reacting anxiously or being sad,
    • get to know new adult caregivers, ask them a question, let them comfort you if necessary,
    • getting to know new children, making friendly contact, playing along, being able to say no out loud, defending oneself,
    • to endure the inevitable frustrations,
    • get to know first play possibilities (building corner, painting table, table games, marble run, simple puzzles, sand box, swing…),
    • get to know the time sequences,
    • drinking in kindergarten, helping themselves,
    • eat in kindergarten, learn the food rules and brush your teeth,
    • go to the bathroom and toilet on their own,
    • get to know the rooms and their possibilities,
    • explore the grounds,
    • play without the close presence of adults outside,
    • get to know the gymnasium of the neighbouring school,
    • get to know excursions and festivals,
    • feel themselves part of the group,
    • feel addressed together with the group,
    • experiencing that it’s fair to wait and share,
    • learn that the toy belongs to everyone and that it must not be taken away from others,
    • start getting involved in cleaning up and other tasks,
    • to be able to sit still in the morning circle, concentrate,
    • to take part in group games,
    • speak in the morning circle in front of all the children,
    • sing along.

How easily and quickly a child gets accustomed depends not only on its previous experiences (see above) and on the way in which the kindergarten teachers accompany the child in the early stages, but also on the child’s own emotional balance. If the new is more appealing to the child than frightening, the acclimatisation will be successful, but if the recoil from the new and the fearfulness predominate, it is sometimes a long process for the child to feel comfortable in the group.

Becoming independent – separation problems of children and parents

Also for the parents the entry of their child into the kindergarten is a big step, which is often already connected with fears and uncertainties before.

(Author’s note: Our kindergarten did not admit children until they were three years old. As early as the 1970s, I myself was very positive about crèche care (if it shows high quality) for children aged 6 months and over and wrote my master’s thesis about it in Göttingen in 1977. At that time the care under three years was hardly a topic „in the West“, thus in the Federal Republic of Germany, and if then it was rejected.)

After birth and weaning, learning to walk and grasp, learning to make first contacts and learning to speak, entering kindergarten is another big step for the child towards independence.

Sometimes the children suddenly show fears and behaviours when they enter kindergarten, which make their parents even more insecure. There are children who go back to wet the bed or their pants although they were already „dry“. Some scream and cry as they say goodbye to give way to their hearts.

Parents can support each other in this phase by exchanging experiences.

In order to help the children to cope as well as possible with their acclimatisation period in the kindergarten, the parents have to overcome their own insecurities. They must be willing to place their child in the care of the kindergarten teacher. They must trust their child and themselves to cope with the new situation.

In order to gain more security as adults in separation situations, we have tried to make clear to ourselves what the acclimatisation period means for children and parents.

What does it mean for a three-year-old child when he or she goes to kindergarten?

The first time is generally like this…
The child has to get along for a few hours without the support of mother or father. It may feel abandoned.

… and that can ultimately come out if everything goes well:
It gains additional familiars (children and adults).
It experiences that other children have similar needs and problems, but also peculiarities to which one can adjust. It is freed from its „uniqueness“ and at the same time confirmed in it.

The first time is generally like this…
In the beginning, the child wavers between fascination with the new and fear and defense against the unknown and the stressful. The child is tense and possibly overstrained, and falls ill more easily. Many unknown things storm the child, it must first orient itself in all directions. Gradually it will build up feelings of security and behavioural security.

… and that can ultimately come out if everything goes well:
It develops pride in new skills and friendships, in new independence. After all, most of the time it feels comfortable and relaxed in kindergarten.
It gains an additional area of life, it experiences the kindergarten as its own area, it can tell something at home (if it wants).

The first time is generally like this…
The child is initially a stranger in the group. He or she is not the centre of attention (as he or she may have been used to until now), but at the edge.

… and that can ultimately come out if everything goes well:
It experiences how it is gradually accepted into the group.
It becomes an equal member of a group in which you can do a lot and implement ideas.

The first time is generally like this…
It experiences the will to assert oneself and the demands of other children (and adults) and must first learn to interpret the signals of others.


Wir haben uns verkleidet. Zum Vergrößern anklicken.

We dressed up. Click to enlarge.

… and that can ultimately come out if everything goes well:
It learns to live in a group of children of the same age and older and to feel comfortable, to argue, to assert oneself and to express one’s own demands appropriately.

The first time is generally like this…
It wants to retreat into undisturbed solo play or to have an adult „for itself“.
It experiences that this rarely works in kindergarten.

… and that can ultimately come out if everything goes well:
It begins to learn the components of social behaviour that can only be learned in a larger group, for example: talking in a group, not pushing oneself forward, paying attention to the group mood, giving up and showing off, bearing group pressure, forming coalitions, taking the initiative, assuming responsibility, comparing oneself with the other children…

The first time is generally like this…
The old strategies with which it obtained confirmation and affection may no longer suffice in kindergarten under certain circumstances. This makes the child insecure. Moreover, the other children are not as constant in the affirmation they give as their parents are used to.

… and that can ultimately come out if everything goes well:
It no longer draws confirmation and building of its self-esteem only from the family. It becomes freer and more „cheeky“. It learns to see itself „in the mirror of the group“.

The first time is generally like this…
Under certain circumstances it may first seem to fall behind in development. It falls back on proven calming strategies, withdraws its activity and waits for the time being („observer status“).

… and this can ultimately come out if everything goes well:
The child also develops further through intensive observation and the (inner) confrontation with the new situation.
In addition, it is stimulated in its entire development by the other children and by offers of the kindergarten teachers, even if results may not show up immediately.

The first time is generally like this…

At home and in kindergarten, the child experiences different norms, rules and deviating evaluations of his or her behaviour, and this can initially confuse him or her.
… and that can ultimately come out if everything goes well:
The child learns to adjust to different habitats. It has the chance to build up a first inner distance to its own parents. Parents and kindergarten teachers in this point  have to work together and not against each other.

The child experiences all these demands in an early developmental phase, which we consider to be extraordinarily favourable.

For parents, the acclimatisation period can be as follows

In the early days…
they have to put their little child in „strange hands“.
They have to reorganise their daily lives and possibly tackle new professional issues.

… and in the end:
They gain time and new opportunities for themselves. You are relieved of the non-stop responsibility for their child.

In the first time…
they are unsure whether the kindergarten is really good for their child.

… and in the end:
They get to know the kindergarten and build trust. They gain a (hopefully) competent educational counselling authority.

In the first time…
they feel strange between the other parents.

… and in the end:
They experience an exchange of experiences with other parents and receive suggestions and new contacts.

In the first time…
they are confronted with various prejudices:
– Three-year-olds are too young to go to kindergarten all day.
– Mothers have to be there for their children, nobody can respond as well to the child as their own parents.
– In kindergarten, the child „goes under“.

… and in the end:
They are confirmed in the fact that it is important for their child to broaden its horizon and to have intensive experiences with other people. The child gets to know other concepts of behaviour and life. The parents experience their child more strongly as an independent being and themselves as temporarily dispensable.

In the first time…
they experience the fears and sadness of their child, which they can no longer classify so easily, and are thereby burdened and insecure. Feelings of guilt
can emerge or intensify.

… and in the end:
They learn that their child can now cope with frustration, fear and insecurity without their direct help.

In the first time…
they are afraid that the teachers will not take enough care of their child.

… and in the end:
They can experience that in kindergarten the relationship between child and adult is not as close as at home – and that this is also positive for the kid.

In the first time…
hey are afraid that the teachers may not like their child or that their child may be rejected by the other children.

… and in the end:
Over time they will feel that the teachers do not put children back or favour them, but are able to accept all children in their own way – and that their child is well accepted into the children’s group after some time.

In the first time…
their child is assessed (for the first time) by others who have many possibilities of comparison. How will it perform? How seriously should they take the clues, are they competent?
Some parents are afraid that their child could become very fond of a kindergarten teacher.

… and in the end:
They receive positive feedback about their child and thus also about their own educational performance.
The kindergarten also makes them aware of their child’s problems early and clearly.
They experience that their role as the most important caregivers for their child is not touched by the kindergarten.

4.2.2 The value of self-esteem

The ability to trust oneself – and also the permission to make a mistake – is the basis for the development of a good sense of self-worth. „I can do it alone“ is an important sentence of our children. Only when children are allowed to try out many things themselves do they learn to assess their abilities correctly.
To become independent courage, confidence and self-confidence are necessary. And in order to be able to approach other people openly, you have to like yourself.

What can we adults do?

We want to encourage the children to realize their ideas and plans and not to shy away at the first difficulty.

We have built a cave for ourselves. Click to enlarge.

We find it important to take the children’s feelings seriously so that they can take them seriously themselves.
We do not want to talk children out of their feelings, trivialize, reinterpret or forbid them. On the contrary, we want children to notice what is going on with them.

Children should be allowed to perceive the offenses they suffer as what they are – even if adults offend or disregard the child. They should be allowed to be angry and learn to deal with their anger.

We do not want to overlook or smile at feelings such as pride in something that has been achieved or enthusiasm about something that has been experienced, but we want to take it seriously and share it. We want to respect friendly feelings for other people, even if we might wish for other friends for our child.

Respect for children’s feelings is a crucial building block for building their self-esteem.

From our own experience as „former children“ we know:

There are things that weaken children’s self-esteem:

Fear – threats – insincerity – rejection – overprotection – excessive demands – insult – irony – mockery – withdrawal of love – violence – abuse (physical or psychological) – compulsion to adapt – indifference – blackmail – non-recognition – degradation – loneliness – ambivalent attitudes – unclear („double“) messages – oppression – undersupply – distrust – disregard for individual needs – negative emotional transmission – impatience – use of the child as a status symbol – pressure to perform

And there are things that strengthen children’s self-esteem:

Confirmation – love – praise – security – comfort – acceptance – trust – free spaces – recognition – encouragement – supporting social contacts – conflicts honestly carry out – orientation offer – borders point out – time leave – feelings show – feelings permit – responsibility transfer – seriously take – listening – communicate and understand – tolerance – mistake permit – patience – humor – justice – consequence – snuggle and tenderness – values obtain – assistance offer – experiences make possible

We want to strengthen the children!

4.2.3 Having time to live

Childhood is not the preparation for life, but life itself.

Children come with their individual life rhythm into this world, in which the daily routine is built by waking and sleeping, eating and drinking, feeling good or not so good. Only we adults give the child a time rhythm that depends on the time of day. Small children, however, live without a clock. The now, the present, the momentary state are important for them.

They have the gift of enjoying the moment, of forgetting time. They develop completely different ideas about what is important to them than we adults do.
The game must be played to its end, even if it would be „time“ long ago to set off for kindergarten.

Even in kindergarten, the clock must not unnecessarily dismember the children’s time. We don’t want „empty“ times. They arise when there is not enough time between two activities to get into the game and realize it.

Eine Kollegin im Gespräch mit zwei Kindern. Zum Vergrößern anklicken.


A colleague talking to two children. Click to enlarge.

When we adults listen to the children and take them seriously, we get insights into a world that we „outgrown“ many years ago.

Children often need a lot of time also in kindergarten to find each other in play. After some time, when the adults can wait calmly, a seemingly chaotic running back and forth often develops into structured, intensive games. Although these games are sometimes short or end in conflict, they often unfold into unforeseeable, imaginative situations.
Sometimes children demand concrete support from adults, sometimes they solve all problems on their own.
It is a pity if such an intensive event, in which the children learn a lot, has to be stopped for lack of time.
Several times a day this is necessary: at the beginning of the morning circle, lunch and pickup.

We do not want any other fixed daily times. The offers of the kindergarten teachers are gently embedded in the children’s playing. Consideration is given to play situations. This can also mean that the planned offer is postponed or cancelled when the children are playing intensively and creatively.

We do not compromise with parents who believe that children in kindergarten do not learn enough unless one offer replaces the next. Instead, we focus on persuasion. Through many short talks with parents, through ten educational parents‘ evenings a year and through the daily „report sheet“ at the door, in which what was going on is entered, we convince the parents that their children are constantly learning with us.
On such a report sheet, for example, it could say: „Found a dead sparrow and buried it. The topics of death and burial were of great concern to us.“ Or: „The farmer had taken out the potatoes. We went for picking up the leftover potatoes, taking them to kindergarten in a handcart and ate it for lunch. The rest is for sale to the parents. 1 kilo costs 1 Mark. (We want to buy a new baby doll from the proceeds.)“
One advantage of the report sheet is that the parents gain concrete points of contact for the conversation with their child and do not have to ask: „And how was kindergarten today?“

It is difficult for small children to keep track of time periods. Children orient themselves less to different times than to recurring rhythms in the daily routine or in the week and year. Thus time gradually becomes comprehensible.

We also ensure a certain degree of regularity in the kindergarten. This makes the day’s run clearer and more transparent for the children, and they know what they can stick to.
Important for the children and us is the chair circle which starts when all children have arrived: the „morning circle“, in which everything important is discussed and heard.

Children have a great longing for regularity and for recurring rituals and rules. This gives them security.
In rituals they love repetition and do not want something new all the time. They are happy to be allowed to do something beautiful over and over again. So it can happen that we look at a picture book ten times, which can lead to always different conversations, or play a game over and over again – and the children do not get boring nevertheless.


Trauliches Gespräch. Zum Vergrößern anklicken.

A cosy conversation. Click to enlarge.

I wish you time

I don’t wish you all kinds of gifts.
I only wish you what most do not have:
I wish you time to rejoice and laugh,
and if you use it, you can make something of it.

I wish you time for your doing and your thinking,
not only for yourself, but as a gift.
I wish you time, not for hurrying and running,
but to be satisfied.

I wish you time, not only as a pasttime,
I wish you’d have her left,
as time for wonder and time for trust,
instead of always looking at the clock.

I wish you to reach for the stars,
and time to grow, to mature in peace.
I wish you time to hope again, to love.
There is no point in postponing this time.

I wish you time to find yourself,
feel every day, every hour as happiness.
I wish you time, also to forgive guilt.
I wish you: have time to live.
(Elli Michler)

4.2.4 Play, imagination and creativity

The meaning of the playing

Playing is the main activity of small children. Playing is an important way for them to deal with the environment. In play they express feelings, overcome fears and stressful experiences, unfold their imagination in „acting as if“.

With every game, be it functional, construction, role or rule play, the child conquers a piece of the world. It exercises the use of its senses and limbs and unfolds its mental abilities.
We adults are responsible for ensuring that children have suitable material and time for fulfilling play.

Playing is also the highest form of free learning for the age group of three- to six-year-old children. Enabling extensive and intensive play is thus also a central component of the educational mission in kindergarten.

For us kindergarten teachers, free play is not leisure time. Sometimes we are involved in the game, sometimes we have urgent work to do; otherwise we take the opportunity to watch the children in peace and quiet and draw inspiration from it for offers.

Fantasy – what is it actually?

Fantasy is a strong force that makes people’s lives exciting and charming again and again!
And in this respect there is probably no age difference.

Children can turn a wooden block into a cup, a car or a wild lion. They can see and create whole worlds and stories. There are still few limits to their fantastic imagination. They are able to slip into new roles in the twinkling of an eye, express themselves pantomimically, breathe a spirit into objects and deal with them as something very real. And children immerse themselves so deeply in their „play world“ that the contours of the surrounding reality disappear for a while.

When we intensively dealt with the subject of fantasy, we noticed that in recent years a process has begun that is threatening for the fantasy of our children. Fantasy and creativity already lose their significance in childhood: presentable performance is the main focus. But the children of today are not necessarily equipped with less imagination than the children of earlier generations, they rather have too little leisure for their own fantasies. Too many and too quickly changing pictures and products of the mass media and the toy industry often suppress and fill up the inner picture world of the children – a development of own pictures is prevented.

Today, our children find it more difficult to distinguish prefabricated fantasy images from reality and at the same time to exhaust the possibilities of their own imagination.
That is why fantasy needs space, stimulation and a lot of time as a vital basis and powerful force.

One approach is offered by pictorial design. To perceive the environment with all your senses means to deal with it creatively. Our children begin to shape and shape it. We offer them the opportunity to experiment. This phase comes before any guided action.

They should not adapt, but learn to express their own feelings and perceptions in a variety of ways.

The goal is to enable each child to act independently and creatively.

It is important that each child learns to deal with the material and their own inner images. It is helpful to gradually learn different techniques. The child is strengthened (for example its works of art are exhibited in the kindergarten), it is accepted and can also represent its feeling and thinking.
Not only the product is important, but also the way to get there.

Another approach with which we want to support the creativity and imagination of the children is the restriction of the play material. Less is often more. We always critically ask ourselves before making new acquisitions:

Do the children really need this?

We only want to have as much play material as the children can oversee (and „manage“, i.e. clean up, themselves). To constantly find something new prevents a thorough occupation with the things that are already there. We also want to make sure that the children are able to create emotional ties to the things; this also requires clarity and consistency.

And the third approach is to provide children with natural play materials and household items: Stones, sticks, leaves, wooden blocks, buttons, cardboard boxes, etc.

Children do not only develop their imagination in creative play,
but also their sense of reality.

They learn to plan, to observe, to consider the characteristics of the material, to set up rules and to make agreements. This side is just as important to us, and we believe that creative imagination and creative realism work well together.

For the future, wide awake, well-informed and active people are needed who „still remember something“, want to shape something and can act accordingly instead of just consuming.

4.2.5 On the move all day long

Romping, jumping, turning until you drop, seem to us to be a simple game at first. However, this game is of fundamental importance for the development of children.
Movement expresses the child’s need to experience the world sensually in a variety of ways. Learning in early childhood consists primarily of learning about sensory experiences.

Versatile movement and perception experiences are the basis for a healthy, harmonious personality.

Climbing, sliding, rocking and romping need all the senses of the child and promote the coordination of feeling, body and mind. The child tests the interplay of sensory units and their processing and thus creates the basis for all later mental performances.

„Sensory and movement actions form the basis for the development of intelligence and the development of logical thinking. (Jean Piaget)

We want to offer the child’s natural urge to move a wide range of activities in order to give them the opportunity to experience movement and senses. Movement games, which the children develop themselves, seem meaningful to them and thus have special significance for their development.

After the settling-in period and with adherence to all important rules, the children may also play alone outside in the garden.

We offer the children an environment to move, touch and explore and give them time to try and practice at their own pace outdoors in the garden.

Our tables, benches and chairs are also play and exercise equipment. The children build, exercise and play intensively with these pieces of furniture.

We are not a „seat kindergarten“. At least before entering school the children should be able to live out their natural, enormous urge to move.

We give the children, if necessary, outside and inside specific suggestions for all important kinds of movement: running, jumping, climbing, gymnastics, cycling, catching, avoiding, carrying, balancing…

With this we want to prevent the lack of exercise. We are aware that lack of exercise at pre-school age has two harmful consequences:

1. physical consequences:

There are children who already have postural weaknesses or even postural damage at pre-school age.
Many children already have weakly developed muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments at the age of three because the physiological development stimuli for these organs have been too weak so far. That is why we are happy when the children run, climb, jump a lot and are active almost all day long. We also find it important to walk longer distances with the children.

In addition, when there is a lack of exercise, the children’s metabolism runs „at low speed“, their breathing becomes flatter and they rarely sweat.

2. psychological consequences:

The children learn too few movement possibilities, they develop too few movement abilities, they acquire too little security and trust to the own body. This will lead later to the fact that they have no desire or courage for activities and sports rich in movement…

The role model and participation of adults is also important in this area. There is no bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.

4.2.6 Holistic learning

Holistic learning means going towards new experiences with the whole personality. Especially children are able to react to everything new with all their senses, with their whole body and with all their intellectual and emotional abilities.

Holistic learning is intensive and lasting learning and comprehension. Holistically learned contents are also integrated emotionally, they are not only „head knowledge“, they also affect the behaviour and the charisma of the personality.

It is an important goal of our work to enable children to learn in this way.

Small children learn by doing something – playing, watching, listening, doing something.

The quickest and most sustainable way for them to learn is by doing something that really interests them.

The task of the kindergarten is to make much intensive and undisturbed play possible and to interest and inspire the children in important topics.

In kindergarten, the children learn many important skills that they need to do something themselves, to implement their own ideas. They learn, for example:

    • Many communicative and social skills,
    • the handling of water, fire, sand, earth, waste,
    • painting with pencil, chalk, brush,
    • moulds with dough,
    • cutting and gluing, handicrafts, printing,
    • colours and shapes,
    • basic forms of movement,
    • counting.

These important general skills can be developed on any content. It doesn’t matter whether a child learns to count with the help of specially developed games or by providing chairs for the morning circle.


Fensterbank. Ein schöner Platz zum Bilderbuch-Lesen. Zum Vergrößern anklicken.


Windowsill. A nice place to read picture books. Click to enlarge.

But there is a „cultural basic education“, which is acquired in the kindergarten.
This includes certain games, songs, stories, fairy tales, picture books, and a basic knowledge of certain topics.

We want to arouse and encourage the curiosity of the children through real experiences and give them the joy of learning: an important prerequisite for any further motivation to learn.

Learning should be fun, so that the children themselves evaluate it as something beautiful and pleasant.

In our kindergarten we form three age-homogeneous groups within the group of 20 children: The „Suns“ are in their first kindergarten year, the „Moons“ in the second and the „Stars“ in the third. (The children used to call themselves the group names „Ghosts“, „Dragons“ and „Monsters“, but some parents didn’t want to support them.)

For each of these sub-groups there are age-specific offers and impulses in addition to the general group activities. This is also reflected in our project work.
The age of the child is only the first clue. More important are the actual level of development achieved and the interests of the individual child. So it has long since become a matter of course that some four-year-old children take part in offers for the oldest children (perhaps even switch to the „Suns“) and that some children stay a little longer „with the little ones“. We always have to give pedagogical reasons for this. After initial turmoil among the parents (eight years ago) it has long been accepted – and the understanding that we decide for the benefit of the children is passed on from the old to the new parents.

The following statement offers some clues. Some children go through these „steps“ faster, others slower, without the children perceiving it as a disrespect or preference.

Learning in the first year of kindergarten

In order to be able to develop in a community outside the family, the child has to cope with many new things. New things attract and frighten, even after the more or less long familiarisation phase can be declared over. Some children don’t even need a noteworthy acclimatisation: they come joyfully and are there and conquer their new environment quickly and easily.

But it is always an effort. Getting to know the play possibilities, building relationships, getting to know the course of the year and the celebrations determine the first kindergarten year.
All in all, there is an important mental leap in the first year of kindergarten: from thinking only in terms of myself to thinking in terms of groups – learning to put oneself in the shoes of others – understanding that others feel, think or want something different.

In the first year the children get to know the songs and play songs of the group, the simpler ones are practiced intensively with them in the small group, so that they can actually sing and play along songs completely and safely.
They get to know the group games and picture books for their stage of development, as well as the first painting and handicraft techniques.

Wasserfarben auf Papier und Gesicht. Zum Vergrößern anklicken.

Watercolours on paper and face. Click to enlarge.

In the first year, the focus is also on traffic education, as all children go on excursions and explorations, where traffic education is offered „incidentally“.

The „Suns“ have a weekly gymnastics offer together with the younger „Moons“. And of course they go into the forest from the very beginning (see below).

As far as the development of social skills is concerned, the children learn the following in their first year:

    • I am not allowed to attack others. When I beat other children, kick them, etc., it hurts them. Then they are angry with me and don’t play with me.
    • If another child attacks me, I can defend myself and shout loudly.
    • If I want something, I can say it loud and clear. I can already speak well.
    • If I don’t want something, I can say it loud and clear.
    • If a child does not stop annoying me, then I go to the adults and get help.
    • I can ask the other children if I can play with them. I also have to deal with a „no“.
    • When I have to cry, when I am sad, the others comfort me. I can also comfort others.
    • When I need help, others help me. I can already help.
    • If something breaks, if something is dirty, I tell the adults.
    • Sometimes all the children get it, sometimes not.
    • In the group everyone gets something.

Learning in the 2nd kindergarten year:

In the second year the children experience many things for the second time, for example the celebrations and their own birthday party in the kindergarten. They already know their way around and can intervene more actively and experience the events in a new way.

The educational content, conversations, games and handicrafts, picture books are adapted to their stage of development. Also the requirements for assistance in the household of the kindergarten rise.

The expansion of social skills should include the following in the second year of kindergarten:

    • I recognize my own limitations and can ask bigger children or adults for help.
    • When I want to know something, I do not automatically ask adults, but also other children.
    • I can make an appointment.
    • I can oversee and understand rules and already keep them quite reliably.
    • I can decide whether I want to enter into a conflict and can control how far I want to go.

Learning in the 3rd kindergarten year:

The expansion of social skills should include the following in the third year of kindergarten:

    • I can anticipate conflicts and resolve them in advance.
    • I feel jointly responsible for the whole group.
    • I can divide things fairly.
    • I can intervene positively when younger children argue.
    • I can protect the weaker.
    • I can let little ones play along again and again.
    • I can be generous and do without if necessary.
    • I can decide to enter into a conflict with several (with several and also against several), even against adults („rehearsing the uprising“).

In the third year of kindergarten the children know their kindergarten very well, they use the play possibilities „virtuosos“.

There are no older children in the group from whom they could learn, imitate and emulate. We try to make up for this disadvantage by making many offers for the „big ones“.

Although our outdoor area is unusually large and adventurous, it is gradually becoming too small for them, there is not so much new to discover and try out as for the younger ones, and the growing independence of the 5 to 6 year olds also makes it possible for one kindergarten teacher to often move out with some children to explore the wider surroundings of the kindergarten.

Children need adventure!

In the last year before school most children (many even before school) make an important mental leap again: from only concrete-ideal to more and more abstract-logical thinking – signs and number systems interest them more and more.

The school moves into their field of vision and becomes an important topic.

Even the oldest children acquire and practice many new important social skills by moving day after day in the whole group, together with the younger children.

Parents‘ concerns

Many parents get restless in the last year before school and wonder whether the kindergarten is doing enough to prepare the children for school. Or they develop general fears as to whether their child will be able to cope with the demands of school, and are then tempted to put pressure on the kindeergarten teachers to do more or different things with the children. The call for pre-school education then often becomes loud.
We understand this uncertainty on the part of parents. However, since we are in conversation with the parents throughout the entire kindergarten period, we believe that we point out possible deficits or backlogs in the development of their children to the parents in good time.

Our task is to mediate,

    • that the children receive intensive support in our kindergarten every three years,
    • that our understanding of learning is a very effective one,
    • that we specifically respond to the developmental needs of 5 and 6 year old children,
    • that it is important to develop general skills needed in school and that we do this to a great extent,
    • that the children also acquire the special knowledge and skills expected from school beginners in our kindergarten.

It is important to respond to questions, fears and doubts of the parents and to take up concrete suggestions of the parents, which fit into our conception and our time frame.

At the beginning of the kindergarten year, an appointment is offered for all parents whose children have to go to school or for whom enrolment is requested. Questions concerning the transition to school are discussed and experiences are exchanged.

The school theme

The subject of school is of increasing interest to children, especially in the second half of the year (after Christmas). Vague ideas about school are mixed with pride, joyful expectation and perhaps also with anxiety. The children feel that something completely new is expected of them in connection with school, something that is generally considered difficult and perhaps also burdensome.

We want to contribute to strengthen the children’s anticipation and to prevent possible worries and fears of the children.

Erste-Hilfe-Kurs mit echt eingegipsten Armen zum Abschluss. Zum Vergrößern anklicken.

First aid course with real plastered arms at the end. Click to enlarge.

We make it clear that we are happy with the children, that they come to school, that they are already so big and can already do so much.
Nor do we hide the fact that it is not easy for us to say goodbye. But as naturally as we took them at the beginning, we also want to let them go happily and carefree at the end of their kindergarten years.

A lot of time for the big ones

The „Star School“ is particularly important to the oldest children.

And us, too, because we can concentrate on the following general learning goals:

    • to carry out small assignments and tasks in a concentrated manner,
    • develop fine motor skills in the direction of writing,
    • develop an understanding of numbers and quantities,
    • develop the understanding of stories,
    • develop critical faculties,
    • practice something difficult, develop stamina,
    • try something until it works,
    • work accurately,
    • ask actively if you have not understood something, let others show you something and explain it to you,
    • think about something and talk about it together: Remembering, exchanging, collecting, combining knowledge,
    • learn that there is not only right and wrong, but often several good solutions for a problem (= important part of creativity),
    • practice working together, split tasks, be reliable, contribute one’s part,
    • let others judge one’s own performance, to be able to bear criticism, to stand by one’s own result,
    • experience that others can do some things better and some things not as well as you can, and learn to deal with it,
    • that you don’t have to be able to do everything right away, that some things take time,
    • learn not to give up in difficulties, but to ask for help,
    • a dispute to be settled with words,
    • compromise,
    • keep appointments,
    • control themselves even in anger and disappointment.

What we do not want:

We don’t want to concentrate one-sidedly on training certain skills. Learning should take place holistically also in the year before school.

We do not want to shift school stress, pressure to perform and unsolidary competitive behaviour to kindergarten.

Our preschool folders are an important means of working towards these goals.

These „preschool sheets“, which we have carefully selected, playfully introduce the children to an important form of work in school: the children sit at the table, have a pen in their hand and a sheet of paper in front of them on the table. They should be able to produce a result for a precisely defined task. This is an attractive challenge for most children, but it also puts some children in difficulties, which we want to deal with carefully and anticipatively (it is not as serious as in school, and we are in a small, familiar, manageable group).

In addition, the „Star-School“ deals with age-specific offers that can originate from all fields of activity:

Games, experiments, excursions, role play, theatre, songs, handicrafts and building, gardening, cooking, stories, books…

Learning to work

In addition to extensive play, guided learning is becoming increasingly important in the three kindergarten years. Learning by doing is also the best form of learning for small children.
We notice that many children are not able to learn enough. They may have flown in planes and been abroad several times – but wiping a table without causing chaos is too much for them. But it is the simple domestic activities in particular that can teach children of our age a great deal.

Start early enough!
At the age of two to four, most children show great desire to help adults.

This phase passes, and we should also use it in kindergarten to teach the children not only things like cutting with scissors, but also basic household skills.

Only when they are able to perform certain basic skills automatically then they gain an overview of more complicated work processes. At the age of five and six, they can then carry out more demanding tasks.

In the past, these learning processes took place in the household, on the farm or in the workshop, as a matter of course and with the help of a supervised (!) assistance.

We also recognize again and again when children at home have opportunities to help seriously in the household, garden or DIY. They appear to be far more skilful and confident than the children who are not allowed to help and are only served.

We would like to work closely together with the parents, exchange suggestions and experiences.

Another reason why we find learning to work important for our children is the indulgence that we find in many children and that we consolidate in kindergarten when we constantly serve them.

For the social development of the children it seems reasonable to us if they do everything they can learn physically and mentally themselves. The division of labour and conscious pampering, getting the work done, but also: pampering others and relieving others of their work are further important areas of experience. (The later partners and above all female partners of our children will thank us if we now lay good foundations in this area.)

Based on these considerations, we pay attention to activities that are important in our everyday lives, that come back again and again and that the children can learn and do themselves:

    • Setting the breakfast table, clearing up, putting dishes in the dishwasher,
    • Lunch table setting, clearing, wiping tables after meals, bringing out compost bowl,
    • Change towels, collect garbage, sweep stairs, wipe dust in the doll’s corner,
    • Feed our turtle.

4.3 How we live together

4.3.1 The importance of the group

To a functioning and happy family, a functioning and happy group is an ideal complement. If the family does not function so well and is not a happy place, the group becomes particularly important for the well-being and the development of the individual. This applies to children as well as adults.

The experience that both are valuable and possible and how it can work makes people in the good sense demanding for their later lives. They have a model in mind that gives them important guidelines.

The experience that a good group can partially compensate for a lack of family happiness is reassuring and strengthening for the individual in times of decaying families and partnerships.

Some important social skills can only be learned in a group, others are easier to learn in a group than at home. Our kindergarten concentrates on developing these skills.

Important are:

    • Group experiences,
    • group dynamics,
    • group atmosphere.

Some individual support, on the other hand, can be better realized in the family or in other institutions.

This is where the kindergarten reaches its limits:
Detailed knowledge transfer, training of certain skills (binding loops!), processing of experiences, treatment of traumas, special talent promotion, compensation of severe developmental disorders or deficits, compensation of severe disabilities, intensive individual attention.

The children educate each other. What is behind this statement?

Adults are role models for children, but only in their imagination. The children feel exactly that their life tasks, their everyday life, their current needs, their abilities, their knowledge are still far away from that of the adults. Slightly older children, on the other hand, are real role models for the children, whom they can actually emulate immediately.

They can measure themselves against their peers and become less dependent on the judgements of adults. „Children must not do that“, „Children cannot do that“, „Other children do not do that“; such sentences become verifiable for the children.

The nervousness of many children, who can never quite live up to their parents‘ expectations, is thus reduced. The danger that the children build up a negative self-concept is diminished.

Auf den Schaukeln. Zum Vergrößern anklicken.

On the swings. Click to enlarge.

Children who strengthen each other in a group can come to formulate themselves or at least give adults clear clues as to what they need, what is good and meaningful and really appropriate for the child.

The behaviour of the individual child is also evaluated by the other children. If, for example, a child disturbs others while playing because he or she may be in a bad mood, then he or she experiences the reaction of the other children very directly. It also happens that the whole group turns against a child because it behaves badly. This experience is painful for the child, but far more effective than any adult „sermon“. With a lot of responsibility and sensitivity, experienced kindergarten teachers can use this effect of the group opinion for educational work.

Children often behave much better, more controlled, more constructive and more accessible in kindergarten than at home, as parents keep telling us. This is to a large extent due to the fact that the child in kindergarten always sees itself in the mirror of the others, the children’s group. It doesn’t want to look bad in front of the others, it doesn’t want to lose face, it doesn’t want to be criticized by the peers – all aspects that play a lesser role in a much more intimate and generous family environment, especially if the child already lives in the belief that the parents are often not satisfied with its behaviour anyway.

4.3.2 Being allowed to have feelings – arguing and getting along

It is not a matter of course among adults to talk about feelings or to show feelings. Feelings are often suppressed and hidden behind a „smile“ or a mask. Children show their real feelings when you let them.

Wohlfühlen, Freundschaft fühlen. Zum Vergrößern anklicken.

Feel good, feel friendship. Click to enlarge.

Children are „happy right into their feet“ and feel sadness „in the belly“. Their wholeness can be seen in them. It is important to us to maintain this wholeness. The joy, sadness, anger, fury and happiness of every child must be taken seriously. It has a right to these feelings and to share them with others.

When a child cries because it has hurt itself, it finds comfort and encouragement with us. It may show and express its suffering. We will not suppress it by saying: „Now a plaster will be put on it and then it will be good again“.

It is important that children are allowed to trust their own feelings. Children who get confused in this regard are in danger of rejecting their own feelings. The feelings then cannot find adequate expression and seek destructive expressions, for example: annoying others, tormenting or beating them; but also: bed-wetting, headaches, escape into disease, etc.

Just as children can express their affection for each other, they should also have the opportunity to express their dislikes and differences and to gain their experiences through mutual resistance. Conflict situations also sometimes end in tears. We do not want to block these feelings.

The behaviour of children in conflict situations is quite different depending on their personality. Some simply run over everything that gets in their way, others give up in resignation before they have made a single attempt to impose their ideas.

Some, on the other hand, provoke the quarrel with stinging bickering, others fiercely rouse up, still others resort to arguments or fists, and some let the attackers run empty or give in immediately.

As different as the children themselves are, so different are their reactions to disputes. It is important for the children to get to know the different reactions of the other children and to deal with them.

Each child is initially responsible for itself.

Children need the chance to cope with conflicts on their own, to look for solutions, to arrange themselves. All too easily we adults let ourselves be burdened with their problems: „He or she … has taken away my car,“ and behind it is the expectation: „Solve the problem for me“. But when do children learn to solve their own conflicts? Our answer would initially be: „Try to settle it with …“ and in a second step: „You can settle it yourself with …“.

This procedure means for us to observe the children, to accompany them, to give them the security that if they cannot find a good solution on their own they can count on our help to get their rights. We think it is important for children to experience that they are responsible for themselves, that they are able to find ways to live together – to argue and to tolerate. Frequent observations of these „peace negotiations“ have shown us that children in conflicts are quite capable of talking to each other, helping each other and practicing tolerance, that „negative“ feelings also belong to them, that they can get and give support to each other.

But this important process can only happen if we adults allow it to happen.

What is the role of adults in this?

To survive and solve conflicts is something that children have to learn. As with many other things, they need suggestions and guidance. Some children need more help, others less; some need more time and opportunities to practice than others… There are also different talents in this area.

When it is clearly noticeable that the children are overwhelmed by the situation or no longer feel their social limits, we kindergarten teachers interfere. We try to make their actions and their possible consequences clear to them. We show them how to get out of a conflict, play through possibilities – but they have to go their chosen way alone. In this way they find out whether it is a solution to the problem or whether they have to find another way.

Children often argue and get along several times in one day. For inexperienced adults this can be confusing. Quarrel among children must be, it is an important training field for social behavior.

A terrible situation, which may never develop in the kindergarten, is mobbing / oppression / terror. Nobody should believe that this does not exist in kindergartens. When I (the author) came to this kindergarten eight years ago, it was „Wild West“. The strongest children were largely ruthless, occupying the best playgrounds and the most popular toys – and the other children carefully avoided this gang, some showed clear fear.

It took months of pedagogical struggle before the situation changed. The safe, friendly, fair and cheerful atmosphere that can be observed in our kindergarten since then and which is always perceived with amazement by new parents and outsiders could only be created when the oldest children who had grown up in „Wild West“ came to school.

In such a situation of terror, it cannot be said that the children alone should be able to cope with it.

Instead, massive and well-considered interventions on the part of the teachers are necessary.

Some children first have to learn to say „no“ and to stay that way – towards other children and other adults. Being able to say a clear and definite „no“ is an important skill, especially for little girls – not only towards the „foreign uncle“, but also towards their play partners and their later life partner…

4.3.3 Girls + boys, women + men

Development of gender role identity

In their 4th and 5th year of life the children notice that girls and boys are not only physically different. They develop psychically in the direction of masculinity or femininity, they sometimes develop different playing interests and ways. Their communication with each other changes and takes on more feminine or masculine forms.

We cannot judge to what extent these observable differences are culturally caused. However, we can see that children growing up freely from the age of about four move on their own initiative in playgroups separated by gender.

The girls find „patterns“ for their gender-specific development in the mothers and the female kindergarten teachers who are usually available for many hours.

The boys often lack sufficient male behaviour patterns in their daily environment.

However, the boys find enough female adults, in which they can reflect themselves in their male behavior patterns and their more male becoming charisma. The little girls often lack this possibility, which makes them unhappy and insecure.

The lack of reflection possibilities for the girls and the lack of role models for the boys allow only one conclusion for us: we want a greater presence of fathers for the children and we want more male kindergarten teachers.

We are therefore glad that we always have a civil servant (Zivi) in the kindergarten. He is besieged in a special way by the boys whose fathers do not live with them.

Equal rights in kindergarten

Girls and boys should be able to develop freely in kindergarten.

This includes that there are no privileges or different rules for girls or boys. For example, we make sure that everyone can actually play anywhere.

But there is much more to this.

Squaw, gentle. Click to enlarge.

Chief, gentle. Click to enlarge.

Tough Cowboy and wild Squaw. Click to enlarge.
















The developmental goals we formulated in point 4.1 apply to both sexes. Both girls and boys should be allowed to develop their „wild“ as well as their „dear“ talents.

Since girls and boys still find different conditions and role models, however, it is our task as adults to respond to them in a targeted manner.

For example, we see negative attitudes and strategies in small girls that are considered „typically female“ and negative behaviours in small boys that are considered „typically male“. In the end, both lead to their own dissatisfaction and make it more difficult to live together:

Typically female“, for example, is considered to be the case:

    • I am anxious, shy of risk and avoid any aggression.
    • I’m small, cute and good, I don’t do anything bad and you can’t be bad at me either.
    • I am helpless, do everything for me.
    • I am zealous and therefore lovable.
    • I carry out my aggressions and attacks secretly and covertly.
    • I am a sweet little girl and would like to be courted.

Even quite self-confident girls sometimes resort to these strategies if they can comfortably reach their goals with them.

„Typically male“ is for example:

    • What I want is the most important thing and is enforced.
    • I have to win, otherwise I am the loser.
    • I have to be physically strong, it is important to know who is the strongest. Because he is the determinant.
    • As a boy I am not responsible for some things.
    • I cannot take on a female role, not even in play.

Some boys who don’t really like these ideas (if you talk to them) adapt to the boy clique.

A sibling baby is welcomed. A few boys were still called and were then also very interested. Click to enlarge.





We want to reveal these negative ideas and the resulting behaviour to the children so that they have the chance to overcome them.

There are also the typical positive tendencies of both sexes that we want to strengthen:

    • Caring,
    • Rejection of violence,
    • Emotional openness,
    • „Charming“ enforcement strategies,
    • Assertiveness, fixed goals,
    • Courage to conflict.

Our educational approach is to identify such processes, interfere, explain and evaluate them, block negative behaviour and support positive behaviour.

This also encourages the children to do similar things and thus educate each other.

Role plays, picture books and stories with corresponding contents (self-confident girls/women, caring boys/men, division of labour, breaking through clichés) are helpful and are selected by us from these points of view.

4.3.4 Rules in our kindergarten

In our kindergarten there are rules that are important for living together. These rules were established by the kindergarten teachers and are discussed in detail with the children and parents.

We want to avoid making absurd rules. We can make mistakes. Therefore it is necessary to check our kindergarten rules again and again and to revise them at certain intervals. There is another reason to deal with it from time to time: Changing situations in kindergarten can make old rules superfluous or make new ones necessary. It would be bad if we were to stick rigidly to outdated rules.

The rules should help us and the children to create a good atmosphere in kindergarten in which everyone can feel comfortable. And it is about the children learning to express their feelings and needs appropriately in kindergarten – also the unavoidable feelings like anger, disappointment, abandonment, boredom as well as the often welcome need to enforce something, to want to realize an own plan.

Many children spontaneously develop aggressive, ruthless, violent behaviour out of the need to implement their own ideas and plans.
What is just as bad is that, in response to the aggressiveness of others, some children develop resignation and avoidance behavior (I’d rather not try, I’d better avoid the whole situation).

We would like to help the children to practice other (open, not ruthless but nevertheless satisfying) behavioural possibilities.

We don’t want the „right of the strongest and ruthless“ to apply, but we also don’t want an artificially „ideal world“ with lots of little angels.

These are the currently valid rules:

Equity and well-being in the group

Deliberate hurting is forbidden.
We want to make the other children outraged when this happens.

Non-intentional hurting can happen.
One must then make it clear that it was not intentional and that one is sorry. Help, comfort, excuse…

Insulting, disparaging, mocking, laughing at are forbidden. One must not allow it.
But: inform the adults, complain to the adults when children do
assaults is not a „squeal“, it is allowed and desired.

Do not flippantly disturb others who concentrate on one activity (play, work, eat, rest, talk to each other…).

When children play together, you can ask nicely if you are allowed to join in. The others answer in a friendly way. You have to accept a refusal.

It is good to help others or comfort them. One should not impose oneself thereby.

Already occupied play areas and straight „occupied“ toys are to be respected. Expulsion or taking away are forbidden. You can ask friendly questions, but you have to accept a refusal.

Personal property (painted pictures and the like, clothes, things brought from home) is to be respected.

Physical closeness can be very nice, but sometimes it can be annoying or undesirable. You have to find this out every time and act accordingly.

Sometimes loud, funny, cocky – but then also calm and considerate

There should be a quiet atmosphere when eating, so that every child can eat in peace and talk to their neighbours. Screaming, being loud, running around, fooling around is forbidden – telling stories, laughing, joking at „table volume“ is desired.

At lunch we wait until everyone has their food on their plate. We then grab each other’s hands, wait until it has calmed down completely and wish ourselves a good appetite.

Those who have finished eating will take their dishes away. At lunch we sit down again and only get up when we are asked to brush our teeth. (This happens when about half of the children have finished eating.)
The others continue to eat in peace.

Tables, chairs and benches may be used as play and exercise equipment.

Running, romping, making noise in the group room is allowed as long as others are not disturbed. If it is annoying, the „noisy savages“ will be asked to go outside to
to let off steam.

Health, safety

We’re out a lot. At least once in the morning everyone goes out – if it doesn’t rain „young dogs“.

Walking barefoot and fetching water from inside the kindergarten must be explicitly allowed.

The children often ask on still quite cold days whether they can go out without jacket, cap etc.. The slogan „jacket time“ means that no child is allowed to go out without a jacket. The counter slogan is „jacket-free time“. In between, on neither warm nor cold days, the children decide for themselves.

The climbing ropes are knotted again and again in new, different ways. Click to enlarge.


Climbing is allowed on the climbing frame and on the tree behind the cottage. The trees in front of the house are not climbing trees!

No child may leave the premises without a nurse during the care period, unless a kindergarten teacher has expressly permitted it.

During walks and excursions: do not run ahead. Absolute stop before every street crossing. According to the kindergarten teachers, three-year-olds walk by the hand in dangerous places.


One kindergarten teacher alone takes a maximum of four children outside.

What is declared „taboo“ by adults must not be touched. (Use only in an emergency!)

Children are not allowed to bring any sweets (including chewing gum) to the kindergarten.

It’s hard to live in disorder

In the clean-up times, everyone cleans up everything together.
When it comes to pickup times, parents should make sure that their own child cleans up the things he or she has just played with inside before going home. If the child is playing outside, parents should also make sure that their child tidies up some toys to our garden house according to its age (e.g. 3-year-olds: 3 toys).

If it is damp and patchy outside, the children put on slippers inside.

Those who spill at the table, smear or throw down something immediately put it in order or let the kindergarten teacher know what has happened. If the toilet gets dirty or something breaks, the child should tell it to the adults immediately.

4.3.5 Leave freedom and set limits
– or how do we enforce the kindergarten rules?

Understanding and adhering to rules needs to be learned.

The rules that apply in kindergarten set limits for the children. How do we deal with children who violate the rules?

If we want the rules to almost always be observed in the group, we adults must first ensure that the children get to know the rules, understand them and grasp their meaning.

Our experience shows that children can understand and accept our rules as necessary. Over time, they realize how pleasant it is when everyone follows the rules. (But there has also been a rule that the children have violated so permanently and eagerly that we have noticed that it was nonsensical. That was the rule: picture books, dolls and cuddly toys must not be taken out – we feared too much pollution and overlooked how beautiful it is to play with dolls outside and to „read“ them.)

The new children quickly realize that there are certain rules in the kindergarten, namely

– by observational learning. They observe how other children come into conflict with a rule and how it is reacted to (by children and adults). If the children are older, however, the rule is usually not explained or justified, but assumed to be known!

– through experiential learning. The child itself comes into conflict with a rule, often without being aware of it, and experiences the reactions of the children and adults.

For the new children it is of course important that such „incidents“ do not lead to great indignation on our part and on the part of the children, but to careful and patient explanation. It is also important to show ways of doing things better.

– by learning through insight (for example if we occasionally discuss a rule in the morning circle). However, this is especially useful for 5-6 year olds, especially if they explain a rule themselves.

We observe again and again that some children (girls predominantly) acquire the rules mainly by observational learning, some (boys predominantly) by experiential learning.

Of course, the fact that children know the rules well does not mean that they are already able to behave according to them.

This is a requirement that demands not only knowledge and insight, but above all reliable self-control. The children must first gradually learn to build up certain inhibitions and to control their emotions.

It is important for us that the children do not simply suppress and unlearn their feelings. We want to help them to express their feelings effectively, but in a socially acceptable, constructive and increasingly conscious way. (We don’t want „good“ children!)

The children come to the kindergarten with very different affects and a very different ability to control themselves. Some have already forgotten how to express their feelings openly.

It is not equally easy for all children to establish adequate self-control. There are also special talents in this area and children who find it particularly difficult. We must take this into account. One and the same visible behavior can indicate a great, laboriously achieved learning progress in one child and a relapse into former uncontrollability or even the beginning of an „asocial“ strategy in another child.

It is we adults who are responsible for ensuring that the rules are not just on paper, but that they really govern the group’s coexistence.

We can only achieve this if we take the trouble (!!!) to really always react when we notice a „violation of the rules“.

How are the rules enforced?

Of course, the rules also apply to adults in kindergarten. Of course (in contrast to the children) they can be expected to follow these rules reliably. Example: The Civil Servant Wanted too Much Ice Cream.

Here the kindergarten reachers provide models of behaviour. Parents who do parental service in kindergarten must also be completely reliable in this respect.

Intervention must be differentiated. Sometimes it is quite possible and reasonable to tacitly or explicitly or declaredly renounce the observance of a rule, if the insistence on observance of the rule would mean an excessive demand for the child or the children.

Since we kindergarten teachers often have to act very quickly and in a variety of ways – often without having observed the development of the situation – mistakes that lead to injustice or excessive demands are of course possible. The fact that this rarely happens is helped by our training and experience. The group tolerates rare „poor“ reactions of the educators as well as not too frequent „slips“ of the individual children. The children will soon be able to distinguish between basic behaviour and individual incidents.

Forms of intervention can be:

    • Moving there, showing interest,
    • show your own attitudes and feelings,
    • explain, make a situation clearer with words,
    • encourage a change of perspective,
    • make a clear demand,
    • insist on the doing right (hold the child if necessary),
    • only enter into discussions when it makes sense to do so,
    • let work natural or logical consequences.

If the rules are meaningful and the daily educational behaviour of the adults is correct, the children themselves contribute to ensuring that everyone adheres to the rules.

The longer the children are in the kindergarten and the older they get, the more clearly they accept the existence of rules positively and with interest.

Where you feel safe, you can fall asleep.

Because the „set of rules“ gives them

    • Safety in behaviour,
    • satisfaction to be able to behave accordingly,
    • help to find your way around,
    • the feeling of being equal among equals,
    • the security of not being exposed to arbitrariness and injustice,
    • a lot of experience with decision-making freedom.

In this respect – and because children have a direct and strong sense of justice – the older ones are very keen not to let rule violations go through.

Often, however, they are not yet able to react appropriately and in a differentiated manner. (To learn this, they need the clear example of the adults again.) Often we have to intervene in a mitigating way when it comes to a small and/or new child. Sometimes, however, it is also appropriate to encourage the children to react openly and unambiguously if it goes to a strong child, against whose rule violations the others do not defend themselves sufficiently.

Example: And Gone Were the Presents.

4.3.6 Interacting with Nature, Animals and Plants

In times of large-scale environmental destruction, it is particularly important that children can develop a deep-rooted respect for nature and all living things.

We want the children to be able to recognise how man is integrated into natural cycles and how he is existentially dependent on them. But that is not enough. In order for feelings such as respect to arise, nature must be experienced as a space for adventure and exploration. For small children, nature is a powerful and exciting event if they have the opportunity to approach nature early and extensively with all their senses (sensually).

In these early years they should be able to experience the great cycle of earth, water, light, plants, animals, people and the change of seasons in a natural and fundamental way. This is not so easy in an urban environment and must be organized.

We therefore attach great importance to our near-natural outdoor area, where the children can act regardless of their cleanliness.

This means: no ornamental lawns, no ornamental shrubs, no levelled areas, no clean paths. The use of the outdoor area is subject to rules, for example there are climbing trees and bushes on the one hand and berry bushes and fruit trees on the other, which are spared for our own use and for the animals.

The same applies to the forest. There too we want to behave wildly, but in certain respects also considerately (animal dwellings, young trees, mushrooms…).

Many children can hardly experience that fertile soil is the condition and origin of all food. We see it as an important task to make this connection comprehensible to them.

Garden bed.


First and foremost, we use our beds where the children can sow and plant and work in compost. They learn that taking care of the plants means responsibility and work.

We also visit an easily accessible farm and see the growing, maturing and harvesting in the fields.

The most popular animals in our kindergarten are Else, our turtle, which is fed by the children, earthworms, ladybirds and other small animals that the children find and observe.

4.4 Health and nutrition

4.4.1 Foodstuffs

Isn’t that convenient? The children don’t need to bring anything to the kindergarten. And they shouldn’t either.
We have more than enough toys. Rubber boots, sneakers and toothbrushes are always available for every child in the kindergarten. Handkerchiefs are ready in the hallway. The kindergarten has spare linen and clothes in all sizes thanks to donations from parents.
Lunch for everyone and breakfast for the children who have breakfast in the kindergarten are bought by the kindergarten team. All over the day, the children can drink water. And sweets are forbidden.

Breakfast includes wholemeal bread, milk, butter and muesli from the organic food store, as well as cheese, carrots, cucumbers, apples, bananas or the like and twice a week jam and honey.
Lunch is served with frozen or homemade food: lots of vegetables, potatoes, salads, quark dishes, raw vegetables.

Every family brings something delicious from the family kitchen about every 6 to 8 weeks: a typical family salad or a favourite dessert.

At home the families eat quite differently, but in the kindergarten applies:
We don’t serve sausage; poultry or fish are served for lunch once or twice a week.

Apart from jam, honey and cakes at the parties, there are no sweets and no isolated sugar in the kindergarten. We do not only do this with regard to the teeth, but also so that the children’s blood sugar level remains normal and stable.

Drastic fluctuations in the blood sugar level caused by a lot of sugar impair the children’s well-being, their desire to move, their ability to concentrate and work under pressure and the safety with which they move. That does not have to be the case! Our experience is that the children get over the kindergarten day wonderfully without sweets. Thus we avoid even many a nonsensical argument about things brought along.

4.4.2 Eating and drinking

How do we adults deal with these basic needs of children?

Situation: Lunch

When all the children are sitting at the table, we go around with the bowls and ask each child how much they want. What the child says is accepted.
– If a child wants a lot at once, we give less and ask it to take more later on if it wants to eat more.
– If something in particular is scarce, there is a maximum quantity per child which is the same for everyone and which we estimate.

Every child can eat while stocks last.
No child has to eat something he or she does not want to eat.
No child has to eat what it has on its plate.
We don’t push the children either and don’t try to persuade them.

What remains on the plate is scratched by the child on the leftover plate.
Depending on the situation, the child may also be encouraged not to eat all from the plate, or we may express our displeasure that it has taken too much.
Success: We have very little leftovers. The children quickly learn to assess their eating needs in advance if they practice daily.

For example, it happens that a child only eats mashed potatoes because it does not like or know the rest of the food. We do not find this bad in individual cases and leave the child alone.

We constantly offer the children to take a so-called tasting portion of a certain food. This is a really small blob. This possibility of trying the portion is sometimes used (not always!). The child then decides whether it wants to eat more of it.
Success: In the course of time the children expand their taste. We give them the time.

She doesn’t like the soup and immediately eats a sandwich.

If a child doesn’t like the food offered at all, it can eat butter sandwich. That is gladly accepted by the children. We already had days when six or seven children had arranged to eat bread. The working parents are happy when we offer them the remaining food to take away.

Success: The question of what and how much to eat is not a battlefield between children and adults, the whole situation is relaxed. The children are encouraged to perceive their needs and to regulate themselves. We trust in this and see again and again that the children, if they are not under pressure in this question and find a reasonable offer, feed themselves sufficiently and rationally.

Situation: Hunger in between

Between breakfast and lunch as well as after lunch until pick-up time, dry bread is available on request – except immediately before and after meals.

We consider this to be a very healthy and simple arrangement, which we believe everyone can cope with.

Situation: Drinking

Milk is served for breakfast, and from time to time herbal tea or malt coffee is added. There is nothing to drink for lunch. Before lunch, all children are reminded to drink water. This is noticed very often. (This reminder is important to the children. If we forget, they are angry.)

Mineral water is available all day long in the group room, the children drink as needed. Each child has its own personal glass, which is different from the other glasses and which remains on the tray throughout the day.
Here, too, they are encouraged to only pour as much as they want to drink.

4.4.3 Clothing

In the course of the long day, many children – as well as we sensitive adults – often have to adapt their clothing several times to our (warm) needs.

The ability to make their own decisions is stress-reducing for everyone involved.

In our experience, the three to six-year-old children have all the psychological prerequisites to learn this independence.

The guiding principle is: only as much clothing as necessary to feel warm and comfortable. You won’t find children wrapped up completely overheated here.

Our claim to protect the children from illnesses that can arise from hypothermia or overheating means that we have to accompany these learning processes very attentively.

So we put an emphasis on the development of children’s perceptive abilities. They should learn to take their own feelings seriously and to trust them. (How can they do that if we tell them when to freeze?!)

Our task is to make them aware of the problem of warmth and cold again and again and to question their feelings.

In addition, practical help and concrete suggestions as to what they could undress or attract are still very important for the youngest.

Success: When the children recognize that their feelings are being taken seriously, they admit without problems when they are cold or hot. Our children are very willing to interrupt the game briefly and „take action“.

Proven suggestions:

„Let’s see if we can find you a sweater.“
„Run around the house three times, then we’ll see if our hands are still cold.“
„You can go out without your jacket until we call ‚Jacket time‘.“
„Let me feel if your (naked) feet are cold.“
„I don’t think you need any gloves today. If your hands get cold, you can get them.“
„Do you need long trousers? no? If you get cold, let me know. Then I’ll give you one. – Do you still not need long trousers? Amazing, very warm legs, and I freeze to death today. That will surely come because you move so much.“
„Your stockings are too wet. Come on, we’ll hang them over the heating, then you can put them back on later. Now I’ll give you dry ones.“
„No, today we cannot walk barefoot. Look, even I have wool socks (in the sandals) on today.“ (An absolutely convincing argument.)
„What else do you have underneath? Leggings? Yes, you can take off your pants. Don’t you want to? Well, then not.“
etc., etc. Every day anew.

A further emphasis is that the children experience connections and consciously learn to recognize between:

    • Clothing and warmth,
    • movement and warmth,
    • mood and warmth,
    • adaptation and warmth,
    • wet and cold,
    • cold / wet / heat / sun and risk of disease,
    • mood and risk of disease.

It is important that we adults also become aware of these connections again and again and overcome senseless, acquired fears. Our own previous upbringing often plays a trick on us. Example: Outside we are uncomfortably cold (I already have a cold anyway!). What to do?

Go in? Wear warmer? Move more? Create a different mood? This is where the role model effect of adults becomes apparent.

In hot weather there is almost nothing better than a mud bath.

We find it a pity that there are areas where it is no longer possible to trust the sensations. So we have to send the children into the shade, because the sunlight has become so much stronger because of the decreasing ozone layer. However, we always find that the creamed and protected children go into the shade or into the house on their own. They often notice themselves when they have had enough sun and warmth.

5. methods and structures

5.1 Working methods

Free play

It can be role play, spontaneous functional exercise, rule play, painting, handicrafts, etc.

The special value of free play lies in the fact that the players, the theme, the space, the time, the material, the course and also the end of the game are chosen independently by the children and negotiated among themselves. This is how social skills develop.

The task of the kindergarten teacher is to support, observe and set any necessary limits, take up suggestions.

A harvested corn field is a great playground.

Common activities

The children experience the whole group at parties, group outings and especially at lunch and the daily morning circle.

The special value: community experience, community feeling, integration into a group, security through recurring emotional highlights.

The kindergarten teacher’s task: organising, finding and enforcing rules, taking the children’s ideas into account.

Open offer to all
(the maximum number is determined by the type of activity) – partly within the framework of a project, partly for a specific occasion.

The special value: the children receive new ideas for their play, broaden their horizons.

Task of the kindergarten teacher: to openly engage in an activity together with the children with a basic idea. In the course of the offer, which can also extend over several days, group-dynamic processes and the children’s cognitive process will be watched
and taken into account in further implementation and planning.

Targeted offer to a small group

In contrast to the open offer, the aim here is to motivate very specific children to take part, for example to create a sense of achievement for these children (in general or in a specific area). There are age-specific, but also age-spanning offers for small groups.

Some offers are also aimed specifically at children who are particularly well developed in the area of development in question and show special abilities and interests (talent development).


The children are involved in activities or assigned to activities that occur in the kindergarten.

The special value:
– Raising self-esteem,
– social responsibility in a manageable area,
– overcoming momentary reluctance.

The kindergarten teacher’s tasks are: to ensure that all children are justly involved, to provide assistance, to confirm.


In our kindergarten, a larger project runs almost all the time, sometimes occupying the children for several weeks, although the children do not deal with it only once a week, but much more frequently, sometimes several days in a row.

All other forms of work occur in the project: Discussions, small group work, reflections in free play – and often a project ends in a celebration.

See also:
Advancement through Projects (chapter 4.1).

5.2 Structures


According to the Kindertagesstättengesetz (Childcare Facilities Act) in NRW (North Rhine-Westphalia), kindergartens have the task of taking care, upbringing and educating the children.

In our opinion, essential parts of this threefold task are performed by the group (through the effect of individual children as well as group structures). The kindergarten should be a place for the children where they are allowed to be children and live out their life’s needs. If we can pull this off, the most important basis for a good development of the children is given.

We see a close connection between a happy, diverse, active child life in a friendship group and the best possible support.

All three areas (care, upbringing, education) are responsibly fulfilled by the educational staff.

Temporal structures, the daily routine

In order to feel secure, we need familiar processes and pleasant experiences which we already know and which return time and again with some reliability. That is why we consider it important that traditions grow in kindergarten and that the daily routine has a rough temporal structure in which the children can find their way.

At the same time, it is important not to plan too many periods of time, but to leave time for spontaneous play, spontaneous ideas (from both children and adults), spontaneous actions that take time to emerge and develop.

The daily morning circle

An important point of orientation in the daily routine is the morning circle. All the children and the kindergarten teachers gather together and concentrate for about half an hour:

    • Overview of the group – who is why not there?
    • Discuss what everyone or small groups want to do.
    • Possibly orientation for the next day or for upcoming „big events“.
    • Community games, role plays.
    • Singing games, singing, learning new songs.
    • Discussion of important things (news, conflicts, pleasures).
    • Conversations on a topic – the children then tell what they can think of.
    • Quizzes.
    • Presentation of new books and toys.
    • Tell stories.

Carpet meetings

They are always called for when something special happens, when something is different than usual, or when particularly sharp conflicts arise. Then all the children are called together, no matter what they are doing.
Since the children know that something special is at stake, they flock together quite quickly on the big carpet in the group room.

Carpet meeting.

Often we also have a carpet meeting before lunch, where the children can talk about bad and good experiences of the morning.

Free action

We do not force or urge children to participate in certain activities or games „to promote their development“. Anything that children are compelled to do remains quite infertile to their development.

As far as participation in projects, offers and community actions is concerned, we motivate and encourage the children to participate. But we can also wait calmly on the basis of our experience until the child decides itself to take part.

Following the rules

We require the children to make every effort to comply with the rules of the kindergarten. In order to enforce the rules again and again, we have to explain them again and again; if necessary, we also use the form of group pressure.
(See what that means: And Gone Were the Presents.)

Individuality and its limits in the group

The children come to the group with different previous experiences. We try to do justice to this and support children who are threatened with an outsider role.

We also try to respect the individual peculiarities of the children – in justified individual cases also „special sausages are fried“.

The teachers‘ possibilities of perception and intervention are not unlimited. Likewise, it is not possible to respond to the sensitivities of individual children at any time to the same extent as at home. This unchangeable fact is an important positive educational factor:

The children learn to cope independently with difficulties and negative moods and to help each other, which they are always encouraged to do. Much is solved by the fact that the children are often very empathetic towards each other, that they feel when another child has a problem and that they then try to help.

The kindergarten has open borders

Around our outdoor area there is a fence. The children are not allowed to leave the area alone. This is important for their safety.

At the same time we want to give them as much freedom as possible:

The children may move freely at any time in the house and in the outdoor area (after their acclimatization period in kindergarten), as long as this is not expressly and justifiably restricted. However, they should let us know before they leave the house.

Every autumn, the fruits of the walnut tree, which stands somewhat remotely on the neighboring property of the secondary school, tempt us. The pupils do not pay attention to the nuts, so our children collect all the more eagerly. For this they are allowed to leave the kindergarten.

Working in „the mine“. parents piled up the mountain. Thanks!

We go on explorations, shopping, to the library… Here the children practice everything they have to learn in the context of the traffic education before school, above all the attentive behavior together with several children (against the problem of distraction).

A kindergarten teacher may take a maximum of four children with her. Exception: the „star group“ of pre-school children.

Suns, moons, stars

The group is large (20 full-time children) and needs a structure. Many things cannot be done in this large group with all of them at the same time. In terms of development, there is a huge gap between the three year olds and the six year olds.

We think it’s good that we can accommodate most children at the age of three. So they experience about three years in kindergarten. Children admitted later are classified according to their age.

Each year has recurring processes, which the children experience very differently in the first, second and third year.

The small groups in the group are called The Suns (the littles), The Moons (medium) and The Stars (the large ones).

This grouping helps them to find their own age in the group and also to know who belongs to the small, medium and large ones. It helps them to differentiate their demands from each other.

Taking the children’s point of view

We take children’s painting and craft products seriously and do not measure them primarily against the aesthetic ideas of adults. For us, it is crucial that children do what they do with concentration and joy. We do not want to discourage them with inappropriate expectations, but encourage them to express themselves as they can.

Because it is only by painting and tinkering a lot and often that their abilities develop. Our guidelines and suggestions should be based on the children’s ability profile. We do not want a kindergarten that has been carefully tinkered and decorated by kindergarten teachers.

We also let the three-year-olds paint on the windows and find their work great, because it is great for three-year-olds to paint a large window, and because their immediate joy in designing expresses itself.

Go out every day

Apart from heavy rain and storm we don’t know of any weather that could prevent us from going out on our beautiful outdoor area. What is important here is the attitude and the role model of the kindergarten teachers and the adults in general. We consider our natural handling of cold, heat, wind, wetness and mud to be important in order to educate the children close to nature, to keep them healthy and to do justice to their urge to move and make noise.

Overnight we built an ice rink

Children and adults should learn to adapt their clothing to the weather (feel-good clothing).

Painting, handicrafts and eating outside are also part of it. Experience: in principle, you can do almost anything you can do indoors, even outdoors.

Our outdoor area has „wild“ areas: uneven meadows, dense bushes, stinging nettles and other wild plants…

The monthly forest excursion

is the increase of the daily going out and offers many additional play, movement and experience possibilities. The children experience the forest thoroughly and we hope that they learn to love it due to many exciting experiences – as a basis for later learning about nature conservation.

Freedom of movement and richness of movement

We don’t want to be a „seat kindergarten“. Children sit far too much, which is detrimental to their physical development and mental balance. The children can move freely in our rooms, which does not mean: ruthlessly.

Our cave. It has a staircase on one side, a slide on the other – and it is completely hollow inside.

In addition to our „cave“ the children may also use our robust tables, chairs and benches and the numerous cushions and mats as play and exercise equipment.
The children often rebuild the interior according to their current play and movement needs.

Theatre plays and dancing

we do again and again, from simple, spontaneous role-playing to concentrated rehearsals and performances. It is important that we also attend two theatre performances and puppet theatre performances per year.

See: Drama Activities at Kindergarten (German version) and
Theatre Play with Gifted Children
(German version)

6. Festivals and other highlights in the course of the year

The kindergarten year also needs clear highlights that stand out from everyday life. Each celebration has its own special character, all of them have in common that they strengthen the relationships within the group as well as the relationships of parents, siblings, friends and grandparents to the kindergarten. Having fun together and indulging in something special is the basis of celebration. That’s why we don’t see any sense in letting the preparations degenerate into negative stress for all participants.


The first festival of the year is the carnival celebration (without parents). Already in the weeks before we work out a motto, the group room will be redesigned bit by bit by and with the children accordingly. On the day of the celebration the children come to the kindergarten in their carnival costumes – with make-up if they wish. The focus is on music and dance, fantasy and exuberance. Carnival is the celebration where it is loud and more allowed than usual.

Instead of breakfast and lunch there is a cold buffet on this day, which is kindly contributed by the parents. It contains hearty and sweet food and is available to the children during the whole day.

Spring breakfast and Easter egg hunt in the forest

On the Thursday before Easter there is a breakfast together with the parents. Everyone brings something, the children surprise the parents with something homemade (painted eggs or egg cups…).

Directly after Easter, kindergarten teachers and children go into the forest and look for Easter eggs. Here it has proved itself that the little ones get a clear lead, the older ones have to wait a while so that they don’t „graze“ everything in a hurry and the little ones are left behind. Then everything (!) is collected in a large basket and then distributed by one of the older children in a precise and fair manner. The big ones know what there is: a boiled egg, a chocolate egg and a small chocolate figure for each child.

Overnight stay in the kindergarten

At the end of May or beginning of June, all children spend one night together in the kindergarten (without parents). On this day the children are picked up after lunch and return to the kindergarten with their sleeping things and bags and packs at 6 p.m. in the evening.

Air mattresses are inflated, the big question is: who sleeps where next to whom has to be clarified… Finally dinner together, play and ghost around outside until the last wave. The children go to sleep when they want. Some are fit until after midnight, others retreat to their night camp at around nine o’clock and are already sleeping deep when the others climb over them to get to their sleeping place.

At six o’clock at the latest, the first ones are awake again and soon hungry, which pleases the sleepy civilian. Great, everyone is already there, it can be played again immediately. And anyway: you dared… But then everyone gets tired „after the party“, and the morning is drawn out. Now everyone has had enough of the hustle and bustle and wishes only that mum or dad comes soon. Lunch is served and the children are picked up at 12 noon, the little ones, of course, also earlier.

In eight years exactly two children (in their first kindergarten year) did not want to stay overnight. And in the evening or at night we didn’t have to call parents because a child is crying.

Youth hostel trip for school beginners

The children who leave the kindergarten in summer to go to school take a trip to the youth hostel in May or June together with „their“ kindergarten teachers (with overnight stay from Saturday to Sunday). The older ones can really celebrate an exciting experience with their old friends (without having to take the little ones into consideration). A campfire and a night hike are part of it, as well as a big scavenger hunt in the forest.

On Sunday at noon the parents pick up their children at the youth hostel and a farewell photo is taken of all of them. The costs for the weekend are borne by the parents „affected“, the costs for the employees are borne by the kindergarten.

The summer party

The summer party is characterised by its special opening to the outside. Alumni from 25 years are also invited, as long as their addresses are still known. They come in large numbers. We want to celebrate together casually, eat and drink, play, dance, laugh, talk…remember some nice experiences and old friends.

It is a good tradition that this festival is strongly supported and prepared by the parents. Especially the parents of the children, who have been with us for a long time and will soon be coming to school, give their best to say goodbye.

The summer party takes place just before or after the summer closure, so that the „newcomers“ also feel like taking part. Especially during the preparation and when cleaning up afterwards you get to know each other well. And for the children it becomes immediately apparent that the parents are involved.

St. Martin’s Day

In the weeks before the event, the children were busy making lanterns. Every year there are different kinds of lanterns, according to the skills of the children.

St. Martin

Also the Martinsfest is suitable again to bring along relatives and friends. We meet at dusk at the kindergarten and walk with the lanterns through the surrounding streets. When we return in the dark, a St. Martin’s fire awaits us, around which we all gather and sing.

The children play the story of St. Martin. Afterwards there is mulled wine, children’s mulled wine and Bread roll men (a special seasonal pastry).

Santa Claus

All children bring a sock from home. Santa Claus fills the socks with apples, nuts and biscuits and regularly leaves a suspicious (flour) trace leading to the socks. A breakfast together follows.

Advent calendar

In December, each child is allowed to open a parcel. The order is drawn by lot. The packages contain a large homemade biscuit, a surprise (e.g. something to hang on the Christmas tree) and a note. The note states what the child is allowed to do in a special way, e.g. go shopping alone at the supermarket (150 metres away, 1 pedestrian light).

The draw must take place the day before so that the early bird has the chance to put the right note in the package. In addition, the drawn child has the chance of anticipation.
We make every effort to find something for each child that could be especially fun for them. The „processing“ of the notes usually lasts until well into January.

Christmas party

Children, parents, siblings, grandparents, employees start the Christmas party with a coffee drink together. The children have presents for their parents, then they sing and play together in the group room until Santa Claus arrives.

Santa Claus only says good things about the children.

He says a few sweet words to each child, which the parents have written in the Golden Book in the days before, and presents each child with a gift.

The entries of the parents are changed by them sometimes after discussions with us again again, for example if nevertheless something negative is contained in it or nothing else as „can already tidy up her room very well“. So honestly!

Santa Claus is bid farewell with a song, so the Christmas party is over.

Birthday parties

On its birthday, the child is the focus of attention. Many children enjoy it very much, some do not like it so much. The parents bring something delicious for shared breakfast (without parents).

At a carpet meeting before breakfast we sing a song to the birthday child and it chooses two neighbours at the table. Through the birthday bridge we go to the festive breakfast table. A child asks the birthday child what it wants. Traditionally, there is a wish song, gift search and „rockets“ (a loud community game).
The birthday bridge is created by the fact that they all line up in pairs. The couples turn towards each other, stretch their arms up and grab each other by the hands. This creates a tunnel through which the birthday child first crawls and then, rolling up the tunnel from behind, everyone else crawls.


7. the role of the parents

7.1 Origin of the parent initiative kindergarten

Until well into the sixties of the last century only a few children went to a kindergarten at all (in Western Germany). When a child „had“ to go to kindergarten, it often had an embarrassing aftertaste, and many mothers were ashamed of it. Although there were already very committed kindergarten teachers at that time who looked after the children well and taught them a lot, the mothers often had a guilty conscience – and many preferred to have their child looked after by grandmothers or older siblings when they went to work. More affluent people preferred to hire someone to look after their children privately.
At the beginning of the seventies there was a big discussion about pre-school promotion, especially about the promotion of social behaviour. The kindergarten came into the focus of pedagogues, sociologists and politicians.

Municipalities and churches built numerous kindergartens, new and better standards for the group size, the spatial and material equipment and for the training of the personnel prevailed.
In short, there was a tremendous upswing in the development of kindergartens, and soon parents registered their children there for educational reasons.

Many who had been involved in the general discussion about pre-school education were not satisfied with the results. They wanted to implement their findings on education more radically. Young parents – among them many students – wanted to intervene themselves.

Out of this urge, „Kinderläden“ (children’s shops) were opened in many cities – starting in West Berlin and Frankfurt/Main. The name can be explained by the fact that many of these parent initiatives initially rented inner-city shops, which succumbed to competition from supermarkets and were therefore relatively cheap to buy.

On our swings. It’s seldom that one is not occupied.

These children’s shops were places where people worked, discussed and experimented a lot. It was very lively, often chaotic and mostly very exhausting for everyone involved. There was little money and a lot of improvisation. All this made the children’s shops suspect for honourable citizens, especially as many of the activists politically assigned themselves to the left-wing scene.

Our parents‘ initiative kindergarten also developed in this way and has an eventful history.

Some exaggerations, some chaos has been overcome in the meantime. Also a lot of commitment on the part of parents has been lost in the meantime.

Nevertheless, today we are of the opinion that we want to profit a lot from the experiences of the people of that time and to preserve a lot of what they tried and tested.

We still differ from municipal or church institutions in some essential points. Even today, most of our parents consciously bring their child into a parent initiative.

What these essential points are that distinguish us from others is reflected in the expectations of the parents.

7.2 Parents‘ expectations

The following expectations are expressed by parents when they register their child, some name only one of these points, others almost all.

Our parents want something different from what is usual in many kindergartens.

They want

    • to play a greater role in shaping life in kindergarten;
    • learn more about everyday life and about the educational work in the kindergarten and deal with it (ten well-attended educational parents‘ evenings per year!);
    • other focal points in the work of the kindergarten teachers. They should not have a special professional distance to the children, but should live with them;
    • no denominational pedagogy (because they themselves are not denominationally bound or because they have another religion or because they want to shape the religious education of their children themselves);
    • a different style of education: partnership-based, turned towards, granting;
    • a smaller, more manageable community;
    • other relationships with the people involved: respectful, but more personal;
    • more positive attitude of the kindergarten teachers towards full-day care;
    • more responsibility, which they really want to take on (for example as a board member).

The situation of the parents can be briefly described in this way:

The parents give their child to „another world“ for the first time. Hopes, wishes, more or less concrete ideas about what should happen in the kindergarten are connected with it.

But there are also fears associated with it:

    • Will my child be able to cope?
    • How does it feel?
    • Is it optimally supported?
    • Is he or she safe?

The children move for the first time in a community of other people, without mother or father being able to arrange anything for the child, to act as mediator and protector.

Parents are faced with the uncertainty of whether the child is (already) up to the task. Do the kindergarten teachers have enough understanding for the „small size“ and the individual characteristics of my child? In comparison to the other children, is there not too little missing? Parents have to deal with these fears when they give their child to the kindergarten.

Spider’s web of lots of old wool. The mother wants to pick up her child and has a sense of humour.

Working parents have to do justice to two tasks that are often difficult to reconcile: Child and job. If the child is sickly or sometimes does not want to go to kindergarten, the parents get under stress and need the understanding of the kindergarten team.


In the German version, there are some additional topics, as shown in the list below. As they are very specifically tailored to the situation of the Parent Initiative Kindergarten, they are not discussed here.

7.3 Responsibilities of parents
7.3.1 Elective functions in parenthood
7.3.2 Control is essential, but trust is the basis –
The parents as employer
8. The role of the employees
8.1 Work tasks
8.1.1 Tasks of the team
8.1.2 Management responsibility
8.2 Working conditions
8.2.1 Working hours
8.2.2 Spatial working conditions
8.2.3 Atmospheric working conditions
8.2.4 Communication


Date of publication in German: December 2012

Translation from German: Hanna Vock
(Sorry, there is no money for a professional translator. If you discover any gross errors, please let me know. hannavock@ihvo.de)
Copyright © Hanna Vock, see imprint.