Inspiring Ideas

What Is a Waldorf Kindergarten? 2nd Edition

compiled and introduced by Sharifa Oppenheimer


Many color photos


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From Nancy:

What a joy this book is! It has been several years since the only book that had actual photos and descriptions of daily life in a Waldorf kindergarten went out of print--and the loss as been palpable. This beautiful little book fills that gap in a wonderful way and goes even further in describing the goals and ways of kindergarten education within the Waldorf approach. I am so happy that this book has found its way into print, and am confident that it will find its way into the hearts of parents and teachers and emerge as beautiful environments in which young children will grow and be glad.

Through a compilation of articles originally published in various WECAN newsletters, we adults are invited into the life of the kindergarten, and into a deeper understanding of the rhymes and reasons for things being as they are. Each step of the way, we are also treated to photos that make clear what is being spoken about, and empower us to go forth and do likewise. Prepare to enter the world of delight and wonder!

From the Publisher:
"Baking, washing, sweeping, mending, singing, painting! Imagine the scent of bread baking, the warm sudsy water for washing the dishes, the muscle power of sweeping, the fine eye-hand coordination of mending and sewing. Imagine the visual education in the dancing watercolors. And if you have had the great pleasure of sitting in the midst of children’s creative, imaginative play, you will know the happy sound at the heart of this beehive of activity.

All this beauty given to the children is 'nutritional.' Their senses are stimulated, and through free movement and imitation of the adult the experience is digested. It then becomes their own, nourishing their growth toward freedom." —Sharifa Oppenheimer

Research shows that three essentials are necessary for the young child's learning: a broad palette of sensory experience, vigorous and fine movement in response to sensory input, and the opportunity to imitate what the child sees modeled in the environment. These activities are the backbone of the academic foundation that parents look for in an early childhood program.

What Is a Waldorf Kindergarten? includes chapters on the typical day in a kindergarten, handwork, human development through art, circle time, fairy tales, seasons and festivals, and much more. This collection of insightful articles by experienced early-childhood educators brings both an overview and a deeper understanding of these essentials at work in the daily life of the Waldorf kindergarten.


Foreword by Joan Almon

Part One: An Overview of the Waldorf Kindergarten

  • Introductions by Sharifa Oppenheimer
  • "A Day in the Life of the Kindergarten" by Ingeborg Schöttner
  • "Handwork in the Kindergarten" by Dora Dolder
  • "Human Development through Art" by Freya Jaffke
  • "Circle Time in the Kindergarten" by Nancy Foster
  • "Fairy Tales and the Image of the Human Being" by Helmut von Kügelglen
  • "Choosing Fairy Tales for Different Ages" by Joan Almon
  • "The Seasons and Their Festivals" by Joan Almon

Part Two: A Deeper Understanding of the Waldorf Kindergarten Introductions by Sharifa Oppenheimer

  • "Stages of Development in Early Childhood" by Freya Jaffke
  • "Kindergarten Education with Mixed-Age Groups" by Freya Jaffke
  • "The Significance of Imitation in the Development of the Will" by Freya Jaffke
  • "Considerations about Kindergarten Readiness" by Joan Almon
  • Afterword: “Meeting the Needs of the Times" by Cynthia K. Aldinger


This edition replaces the first edition.

This content was originally published in the two volumes, Overview of the Waldorf Kindergarten and A Deeper Understanding of the Waldorf Kindergarten--still available as set for a special price: Waldorf Kindergarten Special

112 pages, 7.5" x 9", 2015

From Kindergarten into the Grades

Insights from Rudolf Steiner

Selected and edited by Ruth Ker



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In going through this outstanding collection of Rudolf Steiner's thoughts and observations of 6-7 year old children, I was struck at almost every page with how extremely practical his suggestions are, and how very clearly insightful he was.

This gathering of Steiner's thoughts about children at this age can serve parents, teachers, and caregivers in so very many ways: as a quick resource of useful suggestions as to how to help children through "bumpy times;" as an enriching account of the lives of children during this transition period; as food for thought as we find our own way with the very unique children in our care; as a bellweather indicator of how much and how little has changed in the 100 or so years since Steiner penned and spoke these words.

Ruth Ker is to be highly commended for her wisdom and discernment in the excerpts she has chosen to present.  Her compilation is masterful, its potential to help the world's children beyond reckoning.

Recommended without reservation!

The Creative Word

The Young Child's Experience of Language and Stories

Daniel Udo de Haes



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In this small book, we embark on a fascinating journey into the consciousness of the very young child. Toddlers need our understanding and support as they make the great transition from wordless communion with the world to encountering people and things through human language. Out of his wisdom and experience, Dutch educator Daniel Udo de Haes brings guidance in how to gently and sensitively help children through this transition.

The Journey of the 'I' into Life

A Final Destination or a Path Toward Freedom?

Edited by Nancy Blanning

Lectures from the 2012 International Waldorf Early Childhood Conference at the Goetheanum



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The Journey of the "I" into Life presents us with the notes and transcripts of gleaned from five lectures given in 2012 by medical doctors, early childhood educators and a consulting Waldorf class teacher.  It is a rare combination of crystal clear thought and facts presented through hearts filled with warmth and love.  I have seldom been as moved as I was to read these lectures, and felt my understanding of human development was not just enhanced, but very much deepened as well.  It is hard to convey in just this bit of writing, but there was something so poignant and wonderful about being able, for instance, to see the photographs of the progression of development of human synapses from 0 to 3 years.  Combined with the thoughts being expressed by the lecturer (in this case, Dr. Michaela Glöckler), I found myself in the presence of a process that is in and of itself miraculous: it is a miracle that such development is possible, and a wonder that with it's indescribable fragility and mutability it most often leads to the emergence of fully capable adult human beings.

This little book in its entirety is filled to the brim with moments and revelations like this one.  I would wish that everyone be allowed to encounter what it contains.

Under the Stars

The Foundations of Steiner Waldorf Early Childhood Education

Renate Long-Breipohl



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Under the Stars is a profound and practical anthology on the principles and methods of Waldorf early-childhood education. The purpose is to help early-years educators deepen their insights into Steiner's inspiring, holistic understanding of children. Rather than providing recipes, the book presents the author's thought-provoking insights and principles that arise from lifelong work in kindergarten education. He ideas will free educators to transform their ways of observing children, their practice, and their self-development.


  • Recognizing and nurturing the life forces of the young child.
  • Thinking and the consciousness of the young child.
  • The development and the education of the will, including an appendix on moral education in early childhood.
  • Relationships in early childhood: attachment, separation, individualization.
  • Children in the modern world.
  • Supporting movement development in the early years.
  • Self-directed play in early childhood. Art experiences in early childhood education.
  • Self development and child observation.
  • Incarnation as a guide to self development.

Dr. Renate Long-Breipohl taught kindergarten for many years and now advises and lectures around the world in early-childhood education and with the Sydney (Australia) Rudolf Steiner College. Her books originate as much from her own experience and research with young children as from Rudolf Steiner, though she believes that engaging with his thinking is a crucial foundation for educators. She is also the author of Supporting Self Directed Play in Steiner/Waldorf Early Childhood Education (WECAN, 2011).

The Child from Birth to Three in Waldorf Education and Child Care

Rainer Patzlaff, Claudia McKeen, Ina von Mackensen, Claudia Grah-Wittich

Translated from German by Margot M. Saar


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This is another book that I, for one, have been hoping to see for nearly 30 years.  It covers a topic that is vital to the health of our children in this time, that of Waldorf childcare for the very young.  And, it covers it beautifully and thoroughly, with dozens of wonderful color photos from actual Waldorf nurseries.  If you have a young child or want to work with young children, my opinion is that this book is essential, happy, joyous reading.


  • Introduction by Susan Howard
  • Educational Foundations and Objectives
    • Focusing on the individuality
    • Development through metamorphosis
    • Salutogenesis and Waldorf education
    • The special nature of learning in early childhood
  • Supporting Development in Early Childhood
    • Conception, pregnancy and birth
    • The first year: achieving uprightness and learning to walk
    • The second year: learning to speak
    • The third year: I-awareness and thinking awaken
    • The child's invisible helpers
  • Early Childhood Education and Care
    • Establishing the relationship - the foundation of early childhood care
    • Free movement and independent play
    • The environment
    • Rhythm and rituals
  • Conditions for Infant and Toddler Child Care
    • The impulse behind Waldorf early childhood education
    • Standards of care for children under the age of three
    • Basic and advanced training
    • Rooms, furnishings and equipment
    • Legal and financial aspects
    • Quality assurance and collegial work
    • Working with the parents
    • Waorking with physicians, therapists and early childhood development specialists
    • Working with kindergarten and school
    • Social integration
    • Starting a birth-to-three program within an existing institution
  • Appendix: Quality criteria for day care centers with children under the age of three
  • English-language Resource List
  • Bibliography from the German Edition
  • About the authors

Becoming a Family

The First Three Years

Margaret Shaw



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Raising children is a lifelong journey and is never what you imagine it to be. Becoming a Family explores the first three intense and joyful years of the family journey. This is also a profound personal journey: Parents need to trust their own inner sense as a guide for health and truth. After all, mothers and fathers have been raising children successfully long before childcare experts came along!

Babies arrive ‘trailing clouds of glory’, creating a profound spiritual and human presence during their first three years. Margaret Shaw offers a sensitive and helpful window into how to welcome babies into this earth with warmth, love, insight, joy, rhythm, structure and sensitive care. This helps lay healthy physical, psychological and spiritual foundations for life. The book follows the incarnating process of the child, starting before conception through the first three years of the family up to the third birthday.

Themes covered include: home making, pregnancy and birth, motherhood and fatherhood in prospect, parents' first year, the child's first, second adn third years, the twelve senses, guardian angels and grandparents.  Parents' stories offer thought-provoking personal experiences of different ways of becoming a family.

Work and Play in Early Childhood

Freya Jaffke


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Work and Play in Early Childhood describes not only what a good Waldorf kindergarten is like, but why these kindergartens are as they as. This book has been out of print for years, and now is available once again.

Freya Jaffke's highly readable text is punctuated by many color photographs that lead the reader right into the kindergarten to witness first-hand the many gifts of capacity and awareness that the children receive.  Rhythm and repetition, example and imitation, are pillars on which early learning is based. Freya Jaffke applies these simple principles in ways that are refreshingly sensible and practical. She describes children’s play and provides well-tried advice on this important stage of development at which young children love to imitate the work of adults.

Practical topics are covered, such as planning the day, festivals, rhythms, spontaneous and planned play, stages of development, creating a protective environment, and hyperactive and inactive children. Parents and educators faced with the task of bringing up small children will find inspiration to help them in their daily endeavors.

Based on observations gained over decades working in a Waldorf kindergarten, Freya Jaffke’s books have become a cornerstone of understanding and inspiration for Waldorf early childhood education.  Very highly recommended.

Home Away from Home

LifeWays Care of Children and Families

Cynthia Aldinger and Mary O'Connell



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* * * Temporarily out of stock. More on the way!! * * *
If you order this item it will be shipped in 1-2 weeks.

It is with heartfelt joy that we offer Home Away from Home to you, a book we've been hoping would be written for many years.  The authors have been guiding lights in LifeWays early childcare - offering insight, training, and leadership-by-example (the very best kind!) for many years.  Now that they have published Home Away from Home, the heart of what they teach and know is available to everyone who wants it, even if they can't get to a seminar.  This is simply the most complete, intimate, alive portrait of Steiner-inspired childcare that is available.

Whether you are a childcare provider or a parent of young children, there is a wealth of information, inspiration, support, and instruction between its covers.  Everyone who works and cares for young children will find that it is a well of resources that will never run dry no matter how often you turn to it.

You'll find wonderful child development information, beautiful examples of others who are offering warm and loving care in their homes, including an abundance of black and white photos that show how to create these environments for young children and what daily life looks like within them.  You'll also find discussion about licensing, parent relationships, and the business of caring for the children of others on a daily basis.

Altogether, this is one of the most potent books ever written.  We believe it will change the face of childcare everywhere it is read.


  • What is LifeWays child care?
    • LifeWays Principles of Caring for Children at Home and in Child Care
    • Best Practices in the Care of Young Children
    • A Word about Mixed Ages
  • The Many Faces of LifeWays
    • LifeWays of Wisconsin
    • Marcy Andrews' Home Program
    • LifeWays Child Care Society
    • Spindlewood
    • The Orchard
    • Rainbow Bridge LifeWays Program
  • Other Facets of LifeWays
    • What is LifeWays Parent-Child Playgroup?
    • What is LifeWays Forest Kindergarten?
    • What is LifeWays Preschool?
    • What is LifeWays Parenting?
  • Home Away from Home - Rhythms, Routines, and the Living Arts
    • Rhythms and Routines
    • Environments
    • Examples of the Living Arts from Daily Life
  • Finding Your Colleagues
    • Characteristics of a LifeWays Caregiver
    • Characteristics of a LifeWays Director
    • Characteristics of a LifeWays Cook
    • Characteristics of a LifeWays Preschool Teacher, Forest Kindergarten Teacher, and Parent-Child Playgroup Leader
  • Protections: The Safety and Health of Children in Relationship-based Care
    • Safety
    • Health
  • Creating Your Community of Care
    • Is LifeWays for Every Child?
    • Is LifeWays for Every Parent?
    • What Are Some of the Blessings of Creating a Community in Your Program for Children?
    • Does Community Just Happen or Do You Work to Create It?
    • Are There Any Challenges to Creating and Sustaining Community?
    • How Does Your Community Come Together to Celebrate Festivals?
  • Regulatory Bodies and Professional Support
    • State Licensing
    • Municipalities and Zoning
    • Professional Support
  • Business Questions
    • The Business Plan
    • Funding
    • Systems
  • Supporting You in Your Work - LifeWays North America
    • History
    • LifeWays Training
    • LifeWays Membership
    • A Word about Advocacy

Supporting Self-Directed Play

in Steiner/Waldorf Early Childhood Education

Renate Long-Breipohl

Photographs by Paulene Hanna and Sandra Busch



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* * * Temporarily out of stock. More on the way!! * * *
If you order this item it will be shipped in 1-2 weeks.

Reading Supporting Self-Directed Play is like watching blossoms burst open across the landscape in spring.  There is so much beauty, so much life , so much love on every page that the book opens the heart as it informs the mind and inspires the hands.

One of the most difficult things that I've found to do is to try to describe the life of a Waldorf kindergarten to someone who's never seen it.  Somehow, no matter how accurate my (or anyone else's) words might be, the essence has never seemed to convey what I had witnessed.  Now, here is a book that makes it clear what is so very special, so perfect for young children about a Waldorf kindergarten.

The color photos are paired beautifully with a descriptive text that really does lead you into the kindergarten at play time.  Here, in one small book, is support for anyone who wants to make the day bloom for children.  Here, too, is support for anyone who may have wondered why such an environment is so important to the health and future life of a growing human being.

Supporting Self-Directed Play is a healing drop of sanity, of beauty, truth and goodness, that I know will spread it's ripples of life and love throughout the world.

Childhood's Garden

Shaping Everyday Life around the Needs of Young Children

Helle Heckmann

Book and DVD



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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!

Creating a Home for Body, Soul, and Spirit

A New Approach to Childcare

Bernadette Raichle



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Creating a Home for Body, Soul, and Spirit answers with beauty and love the needs of children everywhere, and conveys a joyous hope to all adults how care for those children.

Because she took seriously the fact that many homes require the parent(s) to work away from their young children, and because she has such a great love for children and our world, she created one of the most beautiful and life-giving childcare centers anywhere.

In Creating a Home, she shares not only pictures of the life of Awhina (her center), but something more: she goes on to relate clear the developmental needs of the fourfold human being and in the most practical terms discusses how it is that caregivers can meet them within young children. Her's is a stirring, heartwarming account that is at the same time clear and deep.

Anyone who cares for children, particularly other people's children, will want to read this book and commit its wisdom to heart. I truly believe that the future will smile in return.

The Parent and Child Group Handbook

A Steiner/Waldorf Approach

Dot Male


Published in partnership with the Alliance for Childhood


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The Parent and Child Group Handbook features lively case studies from Waldorf parent and child groups in the UK. It is an inspiring resource and guide that draws on the author's rich experience in this area.

Written in 12 chapters, this unique handbook includes Steiner's theory of child development; ways to structure a session; appropriate toys and activities; suggestions for a shared meal; the circle time; various festivals; issues of health, safety, and the law; marketing, publicity, and fund raising; and much more.

This handbook is worthy resource for parents, teachers and early years educators, health visitors, play group leaders, and family support services.

The Breathing Circle

Learning through the movement of the natural breath

Nell Smyth



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A clear, imaginative, and flexible blueprint for teachers of early learning, describing how to integrate and support the child’s developing sensory systems and the movement patterns that underpin child development.”

—Anna Hubbard, Brain Gym instructor and author

Early childhood educators know that children love to be part of a learning circle. "Circle time" is an essential ingredient of Waldorf education. Circles offer participation in a larger whole and can foster the development of key sensory and neuromuscular faculties.

Nell Smyth developed "The Breathing Circle" techniques to help develop greater learning potential, to help integrate sensory and motor activities, and to help young children venture more freely into the social world while feeling fully grounded in body and mind.

"Our breath lives in the realm of movement. The quality of our breath changes, deepening and becoming more substantial through enjoyable movement. Different qualities of movement affect intimately how we breathe. As our breath flows more freely, the breath rhythm can come into greater balance. When this starts to take place, we can become refreshed and reinvigorated, feel more integrated and more aware of the boundary between ourselves and the rest of the world in which we participate. To breathe more deeply is to be more present and to be more present is to be awake with more resources available for learning."

(from the introduction)

The Breathing Circle brings practical new ways to understand how responsiveness, expression, and learning all depend on the rhythm of inhalation and exhalation, which carry children into the world and back into themselves.

The Breathing Circle offers movements, verses, and stories for children, working directly with their unfolding senses and the cycle of natural breath. These techniques can be used with children, from toddlers through seven years.

Here is an essential handbook for early years educators, preschooler parents, and caregivers, as well as storytellers, drama teachers, breathwork teachers and practitioners, and those involved in the many other somatic disciplines.

Published in partnership with the Alliance for Childhood.

Working with the Angels

The Young Child and the Spiritual World

Part of the Gateways Series



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Working with the Angels is clearly the result of intense, deep, sustained love: the love of each article's author for children and the world; the love of those responsible for publishing each article in its turn over the years; the love of the current editors in gathering all these remarkable insights and experiences together in one place; and, of course, the love of the angels for us.

This is a collection that is almost palpably alive with love and with love's possibilities. And with that, I'm going to let the contents speak for themselves:

Working with the Angels

  • Working with the Angels, Archangels and Archai - Helmut von Kügelgen
  • Conversation about Angels and Human Beings - Helmut von Kügelgen
  • Finding a Connection to the World of the Angels - Helmut von Kügelgen
  • The Meaning of Angels in Education and Self-Education - Michaela Glöckler, M.D.

The Destiny of the Child in Our Times

  • Working with the Karma of the Young Child - Margaret Meyerkort
  • Walking and the Incarnation of Destiny - Joan Almon
  • Continuing the Work of the Hierarchies - Werner Glas
  • Early Childhood and the Consciousness Soul - Joan Almon
  • Threshold Experiences of Children and Adults - Helmut von Kügelgen
  • Religion of the Young Child - Elizabeth Moore-Haas

The Gateway of Birth - the Sistine Madonna

  • Raphael's Sistine Madonna - Is It Approriate in the Kindergarten? - René Querido
  • The Sistine Madonna in the Waldorf Kindergarten - Joan Almon
  • The Sistine Madonna - Symbol of the Eternal in Humanity - Rudolf Steiner

The Gateway of Death - Working with Death in the Kindergarten

  • After-Death Care in the Home - Beth Knox
  • Helping Children in a Time of Trouble - Nancy Foster
  • Helping Our Children and Loved Ones at the Threshold of Death - Nancy Jewel Poer
  • A Festival for a Threshold Crossing - Patricia Owens
  • Birth into the spiritual World - Nancy Blanning
  • A Story for Mia - Louise de Forest
  • Grandma's Dream - Sheila Rubin
  • For Anastasia and Her Dear Grandmother - Cynthia Aldinger

The Inner Path

  • Self-Development as a Basis for the Relationship Between the Child and the Adult - Michaela Glöckler, M.D.
  • Through the Eye of the Needle - Felicitas Vogt
  • The Path of Inner Schooling - Jorgen Smit
  • The Spiritual Foundations of Waldorf Education - Michaela Glöckler, M.D.

Compiled from articles published in the Newsletter of the Waldorf Early Childhood Association

El Desarollo del Nino y la Educacion Preescolar Waldorf

(The Devleopment of the Child and Waldorf Early Childhood Education - Spanish Language only)

Editado por Louise deFores

A WECAN Publication


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Louise selected six essential, fundamental articles for Waldorf early childhood educators by Joan Almon, Joop van Dam, Helmut von Kügelgen, Susan Howard, Roberto Trostli, and Freya Jaffke. We hope this little volume will become a valuable resource for our colleagues in Mexico and elsewhere in the Spanish speaking world, who do not yet have an equivalent of the English-language Gateways newsletter.


  • Prólogo - Susan Howard
  • Las Leyes de la Niñez - Helmut von Kügelgen
  • Las Etapas del Desarrollo en la Primera Infancia - Freya Jaffe
  • Comprendiendo la Imitación a Través de una Mirada más Profunda al Desarrollo Humano - Joop van Dam
  • El Papel Vital del Juego en la Educación Preescolar - Joan Almon
  • El Jardín de Niños Waldorf: El Mundo de la Primera Infancia - Roberto Trostli
  • Conceptos Esenciales de la Educación Preescolar Waldorf - Susan Howard