Heckman challenges the community to embrace Five Golden Keys for early childhood growth and learning

Helle Heckman, Founder and Director of Nokken, a Waldorf Daycare Centre in Denmark, spoke September 7 at SiMT about the Five Golden Keys for children: Sleep, Movement, Nutrition, Routine, Love. Photo by Melissa Rollins

By Melissa Rollins, Editor, editor@newsandpress.net

World-renowned early childhood education speaker Helle Heckman was in Florence on September 7 to speak about her Five Golden Keys to raising healthy, happy children. Heckman is the Founder and Director of Nokken, a Waldorf Daycare Centre in Denmark.

“I thank you for being here today,” Heckman said. “I thank you on behalf of those who have a very little voice, the children. Children are not able to speak of their needs; they need us the adults who have a consciousness to help bring up a child so it can work with its own potential and become the person they are supposed to be.”

Heckman said that it is important to grow and maintain the five keys in childhood because that is the foundation for adulthood.
“I’ve been worried because the tempo that society has today is so fast and we lose connection to the most essentials in our life,” Heckman said. “It is very seldom we stop and ask how am I, who am I, who have I become. We forget that little children are not little adults; they are something really, really special and the first seven years are so important. It never, ever returns. What goes wrong in early childhood, we have to work on for the rest of our life.”

The Five Golden Keys Heckman travels around the world speaking about are:
• Sleep
• Movement
• Nutrition
• Routine
• Love


Heckman said that sleep is often the key to changing our lives and the behavior problems we see in children.

“Reconsider your quality of life in the perspective of sleep,” Heckman said. “One thing is you, you are an adult and you can do what you want with your life. Another thing is children, children cannot do whatever they want; they are not supposed to be doing whatever they want. They are not capable to make decision on how much they need to sleep.”

Children six and under should be sleeping 12-hours a night, Heckman said.

“If children do not get sufficient sleep it has a huge impact on many things,” she said. “It has an impact on the growth of the physical body. It has an impact on the development of the brain. It has an impact on their social competence. It has an impact on mood and eating habits. That child does not do what is necessarily good for them. We, who are around the child, need to teach the child sleep hygiene.”


Children do not walk and play the ways they used to, Heckman said, but curiosity and exploration build confidence.

“When I look upon children today, I see so little movement,” Heckman said. “Children love to move. They love to run and they love to experience. Embrace physical activity in a healthy and simple way. Don’t be afraid of climbing trees…rolling down hills…eating a worm…jumping in the mud. That is a need for the child to experience ‘Who am I.’ If you don’t learn yourself, how can you feel good about yourself? There are so many adults today who have very low self-esteem because they were never challenged in a healthy way.”


The ways families eat and what they eat has changed a lot over her 32-year career, Heckman said. Busy lives mean that sitting and eating at the table each night often doesn’t happen.

“Making food is very old fashioned, I know, but it is very good,” Heckman said. “We should really consider to bring back simple cooking in our homes. I know you have such a rich tradition here of good cooking. If you want your children to carry your culture, you need to bring cooking back in your homes with the children else they will not learn it and when they are adults they will choose fast food.”
Heckman said that with food available all the time, children are accustomed to snacking and aren’t eating to be nourished.

“It is not good with all these snacks you have here in America; people eat all the time,” Heckman said. “If children are always eating pizza and pasta, it is just swallowing; it is not giving them nutrition. We have to bring back carrots for snack. Children need to chew. All over the world children have huge language problems because they are not using their teeth, their tongue and their spit. They also need to have food that fills them in a healthy way.”


When they have a daily routine to follow, children know what to expect and are more at ease and are able to learn and grow, Heckman said.
“Children are the most conservative people in the world,” she said. “They really appreciate that everything is as it used to be. In fact, they hate transitions. The way we can help them in to life is to create a daily life where they feel safe and secure. As more safe and secure a child feels in its daily life, the more energy and security it has to go out into the world and play. Children who do not feel safe cannot play or it is harder for them to play. When they play, they build up capacity and they become a creative human being.”


“Love is the most important thing of everything in the world,” Heckman said. “As adults we really have a responsibility in love toward our children. The children love us. Every child loves its parents the most. They look up to you. They need you; they need your time. This love comes with a responsibility. I know what is best for my child. I need to be able to say yes…and to say no because it is me that is the boss; the boss with love not with power, control and anger. We are not friends with our children. When they are little they are our responsibility and we have to guide them and show them life. They see that through who we are. How we engage with society and speak to people. How we meet our struggles. The children need us to be the guidance because they cannot guide themselves.”

Author: Rachel Howell

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