Why Bake Bread?
Waldorf education is like eating a piece of bread. It starts out as a conscious process of chewing, swallowing and taking in. It then becomes unconscious as it is metabolised. At this point we must let go of the process to allow the substance to be transformed into a new energy or capacity. This is how we help children to grow in a healthy and productive way.
Waking the senses
n Waldorf kindergartens world wide our focus is on developing 4 specific senses – TOUCH, BALANCE, MOVEMENT AND SENSE OF LIFE (WELLBEING). There is one activity that encompasses all of these senses in a very dynamic and living way – BREAD BAKING.
First we bring together the 4 elements – air, water, earth and fire. We mix together bio-dynamic flours to ensure the wheat is bursting with life. Then in goes the salt to enliven the flavour and waken our taste buds. Next, we add the ‘magic dust’; the living force the ‘Yeast Fairies’ bring to wake the flour and make it dance. Lastly we add the warmed water, that releases the dormant forces of all the other ingredients.
Plunging our hands into the sticky mix of flour, salt, yeast and water is like jumping into a warm bath. It stimulates while allowing us to be absorbed into a living process that also helps us to feel relaxed . As our hands become used to gathering the ingredients into a workable mass, we begin to see change occurring. Instead of difference we see connectedness. As we work together, we allow the components to join forces and create a new entity. Our sense of touch has been enlivened.
Next we turn the dough onto a table and begin to knead it. We push and pull, push and pull as our senses of movement and balance are refined. In so doing, we become aware of the elasticity of the dough and that it no longer falls apart so easily when we rhythmically work it into shape.
Into the big bowl it goes to prove. This is where we see the true magic of the “Yeast Fairies” take place. For now something happens that makes bread baking one of the most important activities for children to witness – we see TRANSFORMATION. As the dough rises and fills the bowl to overflowing we see the invisible forces of life at work. From seemingly inert ingredients the dough takes on a life of its own and our own sense of life is invigorated.
Our next job is to take the magical dough and break it down into smaller parts. This is where we make it into shapes. The children can now form something new from the whole. They can use their imagination to transform it once more. As we form the shapes our sense of life becomes truly engaged as we feel the warmth moving between hand and dough.
Then the fourth element comes into its own. As the dough goes into the oven, fire comes into play and the interplay between the elements is complete.
Lastly, once the bread is cooked we marvel at how the fire has altered the shape and colour of the dough. Then, of course we eat it.
The circle is complete.
There are many grains that can be used in baking today that imbue the spiritual forces of each day of the week. However, if one was to choose just one then wheat would be a good option for several reasons: Today wheat is grown world-wide. It’s sowing, cultivation and harvesting follow the course of the sun and as such, during the cycle of the year there is always wheat being harvested somewhere on earth. Above all, it is the grain that is attributed to Sunday – the day that celebrates the sun forces that nurture us all.
However, if you would prefer to use the grains that have the strongest connection to the forces of day of the week, these grains can be incorporated into your dough –
Monday – Rice
Tuesday – Barley
Wednesday – Millet
Thursday – Rye
Friday – Oats
Saturday – Maize
Why Bread and Not Playdough?
If our aim is to enliven young children’s sense of TOUCH, BALANCE, MOVEMENT AND LIFE, then bread baking gives us a tool that encapsulates all four.
While there are many fun alternatives for children to play with, in kindy we choose to make bread because it is a living process that has purpose. We have created something we can eat. We are taken on a whole journey that allows a child to see that life has meaning. That if we work to develop our senses of touch, balance and movement then our sense of well being in life is strengthened.
By Fiona McVey