ECE Program

Early Childhood Education


The first and core project of Just.Childhood is the kindergarten Bait al-Shams in Sabra (formerly in Shatila) camp established in 2015. It was thought of as a best-practice and therefore aimed at serving as a base for establishing similar projects in the other 12 Palestinian camps or in any of the other 42 official gatherings in Lebanon.
Just.Childhood aims at providing equal access to age-appropriate, non-violent, holistic Early Childhood Education in order to prepare the children for school and life and to prevent constantly increasing early school dropouts.
Just.Childhood’s kindergartens have linked themselves to the Waldorf Early Education approach, due to its practical, rhythmic and artistic elements, that have a substantial positive therapeutic influence also on traumatized children (and parents) especially in environments like Sabra and Shatila and other refugee camps.
The educational work in the kindergarten is encouraging and advancing the physical, emotional, mental and social strength of the children. They are given the opportunity to strengthen their individual skills, as well as their group behavior. An integrated educational approach provides the children with the knowledge, competencies in language and social skills that need to be achieved by entering school.  In order to describe our project activities, we would like to first put down our educational principles, as they shed a light on our activities:

What is important to us, and in line with the Waldorf educational principle, is the fact that we are introducing letters and numbers as late and as simple as possible. This is ought to the belief that education should cater to the needs of children at their specific development stages. All subjects are introduced in age-appropriate fashion and time. Very little attempts of formal instruction is made as this might cause premature hardening of the intellect, leading to inflexible thinking in adulthood.  In our belief, young children need to experience the relevance of their world before they separate themselves from it and begin to analyze it in a detached way.
The learning experience of the children in our care therefore is integrated and not subject-based. Mathematics and use of mathematical language, for example, is taking place at the cooking table, where food is prepared (thinly sliced carrots make wonderful natural circles and have the added virtue of being able to be eaten later in soup!) and concepts such as addition and subtraction (or more or less), weight, measure, quantity and shape are grasped in a practical manner as part of daily life.
Children are able to tell a story by ‘reading’ the pictures in a book, which develops verbal skills, frees the narrative from the printed text and encourages children to use their own words. Many children also act out or perform puppet shows and develop dramatic skills through working with narrative and dialogue in an artistic way. The conversations around the meal table give the children the opportunity to become familiar with listening and speaking, rhyming and riddles. Painting and drawing help with balance and symmetry, and craft activities also develop fine motor skills.

The integration of these activities cultivates a love of language, develops speech and allows children time to become really familiar with the spoken word – the best preparation and foundation for the subsequent development of more formal literacy and numeracy. The introduction of the letters and numbers comes at a time when the child’s ready to use and start to understand its intellectual capacities and therefore able to learn easier – and quicker. While this is not being done in Waldorf-based kindergartens in general, we have adapted to the educational context of our children and families and developed a specially tailored pre-school program for the children a year before they enter school. This is due to the fact that they will otherwise have a disadvantage when entering the elementary school. Even though being enrolled in a kindergarten is not a prerequisite to enter schools, reality shows.
In specific our above-mentioned activities aim at fostering:

  • Body and movement skills through movement and imitation during morning circles, finger games, free play inside and outside.
  • Perceptual skills through richness in sensory and perception acquired during free play indoor and outdoor, felting, sewing and baking
  • Language competency through listening and good speech during storytelling, circle games, finger plays, songs, rhymes and theater play in two languages (Arabic and English)
  • Encouraging fantasy and creativity through story-telling, free play, felting, painting and drawing
  • Social skills through relationships and group behavior acquired during seasonal celebrations, free play, common activities (baking, preparing breakfast) and age-mixed groups (responsibilities, care and imitation)
  • Basic numeracy and literacy in English and Arabic through special preschool work for the oldest children in a small group with two specially trained educators


The Waldorf initiative of Just.Childhood is not grown locally; Waldorf Education was introduced as an alternative to the prevalent almost purely academically focused kindergartens in Lebanon by the founder of the organization in close cooperation with the colleagues and their community.

The decision to introduce Waldorf pedagogy was made because of the difficult life circumstances of the community Just.Childhood is working with and the belief in its healing powers. For the children it means an existential difference to be experiencing this alternative way of education. Therefore, after having a bit of an improvised, yet certified teacher training, Just.Childhood, in cooperation with Step Together Association, decided to become more independent from external trainers and to establish a mandatory teacher training for its colleagues meeting the requirements of the International Association for Waldorf/Steiner Early Childhood Education (IASWECE). This is giving us the opportunity to be training new colleagues locally, and in Arabic, in the future.

On another level, the knowledge of the teacher training will be transferred to the parents through the parents’ program. The parents are to be the promoters of the Waldorf Early Childhood Education system. The parents are the ones who are capable of making demands on modification of the educational system in other kindergartens. This way, and through our different programs, we are aiming at gathering support to transform our best practice example into a broader Waldorf Early Childhood initiative.

ECE Program | Just.Childhood