Hedgehog children love warm, happy care. We work according to the Bavarian Education Plan.
This means that the children are allowed to muddy, build, paint, do handicrafts, argue, shout, jump and just live. We adults who look after the children see ourselves as facilitators who explain the needs of people in the hedgehog group and look for a possible expression of these needs with the children. That is work in itself. We feel part of the group and therefore enjoy working for the group. Children who can feel part of the group and experience that their contribution is important, what it is, feel self-efficacy and are often willing to put all their childish energy into improving the group atmosphere. We have come to believe that our greatest goal in the kindergarten is to take children by the hand and find their important place in the group with them. To feel effective, powerful and loved there and to be allowed to love others. To feel accepted in their human weaknesses without fear and to courageously try out new things.
If our kindergarten manages to be one of the earliest stable groups in a child's life with a tender interaction, we are actually satisfied. We believe that this experience can carry children and
also give them hope and self-confidence for group contexts where moderation is not working as well, is missing or is working against them.
For us, we have found that facilitated free play is the most important method for building a healthy group where every child is honestly welcomed.
But there is magic in every beginning
Settling in is a lived transition process, which is requested by you as the carer, creatively processed by your child and moderated by me as the educator.
"Overcome the devils with a thing called love" (Bob Marley)
The path between "We have never seen each other" and "Everyone trusts each other through thick and thin" knows no tricks or shortcuts and rarely takes less than a few months. In our white, Bavarian guiding pedagogy, we start from a stage-like model. We first get to know each other slowly and especially you as parents get a lot of space.
There should be one or two conversations in which we tell each other what is important to us in dealing with other people and what is interesting in relation to the planned care in the Kindergraten. Then they come together with their child several times and take part in our daily routine as guests, which is carefully developed into a togetherness by us as caregivers. Then we can dare to say goodbye for the first time, your child spends short and longer periods without you with us. We now explore the independence of everyday things that seem important to us: eating without a caregiver. Or being comforted. Looking at a book with joy. Reaching out to other children.
This is often where the parents' view of settling in ends. We caregivers know that settling in is really just beginning. We can call it "work", "accompanying transitions" or find other terms. But
ultimately it will be about whether we can learn to love each other in an appropriate way, develop respect and appreciation for each other. Have respect.
Not all cultures take as technical a view of the development of trust as the one in which I am socialised.
In any case, the question is how all of us involved can get through it well. That's why I, too, always fall back on the stage model, which may seem a bit forced, but is often helpful. We adults first understand whether we want to take these steps together. Our trust in each other grows until we can already communicate some of our needs with words or otherwise, so that we understand what the other side needs in order to be able to trust. This is very important. We take time for that.
If possible, we get to know future families months before they are due to start kindergarten, during which they often drop in as a family, experience us on different days and in different
situations, and so you can see what is so difficult to put into words: what we are like, with our weaknesses, our joy, on good and stressful days. Questions often arise from this, we sense the
first tender expressions of your child's personality. Somehow we all know whether it will be good or just not right.
And to be honest, that's how it's always been.
Settling in is an exciting time of upheaval and getting used to each other. It is always incredible to observe the growing independence and autonomy of your own child. For us it is a privilege to be a part of this process.
Every day, the children have the opportunity to engage in self-determined and freely chosen play.
We adults, including you as parents, when you observe or snoop, take a step back. This part belongs to the children alone.
We are always attentive or even very close and in a guarded position if we have to fear that conflicts could escalate quickly, children could be hurt or the group in general is not yet confident in dealing with each other.
Often we then sit by and quietly practise the guitar, being there but busy.
Otherwise, and with a more mature group, we keep a low profile and let the children have their space.
The children like to choose simple work activities that they can oversee and whose outcome seems meaningful to them. We often encourage such work by providing the children with utensils and ideas
for, like here, a flour workshop. The theme was Thanksgiving, grain becomes flour and bread and the children paint their own flour with stones. Or change the game as they need it.
It is important to us that no child is excluded during free play. It is true that small groups may form and also isolate themselves. But not at the expense of others. We are very clear and strict about discrimination "that stinks". We also do not allow the "shooting down" or touching of people (or animals) who have not consented.
We discuss with the children that if they are unclear, they can read the other child's face to see if they really like the tickling, for example. Recognising the needs of others and acting accordingly, no matter how old the other child is, is an important area of learning. Learning to sense one's own needs and to verbalise them is a task that we look at together in free play.
Becoming an important part of a group is a longer process. Even if children can only stay with us for a year, we want them to have an empowering experience of community.
Every child has skills that are essential for all of us. If the child has enough confidence and feels safe and secure in the children's group, it can also develop these skills there.
Thus, settling in does not only mean detachment from the parents, but also a firm step towards independence. Children come to take responsibility for expressing their own needs and boundaries and learn to trust a clear group of children of the same age.
We start our day with a common round in which we greet each other, have breakfast and celebrate morning rituals. This is another way for the children to grow together as a group and to consider
together which games could be played or which small groups could be formed so that everyone is happy.
Every morning we also offer at least one guided activity in addition to free play.
Twice a week we practice a special preschool activity with the children who are either in the year before they start school or who are willing and able to follow the preschool rules.
Here we are not only concerned with classic content such as fine motor skills, pencil holding, exercises with glue, scissors, letters, numbers and the like. Also natural.
Above all, we are concerned with learning how to deal with our own frustrations. To always remain polite. To endure boredom without grumbling. Verbalising feelings appropriately but clearly and drawing boundaries. Things that children need not only during the school break.
In our preschool, the children (who are actually in the year of starting school) learn that there are compulsory offers. They learn to solve tasks cooperatively that would be unsolvable for an
individual child and thus to perceive their different abilities. They learn to stand back in the group and to wait with their questions.
The children work with different materials such as clay, wood, stone, papers, fabric, wool and practise different cultural techniques. We already explore letters and simple maths, individually starting from the child's level.
We are advised by a primary school teacher who confirms again and again how important social-emotional maturity is for the success of the first years of school.
In parent meetings, we make the developmental status of your child transparent to you as parents and work on weaknesses and abilities.
Almost every day we play stories with the children in the Japanese Kamishibai theatre or with the storytelling track. Especially with the storytelling track, it is possible to play very
interactively and to have children perform the entire play or to fill individual roles with a child.
In this way, the children learn early on to speak in front of a group, to emphasise vividly and to use volume and gestures.
We can also set accents in terms of content, which we incorporate into our daily kindergarten routine every year. Recurring themes are violence prevention for children (ideas for bullying and physical assaults), non-violent communication based on the giraffe language concept. Sexual education content such as body boundaries, sex education and child protection. Knowledge about nature and the ecosystem, environmental education. Understanding complex processes such as the water cycle, from grain to bread, cultures, religions and festivals. Transience and mourning. First aid and taking the initiative in emergencies.
We have many fun children's book stories that we like to read or act out as theatre.
Almost every day we offer creative activities in which all children can participate. They almost always accept them enthusiastically. We paste, knead with homemade modelling clay or clay, create pictures from natural materials or build little houses, we work with glue, scissors, tear paper, glue, cut, paint and crumple it. We make little lights and work with different colours and pens.
We enjoy playing the guitar with the children and singing our songs. The children are allowed to accompany with rhythmic Orff instruments and make their first experiences with sounds, fast slow,
loud and quiet in music.
Sometimes we also cook together, celebrate a feast or prepare something together. Food connects. We also like to share the culinary delights of the families and thus get to know different cultures. We celebrate the secular and religious festivals that are important to the current children and make sure that all cultures have a taste of their rituals throughout the year.
Our weekly excursions take us to the zoo, the German Museum, other museums, playgrounds, parks or the forest.