The Warmth of the Nest and a Feeling of Security

We never again find the feeling of security and protection that we experienced in the womb. Immersed in the warm amniotic fluid, a child grows surrounded by the ovular membranes and the overall envelope provided by the womb. Before birth, we experience closeness, warmth, and well-defined shelter… and a state of timelessness.

Once born, we leave these natural enclosures, becoming exposed and without protection in the wider world. Parents are now called on to replace those lost envelopes, by providing the child with a nest. But everyone concerned needs to find time to do this. Being born is like moving into a new home. It takes a while to feel really at home, with everything in its right place. For many weeks, one has first to bring the house into order, before one gradually explores the wider environment.

To experience love, security and protection.

Similarly, children need time to become familiar with their new situation and to feel at home in their body. They need our help to feel warm and safe. Precisely at this early stage in life, they lose much of their own warmth through the still open fontanel. That is why they feel protected by warm clothing and a small cap on the head, like a chick that needs warmth and so snuggles almost entirely under its mother hen. For it is only in warmth that a living being can grow and flourish.

Build trust

Children need the constant bodily presence and warm attention of their parents, who provide the feeling of being protected and sheltered. They are reassured by their parents’ faces, as they begin to recognize those who regularly lean towards them. They gradually become used to the rhythm of day and night. The constant attention paid to them by people who care for them and their activities creates a sense of security and protection: through personal care, meal preparation, regular meal times, housework and walks.

When children begin to discover their environment and conquer the space that surrounds them, one can observe that with every step they take away from us, they must ensure that we are still there. If the distance is too great, they always seek refuge in the arms or on the lap of an adult. Adaptation to the environment must also occur slowly. In the mother's body, there was always a natural limit. Now it is our responsibility to provide that from outside: playpens and door gates in the house, holding hands in the street, protection that gives children a sense of themselves. But a determined and caring "no" can also bring children to themselves.

Setting limits with love

Children need to experience the world, but they should not be forever on an adventure: they need a protected setting, some inwardness. If in the early years of life children experience clear limitations, provided with love, this is an initial step in education that enables them to address later life with confidence and assurance. 

Monika Kiel-Hinrichsen
Waldorf teacher and specialist educator

Monika Kiel-Hinrichsen: Warum Kinder trotzen. Urachhaus, 2013 (‘Why children do not listen.’ Editions Aethera.)

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Keys to understanding Children

Careful observation of children’s outer appearance and psychological behaviour allows us to understand better their being and to encourage their development. 

There are children with wide eyes, who are in the world but dreaming, full of imagination. They have large heads, which seem to dominate the rest of their bodies. In contrast, there are children with small heads who are very skilled in their movements. They are more interested in technical things. 

Children of a stocky build are often more introverted than those with a finer, more delicate constitution. They are extremely sensitive to outer impressions. Children with blond curly hair and blue, clear and radiant eyes are also a unique category. They often have more difficulty remembering past events, while children with dark eyes and brown or black hair have the problem of not being able to forget. 

Finally, in everyday we encounter life incredibly restless children who cannot concentrate and are greatly distracted by their environment. This agitation is also reflected in uncontrolled actions and movements that tend to be impulsive. Other children have a calmer demeanour, almost too calm, and struggle to get truly moving. For them, sensory perception is reduced. 

The many strongly diverse characters of children’s constitutions are like polar images of a whole, which complement each other, creating a picture of the full human being.

The child thus seeks a balance between its disposition and inherited one-sidedness: between dreaming and waking, between rest and movement, between remembering and forgetting, and between withdrawal from and opening out to the world. 

Dr. Erdmut J. Schädel