Childhood’s Garden

Shaping Everyday Life around the Needs of Young Children

Helle Heckmann

Book and DVD



I have been basking in the glow of both the film and book that are Childhood’s Garden every since reviewing them. My, oh my, what goodness lies within!

First, about the film presented on the DVD: amazing, warm, wonderful, inspiring – I could go on and on with superlatives. The more people who can see it, the better for the world.

The filmmakers managed to blend into the background so well that the children simply go about their day as though they aren’t there. And what a day it is! Helle Heckmann has created a true garden for young children (Nokken): they spend 5 hours of their 8 hour day outdoors, rain or shine (this was a summer day – she doesn’t mention in the film what they do on truly frigid winter days). They are given the freedom to imitate the work of the garden and more as their child’s heart. The little ones (ages 1-3) take naps in specially made cribs that are also outdoors – this is a Danish tradition which I believe should be looked at closely in other parts of the world where it may also benefit children who spend so much of their life indoors.

Nokken offers the children a midday meal which is made from biodynamic grains, vegetables, oils and syrups. The diet has been chosen to provide the children with types of food they are unlikely to receive at home, thus effecting and overall balance in their diets. I’m a bit less certain as to whether her diet would be effective in balancing children’s food intake in the US, as my observation in Waldorf kindergartens has been that many of the parents already eat in similar ways and that offering more of the same might prove to create an overall imbalance. However, this, too, should be examined closely — Helle’s approach is sound and beautiful, but her exact solutions for her area may or may not translate well in other situations. Nonetheless, her food is highly nutritious and looked so good I found myself getting hungry just watching the children eat.

In the small book that comes with it, Helle Heckmann expands on things seen in the movie, but not necessarily described in depth. You’ll learn more about the thinking and feeling that has gone into every detail of the life she and her coworkers have created for the children in their care. It is packed, simply packed with valuable ideas that carry so much inspiration that I am confident they will live and grow in this world of ours.

Childhood’s Garden is one of the most significant, beautiful, healing works to have emerged in the field of early childhood education. Please watch the DVD (invite your friends, make popcorn!), talk about it, read the book – this is must see/read material!

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