The Waldorf Early Childhood Program, Roots and Shoots, helps parents find friendship and sow the seeds for their child’s education in community.

By Kate Hammond, Roots & Shoots (Waldorf Early Childhood) Teacher

The Roots and Shoots Parent & Child Program is a Waldorf Early Childhood Education Program that takes place before preschool. This program is a place where friendships are born, new community is formed, and long-lasting relationships begin. Many families at Summerfield and in the wider community have enjoyed these weekly classes with their little ones.

The Roots and Shoots classroom is a place with a slow and calm pace, where there is time to muse, connect and wonder.


During the classes, parents consider enriching ways to parent and create a nurturing home. In a recent reading of “Joyful Toddlers” by Faith Collins, we focused on the question: what makes a relationship healthy and effective?

We know that reasoning and explaining to young children is not effective, as their rational faculties are still developing and it is not desirable, as they need to stay in a holistic experience of the world in order to support brain development. So if discussion-based discipline and behavior doesn’t work well with young children, what is the best way to get cooperation?

In any healthy relationship, one thing is present: reciprocity.

Reciprocity is important for young children, especially toddlers who like to say “no”. When there is reciprocity, each person (parent and child) listens and responds to the other. This does not mean that the parent needs to fulfill every wish and desire of their child—but what it points to is that the parent must see and recognize the child.

For instance, a child wants to climb onto the dining room table. The parent can say, “I see that you want to climb. You may climb over here,” and leads the child to a tree, climbing frame, etc. In this way, the parent maintains boundaries.

“Being responsive requires two things: responding quickly and responding positively. This is especially important when we can’t—or won’t—do what the other person has asked.” Faith Collins: Joyful Toddlers


As a teacher, it has taken me years to retrain myself to use positive statements with the children. This has been a life lesson, and many wise people have worked with this idea of positivity, Rudolf Steiner and Norman Vincent Peale among them.

In Waldorf Early Education, we strive to create an environment of goodness, and positivity is one aspect of this. When a child hears “You may ….” rather than “Don’t…” we appeal directly to the “Yes Brain”—as Daniel J. Siegel names it. This is a powerful way of teaching our children—and one that they can directly hear and respond to.

In the Roots and Shoots class, parents have time to share with one another.

Questions arise and are discussed so that participants feel empowered and are able to share their doubts and triumphs. Having a place to connect with others around the topics that concern us is helpful and comforting. In an environment where there is positivity and respect, community can flourish.


We are taking applications for the Roots and Shoots Fall 2022 Program. Please contact Kate Hammond at or phone the school (707.575.7194) for more information.


Learn more about our Early Childhood Programs, or schedule a tour of our beautiful campus and biodynamic farm.