From You Are Your Child’s First Teacher by Rahima Baldwin Dancy

Copyright © 1989 Rahima Baldwin Dancy

Celestial Arts P.O. Box 7327 Berkely, California 94707


All parents want what is best for their child. But most first time parents know very little about children or parenting (I certainly didn’t!). Learning as you go is certainly uncomfortable, but it can provide many opportunities for growth for parents as well as children. As our children’s first teachers, we can and must provide the love and warmth, calm and rhythm, interest and enthusiasm vital to their growth. And, they provide us with new areas of study, work and self-examination as we come up against our shortcomings and the dilemmas our children present to us.

What is needed today is not another expert, some new authority to follow or to reject, but a new way of seeing the human being that takes into account all aspects of development – physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual – so we and our children can meet the challenges of our changing world […].


We are living in a time of transition, a time in which the old patterns of society no longer hold us. We are being called upon to approach all aspects of our lives with new awareness. Life in our families, cities, churches, and schools is changing at an ever-increasing rate as we struggle to establish or maintain equilibrium.


We can’t go back to a milk-and-cookies mentality that denies the changes of the past twenty-five years. But we need to recognize that the world of the young child is critically endangered today, as more and more children are placed in daycare beginning in infancy and academics is pushed onto younger and younger children. It has become even more urgent that we understand that children are not little adults. They do not think, reason, feel or experience the world as an adult does. Instead, they are centered in their bodies, and in the will which manifests itself in such powerful growth and need for movement in the first seven years. They learn primarily and most appropriately through example and imitation. Repetition and rhythm are also vital elements in the healthy world of the young child and need to be emphasized by parents and others responsible for the care of young children.

The young child takes everything in without blocks or filters, and for this reason we must put special attention into the quality of the environment and the experiences that come to her. There needs to be a balance between stimulating and protecting the baby’s and young child’s senses. Stimulation from artificial sources ( movies, records, [TV, video games, CDs] synthetic fabrics) has a different impact on the young child than stimulation from your own voice or objects from nature. Because the young child is all sense-organ, we need to be selective in what is experienced and help guard against violating the young child’s dreamy state.

Everything of life is taken in so deeply by the young child, to be transformed and come out again in creative play. Providing time and appropriate materials for this kind of play helps the child to work his way into earthly life by imitating through his play everything that he experiences. Allowing this natural impulse of creative imagination to flourish is one of the greatest gifts parents can give their children between birth and first grade.

The young child also has a natural artistic and musical ability, which can be furthered by allowing its free expression without lessons or pressure to produce something in a certain way. Songs, rhythmical movement and circle games all speak to the magical world of early childhood.

Just as it is developmentally important that children crawl before they walk (and do not skip steps), so it is important that children not be prematurely awakened from the dreamy imaginative world of early childhood before the natural time for this, around the age of six or seven. Lessons, workbooks, and academic tasks not only take the tasks not only take the child away from movement and valuable play, they also accelerate the child’s change of consciousness and rob him of the last valuable years of childhood – years which are vital to a person’s later physical health as well as mental development. Trying to speed up development in young children places them at risk, with no apparent gain to justify such risks.


As our children’s first teachers there is much we can do, and much it is better we don’t do! It is my hope that this book will help to contribute to parents’ understanding the special nature of the young child and her unique needs. If we can take both knowledge and practical experience into our hearts, we will have increased confidence as we develop our own ethic of parenting and make our own best choices for our children. The challenges are great, but so are the growth and the rewards!