Early Childhood: Birth to age 7
Lecturers: Ven Mingyur Rinpoche, Khenpo Sonam Tsewang, Dr Robert Roeser, Dr Tawni Tidwell, Dr David Vago and Dr Meyrav Mor
Format: Live streaming
In order to become familiar with children’s all-round development, this module offers an in-depth exploration of developmental science and Steinerian psychology and how these relate to and rest within the Buddhist view of human development. We learn about children’s physical, socio-emotional, cognitive, self and spiritual consciousness, or development of consciousness, from birth to age 7. The Buddhist view on development of self interplays with developmental and Steinerian perspectives on the evolving sense of I. We also explore the relationship between body and mind. As we examine the main child development theories, students learn how to use this knowledge to observe children in different phases of early childhood, from birth to age 3 and age 4 to 7.
Using the Buddhist paradigm as our lens, we begin our journey in understanding child development by examining the three selfs, the five aggregates and how they relate to the twelve links of dependent arising. In the unhealthy sense of self, the reality of constant change is confused with an appearance of permanence, composite parts with a singular identity, and interdependence with a controlling sense of independence. The healthy sense of self becomes aware of change, interdependence and multiplicity allowing glimpses of the luminous self. We will explore how these three layers of self interact in the developing child from the perspective of developmental science and Steinerian psychology. Buddhist philosophy also contemplates progressive changes in the formation of the sense of self from birth to rebirth and we link the three I’s, and the additional 2 I’s as described by Tsoknyi Rinpoche, to explore this development.
Resting in the Buddhist paradigm, we weave socio-emotional and cognitive understanding of developmental theories, including Freud, Erickson, Piaget, Bronfenbrenner, Gessel, Skinner, Kohlberg and Bowlby, and through all these the observation of the evolving sense of self is threaded. We also study the biological aspects of developmental neuroscience and how these interact with the other domains of development leading to an understanding of how the sense of self is formed, and how the potential for awareness or consciousness can unfold.
We explore how Steiner perceived the child as a holistic organism possessing an innate wisdom that guides and influences her evolution. This unfolding of sense of self and consciousness is affected by karmic inheritance, genetics and environmental factors and takes place at an individual pace according to each child’s unique development needs.
We study Steiner’s explanation of the evolving sense of self from birth to age 7. During this phase, the child’s inner faculties are developed in conjunction with his physical body. The physical body’s growth is driven by formative forces. For Steiner, this phase is centred on imitation, play, and physical activity and is characterised by the greatest physical growth of all stages. Physical development progresses gradually from the head downwards as the child gains increased voluntary control over her movements, learning to stand and walk, and organise speech and thinking. The child’s consciousness, in contrast, develops from the feet up to the head, through doing (their will activities), feeling and then abstract thinking. We also reflect on Steiner’s view on the fundamental virtues of reverence, gratitude, love and sense of inner duty.
The Buddhist view of impermanence and constant change is woven through this module as we study developmental science ideas of continuity and discontinuity and Steiner’s metamorphosis of self. We are able to cultivate the deep knowing that things are changing constantly which we can then embrace rather than deny. We conclude this module by interlinking these three disciplines and how they are applied to support resilience building and the development of the healthy self that connects us to our innate basic goodness.