The task of caring for and educating young children is based on the indications of human development, given by Rudolf Steiner to protect the forces of childhood in a supportive environment, where children are involved in free imaginative play and the educators are providing meaningful life and artistic activities, which the children can imitate.
With the rapid increase in the use of technology, media and its impact on young children, the importance of caring for the young child in a healthy way is a challenge. There is an increasing push with young children for intellectual learning, which destroys the natural and unfolding abilities of the child. Unstructured creative play both inside and outside, a rhythmical life, surrounded by simple natural materials that nurture the senses, and the experience of real life work taking place are essential for the developing child. Artistic activities of music, folk tales and fairy tales. puppetry, and movement games also support the awakening individuality in a healthy way.
The awareness of this approach to the education of young children is at this time becoming more widely recognised by child professionals and parents. Thus, there is an increasing demand for Waldorf/Steiner programs world wide.
Such programs are provided in kindergartens, nursery and preschool programs in Waldorf schools, home based programs, child care programs, parent child and infant child classes within schools in many different cultures and economic backgrounds. There are also extended care programs and adult classes to meet the growing needs.
Waldorf kindergartens and preschool groups began in the 1960s and 1970s in Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec and Alberta. In 1983 the Waldorf Kindergarten Association was founded. To meet the changing needs, it later became the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America (WECAN). The WECAN Board, whose members are experienced Waldorf Educators and trainers, oversee and work with a network of mentors and regional representatives to support the programs and teacher trainings throughout North America and Mexico. There is always a Canadian representative member of the board. WECAN is also a member of IWASECE (International Association of Steiner/ Waldorf Early Childhood Education).
There are Waldorf Early Childhood programs in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec and Nova Scotia. Waldorf Early Childhood Educator trainings in Canada are available at the West Coast Institute for Studies in Anthroposophy in British Columbia, the Rudolf Steiner Centre in Toronto and in Nova Scotia.