Welcome to the Parenting Blog! My name is Stephanie Cleary and I am an Early Childhood Educator and Parent Child Teacher at the Waldorf School of Garden City. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!
Click here to download the Winter 2013-2014 issues of the Early Childhood Newsletter.
"Our bodies are our gardens – our wills are our gardeners." - William Shakespeare
Are you completely baffled when you hear Waldorf teachers talk about rhythm?! How do we bring rhythm into our hectic lives with all of these demands from our family, our job and our busy calendar? Is keeping a daily rhythm new to you? Underwhelm yourself! Start simple. Use mealtime as your anchor.
Begin by creating a set time for your meals. If your schedule is too busy to do this, then start with one meal. If you make an attainable goal, you’re more likely to accomplish it. For example, every morning, breakfast will take place at 7:00 am. Commit to it. Keep the time consistent for a week. After you have established the set time, build on it. You can add another mealtime, for example, dinner will be at 5:30 pm. Perhaps you can add in a mealtime blessing, or lighting a candle. As you and your children grow with these rhythms and rituals, you will all become more secure and confident.
“Earth, who gives to us this food,
Sun, who makes it ripe and good,
Dear Sun, dear Earth, by you we live,
Our loving thanks to you we give.”
Once the set mealtime is working for you, you are ready to create a meal menu for the week. This doesn’t have to be rigid! If you choose to make Soup every Monday night, you can experiment with different soups. The meal you enjoy in the evening can make a perfect lunch the next day. Simplify! Making a weekly meal menu will help to highlight areas where your meal planning may need a boost. Maybe you are lacking greens or grains or proteins? This will help you know when you need to add something or when you are over using a certain food.
Planning your meals will also simplify meal preparation. If you know what foods you eat on Monday, you will know how to plan ahead when grocery shopping.
A few years ago a friend gifted me with a slow cooker. I was reluctant to use this having had no experience with it. It quickly became a close friend of mine! Prep the food in the evening and let it cook over night. Not only will your family have a wonderful sensory experience as you awaken to the aroma that fills your home, you will also have wonderful hot lunches fresh and ready to go in the thermos of your school age child. This also helps to keep ourselves and our partners healthy...two extra thermoses, and you will not be tempted to grab lunch on the go. Healthy and economical! If you’ve never used a slow cooker and you need ideas, check this blog, 365daysofslowcooking. When I didn’t care for certain ingredients used on the blog, I would replace them with my own organic substitutes.
"The body is your temple. Keep it pure and clean for the soul to reside in." -B.K.S. IYENGAR
In his book, Simplicity Parenting, Kim John Payne supports the idea of dinner schedules. "Family dinners get much simpler when they’re predictable; Monday pasta night, Tuesday rice night, Wednesday soup, and so on. By suggesting this system, do I have Mom or Dad (or whoever cooks) in mind? Well, yes, regular meals make preparation easier. But I recommend the practice mainly because it is so deeply grounding and affirming for kids."
"Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." - Hippocrates, 460 B.C.
Plan your meals for the week and let the healing rhythm begin! Below is a sample from a parent who wrote out the staple part of the meal. Notice she brought dinner leftovers right into the lunch the next day. This Mom said she builds around the meal. On Wednesday’s she may make a beef stew with vegetables or she may make a bison steak with vegetables and brown rice on the side. Keep the staple and build around it. Whether you are vegan, vegetarian, or meatatarian, simplify your life…plan your meals and enjoy!
"You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces-just good food from fresh ingredients."
- Julia Child
"There was never a child so lovely but his mother was glad to get him to sleep" – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ah, Summertime! The breathing out. The sunshine. The late nights. The great outdoor fun. Sleeping late in the morning. The lack of rhythm! The start of school around the bend! How did the summer move by so quickly?!? We will soon be entering a new school year. How do we prepare our young children for the transition into a new school year, or for some, into the first school year? Let's face it. Not everyone has an easy time holding rhythm during the year, let alone through the summer. How can we begin to shift this pattern? Start now. Wherever you are, whatever your life is like, starting now is the best place to be.
Let’s begin with bedtime. Ultimately a child that is preschool age benefits most from early sleep. If your child is going to bed late, begin bedtime a little earlier. Start tonight! If the child is going to bed at 10 pm (Ooooo... that’s late! Don’t worry. I won’t tell!), begin bedtime at 9 pm (still late.) The following week establish an 8 pm bedtime (you’re getting there!). Finally, establish a 7 pm bedtime (how well rested you will be!). Whatever time your child is tucked in, keep making bedtime earlier each week, half hour by half hour, until you finally reach the goal of 7 pm bedtime. This may mean shifting naps to an earlier time as well. Before your eyes, you will have a well-rested, happy child, and you will have sacred time for yourself each evening! I know it’s thrilling to even think about it! Remember to keep dinner and bath time early, to help create a stress free sleep time! If you are struggling with setting this new bedtime, add in a simple ritual to make bedtime special. A few sips of warm chamomile tea can soothe and relax your restless child. Rub a little lavender oil on the soles of your little one’s feet or light a candle and say a short verse. Keep it simple and choose only one ritual so it is easy to stick to it. Darkening shades or drapes can help a great deal with early bedtime. They also help children sleep later in the morning. When my children were toddlers, darkening the room was a worthwhile investment since they thought 5:30 am was getting up late!
Turning daily rhythms into rituals can deepen the experience for you and your child. Enjoy every moment with your little one!
"Sleep is the best meditation" – Dalai Lama
How many hours are needed for healthy sleep? In The New York Times article, “Zombie Prevention: Your Child’s Sleep,’’ Jane E. Brody mentions that according to the National Sleep Foundation, newborns should sleep 12 to 18 hours, with a gradual reduction to 12 to 14 hours for toddlers ages 1 to 3; 11 to 13 hours for preschoolers ages 3 to 5; and (yes!) 10 to 11 hours for school children ages 5 to 10. If having 12 hours or more of sleep is what it takes to have a healthy, happy child, then dinner at 5 pm and bed at 6:30 pm may be the answer.
Stick to it! You won’t believe how life will improve! A little rhythm goes a long way.
Stay tuned for my next blog when we will talk about creating rhythm around meal times.
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