I’ve always sought to create an environment where my family is connected to and in harmony with nature. Some of the defining features of the natural world are the rhythms that drive and link all organic and inorganic matter. I’ve been hugely influenced by aspects of the Waldorf approach for early years, which has a strong focus on rhythm and connection with nature. Over the past few months I’ve been consciously embedding rhythms into our family: daily rhythms, weekly rhythms, seasonal rhythms and annual rhythms. I’ll be posting about each of them in turn, and here I’ll start off with our daily rhythm.
How our daily rhythm evolved
As mentioned on a previous post, when my daughter first arrived home, we stuck to a rigid routine. I had a schedule and I was unwavering. It was important for both of us. She was a frightened, grieving two year old; uprooted from everything and everyone that she knew. I was suddenly a mum to a fully formed toddler in the middle of the coldest, wettest winter for a long time. It was important that everything was consistent and predictable while we found our feet and got to know each other.
Over time, as my daughter settled into our family life and learnt to trust me, our routine slackened. We no longer stuck to rigid timings; instead we fitted in extra play or enjoyed spending time with friends and family, or added a trip out somewhere fun. But this doesn’t mean we’ve thrown structure completely to the wind. Instead, we’ve maintained patterns of activities each day. We still have a reliable sequence of events that can maintain predictability and expectation which allows my daughter to feel safe and comfortable. We don’t have a rigid routine, but we do have familiarity and rhythm.
How do you build a daily rhythm
- You probably already follow some sort of rhythm, in terms of the meals and snacks you eat, and your sleeping and waking patterns. These can be the building blocks of your rhythm as you start to create more structure or sequences around them. Once I had these mapped out, I started to think about what else I wanted to incorporate on a daily basis.
- For me, on top of lots of time for play, this included: reading together; sharing poems and songs together (a home version of a waldorf ‘circle time’); exposure to foreign languages, music, and art (appreciation of, and creation of); cooking together and plenty of time outside. I then decided which activities I’d ideally like to enjoy daily, and what would be best on a weekly basis.
- Consider if you would like some ‘markers’ for key points in your day. For us (again inspired by Waldorf) we use lots of songs. We also light a candle for mealtimes.
- Children pick up on predictable rhythms intuitively but it can also be a useful reminder to have a visual representation of rhythm. You might want to trial a new rhythm for a few weeks before you make a visual, in case you end up tweaking anything.
So what does our daily rhythm look like?
Waking up and breakfast rhythm
- Our day starts together with the song “Good morning dear earth…”. I found this on Sundays with Sarah, but I have since realised it’s a Waldorf classic. NB My daughter stays in her cot until the gro clock signals day time, which is when I go into her room and sing our morning song.
- My daughter gets dressed, with a little help and a lot of encouragement, and we tidy her room/make her bed together
- We go downstairs and see to the animals and prepare our breakfast together
- We sit down at the table and I light a candle, saying another of Sarah’s verses, before singing a mealtime blessing: “blessing on the blossoms…” (yep, you guessed it, it’s from Sarah’s posts about verses again, but also another Waldorf classic)
- I normally play music by a specific composer at mealtimes, as a foundation for composer study. At the time of writing this post, we’re listening to Mozart.
- When we’ve finished breakfast, my daughter enjoys blowing out the candle, and we each take our crockery/utensils to the sink to wash.
- Next we snuggle on the sofa and read a selection from our Morning Basket. Our Morning Basket is a collection of picture books incorporating stories, art, french, poetry and nature. This is a stalwart part of our day. Even if we have an activity that starts early, I’ll always fit in at least one read aloud before leaving the house.
- Most days a period of play will follow. The exceptions are when we are going out to an activity or to meet friends
- My intention is to implement a short housework task (eg sweeping/loading the washing machine etc) before stopping for a snack, but I haven’t yet made this part of our rhythm
- We have a mid-morning snack, and this time we’ll often listen to children’s songs in french.
- After our snack, we do our version of the Waldorf Circle time. This is a selection of seasonal songs, poems, yoga and stories. If we’re going out to an activity, we’ll do an adapted version in the car.
- We then usually have an outing until lunch time. An outing could mean taking the dog for a walk; or crossing the field to visit my mum; or a regular group that we attend.
- At lunchtime, we light a candle and sing “for the golden corn” as our mealtime blesssing. Again I’ll often put on our specific composer (eg Mozart) in the background while we’re eating
- After lunchtime, my daughter has a nap. Our transition to naptime is very similar to bedtime (more of which, later)
- Upon waking, I sing her an adapted version of “good morning dear earth…”, changed to – you guessed it – “good afternoon dear earth…”!
- We have another snack, again often listening to and singing some french nursery rhymes
- After our snack, we almost always sit down at the piano. We play (read: bash) and sing nursery rhymes, and a range of other music together. This crept into our rhythm by itself. Although I didn’t plan it, now we’re having so much fun doing this at a regular time every day, I’m hoping that it will be the start of daily music practice/enjoyment. NB my daughter has free access to our piano and she can often be heard tinkling away on it at other times of the day too
- Next, is a combination of free play time and an opportunity for an activity from our weekly rhythm. I will post separately about this, but essentially I am allocating a different activity to each day, such as bread baking or painting. These activities are influenced both by Waldorf practices and by Charlotte Mason’s afternoon occupations. I decided to start adding these in as my daughter is only starting to enjoy playing independently. I have discovered that I am only good at engaging her in play for short periods, so needed some more structured alternatives to offer her. These are always optional, and if she does want to continue playing she can (although that hasn’t happened so far)
- I have noticed that she does have a burst of wanting to play independently in the late afternoons, while I am preparing dinner. I always try to ensure that there is space and time for this (and actually it’s quite helpful when I’m busy in the kitchen).
- We often eat together with my mum. We start by lighting a candle and sing “earth who made for us this food…” I have opted to sing a different blessing for each of our three main meals. My reasoning was that it could help my daughter mark the different times of day. Others may find it less confusing to always sing the same blessing at each meal
- After dinner, depending on the time we may play a little longer, or have a wonder outside
- We then brush teeth, wash, and get pyjamas on.
- I turn on the gro clock, while saying the sweet waldorf poem: “now the sun has gone to bed…”
- I read aloud, mainly fiction, whilst snuggling up together
- My daughter has a short time reading one or two books in her cot independently
- After a final go on the potty, we turn out the light and I cradle my daughter and sing rock-a-bye (I alter the ending to “but mummy will catch [name] and all”
- I lay her down in her cot and stroke her head whilst singing “time to sleep my baby…”. A final kiss and I leave her to settle herself to sleep.