In the midst of a house move, relatives staying with us and a new pregnancy we completely lost our rhythm. Those anchor points in the day; meal times, sleep and getting outdoors became unpredictable and the latter, sometimes non-existent. These major transitions and this lack of rhythm has understandably unsettled Althea and it has taken us a little bit of time to shape a new rhythm around our new environment and our new circumstances.
Firstly I started by stripping our days right back and simplifying, we slowed right down. Morning outings were just not working for us, by the time we eventually got out of the house we were both tired and running dangerously close to nap time. A lot of places where we live don’t open until 10am and this doesn’t allow us ample time when lunch and naps take place between 11am and 12pm. So we stopped venturing far from home in the mornings and started to use this time for chores (which make for great practical life activities) and for being outside in the garden (it gets too hot past 10am so really this is the perfect time for us).
We moved outings (where possible) to after nap time, but I also decided to remove some of the guilt I felt when we didn’t make it out somewhere, because in fact, the days we stayed close to home were the most pleasant. I came to the realisation that we didn’t need to GO somewhere every-single-day. We don’t need an external activity that inevitably we end up rushing to because, well, everything takes 10 times longer with a toddler in tow. I kept a few key outings in our weekly rhythm, the library, a regular play date with a few close friends and the park. For now this feels like enough for both of us but over the summer we would like to introduce swimming to our weekends and in the new academic year we would like to start attending a Waldorf parent and toddler group.
On days when we don’t make it out of the house in the afternoon we have started introducing an activity like baking, painting or gardening and the rest of the time we spend in the playroom. Increasingly I can sit in the chair with a book whilst Althea spends her time self directing her play.
Althea, other than during periods of separation anxiety, has been very capable of playing independently, however recently this has not been the case. I put this down to the huge transition of moving house and the disruption caused by a less than ideal start to my new pregnancy. But I also wondered if it was something we were doing on a daily basis that was contributing to her unsettled behaviour (and my exhaustion). That’s when I stumbled across THIS article on developing a Waldorf rhythm and realised that our ‘breathing’ was perhaps all out of whack.
During my time as an early years educator we would spend much of our planning time trying to strike a balance between adult-led and child-led activities. Usually where there is an adult-led activity a child-led activity follows. Waldorf likens this balance to breathing in and breathing out and ya know what? It really is and it really works. Well, mostly. There will always be periods where children need a little more of your attention and other periods where they require a little bit more space, but as a general rule, adapting your daily rhythm to fit this pattern of ‘in’ and ‘out’ can be helpful.
So I have been trying to ensure that our daily activities flow in this manner, with time spent being present and tuned in followed by a little distance allowing Althea time for some self directed play and me some time to do something I need to do.
In: Wake up and Breakfast Time together – we will sit at the table and usually read through a stack of books whilst she eats
Out: Althea potters around the playroom whilst I wash up – sometimes she might need a little more ‘breathing in’ before she is ready to do this, so I spend sometime sat with her before going off to wash the breakfast pots.
In: We head out into the garden, we look for snails, sweep the yard and water the plants together.
Out: After 10 minutes or so she’s usually happy for me to sit down with a coffee whilst she busies herself, checking in every now and again.
In: We head up for a morning bath together.
Out: She will usually stay in for a period of time once I have gotten out which means I can get ready whilst she plays.
In: Once I’m ready we head into her room to get dressed. She usually enjoys some nappy free time first whilst we read some books together, then she helps choose her clothes and we go and brush her teeth.
Out: We head back downstairs and she potters around the kitchen whilst I fix us some snack.
In: We eat snack together, this is a time when, if necessary, she is allowed some screen time for 10 – 15 minutes. Otherwise we sit at her snack table and read a few books.
Out: She either chooses to go back out into the garden or into the playroom for a period of time
In: After a little while she’ll usually want me to join her in what she’s doing or she’ll need some quiet time with a book as we head towards nap time.
Out: I make us some lunch which she can help with if she likes
In: We eat lunch together and afterwards she helps clean up, then it is usually time to head up for a nap. We do our toilet learning routine and close the curtains and choose a book to read whilst she drinks her milk.
Out: We both nap! Or I take the time to read a book or catch up on social media. I used to beat myself up when I didn’t use this time to do chores but since being pregnant I’ve laid off with the guilt and realised (pregnant or not) it is important to carve out sometime like this for yourself.
In: We spend some time together post nap in her room before going to the bathroom to use the potty and change her nappy. If we’re going out we’ll get our things ready and grab some snack to go. If we’re staying in it is very much a repeat of the morning only I will set up an adult initiated activity such as painting, a sensorial activity or maybe the paddling in pool in the garden.
Once daddy is home I am able to focus on getting dinner ready whilst they spend some good quality time together. This usually fills her cup right up and we’ve found that after dinner she has started taking herself off to the playroom and will spend a good half an hour playing independently whilst we clean up. This isn’t always the case, sometimes she is over tired and its straight up to start the bedtime routine but it is clear to see that something prior to this evening period is building her up for some self directed time.
If you are interested in learning more about creating your own rhythm at home here are a few of my favourite links: