On play during childhood and its effects in later life

When one understands how the child plays in the first years of its life, approximately up to the age of five and wants to develop the child’s individuality and character, one will provide the opportunity to enjoy play. Play prepares something that will find expression much later in the child’s life, for one must learn to understand human life in its totality. The botanist studies the plant in its entirety. What passes for ‘psychology’ nowadays only looks at the moment. 

At the age of twenty-five, twenty-seven, or a little earlier, a human being has to deal with life’s experiences, must be able to handle life and become a purposeful individual. Thus, observing a person in their twenties, one can recognise how a child’s ability to play approximately between birth and the fifth year culminates in becoming a practical person in his twenties who can handle life purposefully. 

We develop the root of what will later emerge as a flower at an early age. This understanding comes from the inner knowledge provided by Anthroposophy that penetrates authentic human nature. Therefore, we need to learn to observe the whole human being. In a sense, if we want to be teachers or educators, we must feel that we have to carry responsibility for the entire human being.

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 297 – ANTHROPOSOPHIE UND PÄDAGOGISCHE KUNST – Ölten, December 29, 1920 (page 261-262)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger

About sports, games and self-education

In a way, playing remains an important educational factor for the whole life. Of course, I do not mean the card game here, because all games that are directed to the intellect claim the personal of the human being that is bound mostly to the instrument of the brain. Even if much favourable is said about chess, it can never be a factor of self-education because it depends on that which is bound mostly to the instrument of the brain that has to infer. If the human being is active with gymnastics where he has to set his muscles in motion in such a way that he can infer nothing at all that he does not strain his intellect, but directly develops with the activities and not with intellectual understanding, then we deal with a self-pedagogic play.

From it, we directly gain an important principle of any self-education. This is that the human being who has to educate himself by the education of his intellect and in particular by the education of his will depends on the care of the contact and interrelation with the outside world. The human will can be educated not by inner intellectual training, but it strengthened, so that the human being has a firm hold inside if he maintains the will while the own will and the outside world interact.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 61 – Human History: Lecture XIV: The Self-Education of the Human Being – Berlin, March 14, 1912

Portraits of Rudolf Steiner 0016

As a child, Steiner did not play

A good portion of my youthful life was bound up with the task which had grown so close to me (from 1884 to 1890 Steiner worked in a merchant family in Vienna as an educator and teacher of the four sons). For a number of years I went during the summer with the family of the children whom I had to tutor to the Attersee in the Salzkammergut, and there became familiar with the noble Alpine nature of Upper Austria. I was gradually able to eliminate the private lessons I had continued to give to others even after beginning this tutoring, and thus I had time left for prosecuting my own studies.

In the life I led before coming into this family I had little opportunity for sharing in the play of children. In this way it came about that my “play-time” came after my twentieth year. I had then to learn also how to play, for I had to direct the play, and this I did with great enjoyment. To be sure, I think I have not played any less in my life than other men. Only in my case what is usually done in this direction before the tenth year I repeated from the twenty-third to the twenty-eighth year.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 28 – The Story of My Life – Chapter VI

Previously posted on 30th November 2013