a waldorf inspired rhythm
RHYTHM is a theme which runs throughout the entire length and breadth of Waldorf Education. It is especially important in Early Childhood, when change and transitions can often bring about anxiety. Rhythm can allow the child to safely rely upon what is going to happen each day. It is easily adaptable into the home and you don’t have to be a family following the Waldorf Approach for it to greatly benefit your whole family and your day to day life.
Having a rhythm has been a blessing to both myself and my children. Rhythm was a concept I initially struggled with. As a parent who had always had a ‘routine’ or ‘schedule’ with my older children the idea of having a routine, that was not really a routine, that was free of time constraints and that could change and adapt bewildered me.
rhythm and its benefits for the child
Rhythm is all around us, we experience it daily, from sunrise to sunset, from season to season. Rhythm is within us from the rise and fall of our chest as we breathe in the air, to the beating of our hearts.
Children experience rhythm in a deeply profound way. To a newborn, the sound of a soothing heartbeat, the gentle rhythmic pat on the bottom or swaying in a parents arms transports a them back to a haven of peace and safety reminiscent of the rhythm of the womb. A toddler eagerly anticipates the love, care and affection that comes with the bedtime routine and with the security of knowing what to expect. Children thrive with rhythm, being able to anticipate the flow of a day, gives them a feeling of wellbeing and security, all impacting on their ability to deal with the sometimes hectic demands of modern family life and to learn and retain information. Including celebrations as part of your seasonal rhythm can also help children see rhythm in the wider world and to find their own place in it.
As rhythm helps to harmonise the day, in turn it harmonises the child’s internal rhythm, as a child’s restful and wakeful times become regular so they begin to settle into a sleep pattern, as children enjoy meals and snacks at predictable times in the day, their appetite and digestion greatly benefits.
rhythm in the home
Rhythm on paper works as the foundation of the day, its a guide of how days should unfold. Just like the rhythm of our own heartbeat it can change with demand. The key to creating an effective rhythm is to think of how we breathe, as we inhale we take in oxygen to sustain the body, as we exhale we breathe out carbon dioxide which sustains the earth. This Rhythm creates a natural balance and nourishment between us and the external world
When we talk about breathing in and out in our home rhythm, breathing in, is a contracting activity, which sustains the families need for closeness, guidance and shared experiences (meal and snack times, tidy time, morning and bedtime routine, a creative activity etc). Breathing out, is a time for expansion and release to enable a child to freely be themselves through their own play and socialisation with others. One will always follow the other to bring balance and focus to the day, not only for the child, but also to the adults too. I know I definitely feels it benefits.
laying the foundations of a home rhythm
To start building a Rhythm it is important to first think about the following:
• What are your anchor points? These are usually mealtimes, bedtime routine etc, and usually will not change day to day, they form the backbone of the daily rhythm and will often end up being times of calm amongst a day which may go a little awry (and they still do from time to time, we have to remind ourselves we are only human!)
• What are your stress points? Is it leaving the house, tidy time, bedtime. Stress-points are areas which you can look at making more rhythmic first.
• What is important to you and your family? Do you value sitting down together for dinner? Do you want more quiet time as a family to read together? More time to play board games and less TV? More time for self care?
• Involve and ask your children, your partner what they would like from their days, make this an exciting opportunity to make a rhythm you all love.
• Most importantly, be kind to yourself, take it one step at a time, start by bringing rhythm to your anchor points and stress points. A rhythm to bedtime, then mealtimes, then throw in an activity. Slow and steady will give children time to get used to changes and allow you to see what works and what doesn’t without becoming overwhelmed. Strong Rhythms don’t happen overnight.
some ideas to help you on your way
• Build your rhythm around your weekly needs.
• Involve all the family in purposeful work – put your laundry in the middle of the floor sit together and fold it, I have had some wonderful conversation all whilst sat around the Mt. Everest of clothing piles. Allow children the independence they deserve as capable human beings, even if you think they can’t do something they may surprise you, their natural will to imitate will not only allow them to deeply involve themselves in work with you it will facilitate amazing lifelong learning. Often just sitting and asking an “I wonder” question can spark the most disengaged child into action. So rather than asking them to help, I would say. I wonder who’s this t-shirt is? I wonder if I should sort these into colours?
• Allow more than enough time for transitions such as leaving the house, getting shoes on, getting ready for bed, brushing teeth etc. Children sometimes find it difficult to cooperate with an adults requests when they feel rushed, allow them the time to live in the beauty of what they are doing and enjoy the process.
• Sing Songs. Sing simple songs to make transitions easier to anticipate, if you don’t have one, make one up. An easy one would be to the tune of ‘Here we go round the Mulberry Bush’ for example ‘Now it is time to tidy up, tidy up, tidy up, now it is time to tidy up….on a lovely Springtime morning” Children respond so well to song and it speaks to them on a deeper level verbal instructions never do.
• Slow down. We all know how hectic and demanding modern life can be, evaluate what you really need to do and what you can really live without. Be kind to yourself.
• Create little rituals to make the ordinary beautiful and the mundane feel special. Light candles at mealtimes, add lavender oil to bath time water, have a special song when brushing hair, make your rhythm rich, and nourishing, with special touches which engage the senses and enable all to be in the present enjoying the moment.
• Through twelve senses children absorb the world around them indiscriminately, therefore giving rhythm a visual and tactile voice can enable a child to absorb it deeply into their being. Pictures printed and displayed for the days activities, nourishing wooden items signifying days, months, even weather and allowing children to document your rhythm through wet on wet watercolour painting for example, can really provide an opportunity for children to not only anticipate and recognise the home rhythm, but to see it and incorporate it as part of their day as an independent being, during their own important work of play.
Rhythm can be as simple of complex as you need, it can be a guide to day from rising to bedtime or it can be as simple as a weekly rhythm for bake day, wash day etc the most important thing is It should help nourish you as a family. Don’t despair if it does not quite seem to work allow for a time of adaptation for all the family (I would say a couple of weeks) and then have a look at what isn’t quite working.
Finally, breathe, and enjoy the process.
This Journal Post was written by our dear friend Kelly – you can find her on instagram @thewaywewaldorf
For examples of daily and weekly Waldorf inspired rhythms by different families please see our journal post ‘Examples of Waldorf Inspired Rhythms’.