The Importance of Rhythm

"Increasing the rhythm of your home life is one of the most powerful ways of simplifying your children’s lives” - Simplicity Parenting.

RHYTHM is likely the word you will encounter the most when learning about Waldorf Early Childhood Education. Rhythm however extends beyond what is found in the Waldorf nursery or Kindergarten classroom, and permeates all aspects of life beyond. These can be the simple everyday's, and when the "foundational rhythms and activities are fully grounded; they anchor and orient our family life". Having a strong home/family rhythm helps create a more harmonious environment and secure connection with each other. How many of us struggle with transitions or getting through the day-to-day routine with our children, or feel like they are fighting us to get through the basic functions of the day? Rhythm truly is the magical element that helps ease these tensions/conflicts, brings us all together and allows us to focus on and craft a family culture that reflects what we value most.Whether you are a Waldorf family or not, you can draw inspiration and bring these ideas into your home to have more harmony and connection.

Rhythm vs. Routine

Firstly, rhythm is not the same as routine. Some families have routines, some do not. But it's more likely that you follow a similar pattern for rest and meal times from day to day. After all, we are creatures of habit. If you do have some consistent habits , then you already have some anchors to work with. Rhythm is much more of an organic flow or underlying framework that ties all these touch points in your day together. Secondly, think of rhythm like breathing - with the two components being breathing "in" and "out". If you think of your day in these terms, then you can structure your daily rhythm accordingly. Breathing "in" activities can be quiet, focused, introspective, listening, resting etc. Breathing "out" is active, playing, movement, outdoors etc. Your day should weave these "in" and "out"s continuously like the act of breathing.

If you find your children inexplicably rowdy at times, it may be possible that they need an "out" breath (need to play/move their bodies) or they may be tired and overstimulated and need an "in" breath (calm, quiet, rest). Build your rhythm so it meets the needs of your child following the rhythmic in/out flow.

Finally, it helps to remember that children thrive on simple and gentle (don't overschedule) rhythms. Doing so will help provide predictability, a sense of stability and the framework they need to feel secure and flourish.

Daily, Weekly & Seasonal Rhythms

Our Daily Rhythm is as follows:

8 AM - Wake up/Get dressed/Make beds

8:30 AM - Breakfast

9:00 AM - Morning Song & Circle

9:15 AM - 10:30 AM Free play (indoor or out)

10:45 AM - Morning Activity

11:30 - Help with Meal preparation (washing, chopping etc)

NOON - Meal Blessing & Lunch

12:30 PM - Story time

1 - 3:30 PM Quiet time/Nap

3:30 - Wake up, have a snack

4-5:30 PM - Free Play (indoor or out)

6 PM Meal Blessing & Dinner

6:30 PM - Bath time

7 PM - Story time

7:30 - 8 PM - Bed time

The actual times are not as importance as the sequence of events and the in/out rhythmic flow they follow. Sometimes my children wake up earlier, sometimes we all sleep in. I find once a strong rhythm has been established, it actually allows for greater flexibility in the day. When children have this predictability in their lives, and also a rhythm that is built around their needs for movement and play as well as rest and quiet, they are much more cooperative. When my children become uncooperative, I often take it as a cue that something in our rhythm is off. I will evaluate whether we have had too many "in" activities - which can make them become restless and rowdy - or with too many "out" activities they may become overstimulated and cranky. It is a balance and you can fine tune as you go.

Once you have your rhythm established, you can begin to cultivate so much joy and reverence in your home. Doing meaningful work while your children play and singing your transitions are some ideas. Another one of our favourite ways to cultivate reverence in our home is with our meal time ritual. We sit down after the children help to lay the table, light a beeswax candle, hold hands and sing a mealtime blessing or verse (I will be sharing these in a separate post). This is a consistent and comforting touchstone for our family and really allows us to connect, reflect and appreciate each other and the day.

Weekly Rhythm

The difference between a daily and a weekly rhythm may be a little confusing, in our family we interpret our weekly rhythm as corresponding to where we are in the week. We follow the same daily rhythm established (above) but change the activities based on what day of the week it is.

Time is a very abstract concept for young children. By assigning each day a colour (we’re following the anthroposophical colours of the week) and simple illustration of the day’s special activity helps them to understand “what day it is”. Our weekly rhythm is as follows: Monday (baking day) is purple, Tuesday (forest walk) is red, Wednesday (painting) is yellow, Thursday (co-op/playgroup) is orange, Friday (beeswax) is green, Saturday (soup day) is blue and Sunday (rest) is white.

Seasonal Rhythm Once you have your daily and weekly rhythm established, it's time to add another layer with the seasonal rhythm. Again, the way we interpret and incorporate seasonal rhythms responds to the question of "where are we in the seasons?" how do we sync up our daily/weekly family rhythm with what is happening with the natural world outside? Incorporating seasonal rhythms is a great way to connect with the natural world and create more depth and meaning in your every day life. These are the ways we include and follow seasonal rhythms: 1) Seasonal songs, verses and movement games 2) Celebrating Festivals 3) Seasonal Crafts and Handwork 4) Seasonal/Nature Table

Celebrating Festivals is one of our favourite parts of being a Waldorf family. I will be frequently sharing ways we celebrate seasonal festivals on this blog and hope you will find some inspiration to do the same. To recap: Daily Rhythm (where are we in the day?) Weekly Rhythm (where are we in the week?) and Seasonal Rhythm (where are we in the season?) And there you have it! I hope you enjoyed this post on rhythm and found it insightful. As always please feel free to share your experience or ask any questions, I love to hear from and connect with other families pursuing a holistic and simplified life. Have a wonderful and inspired week.

Warmly, Paula

This post originally appeared on my Willow Play School Blog