The upbringing of children: the first seven years

The best way to influence the child during his first seven years is through the development of his sense-organs. All the impressions they receive from the outer world are significant, and everything a child sees or hears affects him in terms of his sense-organs. The sense-organs, however, are not influenced by lesson-books or verbal teaching, but by means of example and imitation. The most important thing during the first seven years is to nourish a child’s sense-organs. He will see with his eyes how people round him are behaving. Aristotle was quite right in saying that man is the most imitative of all creatures; and this is particularly true during the first seven years. Hence during these years we must try to influence a child’s senses, to draw them out so that they become active on their own account. That is why it is such a mistake to give a child one of those “beautiful” dolls; they hinder him from setting his own inner powers to work. A normal child will reject the doll and be much happier with a piece of wood, or with anything which gives his imagination a chance to be active. […] It is very important that during these early years a child should be surrounded by noble-minded, generous-hearted and affectionate people with good thoughts, for these stamp themselves on the child’s inner life. Example, therefore, in thought and in feeling is the best means of education at this stage. It is not what we say but what we are that influences a child during his first seven years. Because of the extreme sensitivity of the inner members of a child’s being, his surroundings should be kept free from all impure, immoral thoughts and feelings.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 95 – At the Gates of Spiritual Science – Lecture VI: The upbringing of children – Stuttgart, 27th August 1906

Previously posted on February 20, 2014