Child Development from the Perspective of Anthroposophy

“The three stages in the child’s development are usually not granted enough importance, yet they more or less determine the whole manner in which the child can become a human being inhabiting the Earth”

~ Rudolf Steiner
Waldorf Education and Anthroposophy 2

Steiner presents to us the idea of seven-year periods of child development, the well known early years, the years between the change of teeth and puberty and the years of adolescence. He taught in his lectures that each of these phases of development must be completed before the next one is awakened if we are to build a strong foundation for our children’s capacities.

In the first phase of development when the forces of imitation work strongly in the child the role of the caregiver modelling the desired behaviour cannot be underestimated. After the change of teeth good character and morals are developed in the child through nature, painting, art, vivid storytelling, moral pictures and heroic characters. Puberty opens up the world of abstract ideas, faculty of judgment and independent thought.  Intellect is a soul-force that is only born during puberty, and we ought not to bring any outside influence to bear on it before this period.

This is only a very brief summary that barely scratches the surface of this complex and intriguing subject. The chart below is a tiny window into the phases of child development from a threefold human being perspective:

0-7 years 7-14 years 14-21 years
Body Soul Mind
Willing Feeling Thinking
“Learning to Walk” “Learning to Speak” “Learning to Think”
Role Model Loving Authority Bold Leader


Should you wish to learn more about Anthroposophy the lectures referenced here are available online at the Rudolf Steiner Archives at

REF: The Kingdom of Childhood, Education for Adolescents

* This article originally appeared in the Fall edition of Interior Wellness Magazine

“People who say that children should learn intellectually and through their own observations, free from the influence of authority, speak like flagrant amateurs; for we do not teach children merely for the years during which they are under our care, but to benefit their whole lives:”

~  Rudolf Steiner