Thursday, January 9, 2020

Rhythm and Routine: We Can't Have One without the Other

Rhythm and Routine
a series of articles to support rhythm in the home

A few thoughts on rhythm and routine, and how each one needs the other...

Rhythm is simply routine with recurring movement based on conscious awareness of energy. Does an activity bring us inward to a quiet place or does it have an expansive quality?

Routine is doing something over and over again in the same way - repetition.

To create a good rhythm means to bring conscious awareness to the energetic qualities of the child's activities of daily, weekly and seasonal life, and to create repetitive experiences that unfold in the same familiar way every day.

Ways Rhythm + Routine Work Together...

With daily life, this means having a series of predictable activities everyday, doing the same things in the same order everyday. Getting up, getting dressed, eating breakfast, doing chores, going out to play is an example of one series of activities (routine) that balances the quiet of awakening and starting the day (rhythm) with eating, doing chores and going outside for free play.

What seems incredibly dull and boring to an adult brings security and comfort to a child through it's predictability and reliability. A child can know what's coming next with anticipation for the predictable and find emotional security in knowing the world is reliably consistent. This is very important to children, especially those who experience anxiety and stress. Familiarity means security. That the child experiences a feeling of, "I can count on this to be the same, it's trustworthy, life is trustworthy, life is good," is so important in the early years. At a time when the world's challenges seem to permeate everything around us, the consistency of daily routines can be very comforting to a child as well as to family life.

"Good Night House"
Another example is an evening routine of saying goodnight to the house and Dolly and animal friends, followed by brushing teeth, bath, pajamas and bed with a quiet story. This predictable series of activities (routine) helps a child anticipate and look forward to meeting what's coming next in the evening. A predictable routine provides comfort and security and eliminates frustration and the need for discipline or bribery to elicit co-operation. It just happens (with our guidance) because the routine has become the natural order of things. These comforting routines make up a healthy daily rhythm. 

Balance Energies
To have a good rhythm means to have found a good balance between the energies of activities such as rousing-calming, inner-outer, challenging-soothing, quiet-loud and the needs of the child. In order to wind down at the end of the day, a child needs to have had an opportunity to have "wound up" or experienced physical activity and healthy sensory stimulation earlier in the day.

Bedtime Burst of Energy
My boys reached a stage at bedtime when they were no longer able to move into the upstairs, bath, pajamas, bed part of the day without some pretty vigorous roughhousing on the bed. At first I tried to stop it to maintain the quiet mood we were so used to enjoying. Eventually I realized they needed more intense physical activity in their day before they would be able to switch gears toward bedtime, even when the house was quiet, the lights were dimmed and all attention was on winding down. 

Inner Focused or Outer Focused?
Some activities can be categorized as inner focused such as quiet self initiated indoor free play, watercolor painting, drawing or listening to a story while other activities are more outer focused such as self initiated outdoor free play with other children, running, sledding and ice skating.

It's impossible to categorize every activity as either inner or outer focused as each child has his or her own experience of an activity. For some children free play is an inner focused activity, while for others it is very social and outer focused. The child's experience of an activity may differ depending on the context. A child who experiences meals and eating as an inner directed activity at home may become more outer focused in the social realm when sitting at a table with friends. 

Seasonal Rhythm
To have a seasonal rhythm is to embrace and bring energetic qualities of the season to daily and weekly activities. In autumn that might look like apple picking at the apple orchard and incorporating warming seasonal foods like apples, pears, root vegetables and squashes made with warming spices like cinnamon and allspice into our daily and weekly meals. It may mean going to bed earlier in the dark of winter and staying up later during the summer when the days are long and there's time to sleep late in the morning. 

Weekly Rhythm
With weekly rhythm, it might look like starting the week with water color painting because that's a good way to soothe a child who has had a very active weekend and help draw a child into a focused quiet activity.  It might look like meeting playgroup on Friday mornings because that's when children are rested and ready for a good romp and the social realm, after having mornings at home earlier in the week. 

Daily Rhythm
With daily rhythm, the energetic quality of activities shapes the whole day. Getting outside for a few hours of rigorous play each morning stimulates hunger for a good lunch and a rosy cheeked child who is ready for a nice quiet transition into an afternoon nap. Without the rigorous self initiated play, a child may not be hungry, may not be able to settle down for a quiet story and a nap.  

Transitional Magic
The "magic" lies in the small gestures and rituals used at transition, the little song sung each time the coat comes off, the gnome clip to hold the boots together on the mat, the hand washing song, the candle at meal time, the blessing sung before meals. These small gestures help ease a child from one type of activity to the next one. 

Conscious Attention
Now we return to where we started, that rhythm is all about the conscious attention given to balancing the energetic quality of activities (rousing-calming, inner-outer, challenging-soothing, quiet-loud) and transition moments that infuses routines with rhythm.

This may sound so simple, and it is.

Read Article #1 Routine in the Waldorf Home::What is it?  here
Read Article #2 Why Routines? here

Peace on Earth begins at Home. 

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